Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

Gobbling Up Some Tasty Turkey Cookies

December 2, 2008

While Thanksgiving may be behind us, the memories of my turkey cookies are still fresh in my mind. I made some decorative turkey cookies for Thanksgiving this year, and for my first go-around on creating and decorating edible turkeys, I did a decent job. Baking and decorating cookies is without a doubt an art form and truly requires a special talent, which I think I have in me, but with [a lot of] practice, I can become a better dough roller, frosting applier and icing piper.

Baking, unlike cooking, is very methodical. A baking soda miscalculation, or a slight flour overdose can really wreak havoc on your recipe. At least with cooking, we can taste our dish along the way and make changes to the recipe as needed. With baking, it is a sort of win-win or a complete loose-loose situation, and since I am not all that methodical and exact, I have treaded lightly when it has come to baking. Trying to overcome misconceptions that I have that bakers would also make good rocket scientists and mathematicians, I spent approximately 8 hours working on my turkey cookies. Fortunately, the time paid off!

I began by making a basic sugar cookie dough and refrigerating the dough to let it set. Once the dough was cooled, I rolled it out on wax paper until the dough was about an 1/8 of an inch thick. I then stamped the dough with my turkey-shaped cookie cutter and placed the cut out dough on an ungreased baking sheet. The cookies baked for about 10 minutes on a 350 degree oven.

Turkey Shaped Cookie Dough

Turkey Shaped Cookie Dough

Baked Turkey Cookies

Baked Turkey Cookies

After the cookies were baked, I let them cool for about an hour on a cooling rack. While the cookies were cooling, I made a royal icing using meringue powder, rather than egg whites, which are traditionally used in royal icing recipes. Meringue powder is a substitute for egg whites and I find it to be a bit more user-friendly than egg whites. Meringue powder is, however, a bit tricky to find, and I have yet to see it for sale outside of specialty or baking supply stores. I bought mine at Sur la Table in Pasadena, but if anyone can recommend a good baking supply store in the Pasadena area…..

Once my royal icing was made, I separated it into two bowls. In one bowl, I left the royal icing white, as-is, and used it for piping the white borders on my turkey cookies. In the second bowl, I added orange food coloring, which I used for the icing on my turkeys. I need a bit of practice using food coloring and I don’t think I added enough orange dye. My cookies, when dry, had a pinkish hue to them, rather than the autumn-orange color I wanted. Once my cookies were dry, I began applying the orange icing to them. Following the advice of one recipe I found, I tried dipping my first cookie face side down into the icing hoping to get an even application of the icing on the cookie. This did not work as the recipe indicated and I was left with icing blobs on the cookie. Perhaps my icing was too thick, but I found that using a small paintbrush and hand painting the icing on the cookies worked the best. This method was ridiculously time consuming, but until I figure out a more efficient method, I think I’ll stick to using the paintbrush.

Painting Royal Icing on the Cookies

Painting Royal Icing on the Cookies

After applying the orange icing to each cookie, I let the cookies dry for another hour or so. Once dry, I piped the white royal icing around the edges of each cookie, as well as giving each turkey an eye and a little feather detail. Piping, which is about as methodical as baking a wedding cake, was a bit overwhelming for me. Although I only put a little icing in my piping bag, I could not keep the icing from spewing out over the top of the bag like a geyser and it seemed like every line I made on the cookies came out in different widths and lengths. Fortunately, enough cookies were aesthetically presentable, and the rest of the turkey cookies were left for George to gobble up!

Turkey Cookies!

Turkey Cookies!


Decorating the turkey cookies, while challenging, was so much fun. My plan is to get a head-start on my Christmas cookies, hopefully improving on my dough-rolling and icing-piping techniques!

Until next time…

Sugar Cookies
1 cup of butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together. Blend in the egg and mix until blended. Add the flour slowly, mixing until combined. Refrigerate the dough, preferably over night, or until cooled and set.

Meringue Powder Royal Icing
1/4 cup of meringue powder
1/2 cup of iced water
1 pound powdered sugar
Mix Meringue powder and iced water until soft peaks form. Add sugar slowly, mixing it until combined. Add food coloring as desired.

Advertisements

Harvest Meals: Part II

November 26, 2008

There is so much to do in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, but I wanted to quickly write about the tasty harvest meal George and I had for dinner last night. As I previously wrote, I went a little hog-wild, or legume-wild I should say, at the Alhambra Farmers’ Market on Sunday and pretty much bought a farmers’ market sampler platter of vegetables. Wanting to eat and cook as much of the produce as possible before Thanksgiving, as it most likely will not get eaten afterwards, I created a culinary plan to make “harvest meals” every night this week.

