Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Button, Button, Who's Baked the Buttons?

My young friend Asteroidea came over, with her younger brother, for the afternoon.  And, while the boy wanted nothing but peanut butter and honey sandwiches, of which he ate copiously, she was inclined to cook a plateful of her new favorite easy treat, banana pancake buttons.

These are astonishingly simple to prepare: mash a very ripe  medium banana until it becomes a smooth paste, thoroughly mix in one medium to large egg, and fry in lightly-buttered nonstick pan over medium heat, turning once when bubbles start to appear along the edges.  (They're very tender, and flipping is sometimes tricky, so always keep them "button-sized," about 2 - 3 inches across, by dropping them onto the pan using a tablespoon or soup spoon). They're very sweet on their own, so they need no topping, but Asteroidea indicated they were very tasty with a tiny bit of cinnamon sugar sprinkled on them, if you want a little extra kick.

Still, I'd promised that today would be a day for baking, so when she finished with the pancakes, we started in on the spice buttons (a variation on a German holiday cookie, the Speculatius – spiced windmill cookies – of which my father is deeply fond). These are freezer cookies, so you don't just mix them up and throw them into the oven. It took a whole afternoon of waiting, first.

In the end, they are similar to ginger snaps, and, if you want, you can boost the amount of ginger and chili powder to make them more zippy, but these are quite addictive enough. Also, when the holidays roll around, these are durable enough to ship, as well as to poke a hole or two in them before baking, so you can string them up with ribbons or licorice strings/red vine candy, as decorations on a Christmas tree.

This is a small sample of what she took home with her, so nobody in our house would be too tempted (toothpick included for scale).

Spice Buttons


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup tightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg white
sanding or decorative sugar


In a medium bowl, sift or whisk flour, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a separate medium mixing bowl, mix butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add both sugars, beat at medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes, then add vanilla and egg, mixing until slightly fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, gradually add in dry ingredients and mix well.

Scrape dough from the bowl, divide into thirds. 

Roll each portion of dough out to an average diameter of about 1 to 1 1/2 inches (it will make a roll about a foot long). Wrap tightly in plastic and place in freezer. If you want to prevent it from getting a flat bottom, slide each dough roll into a cardboard tube (an old, clean paper towel roll will do) before you put it into the freezer.

Allow to chill at least three hours.

Once the dough is chilled stiff, place oven racks near top and bottom of oven, and preheat to 375º F.  When the oven is nearly hot, prepare egg white by lightly beating it in a small bowl. Have ready a large cookie sheet covered with either a prepared silicone non-stick sheet or a sheet of cooking parchment.  

Remove a roll of cookie dough from the freezer and carefully unwrap it from the plastic (if you want the edges of the cookie to be precise and smooth, you may want to roll it again just a little). Brush lightly with egg white, then sprinkle on decorative sugar, all the way around.* 

With a thin, sharp knife or a wire cheese slicer, cut dough off in 1/4 inch (or slightly thinner) slices, place close together on the cookie sheets (they will not grow much bigger, since the only leavening is the egg). 

Bake 8 - 12 minutes, until the cookies are browned to your preference in crispness. Cool on rack, if you can stand to wait that long before eating them all.** 

Makes over 100.

 *This step is optional. Pop likes his cookies plain and simple, without extra sugars or icings, because you can eat them almost immediately out of the oven without worrying about the hot sugar burning the roof of your mouth. 

** If, on the other hand, you like lots of sugar, you can make a thick, stiff icing for these, using 2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar and 7 teaspoons of warm water (you can bump it up a notch with 1/8 tsp. or so of cinnamon, but don't get crazy).  Mix completely, put into a zippered bag, cut a small piece off a corner off the bag, and pipe the icing onto each cookie, starting by drawing a perimeter, then filling in the circle. Once you have it iced, you can further decorate with colored sugars, sprinkles, or dragees, if that's your style.  Allow at least a half hour for the icing to set up before serving these.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Short Cut Cobbler

There was this bag of peaches, you see.

We bought a bag of fresh ones, but I'm pretty sure they were not exactly local produce. They were a little bruised, and their fuzzy skins were beginning to show some of the same signs of time passing that the human skin does -sagging and getting a little wrinkly. 

With that sort of thing, one really can't make a fresh compote, can one? Even if one has a cup of golden raspberries and a half cup of big red raspberries to add to it, the peaches needed to be cooked, to get the juices from them. It just wasn't going to do.

