Saturday, October 29, 2011

Austin, Homemade Tamales and a Refreshing Tequila Cocktail

Last week Mr. H and I celebrated a monumental anniversary. We have now been together almost half of our lives. I must admit that when we got married we rationalized the whole thing by telling ourselves that if this marriage thing didn’t work out, we could always get divorced. I know that sounds harsh but for two confirmed singles as my husband I, we couldn’t make any kind of committment without seeing a back exit somewhere. I actually think that this rationalization has been the secret to our success all these years. We both know that if we aren’t thoughtful and loving to each other, the whole thing could be easily called off and that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.

Leading up to our big anniversary we both started throwing out ideas about how and where we could celebrate. We talked about replaying our honeymoon but we heard that Acapulco is now occupied by drug lords and thugs so that was out. Since we are still actively parenting, the idea of leaving our 16 year old son home alone wasn’t even a consideration (we’d rather take our chances with the drug lords and thugs). Then we thought about just having a nice dinner out and calling that good enough. Well, it wasn’t good enough, so we compromised and decided on a romantic trip for three to Austin.

Austin holds a special place in all of our hearts.  Not only was our son born there, when my husband and I first met this is where we escaped when we needed to get away from the small town we were living in at the time and have a little fun. Austin has a fun, funky, off beat feel to it as evidenced by their unofficial motto “Keep Austin Weird”. I mean seriously, what is not to love about that?

On this particular trip we had plans to turn our son over to our beautiful and hip niece, her handsome boyfriend, and our super cool, suave and good looking nephew on a fun night out and enjoy an elegant highbrow supper somewhere in this gorgeous foodie city by ourselves.

Well long story short, we landed up hanging out with them drinking Shiner Bock and eating nachos for so long that the old folks couldn’t even consider putting on a tie and high heels to go and eat a steak. Instead we tagged along with them in search of a good bowl of queso and a taco for our son.  An hour or so later, as we sat outside on a picnic table under a beautiful starry Texas sky lit by the neon light of the Torchy’s Tacos sign, we both realized how lucky we were to be right there eating tacos with such a wonderful group of young people who really wanted to be with us. Now that is something to celebrate.

After only two nights and three action packed days, we sadly boarded our plane and headed back home to Denver leaving behind cold Texas beer, great Tex-Mex food, unbelievable barbeque and loved ones that we miss every day. So thanks Austin for helping us celebrate our anniversary.  There is just no place I would have rather been.

Usually after we return home from a really fun trip I try to keep the memories alive by preparing foods that we discovered while we were gone. When we got home this time I decided to work on a recipe that I have been threatening to prepare for a longe time now, homemade tamales. Over the years I have heard horror stories about groups of women working on tamales around the clock before finishing. I never could understand what took so long but I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to find out. Well, I finally bought all the ingredients and jumped in. It did take me six hours from start to finish but I got four dozen of the best tamales that I have ever eaten and they were a lot cheaper than the $18.00 a dozen ones that they sell at our local farmers’ market.

 Shredded Pork Tamales

I admit that this is a bit involved but it is really easy once you get the hang of it.  I've tried to explain it as best I can but if you get confused for any reason, please just e-mail me.  I am happy to answer any questions if I can.

The most time consuming step in the whole process is spreading the masa mixture on the corn shuck. There is a learning curve here, but once you get the hang of it it starts to go a bit faster. I made one dozen green chili and cheese as an experiment and three dozen shredded pork. I really can’t tell you which one was better, they were both great. Next time I think I’m going to try some chicken and green chili. As you can tell, the filling possibilities are limited only by your own imagination so use this as your basic recipe and get creative with your favorite ingredients.

3 – 3 -1/2 pound pork roast

1 bay leaf

2 cups water

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons mild chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped

48 – 50 corn shucks

3/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening

6 cups masa harina

1 - 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

4 – 6 cups chicken broth

Place pork roast, bay leaf, water, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a covered slow cooker; set on low and allow to cook for approximately 6 – 8 hours or until it is fall apart tender.  I did this the night before just before I went to bed and it was ready and waiting for me the next morning.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a covered baking dish in a moderate oven or in a covered pan over a low heat on top of the stove and cook for approximately 2 – 2-1/2 hours or until it is tender.

Remove the meat from the cooker (reserving juices) and cool completely before shredding with two forks. Sprinkle meat with the chili powder, cumin and the chopped cilantro; toss to mix well. Add additional salt and pepper if desired. Set aside.

