That’s the Way the (Peanut Butter) Cookie Crumbles

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It’s been too long since I last posted, caught up as I am with establishing a freelance career on this coast. Juggling that, my novel Silvern Voices, and the arrangements for the debut of A Real Newfoundland Scoff hasn’t left as much blogging time as I’d like. Actually, the time is there, but the butt is not–there’s only so long I can sit and focus on a computer screen.

So, cookies. I’m not much into baking sweets–no patience for all the careful measuring and timing and sifting and blending and beating. And making cookies is the worst–the division of the dough into little circles, so tedious. But I had a sweet craving tonight that wasn’t going away, and I’ve had a hankering for peanut butter cookies, which leads to one thing: the recipe straight off the Kraft™ Peanut Butter jar. The simplest cookie recipe I know, this is the fastest route to quelling the craving, about half hour from start to finish and that includes the bowl washing. Without further ado, the recipe:

Kraft™ Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter
1 /2 cup white sugar
1 egg

*chocolate chips (my addition, about a handful if you have a small hand)

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine all ingredients and stir well. Form into cookies and bake for about 20 minutes, til slightly browned.

A handful of chocolate chips makes everything better.

A handful of chocolate chips makes everything better.

The only complaint I have about this recipe is that it claims to make 24 cookies. Now, I don’t know how small a cookie can be before it’s considered a crumb, but I guarantee this mix does not make two dozen cookies. I get 15, and that’s with a handful of chocolate chips thrown in.

See? Definitely not 2 dozen cookies!

See? Definitely not 2 dozen cookies!

These cookies are a great springboard for customization, and not just with chocolate chips. How about a swirl of raspberry jam in the dough, or the addition of chopped pecans? What would you put in your peanut butter cookie dough?

Twitterverse Buffet Nonet*

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Cacophony of tweets, chirps, whistles
Juncos, chickadees, spotted towhees
Murmuration of starlings
Intent,raiding feeders
When stealth shadow falls
Eerie stillness
The buffet
Opens
Now

*A nonet is a nine line poem, with the opening line having nine syllables, the next line 8, and so on down to the final line of one syllable. I like to experiment with different poetry styles, and with next month being National Poetry Blogging Month, thought I’d get back in the swing of it.

A Real Newfoundland Scoff: Untraditional Seafood Chowder

Since announcing the upcoming release of A Real Newfoundland Scoff, I’ve been asked if there’s a chance of sharing any recipes, of giving a sneak peek. Aiming to please, voila!
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Untraditional Atlantic Seafood Chowder

This chowder was inspired by one from Steve Galvin, an accomplished chef with whom I was working at the time of writing. He created this non-dairy base specifically for lactose intolerant guests, and as soon as I tasted it, I knew he was on to something. He graciously agreed to share the base recipe for this book.
I love it, because not only is it dairy-free, it is so much lighter and healthier than traditional cream-based chowders, and you’ll be hard put to taste the difference.

Serves 8

Base:
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 cup clam juice
6–8 cups water
3–4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in bundle
1 dried bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil, to emulsify

Chowder vegetables (and bacon):
1/4 cup diced bacon*
1 cup diced potato
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery

*Bacon gives a smoky undertone to the chowder, but it may be omitted if you prefer not to have meat in the soup. Substitute with one teaspoon of butter or margarine.

Chowder seafood:
12 blue mussels, uncooked
1 pound coldwater shrimp (may be cooked or uncooked)
1/2 pound cooked lobster meat
1/2 pound cooked crab meat

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add onion and garlic. Cook until softened but not browned. Add cauliflower, clam juice, and water to cover. Add herbs and bring to a simmer. Cook until cauliflower is very soft, about 30–45 minutes.
Remove thyme bundle and bay leaf.
Using a hand-held immersion blender or a food processer, puree the soup base until very smooth. Gradually whisk in olive oil, using a slow, steady stream. This is called emulsifying, and this is what gives the chowder its smooth, creamy texture.
A word about the base: you can bring it to a boil briefly, but any longer than a minute or two may cause the emulsion to “split”; the oil and liquid will separate and the texture will be lost. That’s why in this case, the vegetables are cooked separately.

Vegetables and seafood:
Cook bacon until it’s just short of crispy and drain off excess fat. Add diced potato, carrot, onion, and celery to pan and cook over medium heat until softened but not browned. You may boil the vegetables as well, but the slow cooking with the bacon extracts a lot more flavour.
Add the bacon and vegetables to the chowder base and bring to a simmer. Once simmer is reached, add mussels, shrimp, lobster, and crab and cover. Cook a few minutes until mussels open and shrimp are now pink.

