Web Site: https://www.rachelelwood.com
Bio: Freelance writer and editor based in Marion, Indiana.
Posts by rachelelwood:
- 1/2 cup butter (I used vegetable oil because I was low on butter)
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 4 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups sugar (was plenty sweet this way)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips, optional
A few weeks ago, we traveled to North Carolina to say our goodbyes to Steve’s paternal grandmother, Jane. The whole family gathered for her funeral in the small community of Burnsville, North Carolina, deep in the Appalachian mountains. I always loved visiting that beautiful and strange (for me) place. As someone who grew up surrounded by rice paddies a few miles from the Indian Ocean, the wild hills and mountains of North Carolina feel very foreign. And the people who live tucked away in little hollows and valleys – or perched on top of the mountains – are as unique as the location.
Usually I’ve walked away restored and inspired by the endless natural beauty, but frankly puzzled – in a good way – by the culture. It’s just that I can see enough to recognize the differences.
Jane dearly loved their church, Covy Rock Freewill Baptist Church. She was an outsider herself, having moved there when she and Stuart retired in 1990. But, as Steve’s mom noted the night before Jane’s funeral, Jane successfully adapted to the culture. Until her health began to suffer, she was an integral part of the church’s hostessing crew. She decorated the church at Christmastime, and brought her amazing homemade food to potlucks and suppers. For years, she hosted a post-caroling soup meal at their home, Rocking Horse Farm (pictured below with the flower arrangement for Jane). She’ll be very much missed by Stuart, the rest of the family, and her extended church family.
Jane had this cookbook, The Church Supper Cookbook, in their house, and Steve’s mom offered it to me. Knowing that church ladies are some of the best home cooks on the planet, I took it gladly. (However, I would note that although the title says it’s from churches and families across the country, 99% are from New England. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, just noting what I observed as I read through it.) I believe this is an earlier edition; it looks like editor David Joachim has since released an updated version.
Last week, after we got back from our travels, I had a hankering for brownies, but I really wanted them to be homemade. I mean, if I’m going to spend my calories on a treat, it might as well be a really good one. Plus, we had company coming so brownies seemed to be a good choice. Everyone likes brownies.
This cookbook has two recipes for brownies, and I picked the one that said it was for people who liked their brownies a little less sweet. Even so, I cut down the sugar by an additional quarter cup. I’ve found that a lot of American desserts are just a little too sweet for me. My Mom taught me that you can generally decrease the sugar amount by 25% and the final product won’t suffer. I also added 1/2 cup chocolate chips to boost the chocolate flavor.
Also, I had just watched this Buzzfeed Tasty video about brownies, and I picked up a tip: halfway through the bake, take the brownies out of the oven and give them a good whack against the stove. It somehow settles the batter and improves the texture.
This brownie recipe is a winner! And it was a small thing to do that made me feel like I was continuing Jane’s legacy; making good food for people I love.
Church Social Brownies
- Preheat oven to 325 and grease 9×9 pan. Melt together the butter and chocolate. I did this by microwaving for 30 seconds, then beating it until it all melted.
- Beat eggs and add sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat in chocolate mixture, and add flour. Stir in nuts or chocolate chips, if using.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool before you cut it, if possible. Makes 16 pieces.
These brownies are rich, fudgy, not terribly sweet, and will satisfy any chocolate craving!
I’ve been on somewhat of a quest for a good shortbread recipe. Shortbread is just so good, especially if it’s got a good salty-sweet balance. The Hubs is a major fan, so it seems like a good cookie for me to perfect baking. I’ve made this version (well, plus my changes) several times, and I’m a fan. It’s quick to mix up, and just the right thing to enjoy with a mid-morning or post-dinner cup of coffee or tea.
I found this recipe in an old issue of Cooking for Two magazine, which used to be published by the same people who did Taste of Home. I don’t think it’s in circulation any more. My mother-in-law had been decluttering Hubs’ grandparents’ house and offered me a box of vintage Cooking for Two and Taste of Home magazines, as well as some other cookbooks. Hubs wasn’t thrilled at the idea of more cooking media coming into our house, but I was happy!
The thing about cookie recipes is that most of them make a TON. And if you’re watching your cookie intake a bit, it’s hard to eat them all before they go stale. My mom, the smart person that she is, freezes balled cookie dough so she’s never more than 12 minutes away from a freshly baked cookie. But sometimes, even that work seems daunting when all you want just a cookie.
So this recipe, in it’s original meant-for-two-form, is perfect. I’ve also doubled it with great results. I find that I cut the cookies smaller than the original recipe stated. It says to cut in four pieces, but I usually get eight. Shortbread is rich, and all you need is a few bites. So with those ratios, a doubled recipe works great to have cookies for several days.
Here’s a link to the original recipe, which I altered a bit. Rather than toast the nuts in butter on the stovetop, I toasted the nuts in the microwave for about 60 seconds (stir halfway through). I also added 1 tsp vanilla and doubled the salt and cinnamon.
Cinnamon Pecan Shortbread
- 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
- 3 tbsp butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- Microwave nuts for 60 seconds or so, stirring halfway. Basically until they smell nice and nutty.
- Cream together the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and vanilla in a small bowl. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the butter-sugar bowl. Mix well (shortbread is a dry-ish dough) and stir in pecans.
