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So the question immediately arises: “Why are these called ‘White Mice’?” The immediate bit of knowledge is that no mice were ever harmed or even present in the making of these cookies. That name was on them when I copied down the recipe from ….somewhere…. in pencil, on a piece of typing paper from Daddy’s IBM Selectric which he kept at home for preparing his Sunday School lessons and working on work from work. Credit? Well, no, I did not note the source. Just wanted to make them. And I still do.
Once grown I realized they are a lot like what are called “Mexican Wedding Cookies”,which I adore as well. The idea of making them red and green instead of white as in White Mice probably came from me, but again, lost in the sands and winds of time. These are extremely easy to make, and delightful to eat. Not extra sweet, just sweet enough, and a sandy texture. I usually use pecans because, well, I’m from around here, but walnuts are wonderful too. This morning I used walnuts cause that’s what I had.
You can use a hand mixer. You can use a big stand mixer. You can also mix them up using a big spoon. Kid helpers are a huge plus with these. I have done it both ways, and I always remember why this is my very favorite Go-To Cookie to go to for cookie-pleasures. Here’s what to do:
White Mice Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Do this before you bake the cookies. It can be before you make the dough, or after you make the dough; that doesn’t matter. The dough can wait in the fridge for a day or two. Dough gets rolled into cookie balls, and these rolled in sugar, whether plain granulated, or colorful granulated sugar, right before baking each batch.)
About 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
Divide the sugar between two jars with lids. Add about 5 drops of red coloring to one, and green coloring to the other. Shake very well until the sugar is evenly colored. Transfer to a shallow bowl or pie plate and use to coat the cookies. Or use white granulated sugar.
Lightly grease one or two large cookie sheets and set aside. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and nuts and toss to mix well.
In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Using a mixer, beat at medium-high speed until they are evenly combined and well mixed. Add the milk and vanilla and beat them in well. Add the flour and nuts, and beat at low speed to combine everything evenly and well into a very firm dough. (You can use a big spoon, fork, and/or your hands to make this dough. Lots of jobs for helpers of any age).
Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place sugar (either plain granulated sugar, or red and green colored sugar, see directions) in a pie pan or wide, shallow bowl, and roll to coat each one evenly and well with the sugar. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Carefully transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Makes 36 cookies (3 dozen)
Copyright Nancie McDermott 2012. All rights reserved.
It’s been a few Wednesday’s since I got around to getting myself organized to join the Wok Wednesdays circle. Missed it, both the connections with fellow cooks and food-lovers, and the tasty and satisfying results that grace (Grace!) our table each time I stir-fry along with all y’all. I am determined to back-pedal to make sure I cook up the fried corn dish (loved the note on the Southern connection for that one) and I will absolutely make this dish again. We all loved it, and it made a generous supper for our family with enough left over for my husband’s lunch today.
This reminded me how amazed I was the first few times I had cucumbers cooked. I grew up in North Carolina and I don’t know if it was the heat of summer or monolithic culinary thinking, but cucumbers here are for salads, relishes, pickles, sandwiches if you are dining with people who know from elegant tea parties. But I never dreamed you could cook them, simply because we didn’t. Isn’t that astounding? But a perfect example of how There Are Rules, culinary ones, which we don’t think of as restrictions, but as Just How It Is. Tomatoes get to be raw and cooked, and so does cabbage (coleslaw!) . But cucumbers? Mercy! They are lovely, still minty green and still crunchy, but made velvety and tempting by their flash-in-the-pan treatment. I also loved the golden garlic. Smelled so good, and added subtle delight to the dish. Next time I will make a fistful of it. I think having Golden Garlic on hand would be the gift that gives on and on and on.
It was not my best photography night: I got no prep pictures, and the only in-the-process shot is, to my surprise on seeing it on computer screen this morning in full light, blurry. But I love the green-ness and the sense that the blur could be the stir-frying process action, and the steamy heat coming out of the work; so I am indulging myself to post it here it here, in all its flawed fuzziness.
I love Wok Wednesdays, and Grace’s glorious and generous cookbook, and I love cooking with my fellow WokWednesday fans. I’m all ready for what’s next as we cook our way through this excellent book .If you’d like to know more about Wok Wednesdays, visit our website by clicking HERE. You can join the fun, and also join our Facebook Group; details on the website.
