Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Cookie Time - Springerle

For as long as I can remember my mom has made cookies at Christmas time. My most favorite are Sand Tarts (a really thin, buttery, sugar cookie cut-out) and Springerle. Springerle are easily my favorite cookie of all time. Very few people even know about them. So I'm here to hopefully create a new favorite for you.

You can read a bit about the Germanic history behind springerle and why the cookies have pictures on them. I don't yet own a springerle rolling pin. I think this is the year I'm going to buy one. They're not that expensive and they look so pretty. And they tell a story. What could be better for a writer/cook?

I want to say you should be a fan of licorice before you start this recipe. But the anise gives the cookie a much more subtle flavor than licorice. It is distinct and, at least to me, perfect with a cup of hot steamed milk.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to yours.

Mom's Springerle Recipe
4 eggs
1 lb. box of confectioner's sugar (4 cups)
1 teaspoon Anise Extract
4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Anise seed (available in the spice section of the supermarket, especially during the holidays)

Beat eggs until light. Gradually add sugar and beat on high until it's like a soft meringue.  Add anise extract. Sift together the flour and baking soda. Blend into egg mixture on low. Cover bowl and let stand 15 minutes.

Divide dough in thirds. On lightly floured surface roll, with a regular rolling pin, each piece into an 8" square, a little more than 1/4" thick. Let stand 1 minute. 

With a floured springerle rolling pin roll across the dough firmly to create the imprints. Cut cookies into squares with a sharp knife. Cover cookies with a towel and leave overnight. This dries the cookie and helps retain the picture, and helps make the cookies cake-like when baked. My mom would clear the dining room table, lay down a sheet, place the cookies on top, and then another sheet on top of the cookies, and the house would smell awesome!  *nostalgia* oh, right, back to the recipe.

The next day, grease a baking sheet, sprinkle with anise seed. Rub the underside of each cookie with a bit of water. My mom would keep a cup near the pan to dip her fingers.  This helps the seeds to stick to the cookie.

Bake at 300° for 20 minutes until a light straw color.  Do not allow them to brown. These cookies should be yellowish when done and when they cool the tops are almost white.

These cookies keep well in an air tight container for weeks, although I eat them pretty quickly. They do get pretty hard after a while... definitely a dunking cookie by the end of the week.  Great with cocoa too.
If you don't have a springerle pin, or the anise seed, the cookies will still turn out awesome!

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Sequel Dish; Not Just A Leftover

Seasons Greetings everyone! Have any of you ever got done reading a book and couldn’t wait to pick up the sequel? That excitement is pretty sick isn’t it? It’s even better when the second book surpasses the first. Pretty soon you are looking forward to the following installment. Each book similar with characters but different with plot and obstacles. You’ve met the characters and seen their growth as well.
This time of year with all the get-togethers with family and friends, the fridge sometimes gets over ran with leftovers. I know mine does. I feel like I am throwing out good food just so I can fit a gallon of milk on the bottom shelf. That juicy leftover turkey, fluffy stuffing, crisp carrots, and beans. All still good and waiting to be consumed, just taking up too much room in their little separate containers. Aw-ha! I have a yummy solution to help. Turkey casserole. The same food items as before, just now added to a new "format." Just how a book can go on to a sequel, that first good meal can be turned into a second tasty dish.

I bet I just made half of you go what? And squirm in your seat. Flashbacks of your mom’s days of cleaning out the fridge for Sunday Surprise Casserole just flooded back to you didn’t it? Well, this is different. (kind of, as in it’s planned and not, Hmmm is this still good?) That turkey you work hard on to serve at Christmas dinner can be enjoyed once more. (Other than in a turkey sandwich)

Turkey Casserole

6 cups cubed turkey

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 small carton sour cream

½ cup onions, chopped

1 cup carrots, shredded

1 cup green beans (canned or frozen)

2 pkg. Stove Top stuffing mix.


Sauté onions in butter until transparent. Cook carrots for 5 minutes in boiling water then drain, Add carrots to onions, soup, green beans, sour cream, and cubed turkey. Make stuffing mix accordingly to box directions. Spread half of stuffing in a 9x13 casserole dish. Pour turkey mixture over top of stuffing. Add remaining half of stuffing mix by spreading it over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until bubbling hot.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arugula, Cranberry, Turkey Wrap and Caramels, oh my!

