Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spammy Jerks

And no, this isn't a recipe, for Spam jerky, it's a minor bitch about something that's been bugging me for a couple of months. Spammers and random folks have been posting comments at the FoggyFoot Review to advertise everything from pictures of female escorts to investment opportunities, and I'm pretty damn over it. I've got the spam filter on and that's helping with spam, but it doesn't block actual people who are doing basically the same thing. It's making me cranky and I'm thinking about moving the blog elsewhere, but before I do, does anyone have any other ideas for blocking unwanted advertisements / comments? Thanks!

Addendum: Thanks to Little Weaver for her excellent suggestion. I've changed my settings, and it seems to be working just fine :-)

Friday, December 18, 2009


For Christmas this year, I made my German aunt pfeffernusse. Pfeffernusse, which is very pfun to say, are traditional German Christmas cookies made from pepper (pfeffer) and spice. Apparently they came out all right, because my aunt really like them. She also told me that they're great dunked in coffee or hot milk and honey. This was nice to learn because pfeffernusse are pretty hard, even after they've ripened for two weeks with an apple slice (don't even think of eating them before they've had a chance to soften, or you could crack a tooth).

That said, pfeffernusse are really lovely little cookies, and a nice break from the heavier and sweeter ones that are also popular this time of year. Initially I thought that they were definitely adult cookies, but by one year old nephew seems to think they're pretty swell. Then again, he did have one the day after they were baked, at the peak of hardness, and he was teething at the time.... :-)

Pfeffernusse (from Rose’s Christmas Cookies)


- 3 cups all-purpose flour

- ¼ tsp. baking powder

- ¼ tsp. salt

- 1/8 tsp. white pepper

- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves

- small dash black pepper

- ½ cup chopped candied lemon peel (I couldn’t get this in time, so I substituted the zest of 1 medium lemon.)

- ½ cup unblanched almonds, toasted / roasted

- 1 cup granulated sugar

- 3 large eggs

- 1 cup powdered sugar

- 1 apple slice


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves.
  2. In a food processor, process the candied lemon peel (if using, if not put the zest in now), the almonds, and the granulated sugar until fine.
  3. Add the eggs and process until blended.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour mixture. Process just until incorporated. The dough will be crumbly.
  5. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for no more than one hour.
  6. Meanwhile, place two oven racks at the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 350.
  7. Roll the dough out onto a generously floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with smallish cookie cutters. Re-roll and cut until all of the dough is used.
  8. Place the cookies ½ inch apart on cookie sheets. I like to use parchment paper to keep cookies from sticking, but that’s just my preference. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  9. When done, transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. When they’re completely cool, place the powdered sugar in a bag and toss 5-6 cookies in until they are well coated. Continue until all the cookies are nice and snowy looking.
  10. Store the cookies in an airtight container with the apple slice for two weeks, so they’re ripen up and soften.
  11. Enjoy! (And I especially will now that Tia Dagmar’s told me how to pair them with coffee and hot milk J

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jamie Oliver's British Beef Pie

Lazy, lazy, me, me, me. I've been cooking and baking a bunch but I've been too damn lazy to keep track of the recipes. I'm going to need a system... something to think about.

Anyway, the recipe that jogged me out of this lazy, lazy funk is from Jamie Oliver's newest cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution. The whole concept is simple, economical cooking that is both healthy and week-day friendly. It really delivers. Even if you don't like to cook, or you don't feel you can cook, the recipes in this book are insanely doable, and for those of us that like to cook, they're delicious (seriously) and full of variations to play around with. I took his basic recipe and techniques and adapted them to make my version of his "British Beef and Onion Pie". I did this on Tuesday night, between writing and a web-conference and seriously, it was delicious.

I can't say enough. Awesome book, awesome recipe, awesome all around - and I wasn't even a fan... until Tuesday. Now it's katie-bar-the-door, because I'm going to cook the hell out of this book.

Note: For the original recipe, check out Jamie's Food Revolution or his website, jamieoliver.com. My version isn't all that different, but it's different enough that the original is worth checking out.