For information on the inspiring book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, which keeps us wokking, and on our Goddess of Wokdom Grace Young,
On first hearing that our Let’s Lunch theme for July was ‘Barbecue’, I felt concerned, because I do not have a massive brick chimney with a big ol’ pit to hold massive portions of pork (either whole hog or pork shoulders) in proximity to glowing hickory wood coals for many hours, with a vinegar-kissed sauce of one persuasion or another anointing the meat throughout the process. My good friend Fred Thompson has written out everything I need to know to do a great home-version of this art and craft in his must-have book, Barbecue Nation: 350 Hot-Off-The-Grill, Tried-and-True Recipes from America’s Backyard. (page 120) But this is a very busy week, as I am leaving come Monday on a very special journey, about which I will tell you in a post later today. Suffice to say for now that major new cooking projects were not in the picture due to a travel-preparation to-do list that stretches from here to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was concerned.
Then the invisible light-blub over my head glowed and made a little happy “pop”. That word ‘barbecue‘ can be a verb! It can mean ‘to cook something wonderful on a grill over low-and-slow or hot-and-wild heat of many and varied descriptions, for assorted amounts of time using an array of marinades, rubs and seasonings’. It can mean Thai-style grilled garlic chicken. It need not be pork, and it need not take a long (worthwhile but long) time.
To my delight, about the time I was focusing in on my post here, wonderful and generous friends invited us to come for a great big cookout on July 4th. Lots of folks were coming and lots of great food was in the offing. Barbecued ribs were already on the menu, and I offered to contribute chicken wings. My host made it even easier by buying and preparing the wings so that my task came down to making the marinade (see Recipe below) and the traditional dipping sauce with the perfect tangy heat for grilled dishes. (It’s in fact a dynamite good sauce, great with way more than grilled meats). Here are the two recipes I used. I’d love to hear what ‘barbecue’ means to you, so do weigh in on the comments form. In case you’d like to see the entire menu (I can’t stop looking at it and grinning with happy memories and gratitude to our hosts and fellow cooks), I’ll share photos at the end of this post, after the recipes. AND I’ll be back shortly to add a round-up of LET’S LUNCH ! posts by my fellow food-bloggers around the web…
Nancie’s Grilled Garlic Chicken, Thai-Style
2 teaspoons whole white or black peppercorns
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro roots (or roots & stems)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
About 3 pounds chicken thighs and legs
Old-School: Using a mortar and pestle, crush the peppercorns to a fine powder. Add the cilantro roots and pound and grind well. Add the garlic, salt, and sugar and continue pounding, grinding, and scraping, until you have a fairly smooth paste. Stir in the soy sauce to make a fairly smooth paste. Add a little water if needed to soften the mixture.
New School: Grind peppercorns, or use ground pepper (yes, that is just fine; no worries.) In a blender or a small food processor, combine the pepper, cilantro roots or stems, garlic, salt, sugar, and soy sauce. Grind it all up into a fairly smooth paste. Pulse to grind it evenly and stop to scrape the sides down as you go. Add water if needed to move the blades.
Combine the seasoning paste with chicken in a large bowl, and toss to combine everything well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, turning several times to season evenly. (Keeps well up to 12 hours, covered and refrigerated.)
To cook, prepare a grill. When hot enough to cook chicken, arrange chicken pieces over coals or heat and cook, turning often, until browned handsomely and cooked through. When chicken is done, transfer to a serving platter and serve hot or warm with Sweet-Hot Garlic Sauce and sticky rice
Copyright: Nancie McDermott, 2012. All rights reserved.
Nancie’s Sweet Hot Garlic Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chili-garlic sauce (tuong ot toi)
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly and thickens to a light syrup, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the chili-garlic sauce. Set aside to cool. Transfer to a jar, seal, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.
Copyright: Nancie McDermott, 2012. All rights reserved.
I’m part of a monthly Twitter-party called #LetsLunch. To see posts by some of my fellow food bloggers from many kitchens near and far, check the hashtag on twitter, or start here, with posts already up for savoring:
My Kitchen and I: Steamed Buns with BBQ Pork
A Cook and Her Books: Barbecue Sauce and the Pig Hill of Fame
Eat. My. Blog. : Homemade ketchup, relish, and mustard! BBQ Friendly Condiments for #letslunch
And now, a quick little tour of my July Fourth celebration, starting in the grocery store and ending with pound cake and ice cream. Sweet and good!
