Monthly Archives: November 2010

They’re a hoot!

I spent Thanksgiving in Atlanta, soaking in the warm weather and enjoying the company of loved ones.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  In fact, we ate Thanksgiving dinner outside on the patio.  How about that to be thankful for!

I wanted to contribute to the feast as well as give thanks to our hosts for putting Scott and I up for the weekend.  However, traveling from Minneapolis I had to careful to bring something that would survive the trip.  I scoured my old Bon Appetit and Cooking Light magazines, flipped through the cookbooks and cooking websites and stumbled upon a recipe for Apple Cranberry Tarts on a very cool cooking blog, The Craving Chronicles.  I did omit the caramel sauce, as I was worried that TSA might confiscate it, but I don’t think that the tarts were any less tasty because if it.

I also brought a batch of cookies that are very popular in my family this time of year.  Hoot owl cookies, as they are called, may be one of the cutest cookies in existence (and my photos will not do them justice).  The recipe originates from a cookie contest in the 1950’s and the winner, Natalie Riggin, was from my hometown of Olympia, Washington.  These cookies are made on an annual basis in my family and if forgotten, there is hell to pay.  Recently my mother gave my brother and I copies of her entire recipe collection (a great gift idea) and somehow the recipe had been left out (a mistake that both my brother and myself had noticed).  A phone call quickly rectified the situation and I whipped up a batch to share with my Atlanta hosts.

Hoot Owl Cookies
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup  butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

80 semisweet chocolate chips (about 1/3 cup)
40 whole cashews (about 2/3 cup)

Beat brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  On low speed, mix in flour, baking powder and salt.  Divide dough in thirds.  In small bowl work in chocolate and baking powder to 1/3 of the dough.

Using one portion of the light dough, press out to form a 10″ x 4″ inch strip.  Using 1/2 of the chocolate dough, roll a tube 10″ long and wrap light dough around the entire chocolate log.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Wrap in foil or plastic and refrigerate at least an hour (although in my family we put it in the freezer and sneak cuts of dough to snack on.  Very often we run out of dough before the cookies are baked).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut each roll into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices.  Place 2 slices, sides touching on cookie sheet.  Pinch the corners of the slices to for the ears.  Place a chocolate chip in the center of each slice for the eyes and finish with a whole cashew between the slices for the beak.  Each cookie is unique and has their own personality, which I find fantastic.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.

These cookies are pretty fragile so handle with care.  I was worried that my traveling would bump and break them, so I carefully wrapped them in plastic and packed them in tupperware.  Aside from a couple of casualties, they made it to Atlanta mostly in one piece and instantly got rave reviews and have since been gobbled all gone.


Why, Winter?

I’ve run smack into winter here in the Twin Cities.  And I am not happy about it.  Minneapolis, you had almost lured me into liking you.  Nice parks, good restaurants, a fantastic art and music scene and decent public transit – it has been a lovely summer and fall.  Why did it have to end?  I mean, really, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and there has been snow, ice and temperatures in the teens.  I am asking myself, why would anyone, and more importantly, I, live in such a place?  Snow emergency routes, long johns, double coats … it all seems like such a hassle.  Why am I living here again?

I mean it.  This is not a rhetorical question that I will consider and come to some well-reasoned conclusion.  Winter sucks in the Midwest and nothing can convince me otherwise.  I had no notion or inclination of what exactly I was getting myself into when I decided to move here last March.  I have been denying the existence of the Minnesotan winter and now its punched me in the nose and I am not ready to forgive.  Especially since it will continue to kick me while I’m down for the next four months.  La-ame.

After six years in North Carolina, I am woefully under-prepared for winter here.  Before last Sunday, I didn’t even have an ice scraper for my car.  I still don’t have the proper coat or gloves.  I walked to the coffeeshop and thought my face was going to shatter.  I have slipped on the ice and nearly fallen about 87 times.  On campus there is a sad little sign on the sidewalk that declares it “closed for winter.”

What’s a girl to do?  Luckily, people are taking pity on me and I greatly appreciate it.  I was presented with a pair of SmartWool socks from a fellow post-doc.  My adviser sent me home with a microwave heating pack.  I am getting bombarded with advice and suggestions everyday.  However, I think they only way that I am going survive the upcoming season is by escaping it.  I am starting by heading to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, a plan that I am extremely thankful for.

A Fall Favorite

Tonight I indulged in one of my favorite fall meals.  Butternut squash risotto.  The richness and creaminess of it is pure luxury.  The starchiness of the rice, the nuttiness of parmesan, the sweetness of the butternut squash and the saltiness of the bacon can warm the coldest of fall evenings.  I’ve spent the last several years perfecting my recipe and I think I am pretty close and felt the need to share with you what I’ve learned while I sit and enjoy the fruits of my labor and watch my not-so-secret pleasure, Dancing with the Stars. (Though, it may also be in part due to the glass (and a half) of wine I’ve consumed while cooking.)

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 small-medium butternut squash, peeled and diced

6-8 slices of bacon, chopped

1 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups aborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

5 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated

3-4 tablespoons butter

Roast the butternut squash, drizzled in olive oil, salt and pepper, in a 450 degree oven for ~30 minutes.

Simmer chicken broth to keep warm.  Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large stockpot until crispy.  Remove bacon and add onion, cooking over medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add aborio rice and cook for 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup wine and cook until the liquid evaporates (DO NOT OMIT, however, white wine is not necessary.  All I had was a Rose in the fridge and that worked just as well).  Add chicken broth, 1 cup at a time until, stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes total (or ~5 minutes/cup chicken stock).

Remove from heat.  Add butter and parmesan and stir until melted.  (If you have been drinking the wine that you just opened, be careful while grating the cheese, we don’t want any kitchen injuries).

Fold in roasted butternut squash and top with bacon pieces.  I would recommend keeping the bacon separate from the risotto, but then again, I prefer crispy bacon.  Enjoy!

Now to turn my attention back to Dancing with the Stars … and perhaps another glass of wine.