And then, there was this can of what the Bat and I like to think of as emergency supplies: buttermilk biscuits from ALDI. Pop really likes them, so, when the weather cools off, and we fix stew, we generally toss a batch of those in the oven for him. Sadly, we haven't had a cool enough day this past couple of months, so the container in the fridge was fast approaching its expiration date, and, well, things started coming together in my mind.

After that, it wasn't too long before it started coming together in the kitchen.

Thus was a short cut cobbler born.  Fair notice: it's not an overly sweet version. If you want more sweetness, you can adjust the amount of sugar, honey, etc., to your own tastes - you might put more honey on the biscuit tops, or even dunk them in honey before placing them on top. On the other hand, if you serve this with a good ice cream, any extra sweetness will probably knock you into a sugar coma.

Try it this way first.

Short Cut Cobbler 


(all these are approximations, according to taste)

about 8 medium fresh peaches
3/4 cup to 1 full cup fresh golden raspberries (or if you have frozen, thaw them)
1/2 cup red raspberries, fresh or thawed
1/4 cup corn starch (or your preferred thickener)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons wild honey (divided)
2 Tablespoons warm water
4 Tablespoons brown sugar (divided)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
pinch nutmeg
1 refrigerated pop-open can of 8 ALDI buttermilk biscuits (okay, you can use another brand, if you must)


Blanch peaches by first filling a large pot with enough water to cover the peaches (but leave the peaches out, for now). Prepare a large bowl or sink to hold more than enough cold water to cover the peaches.  Bring pot of water to full boil. Carefully place the peaches in the hot water, allow to simmer about 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs, drop hot peaches into cold water and let swiftly cool down (you can add ice, if you're in a hurry).

When the peaches are cooled, use a paring knife to help remove the skins from the peaches, then slice the peaches, a small section at a time, off the stone and into a medium or large mixing bowl. You should have between 3 and 4 cups of fresh peaches to work with, now.

Add starch, granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and the spices. Stir until everything is mixed well and the peaches are thoroughly covered.

Gently toss in the raspberries. Allow to stand at least 10 minutes, to draw up the juices as the sugar and fruits combine.

Preheat oven to 375º F.

Meanwhile, butter an 8x13x2-inch baking dish (or a 9-inch deep pie dish).

Gently stir the fruit mix and pour into the baking dish.

Open the canister of biscuits (carefully! don't put your eye out with that thing!) and arrange the biscuits over the top of the fruit.

Mix the remaining tablespoon of honey with the warm water, and brush it over the tops of the biscuits with a pastry brush.

Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar generously over the tops of the biscuits.

Bake at 375º F for 20 -25 minutes, or until the top is rich brown and crispy.

Serve hot in bowls, topped with your favorite ice cream.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

No Radio Sope!*

Quite some time ago, I had the pleasure of dining out with friends, at a Mexican restaurant other than Taco Bell (in the middle of the Midwest cornfields, that used to be a lot less common than it is today). At that time, I had a dish I'd truly enjoyed – sopes – which I have had some trouble finding at restaurants today. Maybe it's the extra effort required for making the tortilla "bowls", over simple flat tortillas one can run through a press, but there's only one place in a fifty mile radius of my home which even offers the darned things, and their fillings often lack freshness (a common problem with small-town eateries). And I have frequent, unbearable cravings, made worse by the fact that I have little money for dining out, even when the ingredients are up to snuff at the local place.

Thus left with a taste for something, I was left to try to figure out how to make my own. The above-linked recipe was useful, to a point. But it's pretty vague about measurements for making the tortillas, and I did a bit more research before discovering that everybody and his brother has a different way to do these things - including one where there is cooking, halving, shaping, and then deep frying them, as in this video (and my Spanish is abysmally bad, so I was just grateful for the visual instruction). Today, I went as simple as I could.

It helps to have started your meat and frijoles in advance, by the way. Fudging with canned frijoles is acceptable, as long as they're a decently tasty brand and they're pre-warmed for prep.  But the meat, you can't cheat. It needs to be finely shredded. If you like spicy versions, simmer (do NOT boil! Boiling toughens meat) your chicken, beef, or pork in a pot with onion, garlic, and a cup or so of your favorite salsa picante.  If you don't like heat, skip the salsa. Either way, you can save the liquid for soup or sauce for a later recipe. All you need is for the meat to cook up so tender you can easily shred it with a fork (or, if you cook it long enough, you can take a potato masher & make it right shreddy).

