by Lisa

I had bought some old fashioned Valentines for the kids–you the kind, with tabs and wheels and adorable kids and kittens and doililes and flocking–but they both took one look at the book and balked. No way was Ella giving those out to the boys in her class. Finn felt pretty much the same.  And, so, over the last month, they painstakingly crafted their own valentines. Ella made 3 dozen felt fortune cookies and inserted “fortunes”  like, “If the unicorn you see tomorrow is wearing a hat, you’ll have bad luck” and “If you wear mismatched socks on Friday, you’ll make a new friend.”  She packed them in mini-takeout boxes.

Finn designed and drew a notecard…

& over the course of 2 days painstakingly cut out his notes with a pair of broken pinking shears…

Ella helped him decorate little red bags….

& I made 6 dozen marshmallows. Which is easy, unless you have a lousy hand mixer…in which case, it is a labor of love…

but they helped with the fun part…

&  set up an assembly line, &  packed bags and boxes with pink peppermint marshmallows & much affection…

and all manner of things…well, on this day, with this project…they were well.

Pink Peppermint Marshmallows

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  1. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.
  3. Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush.  Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F.
  4. With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add  peppermint and food coloring until desired color is achieved and blend, about 30 seconds longer.
  5. Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours. Turn our on a large cutting board sprinkled with sifted powdered sugar
  6. Coat a pizza roller or sharp knife with nonstick spray and cut  marshmallows into desired shape.  Sift powdered sugar over marshmallows and toss to coat.

Raspberry Jam Tart

by Caroline

For a family that cooks and cares about food as much as we do, it was unsettling to face our lack of Christmas dinner traditions. I could happily sit down to a meal of Tony’s grandmother’s lemon-parsley stuffing, Tony’s porcini mushroom gravy (lately infused with his late father’s 1981 port), and some cranberry sauce. Yes, it’s clear we have family foods, but not, like Lisa’s family, a traditional menu we anticipate each year.

So I was a bit surprised when Eli, after bounding down the hall and into our bed Christmas Eve morning, said “This dinner is going to be my favorite!” Tony asked, “What are you looking forward to most?” And Eli responded, “Christmas after it!”

Well, who can blame him? And when I asked what he wanted for dinner, he listed stuffing and gravy, so that’s pretty much what we ate (oh, and some brussels sprouts and chard and caramelized onions and roast potatoes… but that’s another story). For dessert, I was planning just to offer up a plate of Christmas cookies, but this is where Eli had a specific idea: raspberry pie.

Ben, by then cuddled in bed with us, too, and thoroughly steeped in the contemporary food ethos, worried, “Are raspberries in season?”

No, but raspberry jam is always in season, and we even had some homemade jam made by a friend. Raspberry jam tart it was.

I poked around online awhile and took most of my inspiration from David Lebovitz’s recipe but I had cold butter, not soft (and didn’t see the point in softening butter only to refrigerate the resulting tart dough until cold enough to use). So I pulled my Joy of Cooking off the shelf and followed Irma’s lead. I did borrow Lebovitz’s idea of reserving some of the dough to make an easy top crust, though instead of rolling it into a log, chilling and slicing it, as he does, I pressed mine flat and cut out some Christmasy stars. I predict you’ll see this tart on my table again at Valentine’s Day, topped with some hearts.

This recipe makes enough dough for an 8″ tart (bottom crust and top decorations); if you have a bigger tart pan, it’s easy to scale up.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups of raspberry jam
1-2 tablespoons of coarse-grained sugar

Preheat the oven to 400.
Butter and flour the bottom of an 8″ tart pan with a removable bottom.

Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest together in a bowl or in the food processor. Add the butter and work in with a fork or pulse in the food processor until the mixture makes coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until the dough just starts to come together in a ball.

Reserving about 1/3 cup of dough for the topping, pat most of the dough evenly into the bottom of the tart pan, letting it come up the sides a little bit. Spread with jam. Set aside momentarily while you make the topping.