Happy Thanksgiving Leftovers Everyone!

I have a treat for you. Two recipes instead of just one! (actually 3 if you count the cranberry sauce!)

I found a great leftover turkey wrap that I'll show you how to make, super, fast, and easy. 

But first, I have another recipe that I simply must share. It's from Alton Brown, of course, whose recipes I love.  I came across it the other day when I was looking for salted caramels. 

I've never made caramel before, but I figured it was time I tried. I mean it's sugar, if I mess it up, it'll still be good right? (okay if you burn this, it will be destined for the trash can). But really even if it doesn't set up it still tastes great. Alton's recipe for Dark Salty Caramels is sublime! I could eat this straight out of the pan, and I have. All you need is a candy thermometer, sugar, salt, water, heavy cream and butter, and elastic-waist pants.

Okay, now on to the easiest turkey leftover recipe ever.  I am destined, sadly, not to be a food photographer.  But trust me the outcome is much tastier!

Arugula, Cranberry, Turkey Wrap
12 oz. washed baby arugula
1/2 cup of homemade cranberry relish (easier than you think, and totally worth it, but you can substitute store bought)
4 flour or whole wheat tortillas
2 Tablespoons Hellman's Mayonnaise (optional)
oh right...
2 cups of shredded leftover turkey meat

Arrange the ingredients like a wrap.

On top of a flat tortilla smear 1 or 2 Tablespoons of cranberry relish. You may also add the mayonnaise here, which is my preference,(my husband disagrees). So it's up to you if you like mayo. Next add a handful of arugula, top with turkey and additional cranberry sauce. Roll up and enjoy! 

I'm sure you can tweak this recipe by adding your own signature to it. Please let me know if you do. I'd love to learn new ways to enjoy this wrap!

Btw, try not to eat too many of Alton's caramels, I'm sure when I get on the scale I'll be regretting ever finding the recipe! 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Two Souffles--Rising to the Occasion or Falling Flat

One of the best things about contributing to this blog is that I’ve been forced to think about the process of cooking more than ever. Because I want to share great stuff with all of you, it also means I’ve been experimenting a lot and cooking things I’d never attempted before.

In writing and in cooking, experimenting beyond the comfort zone gives lots of exciting opportunities to rise to the occasion or to just fall flat on my face. While the first is definitely more fun, both are educational. No rough draft is perfect. No experimental recipe is perfect. But even if I’m not great at a particular task the first time around, learning new things in either realm is a true joy. And falling isn’t so bad if you have a really good trampoline under you.

To this end, I’ve been working the last couple months on soufflés. While I hear these can be terrifying to many home cooks who fear last-minute collapse, I say it’s nothing to get worked up about. Soufflés  are fun, impressive, and tasty. And if one or two fall, they still taste good. Plus, if you practice on your family a few times before serving one to company, they won’t complain.

Today’s soufflé features ham and cheese and is a little denser than some, but it’s still fluffy enough to make the tongue tingle. (I have pictures from two attempts.)

Then, after the main recipe, as a bonus recipe, you get the result of a mistake. While trying to whip the whites for the ham and cheese soufflé, I had some missteps, so I started over; however, since I didn’t want to be wasteful, I experimented again. The result is what I call “Poor Man’s Stovetop Soufflé.” It’s a layered skillet dish that takes less time and technique than a traditional soufflé, but it still looks and tastes like a special treat—even if it’s not a high riser.

Ham and Cheese Soufflé
1/4 cup butter (plus a bit for coating)
1/4 cup flour
1 1/3 cups warm milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (plus a bit for coating)
3/4 finely chopped ham
1st attempt, higher and darker
3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish and sprinkle with parmesan.
2. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Add flour and whisk until mixture starts to foam (2 or 3 minutes). Meanwhile heat milk in a pot over medium high heat until warm. Into flour mixture, stir warm milk, salt, and oregano. Turn heat up to medium high until sauce boils and thickens (~3 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cayenne, garlic, and black pepper.
3. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend each. Once mixture is smooth, stir in both cheeses and ham.
4. In a large bowl beat (whisk if possible) egg whites and cream of tartar on high with mixer until stiff but moist peaks form. Gently fold ¼ of the whites at a time into the yolk/cheese mixture until blended.
2nd attempt, more uniform but lower
5. Pour the batter into the soufflé dish. If the dish is more than three quarters full, you can use a foil collar to prevent spillage.
6. Bake in a 375° oven until top is puffed and golden to deep brown and center doesn’t jiggle much when moved, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve right away. (Resist the urge to open the oven until you’re pretty sure the soufflé is done.)