Supper Snaps: Fundraisers to NASCAR snax to BC pot, it’s all here!

And so the Supper Snaps series comes to an end; thanks to everyone that shared their pictures over the past few months. I’ve enjoyed chronicling dinners, but I’ve been using the idea as a crutch; instead of buckling down for some writing, I just whack up the picture and poof, done.

For our final instalment, I present an assortment of things that have come in over the weekend, a buffet, if you will, of images.

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Convenient comfort food: Shake and Bake chicken, with store-bought cheesy scalloped potatoes, StoveTop stuffing, and asparagus. Hey, at least the asparagus was fresh!

Over at my sister’s place, they were getting ready for the NASCAR race with some pretty upscale snacks. SweetpochipsSweet potato chips with aioli for dipping, and pizza using portobello mushrooms as the base. Neat, and gluten free!pizza

My friend Catherine’s supper features, as usual, fabulous vegetables from Taproot Farms. Roast pork with homemade hunter sauce, another perfect winter supper.
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And now for the BC pot:
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I treated myself to these commercial type saucepans, all the better to remind me of a professional kitchen. Now, having great utensils doesn’t make one a great chef just as having a nice set of tools won’t make you a carpenter, but it sure will help you get the most of the skills you do have.
These pots are a great, mid-range price–they work hard and you don’t have to worry about spoiling their good looks.

Saving the best for last, a private Seattle home was the site of a gala fundraising dinner in support of the Newf Club Seattle Rescue. This combines two of my favourite things–Newfoundland dog rescue, and great food. Sadly, my plans to attend this year’s dinner crumbled at the last minute, but thanks to my friend Marylou, I have pictures and descriptions to share.
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From top left to bottom, as per Marylou:

Beet salad, arugula, ricotta cheese, pepitas. Accompanied with a Balboa 2013 Chardonnay

Sea Scallop on a bed of pulled pork and crispy tortilla. Paired with a Dama Nation 2010 GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre). Mary – the winemaker from Dama Nation joined us for dinner and described the berry floral notes beautifully.

Pork Belly with fish sauce, jicama and charred green onion, served with a lovely VaPiano 2012 Syrah

Hangar Steak topped with Mt Tam triple cream cheese with roasted red potatoes, shallot and port sauce. Accompanied by the very nice Sleight of Hand 2012 Illusionist

Beyond description – a chocolate cake in a flaky crust topped by mocha creme and salted caramel….yum.

That all sounds amazing doesn’t it? If you’re planning on being in Seattle next year at this time, I can provide more information on this dinner. Great food for a great cause can’t be beat!

A Real Newfoundland Scoff @ Amazon.ca

91hOLPe+0RLA Real Newfoundland Scoff is now available for pre-order at Amazon.ca.
This is my most personal project to date, and after living with the writing process for well over a year, there’s nothing left to do but wait for it to come back from the printer.
It hits the shelves on May 15, and closer to that time I’ll have details on the launch plans, as well as a contest just for readers of this blog.
As well, there’ll be a few sneak peek recipes prior to release, so please stop back and see what’s cooking!

Supper Snaps: Company’s Coming!

Special guests warrant special dinners, and I decided to work from my Italian repertoire. One of my favourite cuisines, it lends itself to family style dishes with make-ahead preparation and no fuss so that the cook can enjoy the company instead of hovering over the stove.
I didn’t get a lot of finished product pictures for just that reason–I was enjoying the evening.

The full menu was:
Zuppa de Pesci (Seafood soup)
Antipasti platter
Chicken picatta
Lamb chops
Albacore tuna loin
Risotto alla Milanese
Eggplant parmigiana
Roasted asparagus
And some store-bought rosemary foccacia bread, cannoli, and biscotti :).

Ingredients laid out

Ingredients laid out

Local lamb chops marinating

Local lamb chops marinating

Seafood soup

Seafood soup

Some other folks were busy in their kitchens too. My nephew “The Doctah” is entertaining his parents in Texas, and served up this Thai Red Curry with Grouper–such a fragrant dish, with complex heat, I’ll bet it was amazing.
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And from Catherine, who made the best of being storm-bound in Nova Scotia with this Valentine-themed Devil’s food cake. I thought she should stick to Angel food cake, being a United Church minister and all, but there’s no arguing with how delicious this cake looks–dare I say sinfully delish?
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What did YOU have for supper?