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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Buckeyes

I grew up in the South and had never heard of buckeyes until I began celebrating holidays in Ohio. I was so confused by this strange dessert and wondered why anyone would want to eat a dessert made to resemble the eye of a deer. My southern ignorance brought forth some blushing when I eventually found out a buckeye was a nut, not a buck's eye. Where I come from, we just dip the whole ball of peanut butter in chocolate so there is no peanut butter visible, and we call them peanut butter balls. Regardless of how you decide to dip these, they taste delicious!

Buckeyes made by my awesome husband

Buckeyes or Peanut Butter Balls
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup or 192g butter, softened
500g powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate for melting

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until uniformly combined. If the mixture feels too sticky, you can add a little more icing sugar to make it easier to roll. Roll into 1 inch balls and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Melt chocolate and using a toothpick, dip balls in chocolate and allow to set. Keep cool so buckeyes don't stick together. Makes just over 3 dozen buckeyes.

Note: I have not been successful in melting local chocolate chips. The large baking chocolate bars by Selbourne tend to work better. If your chocolate is not quite as thin as you'd like, add a teaspoon of oil or shortening. Avoid adding butter if possible as the little bit of water in butter might cause the chocolate to seize.

Slice and Bake Cookies

Years ago, I stumbled upon this recipe in a list collected by a group of women I had met. It has been my "go to" sugar cookie recipe since then. What inspired me to try these the first time was a little note with the recipe explaining that it came from a woman who always kept these in her freezer so that she could make a few fresh out of the oven cookies if a guest stopped by. She must have been an amazing hostess! You could roll and decorate these, but if you're looking for something super simple, these are great to just slice off and bake.


Slice and Bake Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. This works best with your hands so you can really work it into a uniform dough. Once you have a dough that is not crumbly, slowly roll the dough to form a log shape and place in plastic wrap. I find it easier to get a rough roll first and then smooth it once it's wrapped in plastic. Place the roll in the freezer overnight if you plan on slicing them or in the fridge if you want to roll them out the next day.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Slice cookies with a sharp knife into 1/4 to 1/2 inch rounds. Sprinkle with chunky sugar or other decorations if desired and bake for 8-10 minutes. If you slice thicker, you'll get a more chewy soft sugar cookie, and if you slice thinner, you'll get a more crisp "biscuit" type cookie. You can also opt to roll them out and use cookie cutters, but let the dough rest about 15 minutes after removing from the fridge first.

Dirty Rice

Sounds delicious, right? In the Southern U.S., in the state of Louisiana, there is a creole style of food know as Cajun food that blends flavors from different cultures. While this recipe may not be 100% out-of-the-bayou authentic, it's a tasty take on the original dirty rice that would have been made with livers. For this recipe, you can use just about any kind of smokey sausage, but recently we have really enjoyed the kielbasa made by a Polish couple living in our city. On our long family camping trip, the days we ate this were morale boosting days. If you're looking for a little change in your week, give this one a try. It's a great one pot meal for a week night.

Had to capture the pot quick before the food disappeared!

Dirty Rice
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups water
1 1/2 chicken broth cubes
1 package sausage or 1 long link, sliced into rounds
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped celery (less if stalks are thin)
2 green peppers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 teaspoons fresh)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chili powder, to taste

Fry sausage in a pan over medium heat without oil until the sausage begins to brown. Remove the sausage and set aside. If there is not a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, add about a teaspoon of oil and fry the onions, celery, and peppers until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir until it is nicely coated with the oil and vegetables. This helps keep the grains separated after cooking. Pour in the water and drop in the broth cubes. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the cube is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low then add the salt, chili powder, thyme, and sausage. Cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Turn off the heat and leave covered about 10 minutes prior to serving. Top with sour cream if desired.

Eggnog

Eggnog is one of my husband's favorite Christmas drinks. I can remember seeing him drink it straight from the carton in front of the fridge on many an occasion when we lived in the U.S. With Christmas approaching, I was excited to hear last week of a local dairy making eggnog for Christmas, only to find out Friday that I had likely missed the last chance to order. After some research, I realized making my own pasteurized eggnog was not as hard as I'd imagined. Now you can try it, too! It also doubles as a delicious coffee creamer. Freeze the egg whites in ice cube trays for the next time you need just whites.


Eggnog
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar plus 1 Tablespoon
2 cups milk (pasteurized and cooled)
1 small box (or 1 cup) fresh cream (heavy cream)
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan off the heat, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until the yolks turn a lighter yellow color. Into the mixture, add 1 cup of cold milk and the nutmeg. Over low heat, begin heating the mixture without boiling it until the temperature throughout is 160F/71C. Keep at this temperature for about 30 seconds. This is the temperature just before small bubbles would begin to form. Switch off the heat and chill immediately over an ice bath or in the freezer. Once cooled, use a whisk to stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk and the box of cream until smooth. Keep in the fridge once the eggnog is finished and enjoy!

Note: Some recipes call for the addition of whipped egg whites to the final mixture, but since I can't guarantee the safety of raw eggs here, I would not advise it. Also, if you'd like a thinner eggnog, heat the cream with the milk and the mixture will not thicken as much.