Place the corn shucks in a large bowl filled with warm water and soak until ready to use (at least 30 minutes).

In a very large bowl, whip the lard or shortening on medium for 1 minute until it is fluffy; set aside.

Mix together the masa harina and baking powder in a separate large bowl.

Strain the meat drippings into a large pitcher. Add enough of the chicken broth to measure 6 cups.

Add the masa mixture and broth to the lard in alternating batches until all the ingredients are completely combined. This will make a thick(ish) but smooth mixture. Add salt to taste.

To assemble the tamales, remove a corn shuck from the water and shake to dry. Each shuck should be approximately 8” long by 6” wide. If the shucks are too wide, tear off excess. If they are too small overlap a couple of them. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons of masa in the middle of the shuck (on the smooth side of the shuck) and spread evenly from the middle to measure about 4” wide by about 6" long. Spread masa to the edge at the top (wider part of the shuck) Spread approximately 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture down the middle of the masa in a strip lengthwise. Fold over to encase the meat, pinching the masa together gently at the bottom, then roll to close. Fold excess shuck from the bottom up towards the tamale. Repeat with the remaining masa and meat.

I find it easy to stack the tamales in bunches of 12 and tie them snugly at the top and the bottom with pieces of cotton string. I think this stabilizes them and keeps them standing during steaming.

Place a steamer basket in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Pour enough water in the Dutch oven to come within about 1/2 - 1” of touching the steamer bottom.

Stand tamales upright on the steamer basket with the folded edges toward the bottom (do not pack too tightly). Place the pot over medium heat, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a nice vigorous simmer; cover and steam tamales for approximately 45 - 60  minutes, checking steamer water occasionally and adding more if needed.  The fun part is checking the tamales for doneness.  I like to take one from the middle and if the masa is firm and easily pulls away from the shuck, the are done. Now, eat that one and remove the pot from the heat and carefully remove tamales.

Eat tamales immediately or place in freezer bags and freeze for later. Reheat tamales in the shucks.

My friend and tamale expert Andrea says to freeze uncooked tamales and steam them as you need them.  She says they are delicious.  I will try that next time.

Makes approximately 48 tamales.

Since this is a story of celebration, I thought I’d also add a cocktail based on one that I discovered in one of those on board airplane magazines. Developed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame and Pura Vida Gold tequila distiller Stewart Skloss, “The Gibbons” sounded intriguing to me so I thought I’d give it a try. Their original recipe is a blend of Mexican sparkling mineral water, reposado tequila (“rested” tequila which is stored in oak barrels for 2 + months and has a smoother flavor than younger tequilas), fresh lemon and lime juices and jalapeno slices.

Personally, I prefer a slightly sweeter cocktail so my version which I'm calling "The Savoury Gibbons" contains some added simple syrup and just a touch of muddled fresh cilantro to add some herbal notes. This drink turned out to be a wonderfully refreshing accompaniment to a big plate of my fresh tamales.

The Savoury Gibbons

1 small bunch fresh cilantro

1 – 1/2 ounces simple syrup (recipe follows)

1 – 1/2 ounces tequila (your favorite of course)

Juice of 1/2 of a freshly squeezed lemon

Juice of 1/2 of a freshly squeezed lime

1 – 2 slices of jalapeno or Serrano pepper


Splash of sparkling water

Place cilantro in the bottom of a highball glass. Muddle the cilantro until the aroma is released. Pour in the simple syrup, tequila, lemon and lime juice and pepper slices; stir well. Add the ice and a splash of sparkling water.  Serve.

Makes 1 drink

Simple Syrup:

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

Place sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently until all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool. Store unused portion in the refrigerator.

Looking for other great cocktails?  Join Barb @Creative Culinary for her happy hour Friday cocktails.  There's always something great in her blender!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Toast the Movie and Steak and Ale Pie

"There is something quietly civilizing about sharing a meal with other people. The simple act of making someone something to eat, even a bowl of soup or a loaf of bread, has a many-layered meaning. It suggests an act of protection and caring, of generosity and intimacy. It is in itself a sign of respect."

                                                                                                  - Nigel Slater

Sundays in the fall always seem to bum me out a bit. I’m not a football watcher like my square eyed husband, so if I don’t feel like raking leaves or cleaning out closets I usually try to find a movie to spend my afternoon with. I have always loved going to movies alone so these fall movie Sundays are really a treat. 

