Chicken liver and gin pâté

December 23, 2011 § 11 Comments

This Christmas we’re not hosting Christmas dinner and for breakfast my mom always makes our traditional sour cream coffee cake, so now I don’t really have anything I have to bake or cook by a deadline. So, since I don’t have any urgent cooking or baking to do for the next few days, there’s time to finally cook something I’ve been looking forward to making for ages: chicken liver pâté, or more specifically this chicken liver pâté with juniper berries and gin.

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Feta and aleppo pepper straws

December 14, 2011 § 9 Comments

Have you ever avoided going to a store or a website because you just know you’re going to spend a lot of money and fall inexorably in love with all the merchandise? On cooking-oriented blogs, websites, and forum threads, posters sing the praises of Penzey’s. For seven months I resisted, but eventually the price of cloves at the local grocery store ($8.99 for a teeny container, uh NO) forced my hand, and I was reluctantly yet gleefully off to the aforementioned spice retailer. My anticipation threaded with apprehension was rewarded with not only more reasonably-priced cloves but also aleppo pepper, and lavender, and almost a few other things too.

As is usual, I didn’t use the ingredient I deemed necessary first, but rather experimented with the aleppo pepper, settling on taking some of the cat’s feta (she adores cheese, blues and feta in particular) (also, she likes Président brand feta the best) (I really am a crazy cat lady), and making a Southern staple of cocktail parties, cheese straws! Except they’re cheese straws inspired by the flavors of Turkey.

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Chocolate-peanut butter cups

December 4, 2011 § 6 Comments

Before we even get to Christmas and Hannukah, we’ve got to attend parties and gift exchanges at work, or at least I do. As we’re capped at a few dollars for the office gift swap, I’ve elected to make food to give away, because who doesn’t love homemade treats? If they don’t, no worries, because ours is a Secret Snowflake-esque swap, and the candy assortment can be traded for a gift card or whatever else it is that my coworkers will be bringing in.

It’s only a week or so till the party, so I’ve already made part of my gift: chocolate-peanut butter cups! Candymaking comes off as being quite difficult to accomplish at home, but as I’ve been making candy for ages — it’s a family tradition to make chocolates to give away for Christmas and Hannukah — I can vouch for many kinds of candies being quite simple to make, even without a candy thermometer, and always popular to give away or enjoy at events you attend or are hosting. This is one such candy; in fact, if you’ve got any kids around, they might be able to make these without much help at all from you (the hot melting chocolate part, of course, requires parental assistance and/or total takeover, so please be cautious with melting things and heat sources as always).

My homemade take on the chocolate confection that rhymes with Smeese’s, courtesy of a recipe I tweaked from the always-fantastic Nigella Lawson, is perfect for an almost-last minute gift (you do have to let the chocolate set before wrapping up for transport unless you don’t mind smeared chocolate), but they can also easily be made up in advance from pantry ingredients, assuming you consider a well-stocked pantry to be one that includes two kinds of chocolate, peanut butter, butter, two kinds of sugar, and sea salt. Ok, and some nifty little paper wrappers, they’ll make gifting these so much easier. Essentially, if you can stir and you have access to a heat source, be it stove or microwave, you can have these ready to go in about an hour.

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