Sunday night, as my previous posting indicates, was somewhat of a success. The blackberry-red wine reduction was a culinary travesty, but our roasted vegetables and plum tart were huge successes. On Monday, I had good intentions of making a ratatouille with the fresh zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes I bought, but due to an unanticipated, and fortunately very short-lived illness, George had to take over cooking Monday’s dinner and he passed on making the ratatouille. He did make a mean taco and we saved the ratatouille for last night.

Sauteed Ratatouille

Sauteed Ratatouille

So…Ratatouille. Admittedly, I wanted my ratatouille to resemble Remi’s ratatouille in the movie Ratatouille, but I decided to simplify the ratatouille recipes I found and just make more of a ratatouille hash. Chopping up an onion, a few small zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, I sauteed the vegetables in a little olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper, pepperincino flakes, oregano and a lot of fresh basil. It wasn’t bad! It was a very light and very fresh side-dish that was served next to baked chicken breasts. Of course the ratatouille could have been so much more, but for a quick and easy mid-week harvest meal, it couldn’t have been more perfect. So keeping in step with the culinary theme this week, a huge dent was made in our agri-rator (a refrigerator full of agricultural produce) and in the spirit of the Thanksgiving week, another harvest meal was had!

On deck for tonight’s harvest meal….something with green beans!

Until next time….

PS – As a quick aside, I did remember to properly salt my eggplant for the ratatouille. I began salting the eggplant about an hour before I was ready to use them. The salting process really makes all the difference – my eggplant was actually edible this time!

Harvest Meals: A Week of Thanksgiving

November 24, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!


I really love this time of year. In the third week of November, I usually start to feel a magical buzz in the air, which always seems to have a crescendoing effect up to Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love that it is a holiday that is not materialistic or greedy, but one that simply brings family and friends together for a meal. Thanksgiving, historically, was a harvest meal celebrating the cooperation between the English settlers and Native Americans in 1621 in which thanks was given to the successful bounty of crops. I really love Thanksgiving’s symbolism and while most Americans are not literally giving thanks to a successful crop season each year, our Thanksgivings – or at least mine – truly does symbolize a harvest meal.

The anticipation and preparation of Thanksgiving is almost has much fun as eating the meal itself. This year, while I am not hosting Thanksgiving or preparing the turkey, I am making a few side dishes. I am very excited for my role this year, mostly because I feel like I have graduated from sous-chef or kitchen helper to “chef contributor.” I take my role seriously and have well-researched the types of dishes I want to prepare, focusing mainly on recipes that can be made from fresh and local ingredients.

Brussel Sprouts - Alhambra Farmers' Market

Brussel Sprouts - Alhambra Farmers' Market

After deciding on a brussel sprouts dish and perhaps a cauliflower gratin of some sort, I made my way to the Alhambra farmers’ market. Alhambra, a town nestled between San Marino, South Pasadena and San Gabriel, offers a farmers’ market every Sunday that is a real treasure trove of fruit and legume wonders. Although I was at the farmers’ market to buy just the few items I needed for my Thanksgiving side dishes, the spirit of the the harvest got me a little produce-happy. Quickly forgetting that it is a short week due to the holiday, and that we are traveling this weekend, I bought enough fruits and vegetables to last us two weeks. Armed with fresh plums, pears, and blackberries, a few varieties of basil, four pounds of brussel sprouts, a head of cauliflower the size of a garbage can lid, a few pounds of string beans, heirloom tomatoes, baby zucchini, and the list goes on…I left the farmers market feeling the need to give thanks to my bounty of crops.

While I think George is slightly skeptical of the farm that is now residing in our refrigerator, I have devised a culinary plan in which George and I will honor Thanksgiving’s symbolism by having a harvest meal every night this week. And our meal last night did just that. Using the fresh blackberries, I made a blackberry-red wine reduction and served the sauce over sauteed pork chops. This recipe idea, while admittedly novel, is not one that I would recommend. The reduction was bitter and almost a bit acidic, and even though the ingredients seemed so benign, (shallots, wine, chicken broth, blackberry puree and salt and pepper), the sauce did not come together as I hoped. Fortunately, the rest of our dinner did and we enjoyed perfectly roasted potatoes and carrots and a fresh salad that incorporated the heirloom tomatoes I had bought earlier in the day. And for dessert, well that just took the cake…or tart!

A Beautiful and Tasty Plum Tart!

A Beautiful and Tasty Plum Tart!

Check out this plum tart! Not only did it actually look beautiful, but it was a simple recipe that accentuated the flavors of the fresh plums. The filling was simply quartered plums placed symmetrically around the tart shell with a sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and lemon juice batter poured over the plums. The tart was so tasty and thankfully off-setted my blackberry reduction debacle.

Our Sunday night dinner may have made a dent in our produce-laden refrigerator, but it also jump-started this important holiday week. While George and I will have another harvest meal tonight, The Alhambra Farmers’ Market – and the local produce Southern California has to offer – certainly puts the meaning of Thanksgiving into perspective this year.

Happy Thanksgiving and until next time…