chocolate chip yumminess indeed

Hello, all. I hope you enjoyed your Kentucky Iced Tea from last week’s post. If you’d like another, I’d be happy to pour.Moving on, we turn our attention back to Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. But. Instead of the box, we have a … Continue reading

cookbook travels and banana bread squared

A show of hands here–who brings cookbooks home from their travels?

Even with the rise of the electronic recipe (my 11-year-old daughter Googles recipes, despite her mother’s large cookbook collection), paper cookbooks remain popular vacay take-homes. They give travelers return trips, even if just in mind and taste buds.

Opening Makers Mark® The Special Touch cookbook, a Kentucky purchase, I smell the bourbon of distillery tours. When the pages of Savoring San Diego are flipped, I see the ubiquitous flowers of that fair city. The Montana Cookbook brings back a sense of open land and Simply Colorado invites visions of rocky mountains.

While relatively close to home, the city of Duluth was another vacation spot worth remembering. (Culinary details from last summer’s camping trip recorded here.) An especially impressive restaurant stop was The Duluth Grill, and their cookbook told the tale of evolution from Ember’s franchise to one-of-a-kind comfort-food haven. The parking lot garden speaks volumes to their emphasis on fresh, locally sourced, and sustainably raised ingredients.

The book’s $30 price tag gave me pause and I left without, knowing I’d find it online for far less. Except I didn’t. The Duluth Grill Cookbook was available only on the restaurant website. I kicked myself (and certainly deserved a kick for not supporting small business when I had the chance), but found redemption in a friend who was making a quick trip that way. She, too, is a big fan of this much-loved restaurant and agreed to bring the cookbook back for me.

sauce with bookJust last week, then, I finally held a copy of this beautiful and lovely book in my hands. To prove its worth, I immediately set out to make Tofu and Walnut Marinara (taking a pass on the walnuts). It was hearty, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you veggies. Two days later it tasted even better and I know I’ll be making this sauce again.

now THIS is a tofu marinara sauce

now THIS is a tofu marinara

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

I have my eye on the Ratatouille recipe as well as the Buffalo Tofu Strips, both dishes I enjoyed while there. I’d also love to make their Beet Lemonade, though will have to riff on their standard Lemonade recipe as they do not share the beet version I was so enamored with during my visit.

Minnesota’s bitter cold winter called for a baking recipe, so I also made TDG’sr Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the same manner as an earlier cookie adventure, I experimented with each baking sheet, sprinkling some unbaked cookies with chocolate salt, some with vanilla salt and also mixing in marshmallow bits and even leftover movie popcorn that was sitting on the counter just asking to be poured into the remaining batter. Even without my improv, these cookies were amazing and hit all the right sweet, salty, tender, crisp notes.

cookies

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

So here’s to cookbooks and here’s to travel and here’s to those cookbook gems we find when we travel. If you’re looking for the recipe for either the sauce or cookies, let me know in comments or at deLizious facebook and I’ll pass them on your way.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I’ve been on a bit of a banana bread binge lately after finding two renegade recipes on favorite food blogs that demanded to be made. The Cottage Grove House rocked my world with Rye Whiskey Banana Bread

there's rye whiskey in my banana bread!

there’s rye whiskey in my banana bread!

and Shanna over at Curls and Carrots kept my spirits up with Rum-a-Dum-Dum Banana Bread. Thanks, ladies, for two fabulous loaves!

rum-spiked banana bread

rum-spiked banana bread

ann and the three cookie recipes

Last post promised the story of my 20-year friendship with amazing Ann along with recipes for cookies served at her 80th birthday party. That promise will now be kept. Setting the time machine back two decades…

My first job out of college was “food scientist,” which was ideal as I had trained to be exactly that with my Food Science degree. The less than ideal part was that I really didn’t like the job. Test tubes and lab coats weren’t my thing, though I wasn’t sure what my thing was quite yet either.

That same year I was given a Betty Crocker cookbook for Christmas and I remember my fascination while turning its pages. Ironically, I had not learned to cook in college. A degree in Food Science requires plenty of science: reading, lab work, discussions, tests, but cooking is not required.

But with a cookbook in front of me (and Betty’s at that), I became enamored with the concept of sharing recipes and other food ideas. My career goal began to crystallize: I wanted to be a food writer.

Living in a small town in southern Minnesota, I shared this information with my grandmother. She knew of a local woman who owned a b&b and also wrote for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Taste section. I dutifully called this woman and was invited over for an informational interview. And that’s how I met Ann.