In case you haven’t noticed there isn’t anything playing at the theater right now. I’ve already seen 50/50 (really good), The Way (a bit long with unlikeable characters) and Dream House (ok, but with a convoluted ending) so there wasn't much that appealed to me. Usually when I can’t find anything at the mainstream theaters, I hit the artsy movie houses because there is always something there I haven’t seen.

On this particular Sunday I chose a movie called “Toast”. Toast is the true story of Nigel Slater, who is a well-respected English food writer.  Self-described as a “cook who writes” Nigel has authored some seven cookery books without so much as a culinary degree or restaurant affiliation. He is a self-made man who triumphed over the early death of his beloved mother (whose meager culinary specialty was toast, hence the name), a distant and cold father, and a jealous and competitive stepmother.

We walk with Nigel through his sad childhood and as the movie crawls to its climax during his teenage years, we find Nigel and his stepmother, who is a great cook by the way, competing for his father’s attention and approval by constantly feeding him their competing culinary creations.  It is this constant cooking and eating that eventually leads to his father's untimely death, or so the movie insinuates. In the end, Nigel comes to the realization that even though he loathes the woman, this competition helped him to discover his love of cooking and his life's vocation.

Even though the movie was slow at times, I did love seeing all of the English food references. Fish and chips, savory meat pies and smoked haddock to name just a few brought back memories of the English soul food that we learned to love while we lived there but has gradually faded from our suppertime repertoire. English food often gets a bum rap, but I’m here to tell you that prepared properly these simple honest dishes cannot be beaten.

Even though the movie features a lemon meringue pie bake off, it made me really hungry for my favorite savory pie, steak and ale. Nothing is better than tender steak, mushrooms and onions in dark ale gravy wrapped in tender and flaky puff pastry. Because this can be prepared well in advance and baked at the last minute, this is a wonderful dinner party dish. Pair this with some mashed, steamed or roasted root vegetables and some Brussel sprouts and you have an elegant easy seasonal meal that everyone will love.

Steak and Ale Pie

Many recipes call for a top crust only but I like my pies to have a bottom and top crust.  If you want to go with just the single top crust, brush the rim of your baking dish with beaten egg and press the edges of the pastry down on the dish to seal before baking.

2 pounds beef steak, cut into bite size cubes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium size onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound button mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 small bunch fresh thyme
1 large bay leaf
1 – 15 ounce bottle brown ale or dark beer
1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules
2 large carrots, cleaned and cut into 1” long segments
1 package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
Flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten

Toss beef and flour together in a large bowl; set aside.

Heat oil in a large stockpot set over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté until it is soft, add garlic and stir for one minute longer before adding the mushrooms; stir well.

Add the beef bouillon and cook, stirring frequently until the meat is brown and just cooked through.  To the meat add the thyme, bay leaf and ale.  Stir well and bring to a simmer, allowing the foam from the ale to settle.   Add the bouillon granules; stir well and bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low, covering and simmering for 1 – 2 hours or until meat is tender (depending on the cut you purchase).  About 30 minutes before the beef is done, add the carrots to the pot to cook.  At this stage the sauce should be thick and glossy.  If needed, simmer uncovered until desired consistency is reached.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dust a clean dry surface with flour.  Lay one sheet of the thawed puff pastry down on the floured surface and roll out until it is big enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9”deep dish pie pan (with 1” hanging over the sides) that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. 

Pour the meat mixture into the prepared pie pan.  Roll out the remaining puff pastry sheet to fit over the top of the pie.  Trim to 1” excess hanging over the edge.  Tuck the excess over and under the bottom pastry to make it even with the edge of the pie pan.  Crimp the edges with your fingers or the tines of a fork to seal.
Place into the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes.  Be sure to check the pie after 30 minutes.  If it looks like it is getting too dark cover it loosely with foil for the remainder of the baking time.
Remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting.  Serve hot.

Serves 6

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Treat for Mr. Procrastination: Garlic Noodles with Crispy Shrimp

My husband is home today doing taxes. Some months ago Mr. Procrastination filed his last extension so he can no longer put it off. Today is the day. Over the course of the last few hours he has transformed from a calm, rational, light hearted, loving husband and father to a raving lunatic, and it is not just me that thinks so. There’s a woman at the bursar’s office at Colorado State University that would probably be happy to back me up on this.

He has called upon God several times today in a very loud voice to no avail. It is a good thing he doesn’t seem to be listening, for if he had been the US government in its entirety (with a special shout out to President Obama), Microsoft, JavaScript (for some unknown reason), Comcast Cable and the whole of Dell computers would be burning in hell (or worse) as we speak.