Other toppings necessary for this would be finely shredded lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco (or whatever is your preferred soft white cheese, shredded or crumbled)…heck, some folks, I'm told, put the same stuff on these that they put on their tacos! For me, I like simplicity. Beans, meat, Mexican sour cream, and a little Co-Jack cheese, finely grated. And, if you're lucky,  fresh, diced tomatoes.

And the tortillas. Tender-crispy tortilla bowls. Especially the "tender" part. You can start them a little ahead of time, but don't go more than an hour or so, and don't try to freeze them. If you have to toss them in the fridge before the final stage, warm them in the oven or the nuke, under a moist cloth or paper towel, before loading them with the beans and giving their bottoms the heat.  Just get out your griddle and get to work.

 As you can see, the ingredient list is very long and complex…

Tortilla-Bowls for Sopes (or picadas or garnachas, or…)


3 1/2 cups corn flour (not corn meal)
About 2 cups water


In a large mixing bowl or on a clean counter, heap flour, make a well, and add 1 cup of water. Mix by hand, continuing to add small amounts of water until you can knead it into a soft, smooth, tender dough.

With moistened hands, take some dough and form it into a ball about the size of a medium egg. Pat into a disc about 3 1/2 to 4 inches across (you don't want it anywhere near as thin as a standard corn tortilla). Place on un-oiled non-stick griddle at medium heat. Repeat with more dough until all the dough is used up and the tortillas are cooking.

When each has become lightly golden on the bottom, remove from heat and, cooked side up, carefully press down flatly from center to push some dough outward. Pull soft dough upward from uncooked side to make a rim for your tortilla-bowl. Place back on griddle long enough to seal the bottom.  Remove from heat.

Fill each bowl with about a tablespoon of heated frijoles.

Generously butter or oil your griddle, fry the bottoms of the tortilla-bowls until lightly golden and crisp. Top with hot meat, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and other preferred toppings.

Serve hot and fresh†.

Makes 9.

*For those who wonder about my choice of header for this entry, see here.

† Bragging rights: the tomato & lettuce on these little babies came from Pop's garden. With the current temps & forecasts, this is probably the last of the lettuce, but only the second and third 'maters, at the start of a nice, long season of real (not cardboard) love apples.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Liver Treats For Dogs

Not everything I do in the kitchen is for my own tummy. Sometimes, I get all radical and decide to make something as a gift… and then there's the occasional day slaving over a hot stove just to make a quadruped happy. Usually it's for the dog. Cats… they're too difficult to please, except with stuff they're not supposed to have, like salty canned tuna and other such sins. But dogs… well, dogs are usually just happy to eat something they think was people -food. We've made a habit of dehydrating sweet potato slices for our Labrador retriever, because he seems to think they pass for sinful. But sometimes he craves something supremely stinky. That's when we break out the liver.
I was given this recipe by a member of the extended family, last winter. The Bat made a single batch of it, using beef liver, & the dog went nuts for the treats. They're really great if cut into very small (1 cm or smaller cubes), especially if you need training treats! 
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the kitchen – indeed, the entire house – will smell like liver for several hours after you finish baking them, so, if you aren't fond of that aroma, be sure to set all fans blowing out! And bar the doors, because stray dogs might find it too enticing…

Liver Treats
1 pound raw liver (any kind), pureed
1 Tablespoon garlic powder (or less – amount optional)
1 Tablespoon oil

1 cup flour (any kind)
1 cup corn meal


Preheat the oven to 350⁰

In a blender or food processor, puree liver (you may have to do this in stages, to make sure all chunks are gone). Add garlic powder (if desired) and oil.  Blend thoroughly.  Pour into mixing bowl. Add flour and corn meal.  Mix all ingredients completely. Spread on a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan. (I line a pan with foil and oil it.)*

Bake at 350⁰ for about 25 minutes. Cool and cut into pieces. I divide into bags and freeze.* The pieces 
thaw very quickly or the dogs will eat them still frozen. They care not!

HINT: In order to divide the “bread” into small pieces, use a pizza cutter shortly after removing from the oven.

*In this case, the "I" is Bat's BFF, Jackie, who gave me the recipe which I then copied nearly verbatim.