the hyphens that define my life

Project Cookie 2013 Complete December 22, 2013

I’m baked out.  Done.  Here’s why:


Baklava.  Walnuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar phyllo dough and butter.  My twelve year old would eat the entire pan if I let him.


Buckeyes.  Gluten Free and Vegan.  Whoop Whoop!  A Buckeye is a chestnut family tree that produces this little inedible and Ohio’s claim to fame.  Ohioans created this candy out of peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and chocolate.  My eight year old believes he should be able to count devouring as many of these as possible for his protein intake.  I like the way he thinks, but no way.


Cinnamon Log Slices.  These looked like a sliced russet potato and are pretty boring if you just try one.  But if you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee with these, then yum.  The cinnamon laced cookie is rolled in cocoa powder and cinnamon prior to baking.  These will not make next year’s Christmas Cookie cut.


Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread.  These are the family all-time favorite cookie.  If I could force myself to only make one kind of cookie at Christmas, this is the one.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe that never fails.  The secret is the fresh grated ginger and hidden chocolate chips.  Spicy, sweet and chocolatey goodness.


Carnation Fudge with Walnuts.  I used to have a great fudge recipe and lost it (DB, if you have it message me please).  This year, we tried two fudge recipes.  Carnations evaporated milk recipe on the label with mini marshmallows and the recipe found on the jar of marshmallow fluff.  As reported above, the marshmallow fluff recipe was dry and chalky.  The Carnation recipe turned out nice and creamy. Two thumbs up.


Coconut Macaroons.  I made this recipe last year and my husband loved them.  This year, he’s iffy. I love toasted coconut and these, I think, are great.


Hrostule.  (Her-stah-la).  This is the cookie I swear I will never make ever again, occasionally swearing at the dough.  Then my husband walks into the kitchen while I’m pitching my fit and says, “Oh Hrostule, this is why I love you,” and I’m signed up for another year.  This year there wasn’t much drama, after 14 years of making this cookie, I think I’ve figured it out.  Six eggs, 1/4 c. whiskey, 1/2 c. butter, melted, 1 tsp anise, 1 T. vanilla, 4.5 c. flour, vegetable oil for frying.  Mix all the ingredients.  Working in small batches, roll dough very thin (this is where the swearing starts), cut into strips (I use a pastry cutter), and tie each piece into a knot.  THEN, once all the dough has been rolled, cut and tied, fry in 350 degree oil until just begins to turn golden at edges.  THEN coat in powdered sugar. Start to finish, today’s batch took me 1.5 hours.  These cookies appear at every event from my wedding to the birth of my children to any random occasion.  Hrostule will be on all future cookie lists.


French Cookie.  This is my mom’s recipe, maybe my grandmother’s recipe.  I followed the recipe.  I’ve made this cookie at my mom’s house growing up.  I know this cookie.  Yet for some reason, it didn’t turn out right.  Something’s missing and I don’t know what.  My twelve year old LOVES this cookie too.


Peppermint Meringue with Dark Chocolate Ganache.  My nine year old is obsessed with meringues.  He was very excited to help make these, but by helping I learned he only meant eating them.  Easy, but oven hogs as meringues cook low and slow.  This recipe is definitely a keeper. Oh, and the dark chocolate ganache is so damn good I almost crawled into the closet with the whole bowl and a spoon.  I didn’t but it was a close call.


Palmiers.  These are the easiest cookie.  Pre-made puff pastry dough, filled with sugar, rolled and sliced.  Simple.  My husband and youngest boy decided they are going to France to test the authenticity of my Palmiers.  Bring it.


Shaker Lemon Bars.  For my girl.  These are the best lemon bars you will ever have.  Another Martha Stewart recipe that uses the entire lemon in the filling.  The crust is a spectacular shortbread.


Sugar Cut Outs.  The quintessential Christmas cookie.  We have 12 different cookie cutters that we use.  This year, a lady in front of me at the grocery store told me that she had special ordered mini M & M’s so she could decorate her Christmas tree cookies with M & M’s.  I thought the boys would love that idea and bought some mini M & M’s. Not a good idea.  My boys, husband included, gave the full body Santa cookie nuts (below the belt line) with the mini M & M’s.  Oh, they thought they were a damn riot.  Me, not so much.


Ruthy’s Apricot Walnut Rugelach from Chelsea Market.  During my recent New York City trip, I purchased the Chelsea Market cookbook and attempted making rugelach for the first time.  Of the eight dozen I made, the first four were disasters – not to eat, only to look at – as I overfilled them with goodness.  The last four dozen turned out beautifully.  This is the best breakfast cookie and the recipe is a keeper.


Pistachio Almond White Chocolate Biscotti.  Meh.  I made this last year and couldn’t remember this year if I liked it or not so I made it again.  Never again.  Not bad but not fantastic.  I aim higher than this cookie delivers.

cookie plates 2013

Then, as if the baking took no time and effort whatsoever, the cookies get wrapped up and delivered.  Some homemade Christmas magic. And, plenty of magic left at home for my sweets to devour.

I hope your Christmas is sweet.