- Pat into a rectangle or square or whatever shape seems to make sense, about 1/2 inch thick. You can score lines fore and aft to make cutting them after you take them out of the oven easier, but it’s not essential. I used parchment paper for easier cleanup, or you can put them straight on an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350° for 14-16 minutes or until edges look golden brown. Cut into pieces immediately. Allow to cool for two minutes before moving to wire rack or on top of paper bag (drains the butter a bit). If you double the recipe, you may need to increase baking time a hair. You’re looking for them to cool into a nice crisp texture.
Yet another recipe that came about because of an herbal abundance! My basil is taking over one of my garden boxes and there is no way that I’ll use it up before the end of the summer.
There are lots of basil limeade recipes out there, but most of them had way too much sugar for my taste. I decided to just play it by ear, and this is what I came up with.
Ingredients (for one)
- 1 lime
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5-6 leaves basil
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1 cup cold water
- Muddle the leaves manually a little bit (just fold/bend them a bit) and add them to a glass with the sugar. Add boiling water and let steep for about 5 minutes.
- Pull out the leaves and discard. Squeeze in lime juice. Add cold water and serve with ice.
- This recipe is super easy to multiply for more servings or if you like your limeade sweeter. Or you could add mint for Basil-Mint Limeade.
- I stuck the basil garnish in there just for the photo originally, but I ended up leaving them in the glass because I liked the additional basil aroma they imparted. Also I’m of the opinion that garnishes are meant to be enjoyed along with the dish they’re showing off. (Is my frugal German/British/Dutch ancestry showing?)
- Happy basil-ing!
Indiana had a late spring, which meant a somewhat delayed start to the garden growing season. But in the space of a few weeks, I’ve gone from begging my plants to produce to trying to find ways to use up the herbs and cherry tomatoes that are exploding from my garden boxes.
Hubs had grilled up a bunch of chicken breasts to use throughout the week, and a couple of days ago, I found myself the only one who really needed cooking for. (Hubs had a late lunch and the kids…hmm…I’m sure they ate something.) At any rate, I was looking for a non-salad, quick-to-make side dish for my chicken. I picked up my copy of Simple Suppers, which had been a gift from my dear friend Melanie several years before. It’s one of the many cookbooks from the Moosewood Restaurant, a vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, New York. (I have several Moosewood cookbooks, and they are fun to read and filled with great recipes) I was originally looking for a rice recipe, but the Fettuccine with Fresh Herbs looked really good. PLUS – I had all those herbs – parsley, basil, and chives – in great profusion. There was also a half-empty bag of fettuccine in the pantry that needed to be used up. So, off I went to snip, pick, and cook!
The next time I make this, I will increase the herb amounts by about 50 percent. I like lots of herby flavor!
Fettuccine with Fresh Herbs
- 1 pound fettuccine or other pasta
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup minced fresh basil
- 1/2 cup minced chives or scallions
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (Rachel’s addition)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- grated Parmesan cheese (optional, to serve)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until tender. (Tell you what, this is way harder to do when your half-used package of pasta doesn’t have the cooking directions anymore!)
- Prepare the garlic and herbs. Warm the oil in a small pan on low heat, and cook the garlic for about a minute. Don’t let it brown. Add the herbs and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, and add a ladle of the hot pasta-cooking water. Stir and set aside.
- When the pasta is done, drain it. Pour in the oil-herb mixture and toss to combine. Add the salt and pepper, and I threw in a few chopped cherry tomatoes because we have so many. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
A Recipe to Repeat?
Oh yes! This would be a great side dish to serve for company. I would increase the amount of herbs, and definitely include the tomatoes again for a tasty summer dish. The next day, I cut up another piece of chicken, sauteed it in a pan, and added in the rest of the leftover pasta for a great meal. I added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the pan and few more herbs to boost the flavor a bit. Yum!
I first made these for a work assignment a year or so ago when I chose several recipes from my organization’s international family cookbook to make for a marketing project. I picked this recipe because I thought it was interesting that missionaries from three different countries submitted variations on this snack – Kenya, Bolivia, and Honduras. A little research (thanks, Wikipedia!) revealed that peanuts were first cultivated in what is now southeastern Bolivia and northeastern Argentina before they spread throughout South and Central America, and European traders brought the peanut to West Africa and beyond, where it became a staple crop (often called ground nuts in Africa). When I was growing up in Bangladesh, we also ate a variation of these peanuts. A truly international snack!
Each recipe differed slightly on the ingredient list and preciseness of directions. I picked the one from Honduras to follow because it seemed the most specific. I added cinnamon from the Kenyan recipe because that sounded good, and also added vanilla to round out the flavors. I remembered from last time I made this that the nuts could have stood to have more time to roast in the oven, so I added another 10 minutes to the oven time.
- 2 cups raw Spanish peanuts (I grabbed a 10-oz bag at the store, and it ended up being 2 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1. In a heavy saucepan on medium heat, cook all ingredients except salt, mixing constantly until the peanuts crystallize with the sugar. At some point, preheat your oven to 300.
- 2. Dump onto rimmed greased cookie sheet and add salt. Bake for 15 minutes, salta again, mix, and bake for another 15 minutes. Stir, and bake about 10 minutes longer if needed. Allow to cool, and munch away!
A Recipe to Repeat?
Yes! These sugared peanuts are crunchy, salty-sweet, with a very mild cinnamon flavor. This would make a great gift to mass-produce at Christmastime for hostess and neighbor gifts. I might play around with the spices next time, adding nutmeg, allspice, etc. My kids (4yo and 2yo) love them!