Taking the reserved dough, press or roll it out on a floured counter or between sheets of wax paper until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Cut into desired shapes, freehand or using cookie cutters. Arrange the shapes on top of the jam, sprinkle them with the coarse-grained sugar, and bake until the crust is golden and the jam is bubbling a bit, 20-25 minutes.

Christmas Kidtinis

by Lisa

This weekend we went to a holiday party where a friend was mixing a drink he calls The Grinch, which really is anything but (unless maybe you’re around the person who drank them the day after…)

A Grinch is basically a Grasshoppper made with vanilla ice cream  instead of cream and garnished with a peppermint stick and crushed candy cane sugar on the rim.  I actually didn’t drink them, sweet drinks not being my thing, but Kory did, and I can vouch that they’re sort of fun.

We made the Christmas Kidtini version for the kids the next night: a mint chip shake + green food coloring, garnished with candy canes and red sugar on the rim.

We still haven’t made the milk punch, or any cookies, or candy…but we are slowly but surely finding some Christmas spirit.

Applesauce Cake with Caramel Glaze

by Caroline

Glaze. Glaze is one of those words that makes me try a recipe, and the combination here of “caramel” + “glaze” got me, even though it is really just one small component of that recipe. But this glaze is so good I might just start making it to spread on things other than cake.

This recipe is from Merrill Stubbs, at the fabulous Food52, and I didn’t change a thing.

Applesauce Cake
Serves 10

For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened (preferably homemade) applesauce
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the caramel glaze:
4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 to 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and spices and set aside. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs with both sugars until light. Mix in the applesauce, oil and vanilla until smooth.

Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients, being careful not to over-mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack before turning it out and cooling completely on the rack — make sure the cake is not at all warm before you make the glaze.

TheRunawaySpoon wisely advises that you put a piece of foil or paper under the cooling rack to catch any drips before you start the glaze. Put the butter in a medium saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt and set over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute exactly, and then pull it off the heat.

Leave the pan to cool for a couple of minutes, and then gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until you have a thick, but pourable consistency (you may not need all the sugar). If the mixture seems too thick, just add a splash of cream to thin it out a little. Immediately pour the glaze over the cake, moving slowly and evenly to cover as much surface area as possible. Let the glaze set before serving the cake.

Pear Blueberry Cobbler

by Caroline

Last week’s CSA fruit share brought us pounds and pounds of Seckel pears, beautiful brown pears ranging in size from a large cherry to a more traditional fist of pear. I’ve never cooked with Seckel pears before and I found lots of recipes that feature them peeled, cored, poached and then crowning a tart, their stems poking up: gorgeous, but way too much effort for me right now.

I considered pear bread, but with my parents in town, I wanted to make something new. So, I poked around some more and eventually found this terrific cobbler recipe, which uses dried blueberries and cornmeal biscuits. A winner! The biscuits are so good, this recipe’s worth saving just for them, but the combination of crunchy cornmeal biscuit, sweet pear and tart dried blueberry is really fabulous.

For the biscuits:
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup stone-ground cornmeal (medium grind)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Pear filling:
6 pounds firm but ripe Seckel pears, Taylor Gold pears, or Bosc pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces (about 12 cups)
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon (scant) coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 1/2 cups dried wild blueberries (9 ounces)
Vanilla ice cream

For biscuits:
Whisk flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in large bowl. Add chilled butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream; stir just until moistened. Gather dough together; form into 8-inch-long log. Cut log crosswise into eight 1-inch-thick rounds. Spread 3 tablespoons sugar on plate. Dip 1 cut side of each biscuit into melted butter, then dip buttered side in sugar. Place biscuits, sugared side up, on platter; sprinkle any remaining sugar over top. Cover and chill.

For pear filling:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place pears in large bowl. Add next 5 ingredients; toss. Let stand 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Transfer pear filling to prepared dish. Dot with diced butter. Cover dish with foil. Bake until pears are almost tender, about 50 minutes. Remove dish from oven; stir dried blueberries into pear filling. Place biscuits atop filling. Continue to bake uncovered until filling is bubbling thickly, biscuits are pale golden, and tester inserted into biscuits comes out clean, about 35 minutes longer (biscuits may look cracked). Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.