06 January 2017

Gingerbread Cookies

A New Season?

Today is Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. The twelve days of Christmas have come and gone. I’ve packed away the holiday snow scenes and frosted decorations. I’ve turned the page on my calendar and started making plans for a new season. I’ve even turned in my favorite Christmas music and loaded an active playlist for a new season.

Meanwhile it seems Mother Nature has a few more verses of those wintry carols to sing. Word is - it’s going to snow! Friends are texting snowflake emojis. Atlanta schools announced they would be closing two hours early and my husband’s office followed suit. Everyone is grabbing provisions and hurrying home to burrow in for the weekend. This town is determined not to see a repeat of the Snowpocalypse of 2014!

Ample Provisions

Luckily, I think we have all the supplies we need to make it through a snowy weekend. Burrowing in will give me a chance to clean out the kitchen and think of new ways to use up some of the ingredients left over from holiday shopping. It will also provide an opportunity to savor some of the high points of the season I was too busy to linger over at the time.

One of those high points was a new recipe for Gingerbread Cookies. I didn’t take the time to post about it when I first made them. My to-do list was long and my thoughts were scattered. But now that I have a few moments, I think I’ll add it to my list of favorites.

As it turns out, I also have a few of these tasty Gingerbread Cookies stashed away in the back of the freezer for just such an occasion. There is no need to set them out to thaw. These few remaining Christmas cut-outs are delicious still frosty from the freezer and gingerly dipped into a mug of hot coffee. In fact, that’s the way I like them best: the crunchy sparkling sugar crystals glistening, the ginger cookie coldly resistant when dipped, barely warmed but not soggy with coffee, the cinnamon and ginger leaving a spicy note of fire on my lips and tongue…

Gingerbread Cookies
from Cook's Illustrated magazine

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
¾ cup molasses
2 Tablespoons milk

In the bowl of a large food processor, add flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Process until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over the flour mixture. Process until the mixture resembles fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add the molasses and milk. Continue running until a dough is formed, about 10 seconds.

Turn the dough onto countertop or other work surface. Divide dough in quarters. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, roll the dough to ¼-inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper. Stack the rolled out dough sandwiched between its parchment sheet coverings on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer (15 to 20 minutes) or in the refrigerator (2 hours or overnight) until firm.

Once firm, remove one sheet of cookie dough and place it on a work surface. Peel the top layer of parchment from the dough. Sprinkle a very small amount of flour on the dough and lay the sheet of parchment over top. Turn the sheet of dough over and peel away the second sheet of parchment.

Using cookie cutters, cut dough shapes. Place the shapes 1 inch apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with decorative sugar, if desired.

Bake cookies in a preheated oven at 350F about 8 to 10 minutes, for soft cookies. For crisper cookies roll the dough a bit thinner before cutting and bake at 325F for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool cookies on cookie sheets for 2 minutes then remove to a wire rack with a wide spatula to cool completely.

Repeat with the remaining sheets of cookie dough. Scraps can be rerolled and cut into shapes.


01 January 2017

Cowboy Caviar

New Beginnings

Hi there! It’s been a long time, hasn't it? There are probably at least a million reasons. For my part the last few years have involved distracting challenges with moving, health, business, politics, organization, technology, photography and Apple products, just to name a few.... but that’s not really what I want to talk about here today.

Today marks a new beginning, the start of a new year. The dawn of 2017 finds me feeling hopeful. Despite the challenges and divisions of an era, today I am thinking about that thread that draws together the past and the future, the one that gathers fond memories and transforms them with our current resources into something that will carry us into the future. What I am thinking about is food, the recipes that call me out of my bed on holiday mornings and promise a space of remembrance and reinterpretation as I nourish myself and my family around the table.

Already, I have baked a Cinnamon Coffee Cake for breakfast. I’ve made Mimosas from leftover New Year’s Eve champagne and made sweet use of an unopened bottle of aromatic bitters while taking notes on an idea for a champagne cocktail for Valentine’s Day. I’ve also cleaned out the refrigerator, using up the celery, carrots and parsley in my crisper drawer, to start a pot of Lucky Black Eyed Peas. Soon I will put some Cornbread in the oven.

