Monday, December 31, 2012

Pecan Tassies

It’s the end of the year already!  I hope everyone’s Christmas was wonderful. My holiday went by so quickly that I only got to reenact Elf scenes twice instead of the preferred half-a-dozen times. 

2013 is hours away and I am inundated with “Best of 2012” lists.  I adore compilations and montages of any sort so the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a thrill for me as I relive the year in pictures, the year in books, the moments that restored our faith in humanity, and basically anything else on this website.

If you will indulge me, I would like to give you two of my Top 5 lists of 2012.  (Items listed are in no particular order.)

Top 5 Meals
·           Momofuku Ko, NYC – I treated Robbie on his 30th birthday to dinner at David Chang’s fine-dining establishment.  With only 12-seats in the restaurant, and no menu, it was an intimate dinner full of surprises.  And shaved fois gras.  Who knew you could shave fois gras. 
·           Parm, NYC – We ate here several times this year as it is one of our more frequently visited restaurants.  The food is delicious and affordable and the atmosphere makes me feel like I’m cooler than I really am (mainly because they play a lot of Tribe Called Quest and Rick Ross songs that I am able to recognize).
·           Daniel, NYC – Our two-year wedding anniversary was destined to be a special one when we snagged reservations here.  Even though we were on the outskirts of the dining room, the fact that Chef Daniel Boulud made an appearance outside of the kitchen was thrilling and the extra dessert in celebration of our anniversary shows they know how to make someone feel special.   Or just me.
·           Tosaka’s, Newton, NC – After a year in NYC, I have yet to find a restaurant like Tosaka’s.   I ate here every time I came home.  Someone needs to tell me where I can find teriyaki chicken, rice, sweet carrots and unlimited shrimp sauce in the 212 (I’ll even take the 718). 
·           Fatty Cue, NYC – Soon after Hurricane Sandy, and after my second straight week of working from home, I was getting a tad stir crazy.  We decided to join in the #DineOutNYC movement one Saturday night and ventured downtown to Fatty Cue, a BBQ joint with an Asian flare.  It was great to get out and support restaurants that were closed for over a week post-hurricane and my tweet about that meal was one of the three retweets I got this year – proving Joey’s theory that there is no selfless good deed (Friends reference – The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS).

Top 5 Moments  
·           Duke/UNC Basketball - In March, we went to watch the Duke vs. Carolina basketball game in Brooklyn with our UNC friends, Kate and Tom.  After an intense 39 minutes of basketball, the game winning shot by Austin Rivers was one of the most emotional and euphoric endings to a basketball game that I had ever seen.   Robbie showed more emotion that night than I think I had ever seen as he ran screaming up and down the barroom floor causing some hipster to come up to him and say “I don’t even know you but I want to give you a hug in congratulations.”  I think his pure, ecstatic response converted a few Brooklyn-ites into Duke fans. 
·           Adrienne’s birthday - I spoke of that day here, but it must be included since it was such an exciting moment when I learned that there was another female Mullinax in the world.
·           Jazz Club Night – One random Tuesday evening Robbie and I ventured to Dizzy’s Jazz Club, a part of the Lincoln Center Jazz Center.  We spent a lovely two and a half hours listening to Morgan James (from Godspell!) sing Nina Simone.  Although we may have been the youngest people there, it was pretty awesome and, if you buy this cd, you may be able to hear my ‘Amen!’ in the background when she sings ‘Save Me.’
·           Visit to Seattle – My job had their annual meeting in Seattle this year and I was able to finally visit my west coast relatives in their hometown.  My mom accompanied me and we had a wonderful few days seeing the sites with my aunt and uncle and cousin.  They were patient with us as we constantly mispronounced Mount Ranier and while I wrecked havoc on the monorail.
·           Life Events of Friends – 2012 welcomed multiple weddings and babies into the lives of some of my closest friends (one needs only to look at 1/10th of my Facebook News Feed at any given moment to see what I’m talking about).  Many of them I got to celebrate with in person but others I relied on social media and emails to see the good news.  Seeing all of them so happy was a wonderful moment indeed. 

Here’s to a wonderful 2013!  Let's all shine bright like a diamond for the new year!