(Note: can be done in several smaller soufflé dishes instead. Like with the large pan, make sure not to overfill. Cook time will be less,  ~18-20 minutes.)

*Bonus Recipe*—Poor Man’s Stovetop Soufflé
6 large eggs, separated
½ teaspoon cream of tarter
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup finely chopped ham
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
paprika (to sprinkle on top)

Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy with stiff, moist peaks. Set aside. Generously butter or spray a medium-size skillet (I used cast iron) and put on stove. Preheat burner on medium heat.

While pan is heating, whisk egg yolks, milk, and seasonings. Mix in ham and cheese.

Pour yolk mixture into pan, cook for one minute. Pour egg whites on top, lower to medium low heat, and cover pan. Cook for a few minutes until eggs are cooked through. (I used a knife in the center to check.) Sprinkle with paprika and pepper and serve in wedges.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Debra Killeen shares Chai Spice Pudding recipe

I'm very pleased to welcome DEBRA KILLEEN, who I met on Broad Universe. After telling us a little about herself, she's sharing a timely & original recipe for Raw Chai Spice Pudding (tastes like pumpkin pie!) 

Debra is the author of the award-winning fantasy series,“The Myrridian Cycle.” All of the books in the series--An Unlikely Duke, A Prince in Need, Legacy of the Archbishop, Priestess Awakening and Kingdom in the Balance--have won awards at ReaderViews, and Legacy of the Archbishop also won a Written Art Award. Debra is hard at work on her next projects – Unholy War and the Naomi/Sebastian paranormal mystery series—as well as some shorter works.

A resident of Raleigh, NC, Debra shares a home with her sister, the author Diana Bastine, and three exceptional cats – Finn, Isis and Osiris. More information is available at Debra’s website,, and Debra can be contacted at

If you were marooned on an island, and Pots & Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose? Wow, narrowing the choices down to one book – that’s a challenge!  Right now I’d go with Moby Dick.  It’s on my list of books to read, and given the size of it, should take me a while to read through it, while I’m waiting for the next ship to pass by.  The food part is easy – it happens to be the healthiest and tastiest food on the planet: raw chocolate!

What’s your favorite kitchen accessory or appliance?  How about a favorite writing accessory or reference? Ah, this gives me a chance to talk about my recent dietary change, to a raw vegan regimen about six months ago.  The change meant getting rid of the toaster oven and purchasing some new appliances, such as a good juicer, a dehydrator, and a better food processor.  But the winner is the Vitamix high-speed blender – power, versatility (not to mention noisy – the one down side to it!).  I can make delicious superfood-containing smoothies, almond milk, raw soups – including a delicious dill/cucumber recipe from the Vitamix vegan cookbook – and things like avocado-based spreads and puddings.  I just tried a chai spice pudding, and it tastes almost like pumpkin pie – delicious!
                For writing accessories – my laptop is the most useful, since all of my manuscripts are stored there.  However, I typically do my first draft in longhand, and those wire-bound notebooks come in handy.  The challenge I’ve found is finding the right pen.  I’ve tried a few different ones from the office supply stores, and they don’t last long when penning a trilogy, as I’ve learned over the past year and a half!  I’ll stick with the laptop, and for my next writing project, I’m hoping to compose the rough draft on it and save the paper.