- 1 medium to large onion
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- olive oil
- 1 lb. good, lean ground beef
- 1 tbs. Worchestershire sauce (or soy sauce if you haven't got it on hand)
- 1 tsp. English mustard (or powdered in a pinch)
- 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 cup broth, chicken or beef
- 2 nine inch pie crusts
- 1 egg, beaten (or a splash of milk)
- pinch of salt
- pinch of black pepper

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet or dutch oven, breaking it up into pieces, until it is about 3/4's done (it should be mostly brownd, with a bit of pink here and there). Remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

2. Return the skillet to the stove. Roughly chop the onion, carrot, celery
and rosemary (woody stalks removed), and toss into the preheated skillet with the bay leaves and pinch of salt.

Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the veggies are softened and lightly colored.

3. Stir the ground beef back in. Add the flour, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Then add the cup of broth. Bring to a boil.

4. Once boiling, bring it down to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the broth has fully reduced, about 30 -40 minutes. Stir it every so often to keep the bottom from sticking.

5. Set the beef mixture aside to cool for 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, fit one of the pie crusts into a 9 inch pie plate and put it back in the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350.

6. When the mixture is cooled (a little warmer than room temp.) and the oven is preheated, pull the pie plate out and fill it with the beef mixture. Working quickly, place the second crust over the meat. Crimp the two crusts together (trimming the excess first), and put flour slits, clockwise, into the crust. Very gently use a brush to lightly film the crust with egg wash and put it into the oven on the bottom rack.

7. Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes, until the pie crust is golden. Let it sit for about ten minutes to set, and tuck in . To quote Jamie Oliver, "As it's so scrummy and rich, it's best served with some simply steamed greens," and I've got to say, the man knows what he's talking about.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sesame Cookies

This recipe is from The Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics and Appetizers by Karla Oliveira, and at first I thought it was a little weird.

Unbaked, the dough tastes *a lot* like peanut butter cookie dough (I'm a dough eater, which James finds pretty disgusting). Normally that would be ok, except that I'm allergic to peanut butter, and even though there was no peanut butter within a quarter mile of my kitchen, they tasted and smelled enough like what I remember peanut butter to taste and smell like that they actually made me nervous. That was the raw. Fresh out of the oven, the cookies were kind of tasteless and really, really lean. Not great. Not tasty. Still I did my due diligence and waited for them to cool. Better. Light and crispy, buttery and kind of nutty, they tasted pretty good. I tried another. Still tasted pretty good. I started noticing the toasty taste of the sesame seeds and the slightly salty sweetness. I tried another. Better and better. And so on through half a dozen cookies. The take away? These cookies are slow out of the gate, but they really grow on you. Just make sure you hold off until they've cooled - not always easy with cookies :-)

- 2/3 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/2 tbs. toasted sesame oil (the original recipe doesn't call for it - can be omitted altogether)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. lemon zest (I omitted this - didn't have lemons)
- 1 cup sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
- 1 cup shredded coconut, toasted and cooled (I omitted this - didn't have coconut)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. salt

1. Combine the oils, brown sugar, egg and vanilla in a bowl. Beat until well blended.
2. Add the toasted sesame seeds, coconut (if using) and lemon zest (if using).
3. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking power, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine.
4. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and mix until combined. Don't over-mix or it will make the cookies tough.
5. Shape the dough into 1 in. balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (parchment paper is ok). Press the balls down with a fork or the back of a spoon. About 12 should fit on a standard cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 13-15 minutes, until the cookies are golden and slightly browned on the bottom.
7. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer them to a rack and let them cool the rest of the way. They'll keep for about a week in a well sealed container. Makes about 2 - 2 1/2 dozen cookies. I don't know if the dough will freeze well - I'll have to try that next time.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I am blue. Nothing serious and purely situational, but blue all the same. I'm sad that certain familial relationships are so much less than I want them to be, and I tired of trying to make it otherwise. It's difficult to meet impassivity and disinterest with enthusiasm. It wears thin. It's a blue-making, isolating feeling, and I don't like it. So there. Now I need to go be a grown-up and figure out how to deal with it.....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Molasses Pecan Pie

James loves pecan pie, but every time he orders it he's a little disappointed. Most modern pecan pie recipes call for Karo syrup now instead of molasses, and no matter how good the pie is, if it's made with corn syrup instead of molasses, it just ain't right - at least this is what he's told me.

