Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012: Top Posts and Favorites

2012 has been good a good year for food, and for my little blog.  I feel accomplished looking back at all the recipes I've tried, and the dining reviews I wrote for Globe South in The Boston Globe.  And the blog really took off this year, the page views for 2012 tripling the total of the previous 4 years combined!  Wow.

So here's a recap of the most popular posts of the year, the posts I think should have made it, and some other stuff.  Thank you all for reading, making the recipes, inspiring me and giving me brainstorms, and for your sweet comments.  Here's to 2013!

Most Popular of 2012

Best of 2012 Collage

1. Pumpkin Fritters with Rosemary and Cheese
The reception these got blew me away.  I was just playing in the kitchen and they weren't perfect, but I didn't know they would get so much attention.  Still heartened to hear some people tried it and liked it.

2. Key Lime Cupcakes
Who knew key lime would be so popular?  I tinkered with a lemon cake recipe and came up with this.  Definitely a keeper.

3. Plum Skillet Cake
This was not only beautiful and rustic, it was delicious.  Definitely repeating next summer.

4. Frozen Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie
I don't like peanut butter with chocolate, but you guys really do!  And so does Joe, who I made this for around Valentine's Day.

5. Flour's Country Ham, Cheddar, and Tomato Quiche
I think the tall, fancy look of this quiche garnered lots of views, but I also like it in shallow tart pans with a higher crust-to-filling ratio.

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My Notable Mentions
(In no particular ranking)

Notables of 2012 Collage

1. Blueberry (or Raspberry) Roulade
I learned roulades aren't difficult at all.  And the light cake and whipped cream were nice complements for fresh summer fruit.

2. Braided Lemon Bread
Lemon curd and cream cheese are a match made in heaven.

3. Chicken Chile Relleno Pies
Deserved more attention than the little they got.  Full of bold Southwest flavors, and the cornmeal crust is definitely different and so good.

4. Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches
Panko makes these magic.

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Facebook Page

I finally created a Facebook page. Visit and "like" it!

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Restaurant Reviews I Most Enjoyed Writing
(A toss-up between the two)

Bloomy Rind
I've been back several times.  Their cheeses spoil you for supermarket varieties.  Their sandwiches are two cuts above.  They cut fresh samples of cheese to help you figure out what you want, and remember what you like.

Cafe Paprika
The owner/chef is particular, and practices balance, creativity, and restraint beautifully. Outstanding hospitality, fantastic tagines, and amazing desserts.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Vanilla Butter Cookies

Christmas Vanilla Cookie Sq

I got a late start and it took me forever, but I am finished with all things Christmas!  It has been a crazy month.  I planned a gazillion blog posts, but for almost the whole month only published one.  That doesn't mean I haven't been baking and cooking.  There was a whirlwind of parties and potlucks to go to, and that doesn't sound like much work at all -- until you're up at ungodly hours making hand pies or decorating cookies with royal icing.  But you still haven't made the family cookies or mailed them out.  And your twin sister keeps asking you where her annual cookie shipment is.

new austen collage

But I did have fun at all the parties!  Especially this one -- doesn't my book club know how to do a party?


These are the Linzer Cookies my sister must have every year, slaved over by yours truly.  Hazelnut cookies are sandwiched with raspberry jam, and dusted with snowy sugar.

Eggnog Marshmallows

And I included Eggnog Marshmallows in the cookie baskets this year.  I didn't even like this picture, so I made another batch and saved a few.  I tried to think quickly (while I was rushed) of a place they would be safe from the cats until I had time to photograph them.  I put them in the toaster oven, and took care of some other tasks.  You can guess how this ends, right?  Joe went to preheat the toaster oven for something, and I ended up with toasted marshmallows.  I guess it's a funny story (if you're not me).

Christmas Vanilla Cookies

And every year I attempt fancy decorated cookies with royal icing, trying to make them look like the showpieces you see in catalogs.  Well, I failed once again, but here are the best and the simplest of the bunch, decorated by Joe and I.  The hour was late, one of the cats somehow had edible glitter on his coat, and I was laughing deliriously at some of our attempted designs.  At least they taste good.  I'm not a fan of sugar cookies; I find them too sugary and not very flavorful.  These are simple but tasty: buttery with a hint of vanilla, a bit of salt tempering the sweet.

Now it's time to sit back and celebrate.  Especially since it's my (and my twin sister's) birthday tomorrow!  (No way am I baking a cake.)  Merry Christmas, everyone.

Christmas Butter Cookies
Photo added Dec. 2013
Update December 2013: These cookies are made using the same recipe, but decorated with melted white chocolate. Apply white chocolate using squeeze bottles or an offset spatula, then sprinkle with colored sanding sugar, nonpareils, or edible glitter.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Boston Globe Review: Portuguese Bread and Pastries

Stoughton Bakery collage
Photos by Shirley Goh/Globe Staff

Writing this review took some serious eating, as you can see.  Stoughton Bakery specializes in Portuguese pastries and bread, as well as non-Portuguese fare.  Here you can see Portuguese English muffins, corn bread, and Portuguese sweet bread; cheesecakes, cookies, and pecan tarts; and Pastel de Nata and other custard cups.

Pastel de Nata is similar to a Chinese dessert, Dan Tat or 蛋挞, though I infinitely prefer Pastel de Nata.  In fact, Pastel de Nata has a following among Chinese people, who call it Poh Tat (phonetically it sounds like the shorthand for Portuguese tart).  It was my first time trying these, and I really enjoyed the experience.  But not the zillion pounds I must have gained on this assignment, even though I gave a bunch of food away.

Read all about it at:
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Also, I've been featured on Cut Out + Keep as a Cooking Superstar!  Check out my feature and the recipes at:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Chewy Chocolate Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Add this cookie to your holiday cookie basket or plan it for your cookie swap. These are simple to make, and the sugar coating gives the cookies a festive shimmer. They are chewy bordering on crisp with an occasional chunk of chocolate. Even my chocolate-hater friend Dorothy loved them, especially the ginger -- they have both ground ginger and freshly grated ginger, but the flavor isn't overwhelming in the least.

On the left, 2¼-inch scoop cookies; on the right, "tablespoon" scoop cookies.
The scoops of dough then get rolled in sugar and baked.
Use good chocolate and good cocoa powder. I used Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips (I didn't bother cutting up any chocolate like the recipe instructs) and Guittard cocoa powder. I actually don't have the size of scoop the recipe calls for, but I discovered that both your "tablespoon" scoop and a 2¼-inch scoop work just as well. The baking times are the same, but the small cookies come out a little crisper and the larger a little chewier. I preferred the chewy, while Joe could barely keep his hands off the crispy until I'd photographed them. Will you go for chewy or crisper?