Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ginger Molasses Cookies

I love these cookies' soft texture and bright spice flavor. They are so perfect for this time of year either as a gift or at a cookie swap. I found this recipe back in 2006 in Sunset magazine. The original recipe is called Frosted Ginger Cookies. But, I've changed the name and I don't include the frosting in my version. Of course, you can make a little frosting to drizzle over  these with powdered sugar and some lemon juice. However, I've always found these to be perfect without the frosting. They are sweet enough since they're rolled in sugar. And, though I normally love the combination of ginger and lemon, I'm not a fan of the lemon frosting on these. Frosted or unfrosted is your choice...regardless, you'll be happy you made these.

Ginger Molasses Cookies
(adapted from Sunset Magazine,  December 2006 issue)

Makes approximately 36 cookies

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg
3 tablespoons molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup granulated sugar with butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.
2) In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.
3) Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets or ones lined with parchment and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

(by poet Annie Finch, 1997)

In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother's mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
"Carry me." She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Leaf Obsession

I admit it, I have a leaf problem. I've become obsessed by them. After spending much of my life living in Los Angeles where autumn is some what ho-hum at best, I now find myself overcome with the beauty of autumn in the Pacific Northwest and Portland, OR in particular. In spring and summer, I am in love with the glorious colors and varieties of the flowers and other plants around me. Now, that fall is here, I  am again in love but with the visual feast that this season offers. Though taking images of the trees in their fiery, fall finest is what we think of when having an image of this time of year, I prefer to look down and see the fallen beauty at my feet. It is everywhere, if only we would look down and appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apple Crisp

Autumn finally arrived last week with the October rains. And, to celebrate the change of seasons I decided to make an apple crisp. I have been playing around with the recipe off-and-on for a couple of years but I feel that I have finally gotten it right. 

Some apple varieties are better than others for baking. You want to find ones that will hold their shape and not inadvertently turn into apple sauce. I'm a big fan of Fuji apples for baking. But, for traditionalists, you can always use Granny Smiths. I did have the good fortune of making this latest version with an heirloom variety called Orleans Reinette and it was amazing. If you have access to heirloom apples either through a farmers market or your local grocery store or food co-op, I suggest giving them a try. You might be very pleasantly surprised.

I certainly hope you enjoy this recipe. Let me know.

(adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Prep: Approx. 25-30 minutes
Cook: Approx. 55 minutes
Equipment: 2-quart earthenware or glass baking dish, 2” deep.

¾ cup of all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ cup of  brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground powdered ginger
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

8 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 6 cups)
Juice of 1 orange
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground powdered ginger
¼ cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375°. Position rack in the lower third of the oven. Have an unbuttered 2-quart baking dish ready.

For the filling, place your apples in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the filling ingredients to the bowl and toss together. Then spread mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

For the topping, combine all of the ingredients together into a mixing bowl. Then use a pastry blender, 2 knives or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Scatter the topping evenly over the fillling.  Gently tap the topping down on top the filling.

Bake until the topping is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Approximately 50 to 55 minutes.

When done remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Tips & Suggestions:
  • Serve with either fresh whipped cream or ice cream. I think that ice cream is the best and vanilla is a reliable choice. But, if you can find it or want to make it yourself, this would be delicious with salted caramel ice cream.
  • Make Ahead Tip:  Make the topping and filling ahead of time and store separately in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
  • You can add ½ cup of coarsely chopped and toasted walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans to the topping.
  • Can make individual crisps using oven-safe ramekins or other earthenware dishes. This takes this homey dessert and elevates it to something more sophisticated.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Longing for Fall

Today is the last day of September and I am longing for autumn. The calendar says it is fall. The autumnal equinox occurred last week on the 22nd. And, the harvest moon was last night and then again tonight. The days are getting shorter. But, it still doesn't feel like fall to me. There have been too many sunny days and warm temperatures. Portland has seen barely any rain since July. The only measurable rain in September was 0.04 inch, which came earlier in the month. That makes this is the fourth driest September on record. But, this is Portland, Oregon...the Pacific Northwest. There should be rain. I know I will probably regret writing this sometime in February when there have been some many grey and drizzly days that I have lost count, but I miss the rain. I want that lovely balance of drizzly, grey mornings with the sun breaking through in the afternoon (charmingly referred to as sunbreaks in this part of the Lower 48). And, then there is the smell that fall has here. A deep and earthy scent of turning leaves with a touch of decay and change that the brisk air enhances. I hope autumn arrives soon. My soul is craving it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple Season

Autumn is here and that means apples. Lots of apples. Dan and I headed out the weekend before last to the Hood River Valley area known as the Fruit Loop. It's a gorgeous part of the state that is filled with farms and farm stands, plus wineries (that's a whole other post). The Saturday that we visited was part of the annual Pear Celebration weekend. And, we did indulge in pears. But, I was focused on apples. Why? Because I wanted to make more apple preserves. It's not a fancy recipe, just one from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. However, it is a really tasty recipe that Dan and I discovered a couple of years ago when some friends gifted us about 10 lbs. of Gravenstein apples. We needed to do something with all of them and there are only so many crisps and pies that you can make and eat before they go bad. Plus, we did not have enough room to properly store them for any length of time. So, since we had just started learning to can, we decided to make preserves. Much to our delight, this recipe turned out to be a keeper. It is not a preserve that is great on toast. But, it is fantastic with pork and even better with cheese. Wonderful to add to a cheese board when you have guests over. Needless to say, we picked up a few pounds of Gravenstein apples and I made a batch of preserves earlier this week. Last year, we made a batch of this preserve with some Tokyo Rose apples. It was good but not as good as with the Gravensteins. We might give another variety of apples a try for second batch just see which we like better. It is fun to experiment with the different varieties of apples. 

Our next project involving apples is making hard cider. More on that to come...

Winter Squash

It's hard to believe that back in May, I planted several, tiny winter squash plant starters and I have ended up with actual squash. This is the first time that I have had any success growing them. Given the size and the huge growth of all of the vines, I thought for sure that I would be harvesting dozens of squashes but that was not the case. A number of them literally died on the vine. And, though, it was not a large haul, it has been gratifying nonetheless. I am looking forward to using some of them for autumn and Halloween decorations. And, a few, like the Baby Blue Hubbards and Sweet Dumplings, I look forward to eating. I cannot wait to grow more next year.