Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas cookies

Nothing says Christmas like a warm smile, snowflakes and holiday cookies.

This year Lady E Cooks took a long break for a variety of reason...but I'm back to baking starting with Christmas cookies.

Sugar cookies with champagne frosting and little sprinkles to set the spirit bright
Sugar cookies have to be the easiest and most versatile recipe on earth. One, because of the limited ingredients and leavening agent. Nope, no eggs to bind, no baking soda or baking powder ... so, if you're out of those, but have the basic ingredients below you can create a variety of tasty treats for friends and family. Most of all you can be as creative as you want... top with jam, cream cheese frosting, sprinkles, no sprinkles and they are suitable for any special occasion. Just imagine to your hearts content.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 lbs unsalted butter - 3 US sticks
3.5 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 lbs confectioners sugar - for frosting
Follow any sugar cookie recipe...making sure the butter is at room temp, the vanilla has lots of flavor and put in fridge to chill once combined to firm up the dough for at least 30 minutes.  Roll out dough and form cookies with cookie cutters. Once baked and cooled...around 12 minutes allow to cool.

Frosting was inspired by the Christmas Eve champagne I was sipping. Put powdered sugar in stand mixer and pour two tablespoons of champagne into bowl and mix on low, then increase speed to blend.
Use a small spoon or teaspoon measure to pour frosting on cooled cookies.  I tried dipping then, but just a bit messy for me. Before frosting hardens place candy on top either randomly or strategically.
Be sure to drink a little less of the champagne as the night progresses...or the cookies become a hot mess and the 1/4 teaspoon measures get caught in the garbage disposal like mine did. All in good fun and cheer. When that happens .... it's time to turn in and fix the issue in the morning light. LOL!

Merry Christmas to all and may your spirits be bright on this beautiful Christmas Sunday.
Remember cooking with love makes every recipe taste better.
Lady E Cooks - 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

To everyone ... Happy Thanksgiving. Lady E has been focused on studying, resting and not cooking lately. More food to come later in the season.
Hope your holidays are filled with joy, love and family.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Pickle 'em while you can...

I started pickling and canning vegies and fruit at an early age. Mostly, as a "keep her busy" project with my least I thought. Now, that I'm older what I thought was an attempt to keep me out of trouble was actually the passing down of family recipes and secrets to a child who showed interest in the culinary arts.
Unfortunately, Daddy has passed on and until recently I didn't know how complicated pickling, jarring and canning was. It's m me a year to capture the sweet tangy taste of homemade pickles we shared, until now.
The secret? Most recipes call for a combination of apple cider vinegar and white vinegar to the liquid. But, much to my surprise after adding most of the ingredients to the pot which was already starting to boil I reached for the white vinegar ... and the cupboard was bare.
What to do... what to do? I thought plain ole water will have to do. It was risky at best and could possibly dilute the already simmering  pot of sugar, apple cider vinegar and pickling spices.
I did what most artist do ... I tasted the brew to see if it made a difference. Actually, it didn't in fact I think it might have helped a little.
After the initial boil. And then the second boil I placed the sliced cucumbers and onions in three separate containers. Poured the pickling liquid into each one and prayed for the best. Now, at this point I should say, fill/pack your jars to the brim. Pack the pickles tightly into the jar. Otherwise, as shown the pickles will just float in the liquid. It isn't really a problem, but it does make for a better final product.
A day later the pickles were sweet, tangy and spicy. Just the way Grandma made them. And the onions weren't half bad either. I took a jar to my friends and fellow foodie's house. She thought the pickles would be best served with hot dogs and hamburgers. That's music to a foodies ears.
Pickling does a heart good. Next time you reach for a jar of relish or pickles at the supermarket. Look at the price and ask yourself is it worth $3.99+ or more. Then, venture on the wild side and make your own. There a tons of recipes to follow for pickling so ... grab a onion, cucumber and make some magic.
Cooking with love makes any recipe taste better ... and possibly the spirit of my Grandmother was watching over me with love, too.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer garden fresh salsa

The countdown to the end of Summer has officially reached ... zero. But, Summer doesn't have to end in the kitchen with the bountiful goodness at your nearest Farmer's Market and your imagination.

Mine, imagination that is,  hit into high gear this past weekend with some ripe tomatoes and recently purchased items at the Farmer's Market and spontaneous "Taco Sunday" purchases for dinner with my Man. So, don't throw away those ripe tomatoes ... bring them to life in a salsa.

My secret ingredient is not just any ole tomato. I'm into the Summer tomato favorite the Early Girl. Never had one? At the peak of the season they have a crisp outer skin and tender flesh and when cut, sprinkled with salt and nothing else burst in your mouth and taste sweet and juicy.