I'm not as big a connoisseur of pecan pies as James is, but I'm happy to take his word for it while I tuck into a big ol' slab of pumpkin pie. Still, on the event of his birthday a few days ago, I decided to make him a pecan pie with molasses instead of a cake, and darned if it didn't taste a little different. Seriously, it had a deep, almost caramely flavor. I'd love to do a side by side taste test, so if anyone has a really good regular pecan pie recipe that they wouldn't mind sharing, I'd be super obliged.

In the meantime, here's the recipe for James's Molasses Pecan Pie.

1. The original recipe is from the Oct./Nov. issue of Cook's Country Magazine. I made a few adjustments here and there, but left the basic recipe alone. Also, lightly toasting the pecans as they suggested really made a difference in pumping up the flavor. It was an extra step that really paid off.

2. You can use your own pie crust or a store bought pie crust. Either way, you don't have tp prebake the crust. Put it into your pie pan, prep it, and leave it in the freezer for a 1/2 hour. When everything's ready, fill the crust with the pecans and filling and whisk it onto the lowest rack of the oven at high heat. Then lower the temp. for the actual baking. All of this rushing around will keep your pie from having a soggy crust without having to prebake it, which you could still do if you really wanted to :-)


- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbs. blackstrap molasses (they call for 1 tbs. mild, but James likes the extra molasses flavor of blackstrap so we went with 2; if you like the oomph, but don't have blackstrap, use 3 tbs. mild)
- 4 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
- 1 generous tsp. of vanilla
- 1 9 in. pie shell - see Note above.


-Make the Filling-
1. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Heat syrup, sugar, cream and molasses in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. About 3 min.
3. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it sit 5 min.
4. Whisk the butter and salt into the mixture and stir until combined.
5. Temper the eggs by pouring 1/4 cup of the mixture into the eggs and stirring vigorously - this will help keep the eggs from scrambling. Then pour the eggs slowly into the syrup mixture, all the while stirring briskly, also to help prevent scrambling.

-Bake the Pie-
6. Scatter the pecan into the very cold pie shell. Pour in the filling.
7. Moving quickly, put the pie in the 450 degree oven on the lowest rack.
8. Immediately reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is set and the center jiggles just a little bit. 45-60 min.
9. Cool the pie on a rack for about 1 hour. When it's cool, transfer it to the refrigerator and let it set for at least 3 hours (or up to 1 day).
10. Bring it back to room temp. and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or just on it's own. Even for a non-pecan-pie-person, it's pretty darn good.

Addendum 11/20/09: Because I'm a dork I have to post this. James took this pie into the 2009 Composite Software Thanksgiving Dessert Contest and we tied for 3rd place! Ming!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Duncan Buried the Pearls!

This will mean nothing to anyone, but I'm really relieved.

I've been working on a short story, "Duncan Merriman Buries His Wife," off and on for over a year. This is ages too long, even for me. Among the many, many problems this story has had is the amazing flip-flopping ending. It was almost as if Duncan didn't know what he wanted to do. Of course, this means that I didn't know him well enough and/or I wasn't listening.

Anyway, there is a pearl necklace that Duncan could either bury at his wife's grave, or keep with the implication that he might, one day, give it to a new love. One draft he would bury. The next he would keep it. On and on this went, burying and unburying the damn thing, but every time it was buried or kept, it never felt right. Until today.

I've been editing the final version for a deadline of October 1st, and still the ending fell flat. So, I chucked the final page and wrote it by hand. And for some reason, this time, it worked. Duncan buried the pearls, and burying the pearls was the exact right thing to do. I'm so happy I could throw something!

I know it probably sounds weird to refer to Duncan as if he were a separate, real person instead of a character I made up. Writing this story has been difficult for me - it's required skill that I have had to develop and an understated emotionality that I've never used before. After all of this time spent figuring his story out, Duncan is real to me, and I'm going to feel strange when the edits are finally done. But now that I know that he has his ending, I'll be able to let him go more easily.


Now I'm going to go throw something.