Pecan Tassies
From Pampered Chef All the Best
These are perfect to take along with you to your New Year’s party.   They are incredibly easy to make and are enjoyed by pretty much anyone with tastebuds.  Most people can’t resist small versions of anything, much less mini-pecan pies with the word ‘tassie’ in their name.   

½ cup butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecan halves (chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer until well blended.  Add flour.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Form a tablespoon of the mix into 1-inch balls and place them into the cups of a mini-muffin pan.   Using your fingers, press the dough into each cup until it covers the bottom and slightly up onto the sides of the wells.  In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave and stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla.  Add pecans.  Fill each shell with filling just until full (do not overfill). Bake 20 or 25 minutes or until the tassies are a light golden brown color.   Let cool in pan for several minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Edamame Chicken Stir-fry

Christmas is one week away!  The city is decked out. Presents are bought and shipped.  The kitchen at work is overflowing with deliciousness from colleagues and vendors.  Our Christmas Tree is filled with holiday cards.  In light of recent events, we are using this time to appreciate what we have and not what we don't have -- something we should do more often.  We are very lucky in our fifth floor two-by-four 'pent house.'

Newt feels otherwise.  We have been waging a three-week battle because the placement of our Christmas tree required that we move Newt's litterbox four inches to the left.  Apparently this has shattered Newt's world and he is agitated and will stand in the litter box and meow and do things that require Lysol and an entire roll of paper towels.  (I'll stop there since a food blog is not the venue for this story).  Our counter-insurgency method was to just move his litter box entirely.  Away from the tree.  And into the fireplace.  Incredibly, he seems to have calmed down.  Apparently Newt's middle name is Scrooge.  And let's hope Santa knows we will be in Virginia for Christmas and doesn't try to come down our chimney.

For the sake of not having three straight cookie posts, I decided to throw in a savory recipe.  Even though it is December and I usually live off of cookies, chocolate, and Red & Green M&Ms the entire month, I will need some protein in some form other than nougat.  This recipe is quick to throw together and you can personalize it according to your preferences.  Don't like Snap Peas?  Leave them out.  Add zucchini instead.  Don't like Chicken?  Use shrimp.  Or pork.  

Or nougat.

Edamame Chicken Stir-fry
Adapted from Devilicious!  A cookbook by Newton-Conover High School Alumni
For more information on this book, check out my friend and fellow-blogger's post about it here.  Side note: This was one of her recipes in the book.  Thanks Sharon!

1/8 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry wine
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 packet Splenda
8 oz. chicken breast, sliced
2 teaspoons sesame oil (I used light)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 c. frozen edamame
2 c. snow peas
1 c. mushrooms
1 c. shredded carrots

Combine hoisin sauce, sherry wine, rice vinegar and Splenda in a Ziploc bag.  Add chicken to the bac and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a skillet and add chicken.  Cook until just done, then remove.  Heat remaining teaspoon of the oil in the skillet.  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook for just a minute.  Add vegetables and stir-fry for several minutes until desired tenderness.  Add reserved chicken with any extra marinade you have and cook through until hot.  Serve with rice.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peanut Butter Fudge Oat Cookies

This year, I joined in the 2012 Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap where I received the names and addresses of three fellow food bloggers and shipped each of them a dozen cookies.  In return, I got a dozen cookies from three other food bloggers that had received my name.  

The hardest part of the entire process was deciding what to bake.  I think the cookie you choose says a lot about you and so I wanted it to be somewhat creative (I didn’t think plain sugar cookie was the way to go here) but comforting enough to where folks wouldn’t be disappointed (I also didn’t think fancy schmancy was the best option here).  I settled on these peanut butter fudge oat cookies. 

My reasons were three-fold (Friends reference, “The One with Chandler in a Box”):
  • These cookies made enough for my three recipients and then some.  The ‘some’ I ate.  ie, I could not mess these up by faulty math.  And I’m one of those people that gives gifts that I want.
  • They seemed pretty viable. They were soft enough to give a little should they get bumped on their journey but not so soft that they fell apart.  At least this was my theory and those who received them hopefully did not have a box of sticky, peanut buttery oat crumbs?
  • I was confident in the ingredients.  Who wouldn’t like the combination of peanut butter, oats and fudge?
The recipe made a ton of fudge so next time I may even put more fudge on each cookie before baking them instead of standing over the pot with pretzel rods, apple slices, a straw, etc. in an effort to not waste the glorious fudge.   

