Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cooking (and baking) from the Pantry

It's something I like to do. I mean that it's not only thrifty, but an interesting challenge, to make meals or desserts with what's on hand. There's a charm to it, a feeling that one has managed to fit puzzles pieces together. It's fun.

In addition to the 1933 Monitor Top refrigerator, we have a small chest freezer in the cellar. I love that thing, and it's the most modern kitchen appliance we own. It enables me to make stock and freeze it in large quantities and small, turn leftovers into something interesting and put the result away long enough to be appetizing again and buy food, meat particularly, when it's on sale.

Today I realized the cookie jar was empty and when I came to again it was quarter to four and there it was: gingerbread oatmeal cookies, plum-raspberry crisp, pan-roasted chicken with rosemary and root vegetables, and (for tomorrow) chicken ragu to be braised in beef stock and red wine, with more root vegetables.

All of the ingredients were here. The chicken had been defrosted from the freezer (five legs) and had to be used up; there was leftover beef stock and red wine. I keep potatoes and onions in the cellarway and always keep the baking cupboard (really) stocked.

The tricky part is cooking for two rather than four or more...DH gets as bored as a five-year old with leftovers, and I really hate to waste food. But I'm learning.

Here's the recipe for the cookies (adapted from Gingerbread: 99 Delicious Recipes from Sweet to Savory, by Linda Merinoff).

Gingerbread Oatmeal Cookies ~ 70 cookies

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/4 c. molasses
1 c. white sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. white flour
1-1/4 c. rolled oats [uncooked]
3/4 c. bits of candied ginger


Before you begin: pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Heavily grease cookie sheets, and when putting the dough on them, bake no more than 6 per sheet [they begin to stick only a minute or so out of the oven, and this way you've got a fighting chance to get them off the sheet without disaster].

Melt the butter and allow it to cool slightly.

Measure out the dry ingredients and whisk together. Beat the molasses and vanilla into the butter, then add the egg and blend. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together.

When the oven is hot, space the cookies at least 2" apart on the sheets (they will spread). Make each from one heaping teaspoon full of dough. If you like, neaten with your fingers after dipping them into cool water.

Bake for approximately 10 minutes, turning half-way through to ensure even baking. Use a spatula to remove and put onto racks quickly and carefully. If they stick too much, return to the oven for a moment and try again.

Cool cookies completely before storing. These are rich, a little sticky, chewy and crisp at the same time. If you like molasses you'll love them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Even though I haven't seen Boardwalk Empire...

...a few days ago I cast on for a 20s cardigan. 1921, to be exact, a Bear Brand/Bucilla pattern. (Yes, I know the above-named show is currently in 1920.)

I am using a soft peach colored cone yarn I bought on eBay about four years ago, and am praying that I don't run out! It's exactly the right gauge using recommended needles...per inch AND per row, and it looks swell.

I have also just done the first major frogging. Don't work even a very simple pattern with no shaping after 11:00 p.m. if you're tired. It's a bad idea (why is it, though, that I can manage after a martini? h'mmmm?).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where did August go, anyway?

Ooops. It's almost October, and not a post have I made. (August wasn't all that fascinating, either, except for the 28th, which was lovely.)

But...the weather was good, my garden grew, and I did a lot of baking. Nothing very new.

On the 28th of August, however, DH and I attended the Jazz Age picnic (second of this past summer) at Governors Island, right off of Manhattan.

It's a small (to those who Gatsby) picnic with wonderful live bands, some vendors, a bit of food, and Jazz Age recreation like a pie contest (no, I didn't enter; somehow, juggling a pie all the way from Providence didn't sound appealing), and a tug-o-war. It ran for two days, but we attended only on Saturday.

We had a good time and were able to meet up with old acquaintances and also to be introduced to others who I hope will become acquaintances or friends in the future.

The bands were Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra and Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society .

It was a swell event, and we hope to get to more of them, including some of the other Art Deco themed events in Manhattan which seem to be expanding every week. (That's a good thing, a very good thing.)