I knew this would be a stellar gathering when I found cilantro with roots attached at Whole Foods. You can make a great tasty version using chopped stems and leaves, but chopped up roots are the original ingredient and they make the quintessential version.
Asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, ready for roasting and then a sprinkling of lemon zest . Divine.
Summer rolls, Vietnamese-style. We got a production line going and turned out a slew of these. Perfect summertime party-picnic-quick supper food. One guest brought the asparagus and fantastic deviled eggs, and stepped up to rock the summer rolls-assembly line with skill and grace. Gold star cook!
Our wonderful host provided not just one version of pork ribs, but two versions. Hoisin on left, Dr. Pepper on right. Both were divine. I wish I had me a big ol’ mess of them right now.
Another guest brought this Asian-flavored slaw which was fantastic. I will be pursuing this recipe with dedication. Perfect barbecue companion and summer-go-to for keeping in the fridge.
Ditto for these two salads. Great fresh and ideal ‘keepers’: tomato watermelon with basil on the right; sweet potato with red onion to the back.
Perfect cookout companion by my lights: Not one but two kinds of rice! Calrose short-grain rice on the left; black sticky rice on the right.
Lemon ice cream (ethereally bright and fantastically pleasing) and pound cake. First pound cake this guest had ever made. Look at that texture! She nailed it. Made everybody happy.
That was our July Fourth celebration cookout. I hope you had a good mid-week holiday, and that summer brings you lots of good food and good times with good people.
When I came across an armload of fresh ruby-red rhubarb at my local supermarket this spring, my mind went right into pie-making mode. Rhubarb pie is as easy as apple pie, calling only for chunks of fruit and a generous addition of sugar, flour and butter to transform this stolid vegetable/fruit into a luscious pink pie.
Pairing rhubarb with strawberries is a popular preference, and it’s one I adore both for its flavor notes and the brilliant upswing in color provided by the berries. While working on Southern Pies, I encountered both of them as beloved versions, but I found myself cherishing the simple rhubarb-only pie.
In many parts of the South, folks refer to rhubarb simply as “pie plant”. Traditionally, a generous patch was planted out by the summer garden, or near a fence.
A true harbinger of spring, its reappearance in the form of gigantic, outer-space movie leaves atop sturdy-looking but actually delicate stalks signaled that winter was losing its grip and that the sun was taking charge for the foreseeable future. More than once I encountered references to the pleasures of breaking off a stalk and dipping it in sugar for a spur of the moment hand-held snack. So far I haven’t tried this out, perhaps out of a feeling that one earns this privilege by having a proper rhubarb patch out back. But it’s 2012, and I’m alone in the kitchen: next pie, I’ll go rogue and see what that is all about. I also mean to have a rhubarb patch in by autumn. Back with the scoop. Meanwhile, I recommend that you give rhubarb pie a try.
Nancie’s Rhubarb Pie
Two sheets of pastry, for a double-crust pie
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons flour
6 cups chopped rhubarb (1/2 inch to 1 inch pieces)
2 tablespoons butter
Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Fit one of the piecrust sheets into a pie pan. Leave about an inch of pastry extending out beyond the top edge of the pie pan.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the flour. Using a fork or a whisk, stir to mix them together well. Add the rhubarb and toss until the sugar mixture coats the rhubarb evenly. Tumble the rhubarb into the piecrust-lined pie pan. Mound it up so that it peaks in the middle, since it cooks down quite a bit.
Carefully place the top crust over the rhubarb, and trim the edges to extend beyond the edge of the bottom crust by about an inch. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust and press them together. Using a fork, work your away around the piecrust, pressing the tines in firmly to seal and adorn the edges. You could also pinch the sealed crust up into a pretty edge, using your knuckles, thumbs, and imagination. You cannot do this wrong. For a video of this process, check Real Simple magazine’s website HERE. Using a butter knife or paring knife, cut vertical slits around the edges on the top crust of the pie. Make slits in the center area too, so the juices can flow forth as the pie bakes.
Place the pie in the center of the 425 degree F oven. Bake for 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Bake until the piecrust is evenly and handsomely browned, and the lovely pink juices bubble up and decorate the top crust of your pie, 40 to 50 minutes. If the top crust browns before the pie is done, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil and continue baking. When the pie is done, remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel. Serve warm or at room temperature. Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or heavy cream alone: any of these would each enhance the pleasures of rhubarb pie.