October Dinners October 1, 2013

Last month I received a lot of flack from my dear friends for not posting recipes along with my monthly dinner menu post.  Posting recipes is tricky because I’m certain to infringe on copyright laws if I post recipes from cookbooks that aren’t readily available online.  For example, Biba Caggiano only publishes select recipes online but not all of her recipes.

Rather than fry my brain trying to figure out what or what not I’m allowed to post, I gathered recipes from my magazine subscriptions – Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Sunset, Bon Appetit and Better Homes & Gardens – that are posted online and inserted the recipe links on their website on our October menu.  I haven’t made any of these recipes.  I may tweak them as I go.  If the day does not have a link, the specific recipe is either not available online or the plat du jour is too simple to require a recipe, so either find an online recipe or use your own recipe.

Despite my efforts in planning our dinner menus since we moved to Spokane, I have not stayed on track.  I’m getting better and hope October proves to be a month of homecooked meals – except for the two nights when we know we’ll be dining out for fundraising and to get our pizza fix.

Magazines alone only provide recipes for five meals a week, I still haven’t figured out why.  My super fabulous menu provides for seven dinners a week, with the most difficult recipes on weekends and easier, time saving recipes during the week.  My formula is simple – one soup, one meatless, one fish, a pasta, two poultry, and one pork or beef.  In addition to what’s listed on the menu, I always serve a vegetable and/or a salad.  I try (TRY) to serve something each person likes and have emergency protein rations on hand in case someone goes sideways.

I hope your time spent with your family enjoying these delicious dinners is time well spent. Fall is in the crisp cool air and this month of dinners reflect our need for warm and hearty meals. Happy October!

October 2013

After opening the October 2013 link, Copy and paste the recipe link into your browser, otherwise you may end up on some weird sites.  Good luck!



Cookbook Inspiration August 29, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — multihyphenatedme @ 10:13 pm
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Unconsciously, I collect cookbooks. 

I have a cookbook library of 73 cookbooks. My obsession makes me laugh.  I say it is my unconscious collection because I don’t consciously think to add new cookbooks.  I am drawn to them, inspired by the promise of their creations. 

Seventeen of these cookbooks are vegetarian.  Twenty-two are dessert related.  Near equally, I am healthy and a junkie with a sweet tooth. Let’s call it balance.

With our recent move, I purged 16 or 17 cookbooks that weren’t worth moving.  I can’t even remember what was left behind.  To my joy, the prior owner left a stash of 12 cookbooks that includes a 1951 copy of Favorite Torte and Cake Recipes that I look forward to testing in the near future.

Many of the cookbooks in my collection I receive as gifts, pilfered from my mother’s stash, inherited from my Grandmother or just picked up along the way. No matter the source, I use all of my cookbooks.  I read them, cover to cover, sample recipes as time passes, and make notes in the margins – dated, in ink, with my comments and family reaction.

There are six cookbooks, set aside from the rest, that are my go-to favorites. 

  • The Martha Stewart Cookbook is by far my most loved.  Her recipes are labor intensive but worth the effort as every recipe attempted is fantastic.
  • Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Barefoot Contessa Family Style recipes are loved by my family.  
  • Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a fast reference for instant success.
  • Better Homes & Gardens New CookBook (the one with the red plaid cover) is filled with classic recipes you can’t live without.
  • Biba’s Italy by Biba Caggiano was a gift from my mother-in-law and has provided so many incredible meals and desserts.  My boys request these recipes which speaks to their advanced palettes and appreciation for great food.

Growing up, a few weeks every summer on my grandparents eighty acres in the middle of the Muskegon National Forest in Michigan, I spent nights playing cards (Screw Your Neighbor – it was the 70’s – this game is very much like Uno today) with my older sister and grandparents, and reading my Grandma’s recipe booklets that she hoarded upstairs next to our bed. This was my first introduction to written recipes.  My Grandma made her own pasta noodles to serve with venison and noodles.  She made paraffin topped jam from anything she could cook down.  She shopped at farmer’s markets, my Grandpa hunted, and what she didn’t can, she froze.  She was adventurous to cook turtle soup from a snapping turtle my grandfather caught earlier that day and she used to fry french fries in raccoon fat. Sound gnarly for you city folk? When you’re young and hungry you didn’t think about it, you just ate it. Fries in coon fat is delicious and we always begged for more.  We spent these summers foraging for mushrooms, wild blueberries and sassafras roots or fishing in the lakes for bass and blue gill then having a big fish fry complete with hush puppies. We baked bread, made pies and, one time, made so much caramel corn that I gorged myself sick.  Good times, great memories.  It was from these summers that I fell in love with reading recipes.  Granted, my choices were Harlequin romance novels or recipe booklets, which at age 8 or 9, was an easy choice I’m thankful I made today.

The cookbooks and recipes inspire and my family gives me purpose to create delicious food.

Nostalgia waves through me as I canned seven quarts and sixteen pints of peaches and one pint, seven half pints and two quarter pints of peach butter and put a gallon of blueberries and thirteen pounds of blackberries in the freezer from our first Spokane summer.