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Too Many Cooks

Archive for December 2011

That first bite takes me home

They say you eat with your eyes first. I am adding to that bit of wisdom: You remember with your taste buds first. For me, that is punctuated by my family's traditional Ukrainian Christmas eve dinner — perogies. I cannot remember a Christmas eve without them.

I can't be home to share the meal with my family in Montana this year, but as we eat these Ukrainian dumplings here in Spokane, each bite reaches back to warm memories of home.

Here's my grandpa's recipe:

Perogie

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Beat eggs, add milk, water and oil. Add salt to flour. Gradually add liquid ingredients to the flour. Knead on floured board until dough is smooth. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. While dough is resting, prepare filling.

Roll out dough thin and cut in 2-inch squares. Place spoonful of filling and fold in triangle. pinch edges tightly to seal well. Drop in boiling water and boil gently until done.  (10-15 minutes) 

Potato filling

Ingredients

  • Several cups mashed potatos
  • Sauteed onion (to taste)
  • Crumbled bacon bits (to taste, optional)
  • Salt to taste

Mix.

Christmas baking help

A friend and former colleague needs a Christmas baking miracle.

Her little girl has a very specific request from Santa: a colorful cake, with sprinkles. But there's a catch… Her oven broke a couple of weeks ago and won't be fixed before Christmas.

She says she has heard about people in Japan and elsewhere using a rice cooker to bake cakes. And she's been scouring the Web for ideas about baking in a Crockpot.

She writes: “How does that work? I was hoping to make several small layers of different colors. Thanks for any suggestions. I sure wouldn’t want Santa to fail this early in her childhood. =) This experiment will be among the Christmas miracles this year.”

Any ideas?

The hunt for last-minute, local gifts

I had a lot of fun hunting up gifts from local businesses for today's story in the food section.

Wrapsacks owner Kathryn Hapke shared a discount code for the Wrapsacks website for anyone who can't find what they're looking for at Huckleberry's. Type SPOKESMAN in to the discount code box for 15 percent off any orders over $35.

The bags are sealed down both sides with Velcro and can open to become a placemat. They come in an assortment of colors, with batik fabrics on the outside and polyester inside so they wipe clean.

I liked slowing down for a minute in the quiet tasting room at Knipprath to taste sherry, Spanish nudge, Alpine wine and ports. It was nice break from the traffic and lines. It's not always that quiet there, but Sunday afternoon there was a calm moment before the Christmas party.

I also spent a couple of hours at The Spokane Public Market and Sun People Dry Goods. Everyone there was so kind and helpful.

You can feel good about giving the “Every Woman Can Get Cook'n” Cookbook. The proceeds from the book, $10, will help women afford mammograms.

There are some inspiring stories and tasty sounding recipes inside, too.

Plus when I see local registered dietitian Patty Seebeck's smiling face on the cover I can't help but smile back.

If you were too busy this summer to put up jam and jellies from local fruit, some Green Bluff growers have done it for you. I'll be tucking Walters' Fruit Ranch jams and jellies into stockings. (And I'm experimenting with huckleberry jam filling for chocolates.)

A caller this morning says her favorite place to find local gifts is The Nut Factory which she says has fantastic holiday treats and more.

What is your favorite place to find local gifts?

Holiday cookie exchange madness

I can't help it. I always go overboard on the holiday baking. 

Even with the promise of a cookie exchange with the talented bakers at my office, I still can't hold myself to baking just a couple different treats.

This year, perhaps my most restrained of recent memory, I only baked chocolate crinkles, peanut butter blossoms, sugar cookies and made caramels, turtles and kahlua. My husband also made his Mom's orange bread… for good measure and because he was missing the flavors of home.

I brought only the chocolate crinkles and peanut butter blossoms to the office exchange this afternoon…. Now, I have mints, truffles, biscotti, chocolate peanut butter pinwheels, spritz cookies, cherry cheesecake cookies, bourbon balls and more. Here's a shot of the spread just before we started swapping cookies.

There is no reason I should be consuming these treats, but it makes me happy to have a tray full of goodies to share with friends and family.

What treats make it Christmas at your house?

Seeking comfort food

When the holiday season starts to explode, my eating habits tend to implode. Homemade cookies at work, chocolate goodies at home, candy, retirement cake, etc. I find myself longing for something wholesome and satisfying - at least for dinner. This recipe is my mom's. It is from my babysitter, Gladys, when we lived in Little Rock, Ark. My sister and I still love this dish, and I have brought it to potlucks, taken it to sick friend's families, and shared it with friends and relatives. It's simple and uses ingredients you probably don't have to run to the store for. What dishes do you go to for comfort during chaos?

Texas Hash

1 pound ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

1 large green pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

2 cans tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup rice, uncooked

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Saute pepper and onion in some oil. Add meat and brown. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and bake 1 hour at 325 degrees in a covered casserole dish.

 

Healthier school lunch

I had so much fun reporting today's story on healthier school lunches at schools in Othello and Cheney, Wash.

This picture of chef Tom French giving one of the kids a fist bump for trying some of the new foods presented to them in the library is at the heart of the program. I had to share it, even though it didn't make it into today's newspaper.

The schools switched from last year's processed, eat-to-serve menus, to a from-scratch effort this year. Although it took kids some time to get used to the new foods, most are loving it now.