My frightened little dog is stuck to me like glue. He doesn’t understand what is wrong with Dad, but he’s making sure that he’s not swept up in the tornado. So Scruffy and I are going to escape this madness by going to Whole Foods. This is a place where I have taken refuge from screaming kids, sullen teenagers and sulking husbands for years now. I know we are safe there.

Scruffy can take a nice little nap in the car on this beautiful cool day and I am going to linger in the seafood section for a bit. Our Whole Foods always has great shrimp, so I think I’ll make Mr. Procrastination a dish that he loves, Garlic Noodles with Crispy Shrimp. That will surely put him in a good mood . . . I think. Then it will all be ok until next April when the whole thing starts all over again.

Garlic Noodles with Crispy Shrimp

My neighbor turned me on to these noodles a few years ago when we called in a to go order to P.F. Chang's. It was love at first bite.  After trying a few recipes on the internet and tweaking them a bit I was able to come up with a version that we really like.  I love this shrimp version best, but even the basic vegetarian recipe is a real treat.

Crispy Shrimp

1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped into bite size pieces if needed

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 – 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Cantonese Sauce

3/4 cup water

1 teaspoon chicken base or bouillon (if using dried bouillon heat water to hot before mixing)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons white wine or Mirin

1 teaspoon oyster sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Garlic noodles

3/4 pound thin spaghetti

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 teaspoons crushed garlic cloves

3 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 English cucumber, sliced in 1/8” thick slices across then into julienne strips

Mix together the shrimp, soy sauce and cornstarch in a medium size bowl ; cover and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Mix water, chicken base, sugar, wine, oyster sauce, salt and cornstarch in a medium size bowl; set aside.

Boil spaghetti according to package instructions; drain and rinse then toss with 1 tablespoon of the cilantro; set aside.

While the spaghetti is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the crushed garlic cloves and sauté for one minute. To the garlic and oil, add the sugar, white vinegar and pepper flakes; stir well and cook for an additional 15 seconds or so. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a medium size frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add the shrimp and fry on each side until brown and crispy, approximately 1 minute on each side or until slightly opaque. Transfer to paper towels to drain; keep warm.

Reheat the garlic and sugar mixture in the large stock pot over medium heat. Add the drained noodles and toss to coat. Pour the Cantonese Sauce over the noodles and toss once again. Divide the noodles among 4 large bowls. Top with equal amounts of the cucumber, remaining cilantro and shrimp. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 – 6.

*For  a vegetarian version, omit the shrimp altogether or substitute it with a scrambled egg.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dusting Off an Old Favorite Flavor Combination for Halloween or Bonfire Night: Company Red Chili and Orange Cinnamon Rolls Plus Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins

As much as I hate to face it, summer is slipping away. The leaves are turning and there is an unmistakable chill in the air in the early morning. My dog is starting to look like a mini lion with his coat bulking up to protect him from the cold temperatures to come. He doesn’t need me to buy him one of those silly pet Halloween costumes, he grows his own.

When I was a kid in Texas autumn was my favorite time of year.  Freed by the oppressive heat of summer and unencumbered by the dread of snow shoveling and mag chloride erosion, pumpkin patches and cheap acetate boxed costumes ushered in the beginning of the holiday season for me. Mmmm, I can still smell the scent that would build up behind the thin sweaty plastic masks on those balmy Texas Halloween nights.

Years later when we moved to England, our Halloween celebrations that had laid dormant for years were reborn. Hungry for anything fun and familiar to share with our children, other American mothers and I would ban together and throw holiday parties that out did anything we ever had at home. Now, even though our children are grown I think we all still really enjoy these holidays more than we ever did before our time in England.

I’ve told you that my friend Karen and her husband Chris in Nottingham host a village shindig for Halloween every year that is quite the occasion. My own Halloween celebration here in Colorado pales by comparison, but usually consists of some really fun food with no consideration for nutrition, calories or cholesterol count. Even though we really enjoy our queso dip, chips and about 100 peanut butter cups each, my son requested something different this year, so I decided to oblige him.

This past weekend I had a brainstorm and went to work on an old favorite from elementary school, cinnamon rolls and chili. Don’t recoil if you’ve never tried this combination. I’ve noticed from doing research on the internet that this is not just a Texas thing. I read comments from people all over the nation reminiscing about how much they loved this sweet and salty lunchroom combination. Well, my son said he wanted something different and I can assure you this is right up his alley.

