December 25, 2010

Cream Cheese Cookies

How much cooking have you guys done this week? And does anyone else feel like, no matter how many parties you go to and baskets you give away, the ridiculous amount of dangerously delicious things in the house keeps multiplying? Some kind of Christmas miracle.

My cooking adventures have run the gamut this week from the consistent annual successes to... well, garlicky, stinky disasters. My favorite "no-duh" lesson of the week: don't mess with a recipe the very first time you make something you've never tried before. I made a pate for my sister. Now, I personally have never had pate, but it seemed like something that should probably have bacon and garlic. Rather than a delicious spread, it turned into the kind of thing that you only took the lid off of in order to weaponize it. That's strong stuff.

Bacon. Garlic. I still don't understand how this went wrong.

The baking portion of the week was as wildly successful as usual, except that I had to do way more of it than normal. For example, this is how I usually bake cookies with the fam:

Notice the pasta. This is my job, and I much prefer it that way.

It's not that I don't like to bake. Cakes are the kind of adventure I can get behind, and I make a mean loaf of beer bread. Cookies, however, are another story. Too much sticky scooping, and I never seem to have enough pans for optimum efficiency. 

BUT, Mom and the twin abandoned me with bowls and bowls of dough and smudged, torn pages of recipes this year, so the baking fell to me. The recipe that is obviously the most tattered and worn is for cream cheese cookies, and for good reason. We like to play around with new recipes now and then, but these are an annual must-have.

For me, Christmas tastes like cream cheese cookies. These guys are so iconic of Sawyer-family Christmas that I struggled with the decision to share them. But a Betty Crocker recipe doesn't easily qualify as a secret family recipe, so I decided not to be crazy, instead.

Must be the goodness of the season getting to me.

December 22, 2010


In a continuation of the "things to give away in jars for Christmas" theme, I give you manjar:

Ah, manjar. AKA dulce de leche or, if that's still to Spanish for you, really thick, extra amazing caramel.
Super popular in Chile, a good friend once made a list of 101 things to do with manjar. To give you an idea of our life-altering (and waist-altering) obsession: in Chile, manjar is mostly sold in bags, and in all our classy-gringo glory, we have been known to pass the bag around for unsanitary suckling. Y'know, like grown-ups do. I won't recreate the entire list here; but here are a few thoughts to help with your initiation:

- Warm it up and drizzle it over vanilla ice cream
- Slather it on some crackers or nilla wafers
- Eat it off a spoon
- Eat it off a buddy
- Whip it into a latte or just some steamed milk
- Spread it on crepes for dessert
- Alternatively, on pancakes for a decadent breakfast

Now that I'm sure you're intrigued, I"ll let you in on my favorite secret of manjar: there's only one ingredient.

Walmart brand optional.

It's so simple it seems silly to type it out as a recipe, but here goes:

Recipe from: my buddy Earl
1-4 cans sweetened condensed milk

Put cans in a deep pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for two hours, making sure the cans stay fully covered with water the entire time. Remove from heat and leave cans in the water as it cools. Let cans cool completely before opening.

December 8, 2010

Creamy Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup

We haven't exactly been getting winter weather down here in New Orleans yet, but the cool evenings coupled with our home's charming lack of insulation has me longing for anything hot and slurpable (hey, if Sarah Palin can make up the word of the year, I can describe my cravings however I damn well please!). I've been sipping on broth, tea, cinnamon-spiked hot chocolate, and when I'm cold but not really wanting anything, plain old hot water. Weird, I know, but I can't quite justify a mug of hot cocoa every time I get thirsty.

The boys actually discovered this soup, after Erik scoffed at an online list of the best winter soups (or something like that). He doesn't generally consider soup to be food, since it's mostly water, but he did end up with a list of four or five off the list that I could make for dinner. Aw, thanks babe.

But, he hit the mark on this one. The garlic flavor is very present, but not sharp or overwhelming, since we roasted it beforehand. Fresh roasted tomatoes lend just a touch of sweetness to the pot, and I added a bit of milk and well-cooked potato to the original recipe for creaminess. I also replaced half the veggie stock with a tomato/chicken stock I found in the Hispanic section at the grocery for added tomato-y goodness (I highly recommend checking out the international aisle at the grocery store. You'll find some neat treasures, and a lot of things you already buy are cheaper in that aisle for some reason). And of course, a generous sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan never hurts.