Breaking the Silence

Meanwhile I feel compelled to break the silence here. While I am excited about the many favorite recipes I have posted on My Own Sweet Thyme over the years I am realizing that there are still more I have yet to post and that there is no time better than New Year’s Day to get started.

That said, here is a recipe that reminds me of the years I lived in Dallas. Cowboy Caviar makes great use of that southern New Year’s Day staple – black eyed peas. It pairs them with canned (or frozen) corn, the fresh flavors of green onion and cilantro, along with a good dash of vinegar and spice. This is easy to throw together on short notice and makes a great salad or side dish or, when served with tortilla chips, a tasty appetizer or game-day party snack.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2017!

Cowboy Caviar
From Sunset magazine, March 1997 issue

2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 ½ teaspoons salad oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 firm-ripe avocado ( about 10oz.)
1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 can (11 oz.) corn kernels, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ pound roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 bag (6 oz.) tortilla chips or 2 cups finely shredded cabbage

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, hot sauce, oil, garlic and pepper. Peel and pit avocado. Cut into ½-inch dice. Add to vinegar mixture and gently toss.

Add peas, corn, onions, cilantro and tomatoes to avocado mixture and gently toss to coat. Add salt to taste.

Serve with chips as an appetizer or on a bed of shredded cabbage as a salad.


24 November 2015

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Honey

Smashing Expectations

Over the past few years Sweet Potatoes have been elevated in status at my family’s table. These days we eat them at least once a week, and frequently more often. Savoring their creamy sweetness I now wonder how I could have ever spurned them.

It’s hard to believe that I hardly touched sweet potatoes for the first forty years of my life. In fact, none of my family much liked them. The only time I ever saw them as a child was at Thanksgiving dinner. There they came from a can before they were slathered with butter and brown sugar then blanketed in marshmallows, additions that covered rather than enhanced the innate sweetness of those gorgeous roots.

The Sweetest Sweet Potatoes

These days I frequently enjoy sweet potatoes unadorned by butter or cream and without the addition of brown sugar or marshmallows. All alone, roasted sweet potatoes are deliciously smooth and sweet.

That said, while great on their own, roasted sweet potatoes are easily taken from basic to special when smashed with a few simple additions from the spice drawer: a small amount of ground ginger, a pinch of cardamon, a dash of salt, a whisper of cayenne. A drizzle of honey also adds an interesting dimension, a rich bridge between the spices and the potatoes' natural sweetness. With these spare embellishments Smashed Sweet Potatoes become completely irresistible.

This side dish is also easy to prepare. The sweet potatoes can be roasted ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. When you get a break in meal prep, simply peel the sweet potatoes and smash them with their spices. Microwave them or place them in the oven to warm. They’ll be ready when you are.

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Ginger and Honey
Adapted from an old newspaper clipping

3 or 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Scrub sweet potatoes and pat dry. Poke each potato with a fork several times.

2. Place the prepared sweet potatoes in the middle of the oven, directly on the oven rack. (Place a foil lined pan on a lower oven rack under the potatoes to catch any drips.) Roast sweet potatoes until tender, generally about 1 hour. They are done when a fork can easily be inserted. You want the potatoes to be quite soft.

Note: Sweet Potatoes can be roasted at higher or lower temperatures than 375F. Tuck them into the oven around other items you may have in the oven and adjust the baking time accordingly.

Do ahead tip: Allow roasted sweet potatoes to cool then store in the refrigerator, in a covered container or wrapped in foil, until ready to use.

3. Peel sweet potatoes. Place the peeled potatoes in a bowl and mash them roughly with a potato masher or a fork. If you baked the sweet potatoes in advance, reheat them at this point, in the oven or microwave.

4. Add the honey, ginger, cardamon and salt to the smashed sweet potatoes. Continue mashing until well combined. Rewarm in microwave, if necessary, or cover and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.