Trying to improve on perfection, I went out on a limb and embellished my cinnamon rolls by adding some orange zest, forgetting about what a cinnamon roll purist my son is. Well, Mr. Picky turned his nose up at these delicious rolls so I quickly mixed up the ingredients for a recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for a while, Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins. These really saved my son's day and I must admit I don’t know which I liked better with the chili. So, if you are having a big village party or an intimate little dinner for three and one lion dog, treat your Halloween guests with these new tricks.

Company Red Chili

1 – 1/2 pounds lean stew meat (or chili meat if preferred)

1 small onion, very finely minced

1 – 14 ounce can chopped tomatoes

2 cups beef bouillon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cocoa

2 tablespoons mild chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon masa flour (or 1 tablespoon fine corn meal in a pinch)

Place all of the ingredients except for the masa in a slow cooker set to high for approximately 4 hours or low on 6 hours, stirring occasionally if possible. Alternately place ingredients in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Bring to a boil before reducing heat to low, covering and simmering for approximately 1 – 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  15 minutes or so before serving, stir in the masa to thicken and add an authentic Mexican flavor.

Being a Texan, I just don’t believe that good chili has beans in it, but if you must, drain a can of pinto beans and add them to the pot just long enough to heat them through. You may also add some cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon at a time if you want some heat. I really highly recommend that you buy a package of masa for this recipe.  I know that they are really big and it's not something you use often, but split a bag with a couple of friends and store it in the freezer.  As directed this chili will be mild and mellow.

Makes approximately 6 cups, enough for 4 people

Orange Cinnamon Rolls


1 package active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3 tablespoons butter

3 -3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


3 tablespoons granulated sugar

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoon butter, melted


1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Dissolve yeast in warm water in large mixer bowl and let sit for approximately 5 minutes or until foamy; add orange zest, orange juice, sugar, salt, egg, butter and 1 1/2 c of the flour.

Beat 30 seconds on low, scraping bowl constantly; increase speed to medium, beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally (if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, this makes for easy work). Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle. With stand mixer on low, knead dough for 5 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic, or turn dough out onto floured surface and knead 5 minutes.

Place dough in a large greased bowl and turn over to coat with oil on all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (dough is ready if an indentation remains when dough is touched).

Punch dough down and on a lightly floured surface roll into a 16x9" rectangle; set aside.

For the filling, stir together the granulated sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Spread dough with the melted 2 tablespoons butter (leaving a clean 1” border along one of the long edges) then sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture evenly over the butter.

Beginning at one of the long sides, roll dough up jellyroll fashion, ending with the clean edge. Pinch edge of dough to seal well. If necessary, gently stretch dough slightly to make a 16” long roll. Cut roll into 16 slices about 1" wide. This is best done with a long piece of thread or dental floss that is slipped halfway under the roll and crisscrossed over the top. Then take the opposite ends of the floss firmly in your hands and quickly pull in the opposite direction to cut.

Cut dough in half, then cut the halves in half until you have 16 equal size pieces.

Place slices an inch or two apart in a greased oblong baking pan, 13x9x2", or in greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until double, about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven until rolls are golden brown, about 20 -25 minutes. Drizzle with glaze while rolls are hot.

For the glaze mix together confectioner's sugar, milk, orange zest and vanilla; drizzle evenly over hot rolls.

Makes 16 rolls

Cheesy Corn Dog Muffins

Resist the temptation to add more hot dogs than what are called for here as the muffins have a tendency to crumble if you stir in too much.

1/3 cup shortening

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten at room temperature

1 – 1/4 cup milk, room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup corn meal (polenta can be used)

1 tablespoon honey

3 ounces brick style medium cheddar, sliced into 1/4” cubes

4 hotdogs, split lengthwise then across in 1/4" thickness

Non-stick cooking spray

1/3 cup vegetable or light olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream shortening and sugar; stir in egg and milk. Mix flour with the baking powder and salt before adding it to the shortening mixture. Add the corn meal and honey, stir just to combine. Fold in the cheese cubes and hot dog pieces.

Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour about 1/2 teaspoon of the oil into the bottom of each muffin section. Place prepared pan into the preheated oven and heat oil for approximately 5 minutes or until oil is hot and smokes slightly. This will make the muffins crisp on the bottom.

Remove pan from the oven and quickly spoon enough of the batter to fill each section about 2/3 full. Bake in the hot oven for approximately 15 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and the middle springs back when pushed with a finger.

