Category Archives: Cooking

Gift wrapping

I am as terrible at wrapping presents as I used to be at cooking.  But this year, things are changing.

Two big things have happened so far, and it’s not even Christmas Eve.  First, I was allowed to stir the pot of toffee cooking on the stove.  (Toffee: boiled sugar and other unhealthy things, poured onto a pan with chocolate melted on top and then hardened outside in the snow.  I’d provide the recipe but it’s too dangerous).

Let me rephrase that: I was allowed to stir the boiling vat of candy threatening to scald your hands and stick to your skin with the pain of a thousand darkening grains of sugar.  It took two years of cooking and a piece in the New York Times for my mother to allow me within a three-foot vicinity of the pot.  (Okay, this might be a bit of embellishment.  She probably would have let me do this many years ago if I had shown the interest and caution that it deserves).  So, I stirred the toffee.  Now all I need is a candy thermometer and I can make it myself.  If I have the guts to do it.  I’ll keep you posted next year.

The second big thing that happened so far this holiday season: I actually listened to advice.  Years ago family attempted to teach me how to wrap gifts neatly.  But I, proud of my misshapen and overly taped gifts, refused to listen and placed my gifts under the tree in a big huff.

That being said, some small part of my brain retained the knowledge and this year, while wrapping a large box, I remembered that I could pull the sides out rather than crumpling them in, much like neatly tucking in the sheets of a freshly-made bed.  I tried it and found I obtained a crisp fold that required only two pieces of tape, rather than the usual seven per side.  I still used three just to be safe.

Stirring toffee and heeding advice about gift-wrapping.  I think I’m ready for Christmas.

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Filed under Cooking

Electric tortilla press!

Okay everyone, I just have to share my latest exciting discovery: an electric tortilla press!

Several months ago I had an allergic reaction that was mild but still scary to encounter, and it was due to cross-contamination.  I found that my usual burrito/tortilla shells were now situated in the grocery store next to the brand new jalapeno shells, and I can only imagine that my new reaction might have been due to the shared equipment.  As a result, I started making my own tortillas.

I did not exactly have the knack for it.  I was covered in flour and perspiring a little from rolling out each tortilla.  And frustrated, with the delicate balance between undercooked and smoking tortillas.  After a few scorched attempts, I managed to get the process figured out, but even so it involved making the dough, rolling it out, carefully frying each one for the precise amount of time with a precise amount of oil on the stove… and this all before even making the stuffings for the burrito!  Since these burritos are a staple for travel and healthy lunches for me, I needed another solution.

And thanks to a little online searching and a wonderful birthday gift, the solution came my way.  The other night, I tried the electric tortilla press for the first time.  It was amazing.  Mix the dough: check.  Knead it a little and divide into equal, smaller balls of dough: check.  Place the dough in the center of the tortilla press and close the top to squish it out: check.  Hold it down until the escaping steam makes a funny-sounding squeal: check.  Raise the top lid to find a perfectly pressed tortilla ready to be filled with deliciousness: CHECK.

It was easy, quick and delicious!

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Filed under Cooking, The Kitchen

Nancy’s Apple Crisp

It’s apple season!  I love the changing seasons, and in upstate New York, the changing leaves and dipping temperatures make for a truly beautiful fall season.  With crunching leaves comes great responsibility… that is, responsibility to take advantages of the produce of the season.  Namely, apples.

Here is Nancy’s Apple Crisp recipe:

Set the oven to 375.  Peel, core and slice up five to seven large apples.  (Nancy recommends using different kinds of apples in order to add to the overall taste and texture).  Place the apples in a baking dish and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apples, and mix together.

Combine and mix with a fork (until “crumbly”):

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

(**Johanna addition: 1 teaspoon vanilla)

Pour the mixture on top of the apples and bake for about an hour, until the topping is browned and the juice is bubbly.

Thanks, Nancy!  YUM.


*Note: this recipe originates from the Joy of Cooking’s apple crisp recipe, changed for personal taste.

Rombauer, I. S., & Becker, M. R. (1975). Joy of cooking. Simon and Schuster.

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Filed under Cooking, Recipes