The day of our interview changed the course of my life, I’m convinced of this. Ann was friendly, warm, and encouraging, but the kicker was her no-nonsense, down-to-earth outlook. I already had a solid support system with friends and family, who were all kinds of “friendly, warm, and encouraging,” but Ann was the first to offer practical career advice.

She listened to my story, then suggested I offer to write a food column for a local paper. My initial response, “what if they say ‘no?’,” was countered with advice I still carry with me today: “Assume they’ll say ‘yes’.” Ann also suggested I volunteer at a local food co-op. Because Ann was the kind of person whose orders you simply obeyed, I followed both suggestions. Not only did I land the food column gig, but ended up working at that co-op as well, where I (finally) learned to cook and bake.

Ann supported me in so many ways: My husband and I b&b-sat when she was out of town. I assisted Ann when she taught cooking classes as well as tested recipes for her cookbook projects. Ann helped me believe in myself as a food professional. And with that confidence, I was able to move forward in my career and eventually find courage enough to start my own business.

We’ve both since moved from that small town to the same metro area. We see each other occasionally for lunches, dinners, and meetings, and she’s always generous with her gifts, time, and advice.

It’s been fun to watch Ann’s career evolve as well. Since we met back in the mid-90s, she’s published cookbooks (A Cook’s Tour of Minnesota and Hot Dish Heaven are her two most recent) and also was invited to serve as Comfort Food Ambassador to celebrate Creamette’s 100th birthday. How can you not love this woman?

So when Mary, a mutual friend, asked if I wanted to co-host a party for Ann’s 80th birthday, I immediately said “yes.” Not only would planning the party be fun, but we’d be celebrating a woman to whom I owe so much.

We sent out the invites, made plenty of food, took care of party favors (small booklets with the cookie recipes), and added Ann’s special touches: napkins she’d used at the b&b, egg salad made with the recipe from the co-op I’d worked at, dates because she always had a stash at her desk when she worked at the paper, fresh strawberries as she’s originally from a town called Strawberry Point, and the three cookies she’d requested. We were ready to party.

And party we did. Folks seemed to enjoy the event and most importantly, Ann was pleased. She was surrounded by people from her years at the newspaper and in the Betty Crocker Kitchens (did I mention that Ann had worked on Betty’s cookbooks?); others she had mentored; friends from church; neighbors; her daughter. Folks shared stories about what Ann had meant to them and it was clear that mine was not the only life she had changed with her practical, no-nonsense advice as well as her fierce loyalty to friendships.

My hope is that we all have an Ann in our lives–someone to encourage us in professional endeavors. Someone who knows what it’s like on the inside and can help us get where we don’t yet know we want to go. And someone who will celebrate with us when we do. Thank you Ann, for everything you are.

And now let’s talk cookies!

Strudel & Nudel’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookiesstrudel

Ann fell in love with this recipe when she wrote about Erich Christ who ran both The Black Forest and, next door, a deli called Strudel & Noodle. He sold homemade apple strudel and noodles besides these great cookies.

  • 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 + 3/8 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 4 cups + 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups raisins

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.

In bowl, cream together brown sugar, shortening, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in milk. Add cake flour, oats, and raisins, mixing smoothly.

Drop batter by large spoonfuls on baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched with finger. Cool on rack. Makes 30 large cookies.

Fudge BrowniesBrownies

A favorite of Ann’s.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts, optional

Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease 13×9-inch pan.

In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over very low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in sugar. Cool slightly. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

In small bowl, mix flour and salt; stir into chocolate mixture. Fold in nuts, if using. Spread batter in pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack. Cut large or small as desired.

Small-pan Brownies:  Use half of each ingredient; mix and bake in 8-inch square pan.

Maple Chocolate Chip Cookiesmaple walnut

Here’s the recipe for Ann’s signature cookies, baked for her b&b cookie jar by a succession of excellent bakers. From Ken Haedrich’s Maple Syrup Cookbook.

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with kitchen parchment.

In bowl, cream butter with electric mixer, slowly drizzling in maple syrup. In small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in hot water; beat coffee and vanilla into butter mixture.

In separate bowl, toss together whole wheat and all-purpose flours, walnuts, baking soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture, in several batches, until flour is just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Let batter stand several minutes to allow whole wheat flour to absorb moisture in syrup.

Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Transfer to rack to cool. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

marshmallow throw-down

Anyone who has followed deLizious facebook posts will know that I enjoy marshmallows very much. They’re so simple, so pure. Sugar, all fluffed up. I made a batch 15 or so years ago and have always said I’d do it again. But it turned out to be one of those things I always thought about doing but never did. Until now. Backing up a bit…

the fluff!

the fluff!

When holiday baking season hit last November, I shopped the local Fleet Farm repeatedly to buy up their stock of Marshmallow Fluff. Living in the midwest, it’s hard to find fluff (I’m not talking creme here–it has to be fluff) on store shelves. I’ve purchased online before, but when it shows up at Fleet Farm November through December, I save myself shipping costs and buy enough to keep me going for the year.

buffet of holiday novelty marshmallows

buffet of holiday novelty marshmallows

After the Great Fluff Purchase, my mom started buying novelty marshmallows for me: French vanilla snowmen, gingerbread folk, peppermint minis, Christmas trees. I was tickled she thought of me when she saw them and loved the innovative flavors. (Thanks again, mom!)

Next on my ‘mallow trail was Attempt in Domesticity‘s (awesome blog if you’ve never been) gargantuan mug-topping marshmallow. Reading about her marshmallow-making experience reminded me that this was something I’d done before and could do again.

Then A/D turned me on to Plush Puffs. This maker of “gourmet” and “artisan” marshmallows was calling my name–I lost no time in following A/D’s example and ordering from their odds-and-ends selection. These marshmallow remnants are less expensive than their prettier cube cousins, but just as yum. My first order was for caramel swirl (!), vanilla bean, and cinnamon. When they had a 20% off sale, I collected pumpkin pie, mochaccino, and chocolate chipetta flavors. These marshmallows are worlds apart from the packaged jet-puff variety. Plushies are soft, fresh, fragrant, and full of Real Flavor. Am a huge fan.

plush puff purchases

plush puff purchases–see the caramel swirling upper left?

Finally, I threw a challenge out to A/D saying I would make mallows if she’d take a turn at the caramel sauce she’s been wanting to make. And I’m here to say that I made my mallows!

final product all stacked up

final product all stacked up

Just as A/D had said in her post, nothing to it. The part where the whipped mixture went into the greased pan to firm was a bit sticky, but outside of that it was an easy task. I did veer ever-so-slightly from the recipe just twice: Plush Puff’s chipettas inspired me toss half-a-bag of mini chips into my batch before letting them set. Also, I was shy of the 1/2 cup powdered sugar I needed for dusting at the end, so mixed in a handful or so of gold sanding sugar. (How could that not be a good addition?) It was indeed pretty and next time I’d replace even more of the final dusting sugar with a more brightly colored sugar. My recipe follows and I encourage you to take up the marshmallow challenge. Or better yet, challenge yourself to make whatever it is you’ve been meaning to make for a very long time.

gorgeous

gorgeous–anyone else think it looks like the entrance to a deep cave of snow?

chips stirred in, ready to set

chips stirred in, ready to set

a slice of mallow

a slice of mallow

all done!

all done!

Homemade Marshmallows

  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (cornstarch would be fine–I was surprised to see potato starch on my shelf–leftover from a gluten-free recipe, I think)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Line 13×9-inch pan with foil; coat with cooking spray.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into large bowl of heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand 15 minutes until gelatin softens and absorbs water.

In heavy medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, remaining 1/2 cup cold water, and the salt; stir over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat; bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 240°F.

With mixer at low speed, gradually pour hot syrup down side of bowl into gelatin mixture. Gradually increase speed to high. Beat 15 minutes or until mixture is thickened and stiff. Add vanilla; beat 30 seconds longer or until well blended.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into pan; smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature 4 hours or until firm. (I so cheated here–didn’t wait much more than 20 minutes. Didn’t seem to be a problem as the mixture was just dry enough to work with.)

In large bowl, toss together potato starch and powdered sugar. Sprinkle onto work surface. Invert marshmallow pan onto starch mixture; remove foil from marshmallow. Sprinkle some of starch mixture over marshmallow; pat lightly. Coat sharp, large knife with cooking spray. Cut marshmallows into desired shapes. (Can use cookie cutters, too.) Return cut marshmallows and starch mixture to large bowl; toss to coat. Transfer marshmallows to wire rack, shaking off any excess starch mixture.