What’s cooking?  Can you share a bit about your next project? Good question, since I’ve got two “next” projects.  The current piece is a companion to my published fantasy series, The Myrridian Cycle, entitled Unholy War.  It takes place roughly a dozen years after the events of the first series conclude, with the characters going on a crusade.  In the alternate medieval world I’ve created, Magic works and the church controls it.  With Unholy War, I’m getting the chance to expand on the religious factions, plus the narrative is chockfull of political suspense, betrayals, Magical showdowns, and plenty more. 
                The other next project is a short story, a contemporary fantasy piece that will be an introduction to a new series I hope to begin in the next several months.  It’s a take-off of the other series, as one of the medieval characters, Sebastian, has traveled to our world.  Not long after he and his companion Naomi get here, he notices some bizarre behavior on her part and thinks she’s been possessed by demons.   I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say it’s less demonic and more…food…related.
                As far as what’s cooking in the food department – raw soups are proving excellent choices for summertime suppers.  I’ve also found a veggie/flax seed “burger” that goes in the dehydrator, tasty lucuma/mulberry “cookies,” and chia seed porridge with fresh, local blueberries (I’m fortunate to live in North Carolina, where blueberries are a summer favorite.  Have I mentioned the pudding?

What are three must-have foods /seasonings in your kitchen? Only three?  Avocadoes rank highly – they’re so versatile and healthy, and they blend well in the raw soups, providing some excellent fat calories. I always make sure I’ve got a few on hand.  Next up is leafy greens – spinach, kale, chard or something in that vein. They make a good base for a salad, work as a veggie wrap, or do well mixed in flatbreads. Micro-algae – the protein powerhouses!  Spirulina, chlorella, phytoplankton – any can be added to the morning smoothie (along with a protein powder such as hemp) to replace the animal protein. 
                Other items tend to fluctuate with the season, such as local strawberries or blueberries. Those are my top three, with raw chocolate getting an honorable mention, but then, it’s more than just food.

Let’s say a couple of your characters are raiding your fridge right now – what are they most likely to eat?  Are they disappointed or excited about what they find? I’ll go back to Sebastian and Naomi, since they’re going to have completely different reactions to what’s in my fridge, LOL. Naomi would be looking for the diet soda, microwave meal, leftover dessert.  She would be extremely disappointed, just starting with my typical beverage selections. There might be some bottled mineral water, coconut water or freshly made green veggie juice.  No sodas to be had! There are no microwave meals in the freezer, either, though she might find a few packages of frozen organic berries, leftover veggie “burgers” and some extra avocado spread.
                Sebastian, on the other hand, would be thrilled to find the crisper sections full of fresh vegetables and fruits, food he might almost recognize, or at least recognize them as actual food, instead of the stuff he might discover in the typical grocery store – boxed cereals, canned vegetables and fruits, meat wrapped in Styrofoam and plastic, or milk in plastic bottles.  The veggie juice might give him pause, though I think he’d like it if he tried it.  His reaction to sodas, diet or regular, would be complete dislike. He’d be puzzled at the lack of meat and traditional baked goods, such as bread, but he might be willing to try the plant-based protein foods before searching out a local butcher.

 Raw Chai Spice Pudding

½ tsp cardamom
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp vanilla powder (or may substitute extract)
Pinch of salt
1 large or 2 small ripe avocados
1/3 cup coconut oil
¼ cup coconut water
2 oz. coconut nectar
2 Tbsp coconut sugar

Place all ingredients into high-speed blender or mixer and mix until smooth, using a medium setting.  Spoon into dessert dishes and enjoy or may be refrigerated; will keep for 4-5 days.

Serves 4

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaNoWriMo and Feeding Your Freezer

It's NaNo time again. This means more time made for writing and less time for cooking.

So I thought I'd do a bit of research on Filling your Freezer. I've heard of doing this, and it sounds wonderful. Homemade food, ready and waiting in your freezer, so you can just whip it out, heat it and eat it. Family is happy and your word count is happy too.

I found a great site of a frugal mom who posts on how to fill your freezer in 4 weeks. But it's already Nano November and I don't have four weeks to cook and fill my freezer. Sigh. 

So I hunted down a list of 10 freezer recipes that I might try. The chicken and spinach enchiladas sound yummy. 

This a post on Filling your freezer for easier school days, could easily be tweaked to say easier NaNo days.

And for us visual types here's a Feed your Freezer pinterest page.

After researching all of this, I'm still at a loss on how to have dinner ready on the table during NaNoWriMo. I mean, I would have had to think ahead to fill my freezer. And, well, I didn't. So I suppose it's take-out. Or better yet, teaching my husband and kids how to hone their foraging skills.

Happy National Novel Writing Month everyone! Now go get that novel written!