It was so fun to see what they would try… many of them were eating foods my own children wouldn't even think about touching. It gives me the courage to start trying more foods with my kids again.

But I love eating raw cookie dough

Confession time: My dad and I used to wait till my mom would move away from the mixing bowl so that we could sneak bites of her chocolate chip cookie dough. If busted, she'd issue a stern warning that we'd “get worms” if we ate too much of it. That warning was never scary enough to make us stop. But this bit of news might:

A study released today points the finger at ready-to-bake cookie dough for a 2009 E. coli outbreak. 

The most surprising finding was that eggs were not to blame. It turns out, it may be the flour is the most unsafe part. 

Tells us in the comments, will you still sneak bites of cookie dough?

Speculoos can be spectacular

If you have flown on Delta, you’re familiar with the spiced, crispy cookies they’ve branded “Biscoff.” These are well-known in Europe by their original name: speculoos. The Lotus brand Biscoff and Trader Joe’s Bistro cookies have been available at grocery stores for a number of years.

Speculoos spreadRecently, I learned they’ve made these cookies into a spread that has the consistency and look of peanut butter, but is a sweet new concoction altogether.
I managed to come by a jar of this stuff (at about the same time a similar product hit the shelves at TJ’s). Make no mistake. It is not peanut butter. It is not good for you.
But it is delicious.
Hoping to go beyond using it as a sandwich spread, I went in search of other inventive uses for this sinful stuff.
The Lotus website has lots of recipes.
Sifting through those listed, I chose the oatmeal pancakes. I had all the ingredients and pancakes always go over well with The Daughters.
This easy recipe made fluffy, lightly sweet pancakes. The kids dusted them with powdered sugar instead of drenching them in syrup. The only caveat is that the higher sugar content in the batter made them brown faster than I am accustomed to. I will definitely be making these again.
The second recipe I tried was for brown sugar bars. These pair a lightly sweetened pie crust with a brown sugar, flour, egg and speculoos spread mixture. When baked up, you can tinker with the amount of sugar and baking time to have either a softer center or a more cake-like consistency.
These were an even bigger hit than the pancakes. The flavor reminded us all of pecan pie, without the pecans. I was subsequently informed by our features editor, “You made a chess pie.”
Whatever you call them, I will definitely be making these again, and may also sprinkle some pecans on the top for a bit of crunch.

There are countless ways to use this stuff, and I had better experiment (perhaps these rolls and these treats?) some more. Otherwise, I might just get out a spoon and dive into the jar.

Here comes 7/Seventy

Beer lovers should take the time today to check out an unusual release from the brewers at Golden Hills Brewing Co.

Bernie Duenwald is hitting seven area bars with the brewery's new India pale lager, called 7/Seventy. The beer, named because it is 7 percent alcohol by volume and 70 IBUs (that's beer geek speak for International Bitterness Units, a measure of bitterness in the beer. )

Duenwald, who created and brewed 7/Seventy, says despite the popularity of India pale ales, the lager versions are downright rare. Of course, a craft brewery like Golden Hills, that specializes in lagers rather than ales is also unusual.

The original India pale ales were brewed by the British with extra malt and hops as preservatives for the long boat trip to Brits in India.

7/Seventy has all of the flavor of an India pale ale, but with a clean finish, Duenwald says. “You get all of the front end kick of an IPA but you get an easier finish,” he says.

They tapped the first keg over the weekend at Bubba's Bar and Grill in Reardan, Wash. (Duenwald's favorite hangout.)

Today, they start the 7/Seventy launch at 1 p.m. at the Post Street Ale House, in downtown Spokane, before moving to six other places around the area. He says they'll spend about an hour at each location before moving to the next bar. The bars won't tap the kegs until Duenwald and his crew arrive.

Here's the plan:

1. Post Street Ale House, 1 N. Post St.

2. Fast Eddy's, 1 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard

3. The Swinging Doors, 1018 W. Francis Ave.

4. Manito Tap House, 3011 S. Grand Boulevard

5. The Hop Shop, 3803 S. Grand Boulevard

6. Black Diamond Sports Bar, 9614 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley

7. Village Tavern, 13119 W. Sunset Highway, Airway Heights

Want more details? Go to the Golden Hills Brewing Co. website or Facebook page.

A new cookie each day? OK!

This time of year, I'm a sucker for holiday cookie-of-the-day websites. And thanks to a Williams-Sonoma blog, I can share another with you http://blog.williams-sonoma.com/cat/holidays/cookie-of-the-day/

It starts with Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirls. One of my favorite combinations!

Do you have a holiday cookie you try to make every year? Wanna share your recipe with us?

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We never really believed that old cliché anyway. We're collaborating to share our cooking inspirations, favorite recipes, restaurant finds and other musings from the local food world and beyond.

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Read all the posts from recent conversations on Too Many Cooks.

Contributors

Adriana Janovich writes for and edits the Wednesday food section.

Carolyn Lamberson Features Editor for The Spokesman-Review. She's a foodie who has no time to cook. Still, a girl can dream ...

Ruth Reynolds is a copy editor at the SR. "I would bake and cook more than I do if I didn't have to keep cleaning off my kitchen counters. My favorite kitchen appliance is my rice cooker. No. My immersion blender."

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