Baking is always an adventure, but some recipes provide more thrills and chills than others. Case in point in this recipe for Cheese Straws that I ran across in the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I had been invited to a Christmas gathering, and had been mulling over what to bring. The Cheese Straws in the Appetizer chapter sounded good–there would be lots of Christmas cookies to eat at the party, so something not sweet sounded like a good idea. And, they could be made ahead. Cheese Straws it was!
Minutes into the recipe I was sweating. It called for 1/4 pound of butter, and the dough was not coming together. It would never come together. I did a Google, and, sure enough, found another blog regarding this recipe–the unfortunate baker added water to the dough to help it come together. I know that in baking, water + flour = glue, so instead of water, I tossed in another stick of butter. Couldn’t hurt! This did come together, perfectly, and I realized there had been a typo. But all’s well that ends well! The straws were crispy and sharp with the Cheddar cheese. So good, that I’ve made them again–they will be perfect for an upcoming bake sale, and will make nice small gifts. Here is the (updated) recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cream the butter until light; add the flour, cayenne, cheese and salt. Roll out on a floured surface, and cut into strips 5 inches long. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden.
This little sparrow seems to be saying “Merry Christmas,” and that is my wish to you. Peace to you. Fran
This is an early visit, and St. Nicholas will be dropping off recipes, not presents. These are not new recipes, but rather, the best kind–old recipes. Tried and true old chestnuts. I have searched the archives of my blog, and have come up with the best of the best for you to consider making for the coming holidays.
The first recipe is for Glittering Shortbread Stars. I have made this recipe a dozen times, and it makes the best and easiest shortbread cookie you could wish for. The dough doesn’t need chilling, and is easy to roll out. I’ve made it into stars, but also into llamas. Go for it!
Lumps of Coal are fun and easy to make. They are crunchy with a fudgy interior. Also, they are great conversation pieces, and go well at Christmas bake sales.
When you have to bake, but don’t really want to or are in a hurry, Almond Cookie Brittle shows up to help. No rolling out or elaborate shaping. And the cookie is crisp and delish.
Moist, old-fashioned cookies, Brown Sugar Cranberry Cookies are like something Red Riding Hood would carry in her basket as she walked innocently through the deep dark forest.
Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cranberry Pie maybe isn’t for Christmas dinner, but instead, for the day after Christmas–along with the turkey sandwiches. Easy and good, and a way to keep the celebration going.
Moist, spicy and delicious, and yes, more cranberries! Here is a recipe for Cranberry Gingerbread. Can be made a day or two or three ahead.
More cranberries! There’s something so perfect about them for Christmas. Here is a Fresh Cranberry Pound Cake, so pretty when sliced. Also can be made ahead.
Buttery and cinnamon-y–Jan Hegels are nice Christmas cookies. Can be made ahead and kept in a tin.
Okay. Even more cranberries! They are delicious in these Cinnamon-Frosted Applesauce Cranberry Cookies. A bit similar to the above Brown Sugar Cranberry Cookies, but these are glazed with a nice frosting, and are incredibly moist.
Find more good Christmas baking recipes by looking in the Something for (almost) Nothing recipe archives, in the “Decembers” of each year. Also find Christmas crafts such as the Squirrel Garland, found along with the above Cinnamon-Frosted Applesauce Cranberry Cookies. Peace to You. Fran
Hi! Before we get to the delicious Baked Chile Chicken recipe, I’d like to mention that my new blog, called “My Illinois Nature Journal,” is up and running. Hope you can stop by, take a look, and sign up (at bottom of page) to receive notifications of new posts. Today’s post is about house sparrows, plentiful in Illinois as they are everywhere else! I have a page of sparrow watercolors, plus a photo. They are surprisingly individual and interesting little birds.
Ok. Back to the delicious Baked Chile Chicken recipe! I am always seeking ways to make the ubiquitous chicken breast as tasty as possible, and I think this recipe does it. It’s easy (no frying, just stick it in the oven) and delicious (bright with the flavors of chile powder and garlic). Also, I add a whipped honey butter mixture to serve on top. (More about this later.)
Here’s the recipe:
Baked Chile Chicken
4 chicken breast halves (bone in)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
Note: The idea for the whipped honey butter comes from a Chicago restaurant, which serves the butter on top of fried chicken. The combination is delicious, but for the home cook, baking the chicken is so much easier than deep frying.
Hi Everyone. When I last posted I mentioned that I would moving over to a new blog and discontinuing “Something for (almost) Nothing.” So I’ve been working on the new blog, which is called “My Illinois Nature Journal.” It’s all about the natural world of Illinois–the birds, the butterflies, wildflowers and more. Creating a new blog is like building a house, and I’m finally at the point where I’m hanging the curtains and sweeping up the sawdust–it’s almost ready. But meanwhile, I keep coming across new, great, useful recipes and I want to share! So it looks like I’ll will go forward with “Something for . . .” adding new recipes when something irresistible comes along. And by next week, I will post a link to My Illinois Nature Journal.
So meanwhile, I have found a great salsa recipe to share. It’s from an excellent cookbook called “Nopalito: a Mexican Kitchen,” by Gonzalo Guzman, and is called Salsa Frita de Arbol. I’ve been cooking low carb, and looking for quick, flavorful additions to our dinner menu, and salsas fill the bill. (Jim has lost 30 pounds, and I have lost 20 eating the low carb way–we are converts!) Here is the recipe, which I’ve adapted a bit.