Makes approximately 16 muffins

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy National Cookie Month: Tate's Bake Shop Giveaway and My Homemade Nice Biscuits

There are some changes going on here at Eat Drink Wash Up and unfortunately it is causing some problems with this giveaway.  Since it is more than difficult right now for new followers to sign up I am suspending this stipulation for this contest.  Please feel free to sign up if you would like and you are able, but if not you are still eligible to win this giveaway by just leaving me a comment.  I am so sorry for this inconvenience.  Remember you can earn extra entries by liking Tate’s Bake Shop on Facebook or following them on Twitter (please see links in post).  Thanks again for stopping by.
I was happy to be contacted by Tate’s Bake Shop the other day about partnering with them on another giveaway for their cookies. Some of you may remember back in December that Tate’s furnished me with an assortment of their signature thin and crispy cookies and a copy of Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook to give to one of my followers. I fell in love with their cookies and have really enjoyed the recipes that I have made from the cookbook.

This time they are introducing their Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate chip cookies which won gold at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, DC, so when they offered to send me a complimentary box of cookies to review, I quickly took them up on it.

I happened to be gone the day the cookies arrived and fortunately there were no identifying symbols on the outside so my two guys must have thought it was a box of bras or something and stayed away from it. Imagine their delight when I got home and opened the box and it was full of Tate’s new cookies.

Even though he had stuffed himself during an afternoon long cashew bender, Mr. H loved these new cookies so much he managed to down several and give them an official thumbs up before retiring to the sofa with a bit of a stomach ache. Never fear, the next morning he was back to his old self and ready to take his revenge on a couple dozen more. He’s hooked.

My son and I were bit harder to win over. We are both milk and semi-sweet chocolate lovers so we still prefer those, but don’t get me wrong these are delicious. I would have to say that if you like dark chocolate and a little less sweetness, you owe it to yourself to give these cookies a try.

Whether you are a dark chocolate, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate lover, Tate’s has a cookie you’ll love on their website. Since it is National Cookie Month, they are celebrating by giving you a 15% discount on your purchase at if you enter the discount code COOKIE at checkout.

If you’d like to be entered for the giveaway which contains three packages of Tate’s Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate cookies and a signed copy of Kathleen King’s Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook, you must be a public follower of my blog and leave a comment saying you'd like to be entered.  If you’d like to sweeten your chances of winning, you can earn extra entries by liking Tate’s on Facebook or following them on Twitter. If you do so, please state this in a separate comment to increase your chances. will choose my winner around noon Mountain Time on Monday, October 10th. So sorry, but this offer is good for my U.S. readers only.

Tate's Bake Shop Giveaway (Package includes 3 packages of Dark Chocolate Cookies and a signed cookbook, but sadly does not include my sweet little toast rack)

Since this is National Cookie Month, I thought I'd share a recipe for one of my favorite cookies with you.  Whenever I make a trip to the UK I usually come back with a suitcase full of biscuits, crisps and chocolates that we really miss.  Always at the top of my list are some little cookies called Nice Biscuits.  These crispy little cookies are perfectly sweet with a subtle coconut flavor and they are just thing when you are in the mood for a light bite of something sweet. 
Since I can't wait until my next trip to England to satisfy my craving for these biscuits I decided to make my own.  I found the base for this recipe over at The Green Jackfruit but still had to Americanize it a bit to make it easier to bake.  These cookies should be very light in appearance but still be baked long enough to be crispy.  They are the perfect accompaniment for tea or coffee.

Nice Biscuits

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

Pinch of salt

4 – 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon coconut extract

4 tablespoons cold water

Place coconut in the bowl of a blender or mini food processor. Process until the coconut is the consistency of very coarse cornmeal; set aside.

Cream butter, salt and 3 – ½ tablespoons of the sugar in a medium size bowl with an electric mixer.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the coconut. Add 1/3 of it at a time to the butter and sugar at a time, mixing very well after each addition.

Add the vanilla and coconut extracts and the water 1 tablespoon at a time until it makes a stiff dough. Remove from the bowl and form into a log about 3” in diameter; wrap in plastic wrap. Flatten the log on four sides to make a square (although no matter how hard I tried once baked they turned out oval). Place in the refrigerator and chill for approximately 4 hours or until it is very firm and chilled through.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and slice with a very sharp or serrated knife in 1/8” slices. Place on a non-stick cookie sheet and sprinkle the top of the cookies with ½ of the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the cookies are light brown around the edges.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and sprinkle with the remaining sugar; let cool completely before serving.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies