I remember a time in my life when the only motivation to open my utility bill was knowing there was a recipe in the newsletter that accompanied the bad news. I’ve always loved to cook, bake, especially, and have collected reams of recipes over the years. So recalling the fun of a monthly recipe, I’ll be including a sporadic recipe for you in "Notes…"
So! ‘Tis the season–especially for homemade chocolate pudding! Jello makes a very decent pudding mix (the cooked, not the instant), but since I like to avoid packaging whenever I can, I prefer to create from (semi-)scratch*. This is a recipe I got from Martha. The first time I made it, it came out stiff, so I halved the number of yolks (her’s called for four!) and the amount of cornstarch, used brown instead of white sugar, and used part soy milk, since we always have that in abundance. Just so ya know, I’ve forgotten to add the butter and vanilla at the end several times, and it still tastes good. But, it adds to the flavor layering, just like the addition of brown (dark, pref) sugar.
2/3 cups brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup cream plus 2 cups soy milk (or 3 cups cow milk)
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp vanilla
In a largeish pot, add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa and mix until well blended. If you’re not obsessive about this part, you will have little lumps of cornstarch in your finished pudding. Add the yolks and milk/s and stir constantly over medium high heat. A wire whisk will help keep the pudding smooth. It doesn’t take long for the mixture to start bubbling (five minutes or so). Continue stirring for about a minute and turn off the heat. Add the butter and vanilla, and continue stirring for another minute, then pour into individual custard cups. Mmmm…pudding!
If you like to hibernate or otherwise, stay home for the holidays and need some inspiration to cook, have a lookie at these recipe sites. By far, Epicurious.com is my fave. It has all the best of Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines and more, and if you create an account, you can peruse the bazillions of recipes and park your favorites in your very own recipe box that you can refer to whenever you like. Williams-Sonoma.com not only has beautiful recipes with photos, but entire menus if you’re drawing a blank as to what to serve for a Sunday brunch or a tea party. Not to mention carrying ALL the bells and whistles for the most fashionable cooking. LOVE their bakeware! And of course, Marthastewart.com also has great recipes (click on "Food" and fasten your seatbelt!).
And speaking of the season, who doesn’t love Christmas cookies? Go here: foodnetwork.com. Twelve Days of Cookies! You’ll find some really interesting recipes, and you can also get previous year’s Twelve Days… Dig around and try "Reindeer Ravioli". I’m going to make them this year.
Speaking of Christmas Cookies, my mom’s recipe for cut-out cookies is the best EVER. Without fail, eight kids under foot, she made these for us EVery year, Christmas and Easter. This is a cookie that takes very well to being frosted and decorated, OR eaten just plain, because they’re not overly sweet. Gather up some fun shaped cookie cutters. A big tree (Martha’s is the best), a big Santa, and a big gingerbread person are all you’ll need to start.
MOM€™S CUTOUT COOKIES
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp. soda dissolved in water, add to: 1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
6 cups flour
I follow this recipe exACTly. Yell if you need help, but just follow the general cookie making rules–first the sugar and shortenings (includes butter, room temp), then the eggs and liquids, then all the dry ingredients. Let the dough rest 30 minutes, then roll 1/8th inch thick, cut, and bake at 350 until slightly brown around the edges. If you want to have a cookie decorating party, it’s much easier if you bake all the cookies beforehand, then provide different color frostings (powdered sugar, egg white, a bit of vanilla, pinch salt, and food coloring…add more powdered sugar/egg white to get the proper consistency), and sprinkles (go to Cake Castle or Wilton’s).
So, there ya go! If you can read and ask questions, you can cook!
My mom also made the ONLY edible fruitcake on the planet. Yum-o. Except for that year she wrapped it in cloth and doused it with rum. Hey, Mom, what was up with THAT?
*Carl Sagan said, "If you truly want to bake a pie from scratch, first you must create the universe."