Salsa Frita de Arbol
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 dried arbol chiles, stemmed and seeded
1 clove of garlic, put through a garlic press
2 cups canned diced tomatoes and their juice
or a 14.5 ounce can
In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chiles, turning occasionally until they are dark red, about 30 seconds. Transfer the chiles to a plate. In the same hot skillet, saute the pressed garlic, stirring so it won’t burn. Add the tomatoes and and salt and bring to a simmer–let cook for about 10 minutes.
Allow the mixture to cool off a bit, and then puree in a blender (see safety cautions below) until smooth. Taste and add salt. Can be served warm or cool.
Cooking notes: The arbol chile is hot, so if you are a hot sauce beginner, I would not add back the chiles before pureeing in the blender. The oil the chiles cooked in will be spicy enough. On the other hand, adding half a sautéed chile made the sauce pretty darn hot, so you need to know your own tastebuds. By the way, one of the big pluses of this recipe, besides it tasting so good, is that if you have some diced canned tomatoes on hand, along with the dried chiles, you can make this fresh salsa any time of the year, even when it’s hard to find a good tomato. Hope you enjoy. Peace to you. Fran
I’ve been blogging since January of 2011, and have had a great time. I’ve been grateful for the readers from all over the world who have visited my blog, often year after year, cookie after cookie. But I’m ready for something new and to move forward. I can’t help but think of the Monarch butterflies Jim and I have raised and released this summer. They flew off over the treetops: It was time for the next chapter of their lives. So this will be my last Something for (almost) Nothing post.
I am already working on the format and topic of my new blog, which will be on Nature Journaling. When it’s ready to go up, I will post the name and url here, and I am hoping you will consider joining me there. It will feature nature journal pages, and more bird and butterfly photography, plus eco gardening. I have to admit–I’m really excited about it! The older I get, the more the natural world moves, inspires me and nurtures me. Meanwhile, heartfelt thanks to you all. Peace to you, Fran
PS Here is my newest Nature Journal page, taken from what I observed at Horlock Prairie, here in Saint Charles. See you soon!
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce is having a moment now–you may be familiar with its red bottle emblazoned with a rooster, and its jaunty green cap. It has long been a cult favorite, I think because of the cute bottle, but, also, for a hot sauce, it’s not super hot. At any rate, the other day, while wandering through a thrift store, I found a 97 cent copy of “The Sriracha Cookbook,” by Randy Clemens and quickly found myself wanting to add Sriracha to everything.
This all leads up to why today’s post is about a Fluffy Sriracha Dip. Why is this dip so fluffy? Well, when I went to the store to buy goat cheese, which is one of the ingredients, I accidentally purchased spreadable goat cheese. This recipe started as a Sriracha cheese log, but because of the spreadable goat cheese, it ended up as a delicious, fluffy dip. And so new dishes are discovered. Who needed a cheese log, anyway? The dip is spicy hot–but not incendiary–and creamy with a green herbal note. So good with fresh cut-up veggies. Here is the recipe. (Don’t freak out about the fresh herbs–more about them later.)
Fluffy Sriracha Dip
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-8 ounce package Neufchatel cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces spreadable goat cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Sriracha
1 clove garlic, put through garlic press
In a small bowl, combine the chopped herbs and the pepper. Toss together.
In a larger bowl, combine the cream cheese, goat cheese, Sriracha, garlic and most of the herb and pepper mix. Mash with a fork until evenly blended.
Scrape into a small bowl, and serve with cut-up fresh veggies.
Making notes: As I’ve mentioned, the fresh herbs are optional. The parsley, green onion mix will work fine. Also, this dip is all about the Sriracha hotness along with the creamy texture, so, again, don’t sweat the herbs. If you can only find “regular,” not spreadable goat cheese, make a cheese log! Either way, it’s good.
Standing in the sunny garden this morning, I’m aware that we are in bee season. There are bumble bees, honey bees (not sure, but I think so), and many smaller bees, all gathering pollen while the sun shines. The butterfly is our last Monarch, released a few days ago. I will miss them! Peace to you. Fran
I’ve never been a big fan of cucumbers. Not that this is a big deal or anything, but the cucumbers of my youth had thick skins, were heavily waxed, had a lot of seeds, why were we eating them, etc. Also, my mother didn’t like cucumbers, and it’s surprising how that can influence you. But vastly improved cukes are showing up in the produce department, and I have had a change of heart, cucumber-wise. So when I saw this recipe for Chineasy Cucumber Salad in a book called Lucky Peach: 101 Easy Asian Recipes, I decided to go for it with the tender-skinned mini-cukes from Aldi.
The result was a spicy, cuke-y, nutty salad that will go well with the rather mundane hamburger patties we are having this evening. The recipe also calls for bashing the cucumbers with a wok cleaver, and that was fun. Or at least, my idea of fun. The cracked cucumber slices will imbibe more dressing. Here is the recipe.
Chineasy Cucumber Salad
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 “mini-cukes,” or Persian cucumbers
1 teaspoon toasted seseme seeds
1 tablespoons roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
Mix together the vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, sugar and salt. Set aside.
Cut off both ends of the cucumbers. Halve them length-wise. Set them cut-side down on the cutting board, and thwack them with the side of your cleaver or chef’s knife. Experiment! You don’t want to reduce the cukes to a pulp, just to crack them apart a bit. Cut the cukes cross-wise into 3/4-inch thick half moons.
Toss the cukes with the dressing and spoon into a nice bowl. Top with the toasted sesame seeds, the roasted peanuts and the chopped cilantro.
My latest Nature Journal page had me struggling with depicting a squirrel holding a black walnut. Had to learn a bit about squirrel anatomy. Apparently squirrels enjoy black walnuts so much that sometimes you see them with the brown dye on their cheeks.