5 Early Girl tomatoes
1 Roasted jalapeño
1 Small bell pepper
3 Small garlic cloves
Handful of cilantro
1/2 Red onion
1/2 Fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. Pica de Gallo seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste.

Not much prep work involved for this accent to any meal, expect for the roasted jalapeño. Roast the pepper in the oven, on the grill, in a cast iron skillet... any way ya wanna. Allow the peel of the pepper to blister and char, typically about 5-8 minutes being sure to turn the pepper on all sides. Let the pepper cool. No need to remove skin or seeds.

Chopping. Not much just enough to help the processor along. Big chunks are just fine. Chop and dump is my motto. Pulse the ingredients a couple of times, then squeeze a half a line, salt pepper and pica de gallo. Whirl two pulses... and taste for additional seasoning. Keeping in mind once chilled the flavors meld and bloom. You can always add salt, but never take it away.

Serve with chips. On top of roasted chicken. Drizzled over room temperature cream cheese and chips... or just by the spoonful. The flavor is slightly sweet from the tomatoes, red onions and red bell pepper with a hint of spice.

The hot days of Summer have come to and end .... at least outside, but in the kitchen keep it sizzling with cool, crisp, sweet salsa from garden ingredients. Remember, cooking with love makes any recipe taste better.

Lady E

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

BONUS ARTICLE: Galette season? Oh, yay!

How did my Culinary blog journey begin? It started with cocktails and then graduated to Crostata and then elevated to my favorite all time recipe ... the Strawberry Galette. Fresh fruit Galette are the best to highlight at the peek of the season. And the light flaky crust of a Galette are to die for. Before the fresh season ends... run, don't walk to the nearest Farmers Market and buy, buy, buy strawberries. You can freeze them, roast them to chewy candy but make a Galette to share, give or eat with friends and family.
What do I like about Galette so much? The ingredients are simple: flour, salt, butter and sugar with ice water. Yep that's it. I've posted over the years several different recipes but never with powered sugar to top off the finished Galette.
This bonus article was brought to you by my Sweetheart who demanded, yes... demanded a Strawberry Galette after I made one for my Mother.
Both were made with love ... so, as we say in Lady E Cooks kitchen, the recipe tasted so much better. Off to make my second favorite Galette... Blackburn ... or maybe peach! Yaazzz!

Monday, August 1, 2016

MISSION: Vanilla extract, possible?

For those avid Lady E Cook readers you noticed I posted an article about  making your own vanilla extract. Well, I felt a little like a herblorist or alchemist while making this necessary and essential ingredient in my arsenal of baking "must haves". The ingredients for making your own vanilla extract are simple and easy... the worst part is something that my Sweetie says, I don't exactly have an abundance of... patience. Daily shaking for almost two months for two different bottles was fun and even taking a whiff or two in the process. At the end of the 60 day waiting period was the payoff worth while? Well.... kinds of.
Before I jumped right in and started baking I thought let me investigate a couple of things on the internet. 1) Should I filter the extract before diving in? I found no mention of filtering out the remnants of vanilla beans even though my guy at the Oaktown Spice shop said it's a step I might want to add. 2) Should the vanilla actually sit for a while longer? If so ... how much longer? A few websites said... 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, etc. No recipe was the same. Lastly, should the vanilla have a certain color? All just said caramel brown. Duh.
Anywho, the only way to find out the vanilla was ready ... was to try it. The good news is the extract had the right color, scent and texture. The bad news was something I didn't expect. Instead of sweet vanilla extract with NO hint of booze, what I tasted was Kentucky Bourbon with a hint of vanilla. Even filtered it wasn't similar to the extract I buy at the spice shop. All I could say, was "Bummer". But, being the Culinary Explorer I am ... I decided to go ahead and make whip cream. And, maybe... just maybe it would taste different. Nope. Not a chance it was more like bourbon whip cream dolloped on Jenny Craig Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. Not exactly the expected results. Tasty, but not what I want for my own chocolate chip cookies.
So, what's a woman to do? Try again. I used the batch of Vera Cruz vanilla beans bottle. Too bad it didn't work out as planned. The Vera Cruz beans smell delicious and most likely would be a welcome addition to a bourbon sauce or Bananas Foster over ice cream. It won't go to waste.... trust me.
Back to the drawing board with the Madagascar vanilla extract and possibly give that bottle just a few more months. What did I do with the left over Vera Cruz vanilla beans? I decided to dump them in the left over bourbon bottle and just see what happens. Nothing to waste, as my Daddy used to say.
This Culinary Explorer will try again... maybe call a friend or two and see what they've discovered.
Either way ... love will continue to be the main ingredient and I know one day my vanilla extract will make every recipe taste better.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


What an awesome day in Yountville celebrating Bastille Day with locals, travelers and visitors from foreign countries. I have so many photos to share. But for now....enjoy la jour!