Saturday, December 19, 2015

Yum Yum Christmas!

Christmas is coming and everybody wants a new recipe for a delicious dish.  I have a couple of good ones for you--I have made both of them, and they are really good.
The first is a gingerbread cake that is out of this world.  I found it in the New York Times last month and made it for Thanksgiving.  It was a big hit, and I made it again.  Again it was great.

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread

  • Time1 1/2 hours plus cooling
  • Yield8 to 10 servings

Photo:  Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times 


  • 2 cups/8 ounces/266 grams fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 stick/4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter
  • cup/133 grams dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup/120 milliliters whole milk
  • ½ cup/120 milliliters maple syrup
  • ¼ cup/60 milliliters molasses
  • 1 ½ cups/185 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon/5 grams ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon/1 gram ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon/3 grams baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon/3 grams kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon/1 gram baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon/14 grams grated fresh ginger (from 1-inch piece)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9-inch square or round baking pan with parchment.
  2. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
  3. In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.
  4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.
  5. Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake. Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack and let the cake cool completely before eating it.
One note:  It was suggested in the comments that a 9 inch spring form pan, instead of the 9x9 inch square pan would work well in this recipe.  I tried it, and liked the cake better baked in the spring form pan.

Chocolate almond shortbread
The second recipe of from the Chicago Tribune, and is for chocolate almond shortbread.  Another winner, in fact this recipe won  second prize in the Chicago Tribune Cookie contest in 2012. I found that these cookies are easy to make and come out crisp and delicious.  I chose to make the cookies using a star shape cookie cutter.

Chocolate almond shortbread
Second place: Betty Koenig
Prep: 45 minutes
Chill: 30 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 dozen cookies
"I love that they're not too sweet, and they seem like they'd be a really good dunker," Angel Food Bakery owner and pastry chef Stephanie Samuels says of Betty Koenig's chocolate almond shortbread cookies. In testing, we found the dough rolled out better when chilled for at least 30 minutes.

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup almond meal or very finely ground unblanched almonds
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup Dutch process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup almond meal or very finely ground unblanched almonds

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer. Add the vanilla and salt; beat or mix to blend. On low speed, add the flour, cocoa and almond meal, mixing well.

2. Divide into 3 pieces; wrap in plastic wrap and chill, 30 minutes. Roll out dough, one piece at a time, on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters; transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

3. Bake, in batches if necessary, until slightly firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Cool on racks. Store in airtight containers. Can be frozen for months.

Nutrition information per serving: 133 calories, 9 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 26 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Monday, December 7, 2015

Where Were You on December 7, 1941?

Today is the 74th  anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, an event which brought the United States into World War 2.  This event changed profoundly changed the lives of all Americans.

Where was I?  I wasn't born until 1946,  but my parents were adults, their answers to the question were:
My father was at home recovering from a hangover--he attended a party at the University of Minnesota Graduate Students Club the night before.
My mother was at church, where she was every Sunday.
My in-laws had been married since October, 1941, my father-in-law was at a Chicago Bears Football Game, held in those days at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
My mother-in-law was at home.

To people in my generation--the  life changing event was the assassination of President Kennedy.  The question for us was "Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?"
I was visiting a college in Pittsburgh, PA.  I thought it was a joke--for a few seconds.
My husband was in a class at school, the students in his class had the same reaction as I did.

To young adults, the life-changing event was 911 and the question is "Where were you when you heard about 911?"
I was teaching a class at school, another teacher came in and told me what happened.  I turned my radio on, and the story was confirmed.  My lesson plan was trashed and we spent the rest of the class listening to the radio.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Yum Yum Hanukkah

Hanukkah begins at sunset Sunday December 6, 2015.  Hanukkah, like other Jewish holidays involves celebrating with family and eating special  holiday foods.
In the United States, it is favorite holiday of many Jews for many reasons; the fun, the  giving of gifts and the food.

Although it is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, it has become a very important Jewish holiday in the United States.  Hanukkah is a happy holiday, commemorating an historical event, the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 168 B.C.E.  The Syrian king Antiocchus Epiphanes sent soldiers to Jerusalem, abolished Judaism, giving Jews  the choice: convert or die. On the 25 day of the month of Kislev, a group of Jews, led by the Maccabees family, although greatly outnumbered, defeated Antiochus's army in two decisive battles.  Now that the Jewish people controlled Jerusalem again, they proceeded to rededicate the Temple.  The ner tamid, the eternal light, was rekindled, using oil from the only remaining jar of oil.  Normally, a jar of oil lasts for only one day, but this jar lasted for eight.
The holiday lasts for eight days  and is centered around lighting the Hanukkiah, a candelabra with eight branches and a shamash, the candle used to light the others.  Special foods are served and gifts are exchanged.  Many of the foods are cooked in oil, a way to remember the miraculous oil that lasted for eight days.

In my family, three foods are always served: brisket, latkes and sweet and sour meatballs.  I am sharing the family recipes for two of these delicious dishes, sweet and sour meatballs and brisket.
My sister-in-law, Sheila helped me write out the recipes, since the cooks in the family prepared these foods from memory.

Sheila’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs.

A delicious appetizer for Hanukkah or any holiday.

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 eggs
½ tsp dried garlic powder
½ cup matzo meal
1 ½ to 2 cups water

2 8 oz cans tomato sauce
½ onion, chopped
1 C. brown sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 to ½ tsp sour salt (citric acid)*Add this to taste, since it is very sour.
salt and pepper

1.     In a large bowl, mix ground beef, eggs, garlic powder, salt and pepper and matzo meal together, until combined.  You should be able to roll a small ball from the meat mixture—if not, add more matzo meal until the meatballs hold together.
2.     Roll the meat mixture into small balls and set aside.
3.     Add about 1 ½ cups water to a 4 quart pot.
4.     Add onions and tomato sauce. 
5.     Heat until the mixture comes to a low boil
6.     Drop the meatballs into the water. Some may fall apart, this adds to the flavor of the sauce.
7.     Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 5-10 minutes
8.     Add the brown sugar, lemon juice and sour salt.
9.     Continue to simmer for 10 more minutes on a low heat.
10.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sour Salt can be found in Kosher grocery stores, or in grocery stores that sell kosher foods. It is also available online from The Spice

Tasty and Easy Beef Brisket
1 3-4 pound beef brisket, flat cut with extra fat trimmed off. You can ask the butcher to do this for you.
1 bottle Heinz Chili Sauce
1 onion chopped
1 bottle beer, any kind. You can use red wine in place of the beer.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  1. Heat a large frying pan and brown the brisket on both sides, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Remove the brisket and put in a roasting pan.
  3. Cover the brisket with the chopped onion.
  4. Pour the entire bottle of chili sauce over the brisket.
  5. Add the beer to the pan.
  6. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, making sure that you have a good seal.
  7. Put into preheated oven and bake for about 2 1⁄2- 3 hours until tender. Stick it with a
    fork to test for tenderness.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the meat rest for about 10 minutes. The meat
    should be very tender, almost to the point of falling apart.
  9. Save the pan sauce, separate the fat from the sauce, discarding the fat. Add salt and
    pepper to sauce to taste. Keep the sauce warm in a small sauce pan.
  10. Slice the brisket against the grain.
  11. Serve the meat with the sauce.