Note: For an old-time North Carolina-style cobbler, use a 9-inch square pan instead of a pie pan.
Here are links for rhubarb basics, and an abundance of recipes for making rhubarb a regular–no, a thing, in your kitchen, ending up with two of mine.
When my good friend Robin Asbell asked me to be part of an online potluck celebrating her brand new book, Big Vegan, I said “Yes!” real fast. Robin is an accomplished and prolific food writer and brilliant cooking teacher. She knows food and cooking, and her inspired recipes remind me how much pleasure there is in eating good-for-me food. Though Robin lives up in Minnesota and I’m way down here in North Carolina, she got me in on today’s potluck feast, along with fellow bloggers around the country. Our various posts make up a meal from her book, giving you the flavor of its wide-ranging recipes, from scones and smoothies to soups, stews, pastas, sweet and savory pies, and more. Robin ends this volume with a luscious round-up of dessert recipes, including Pistachio Thumbprints, Lemon Cake with Pomegranate Filling and Orange Glaze, Pumpkin-Cherry Bundt Cake, and Ginger-Mango Rice Pudding. My potluck contribution is a rustic and satisfying Korean-style soup, made with a hearty miso-powered stock and boasting a beautiful bowlful of textures and flavors: daikon radish, fresh shiitake mushrooms, tofu, potato, zucchini, and red peppers.
By the way, Robin is providing me a copy of Big Vegan to give away to one of you wonderful readers. Leave a comment after this post, and I will draw a name to see who wins that treasury of great eating. Comment by November 10 to be included in the drawing.
Here are the ingredients for the soup stock. At 12:00 o’clock, you’ll see squares of dark green kombu, a sturdy and intensely flavored seaweed with a feisty little pile of coarsely ground chiles on top. To the right are garlic cloves and onion, dried shiitake mushrooms at 6:00 o’clock, slices of daikon radish and fresh ginger at 9:00 and 10:00 o’clock respectively. In the center is the engine that drives this soup to flavorful heights: Miso, a fermented soybean paste beloved in Asian kitchens for centuries and an essential ingredient in the traditional cooking of Korea and Japan.
After simmering these ingredients together to make an excellent stock, I strained out all the taste-makers, keeping their mighty flavors and composting their remaining elements. Then I returned the soup pot of great stock to the stove and added the tasty items pictured below. At the top are green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal along with small strips of red Fresno chile. Had I not found red Fresno chile, I think red bell pepper would have worked just fine. Next are chunks of zucchini, slices of fresh shiitakes, and cubes of both potato and soft tofu.
Once the stock was ready, I could have set it aside for later, or even frozen it for future soups. It would be a marvelous frozen-pantry item to have ready, definitely one to consider making in quantity to keep on hand. Big Vegan includes several recipes for making a quantity of vegan stock with various flavor profiles. The soup stock was rich and fragrant, and we were hungry, so I quickly forgot all thoughts of putting it aside and instead finished up the recipe, in the time it took the potatoes to cook. Then in went the zucchini and tofu, and supper was ready; fast, fresh, and fine. I wanted to make the soup with whatever I could find at my local Whole Foods. This meant using a dark miso with rich, very deep flavor. With red or white miso from an Asian market, this soup would be a little more delicate, a good choice for springtime meals. All in all, the recipe gave us a hearty, gorgeously-hued bowl of soup/stew, perfect for the rainy fall evening on which we ate it for supper. The true test of its deliciousness was when my high-school aged daughter (who had eaten dinner) wanted a bowl of Korean Miso-Tofu Soup with rice as an 11:13 p.m. homework snack. This Big Vegan soup would work well as one of several dishes in a rice-centered meal, or paired up with a salad and Quick Indian Flatbreads (page 106), or Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits (page 103), or your favorite sandwiches. For the recipe, scroll down to the end of this post. To learn more about Robin Asbell, and to check out all the bloggers and recipes in this Big Vegan Potluck, look at these links below. A baker’s dozen of recipes by food bloggers who love Big Vegan: Here we go!