I sent a batch of these to Sarah of My Little Red Mixer, Tara of Saucy Mouth and Kate of Food Lust
Here are the cookies I received (and enjoyed thoroughly):
  • Chocolate Gingerbread Men* from A Frosted Kitchen – obviously Sarah takes pride in impeccable decoration without sacrificing necessities like good taste and texture. 
  • Yummy Fruit & Oat Bars* from – Felicia's note said that she got these from Thomas Keller’s new cookbook.  This fact set an incredible standard.  Dropping a TK bomb sets a certain tone for sure.  BOOM! 
  • Biscotti* from Slim Pickin’s Kitchen - The Biscotti was great.  But to top it off Amber included a little bag of Chai tea!  Stop. It.  She clearly goes the extra mile and realizes details matter. 
The anticipation of seeing a box shaped like a possible cookie container, coupled with the yumminess that inevitably arrives at your doorstep, makes me want to do a quarterly cookie swap.  I think every change in season warrants an event such as this one.  Who’s in?

*Note, I may not be calling these cookies the correct name so head over to their blog to get the full story, legal name and recipes.  For instance, TK would never use the word ‘yummy’ in the name of one of his dishes.  He’s to sophisticated.

Peanut Butter Fudge Oat Cookies
Adapted from TheKitchn

1/2 cup butter, very soft
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups oats (I actually used a mix of old-fashioned and quick)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, mix the butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add the oats, baking soda, and salt, and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate the dough. 

Begin preparing the fudge topping by mixing chocolate chips and condensed milk in a saucepan.  Turn the burner on low and, stirring frequently, warm the chocolate until it is completely melted and evenly mixed.  Keep the burner on simmer and keep a spoon handy as you may need to restir the chocolate before topping the cookies.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and, using a cookie scoop (or else your hands will be a gooey mess), drop wanut-sized balls onto the cookie sheet.  Press each ball semi-flat and top with a dollop of the chocolate mixture.  Bake the cookies for 10 – 12 minutes or until just golden around the edges. Let the cookies firm up a bit then transfer the parchment sheets to wire racks before completely cooling. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Sugar and Spice Cookies

In this world of texts and emails sent on an hourly basis, it is rare that one produces such an emotional response as to leave me breathless (cue The Corrs).  However, on November 1st a little after 3 am I got the following text from my brother "Adrienne Joy.  Born November 1 at 1:58 am. 7 pounds 3 ounces."  That was all he said.  My brother is a man of few words (which is probably why he was the less troublesome child) but those eight words and six numbers were enough to keep me up the rest of the night.  I had a niece!  I cannot wait to be a part of her life and to teach her all the wonderful things that aunts teach their nieces like the love of cats (Aunt Linda), the female family members' tradition of Duke (Aunt Peg), the benefits that come with a great sense of humor (Aunt Sherri), and the sophistication of red nail polish (Aunt Molly).  
I got to meet her for the first time over Thanksgiving and I think we really made a connection.  She has a ton of hair and is quite the little squirmy bug.  She sleeps a lot and looks absolutely beautiful in pink.  She also sleeps just like her big brother did with her arms straight up over her head.  We are still waiting to see if she inherited the family dimples.  And her aunt's sharp wit.

In honor of her birth, I made these Sugar and Spice Cookies.  They were incredibly easy to make and since I was unable to meet her until nearly three weeks after she was born, I wanted the record to show that I did something in honor of her on the day she was born.  I then shared them with friends while Robbie shared them with his coworkers with the payoff that they had to share in our enchantment with her pictures.  Happy 1 month little Adrienne!  

Sugar and Spice Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon 
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
2 cups whole wheat flour

In a bowl, beat butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and ginger together until smooth.  Add the maple syrup and beat until incorporated.  Add the egg, mixing until incorporated.  Mix in the flour.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.  When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.  Drop the dough by the teaspoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 11 minutes until the edges are golden.  Transfer to a rack to cool.  When baking in batches, keep extra dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it.