Coconut Orange Refrigerator Cookies

This time of year, I always keep the makings for different kinds of cookies in the cupboard. Mainly because I never know when I’m going to be snowbound–or in the case of our recent weather, house bound, because it’s so cold! While I love a lazy day at home, around 3 p.m. I start getting stir crazy. One year I was stuck inside for two days during a massive blizzard and made a different batch each day. Forty-eight hours later when the plow man arrived with a backhoe to “plow” the driveway, I was able to give him a bag of homemade cookies!

These cookies are an old family recipe and I love making them in the winter because I always have a fresh orange in the fridge (although you can always use dried orange rind, too). Yes, I use shortening, but you can substitute butter, which would make then even more like a flavored shortbread. Also, you can substitute a teaspoon of lemon juice instead of extract which is what I always do. They’re especially sweet, so you can always have a cup with your morning tea and coffee and call them a biscuit!

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Coconut Orange Cookies
The original recipe says to bake at 400 degrees with 8-10 minutes. Maybe it’s my oven, but that always leaves me with hard, burned cookies. I baked this latest batch at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes, watching them carefully. I pulled them out a bit early when they were underdone, but once they cooled, they were perfect. They freeze well, too.

1 cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 tsp. lemon extract (or juice)
2 Tbs. orange rind
2 eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1/2-3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut

1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugars, shortening, lemon extract or juice, orange rind, and eggs.

2. In another mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and coconut.

3. Gently add the flour to the wet mixture, using a hand mixer, until it is well mixed together.

4. Chill the cookie mixture in the fridge. (For at least a half an hour or until you’re ready to bake.) Roll out and cut into cookies or roll into balls. Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic

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I love late afternoons in the winter following a snowfall. It’s just gorgeous!

I am one of those people who needs variety in my diet. While I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast, I just can’t eat the same thing for lunch every day. I get bored and tired. And forget about the same thing for lunch and dinner. When I make a big pot of soup for lunches, after about two days I start to rummage around the kitchen, looking for something else to fix for the remainder of the week, and the soup goes into the freezer for another time.

But this soup fits the bill; it makes just two servings, so it’s perfect for two solo lunches or one lunch for you and a friend! And it’s healthy and inexpensive, two other things I look for when cooking. If you want more, it’s easy to double. I decided to throw all the beans in the pot instead of leaving some whole; if you do this, just add a little more broth to thin it out. And of course, this can be vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water! I’ve been making this soup since it first appeared in Cooking Light magazine in 1996, so it’s an obvious favorite!

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Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic
This recipe originally appeared in the March 1996 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 2 (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

Vegetable cooking spray (MVK’s note: I use two teaspoons of olive oil instead.)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (MVK’s note: Instead of the red pepper and hot sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne. Zowie!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10 1/2-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, drained

Coat a medium saucepan with cooking spray, and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add chili powder and next 8 ingredients (chili powder through broth); bring to a boil. Stir in half of beans; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Place soup in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Return to pan; stir in remaining beans. Cook until thoroughly heated.

Chicken and Chickpea Tangine

DSCN0369I have two reasons why I love my crock pot (or slow cooker as they’re now called): 1. Most recipes have few steps, basically put everything in a pot, set it, forget it, and when you get home the kitchen is filled with wonderful scents, you have a delicious meal ready to eat, and you’ve barely picked up a knife; and 2. Freezing leftovers is wonderful and you can pull dinner out of the freezer in the morning on a busy weeknight. It’s the original frozen dinner!

I love chicken, chickpeas, and stews, so this comforting meal was a home run in my house. I have a smaller crock pot, so I ended up finishing the cooking on the stove, because the chicken wasn’t getting cooked enough. And I took it one step further and shredded the chicken for easier eating. The leftovers were delicious, and it ended up being at least three meals in our house!

My apologies for no photograph of dinner this week. I took one, but when I looked at it, it made the dish look really unappetizing! I’ll have to work on my color settings!

Chicken and Chickpea Tangine
This recipe originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Serves 8.

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
8 (5-ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick (MVK’s Note: I used 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in place of a stick.)
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
2 (15-ounce) cans organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Lemon wedges

Preparation

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle meaty side of chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Add chicken to pan, meaty side down; cook 5 minutes or until well browned. Remove from pan (do not brown other side).

2. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Add cumin and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, stock, honey, and cinnamon, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a simmer. Carefully pour mixture into a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Stir in apricots and chickpeas. Arrange chicken, browned side up, on top of chickpea mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 hours. Discard cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve with lemon wedges.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

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I’ve been pretty mad at Mother Nature lately, and then she goes and does something like this! Saturday evening, facing west.

I’m not sure what part of the world you’re living in, but it has been Cold with a capital C for days here in Vermont! The day the calendar changed to January, the temps went down–and down–each day. And ice is everywhere! The driveway is a skating rink and it’s been weeks since I’ve been able to take a walk outside. (Since I started writing this a couple of days ago, the temperature has gone from negative digits to close to 60 degrees with rain! What the heck is going on?!)

DSCN4186Anyways, enough about the weather. At Christmas this year, My Vermont Kitchen received a few food-related gifts: My friend, Jennifer, sent me three tins of herbs from London and I’m so excited to use these in my cooking! (Also, some Jane Austen band aids, which will come in handy for all those times I cut and burn myself!) I received vintage-like martini glasses from another friend, and I found two gifts under the tree from The Eater of the House: an immersion blender, which will be perfect for soups and smoothies; and an enameled cast iron French oven. For years I’ve been coveting one of these, and The Eater thought it was time I was given one. (It helps when you benefit from your gift giving!)

Hello, gorgeous!

Hello, gorgeous!

So with lousy weather and the desire to hunker down inside and keep warm, I decided to make something that was traditionally French to try out the new pot and that would heat the house for at least one evening: Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon!

While I find Child’s recipes to be some of the best out there, in instructions and in taste, some of them are really time consuming. Despite my best efforts, from the time I started cooking to the time we sat down to eat, it was 4 1/2 hours! I thought I was going to spend the majority of the time catching up on “Mad Men” episodes, but no, there is a lot of hands-on cooking that goes into this meal. And washing dishes. I lost count after my fourth round of how many I washed. Good thing you have that bottle of Chianti, you’ll want to have a glass or two when you’re hanging out in the kitchen!

But for me, the real question when it comes to spending a lot of time cooking a meal is was all that effort worth it. And I can give you a resounding yes! I love beef anything, and as I was making this I lamented the lack of vegetables, but I didn’t miss them one bit. This is a true beef stew, with fall of the fork beef, and a deep, rich mix of wine and meat flavors. Complex and flavorful, it was well worth the almost five hours I spent in the kitchen. (And lots of leftovers in the freezer for at least two other meals!) Because, honestly, who wants to go out on such a cold evening?

Boeuf Bourguignon

This recipe originally appeared in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, 1961.

Child said this is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, but I like her other suggestion of hot buttered noodles. I served this over buttered egg noodles with a little bit of chopped parsley. Serves 6.

9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish, 3 inches deep
Slotted spoon

6 ounces bacon (MVK’s Note: I used four slices of bacon.)
1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
1 tsp. salt (MVK’s Note: Given there was beef broth, I didn’t add any additional salt.)
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups full-bodied, young red wine, such as a Chianti
2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon (MVK’s Note: 2 cups was all I needed.)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. thyme
Crumbled bay leaf
Blanched bacon rind (MVK’s Note: Since I didn’t have a piece of bacon, only slices, I skipped this ingredient.)
18 to 24 small white onions, brown-braised in stock
1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms, sautéed in butter
Parsley sprigs

Directions:

1. Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (MVK’s Note: I skipped this, see Step 6.)

3. Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

4. Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

5. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

6. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees. (MVK’s Note: I skipped this entire step. I added the flour and cooked it on the stove.)

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Before.

7. Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so the liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

8. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed. **Instructions below.

9. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

10. Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Cover the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

**For brown-braised onions, add the onions to a skillet that has warmed butter and oil (1 1/2 TBS each, or less). Cook for about 10 minutes until they are evenly browned. Add 1/2 cup of beef stock, dry white wine, red wine, or water; salt and pepper to taste, and a herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 tsp thyme tied in cheesecloth–MVK’s Note: I totally skipped this.) Cover and simmer slowly for 40-50 minutes or until the onions are tender and retain their shape.

**For the sautéed mushrooms, add 2 TBS of butter and 1 TBS oil to a skillet, and when the butter foam has subsided, add the mushrooms, and stir and shake the pan until the mushrooms start getting brown. (MVK’s Note: I noticed if you turn the heat down, the mushrooms start releasing water, so keep the heat fairly high to avoid this.)

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After.