This is Robin’s website and blog:
You can find Big Vegan wherever books are sold, as they say. For a link to independent booksellers around the country, click here:
To find Big Vegan on Amazon, click here:
To enter my drawing for a copy of Big Vegan: leave a comment on this blogpost, and do so before November 10th. Many thanks to Robin Asbell and Chronicle Books for providing a big, gorgeous copy of this excellent, gorgeous and worthwhile book to share with one of my readers.
Korean Miso-Tofu Soup
4 large dried shiitake or black mushrooms
3 oz/85 g daikon, peeled and sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 6-in/15-cm piece dried kombu
7 tbsp/90 ml dark miso
4 slices/11 g fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, halved
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups/360 g cubed zucchini/courgette
8 oz/225 g cubed red potato
4 ox/115 g fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
12 oz/3400 g silken tofu, cubed
1 large red Fresno chile, slivered, for garnish
2 large scallions/spring onions, diagonally sliced, for garnish
1. Put 2 qt/2 L water in a large pot and add the dried mushrooms, daikon, onion, kombu, miso, ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 20 minutes. (I let mine simmer 45, since I wasn’t in a hurry and wanted its flavors to have more time to blossom). Line a colander with a sturdy paper towel/absorbent paper and set it over a bowl. Strain the liquid through the paper, carefully shifting the vegetables to the sides to help it drain completely. Discard the solids.
2. Add the broth to a large pot and bring it to a simmer. Add the zucchini/courgette, potato, and shiitakes and cook for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked all the way through.
3. Add the tofu and simmmer for about 5 minutes to heat through. Serve the soup in bowls garnished with the chile and scallions/spring onions.
My good friend Virginia Willis is a lot like the title of her brand new book: Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company. Virginia is basic, as in down-to-earth, real, practical and good; and she is also brilliant, as in creative, intelligent, accomplished, and inspiring. In this book, her second, she provides us with an extraordinary repertoire of recipes for snacks, feasts, picnics, beach trips, romantic suppers, family reunions — each and every excuse for a food-graced gathering can be deliciously handled by anyone in possession of this superb cookbook. Virginia sets us up with a library of knowledge about cooking, both for everyday and for company, drawn from the hearty and gracious Georgia cooking of her childhood, and the classic French culinary expertise she gained during her years studying and then working in France at Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. Particularly interesting are her chapter introductions, ranging from a thoughtful discourse on the economics, ethics, and people behind the meat we put on our tables, to a meditation on rice culture and the goodness of grits, and a valentine to vegetables, the latter with delicious detours into life on the set in the many television studios where Virginia worked as Kitchen Director for folks like Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree. Her introductions fascinate, educate and captivate me, but they never take me too far away from the food. Don’t you want to get in the kitchen and make Mama’s Sausage Swirls; Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Veloute; Beef Daube Provencal; Pinto Beans with Side Meat; Chateau du Fey Cherry Clafoutis; and Dede’s Burnt Caramel Cake? I know I do, and with Virginia’s clear, inviting voice flowing off the page, I know I can do so, even the ones for dishes I’ve never tried to cook, and thought could only come from the hands of bona fide chefs. You need to invite Virginia Willis into your kitchen, and this book allows you to do just that. You can learn more about her at her website:
I broke in my brand new copy, which I was thrilled to receive from Virginia’s publisher, Ten Speed Press, with a dish my father adored, and one I had to come around to as a grown up: Brussels sprouts. “Of course you don’t like them if the only way you’ve ever had them was cooked to stinky mush!” Virginia notes on page 195 of the Vegetable chapter in Basic to Brilliant, Y’all. She cooks them with bacon, onions, and apples, a dandy little chorus for the beautiful tiny cabbages I’ve learned to adore. Virginia calls for Granny Smith apple, but I like a sweeter apple such as a gala or a fuji myself.
Virginia Willis’s Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Apples and Bacon
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut in half (or peeled according to directions below)
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch dice
Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the apple and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and toss to coat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a warmed serving platter and serve immediately.
To make it brilliant: Cut about ¼ inch off the stem end of each sprout and begin peeling off the leaves. When difficult to peel further, trim off another ¼ inch and continue removing leaves. Repeat to peel all leaves from the sprouts; discard the tiny cores. Follow the basic recipe above, but no need to blanch the sprouts. Add the leaves to the onion and apple. Sauté until the leaves are bright green and slightly wilted but still crunchy, about 3 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6
Copyright Virginia Willis @2011. Published by Ten Speed Press. All rights reserved.