Tuesdays with Dorie: TALL & CREAMY CHEESECAKE

This post would not be made possible without the help of my Mom. Who graciously turned the oven off and propped the door open as I ran around stuffing Christmas presents into my carry-on bag, who patiently waited for the cheesecake to cool in the refrigerator while I caught my flight back to Miami, who wrangled the sides of the springfoam pan off without mishap, who showed self-restraint in digging in to take pictures for my blog. For all this and more, thanks Mom! I owe you...one big cheesecake with coconut and almonds and chocolate crust...enjoy! (And please, one more thing, freeze me a piece to try.)

So now to the cheesecake! Creamy on a chocolate graham cracker crust with lots of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, a shake of ginger, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Dreamy with coconut and chopped almonds baked inside. Brown with a...brown? is the cheesecake top supposed to be brown? that brown? or was I suppose to move the rack down?


Every Christmas my Mom, sister, and I make sugar cookies - the same recipe baked by the sheetful and slathered with colorful butter cream frosting. It is one among many traditions that my Mom has instilled in our holiday, although it is the only one I know that pre-dates the arrival of her kids, and the only one with a necessity I have never really questioned.

When my Mom was about 16, she decided to bake sugar cookies. I can just see my Granny looking on with a look of quiet observance, as if she would neither be surprised nor moved if the cookies turned out to be the best in the world or if they caught fire in the oven. My Mom continued to bake the same recipe every year, giving them to the multitude of relatives and friends that comprised her small town. One year, so the story goes, she doled out 150 cookies. It may have been the first thing my Mom did in the kitchen that was hers - without help, without guidance, without it being her father's favorite or her grandmother's best dish. Unlike my maternal great-grandmother, my sister, and myself, my Mom was never a culinary spirit. She doesn't particularly enjoy preparing or creating food. Her enthusiasm about these cookies is unrivaled. My sister and I picked up on this at an early age, and have since always tried to display equal enthusiasm, even in teen years on a pertual diet or miles away in China where my sister missed out on the cookies this year but was with us in spirit saying that I should write about them on my blog.
SUGAR COOKIES (makes about 40-50 cookies)

2 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together. Cream shortening and sugar together, adding eggs and vanilla. Then add sifted ingredients and milk. Mix with a spoon. Roll and cut.

Cook 300 for 10 minutes.


4 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Work butter with spoon until very soft. Add sugar gradually, thinning with milk. Beat well. Add vanilla.
As a child, I didn't touch the cookies without the rich butter cream frosting. I also liked to make the colors as deep and psychedelic as possible. I'm still crazy with the food coloring paste but also like the cookies bare.

Tuesdays with Dorie: BUTTERY JAM COOKIES

My Buttery Jam Cookies look a lot like my sugar cookies from last week, thanks to the watermelon sprinkles! The taste is a whole lot different though.

In addition to the apricot jam the recipe called for, I threw in a couple of handfuls of walnuts and topped them with cinnamon and sugar. Yum!

I also experimented with popping the dough in the freezer between bakes to facilitate a nice, lovely, round shape. It worked pretty well although I think I just need to get a melon scooper.



That's right, watermelon sprinkles. Slightly bizarre. But let's go in order here.

First, the cookies. Fabulous and soft and buttery. I'm in the soft-sugar-cookies-rock camp so I agreed with Dorie that this makes an excellent basic sugar cookie.

Now for the sprinkles: These cookies are intended for holiday treat bags for co-workers and so a festive flair was needed. A trip to Publix revealed a ratio of approximately 10/1 of flavored sprinkles to regular sprinkles, and nothing in the holiday line. The pink and green just caught my eye and held on so there you go. The sprinkles taste like watermelon candy before baking but seem to lose a bit of their flavor afterwards. Or maybe the sugar cookies are just that good that the watermelon sprinkles cannot even compete for the taste buds' attention. Guess we'll never know.

Tuesdays with Dorie: LINZER SABLES

These yummy shortbread cookies left my hands all buttery, smelling like a dairy farm or an expensive hand treatment, or both.

I restrained myself and followed Dorie's instructions to let shortbread cool before you eat it. As soon as it was, I slathered it unceremoniously with apricot jam...and...delightful. Makes me want to experiment more with shortbread and fruity things.


I just returned from a three week trip to China where I was visiting my sister, playful pandas, and the Great Wall. It was a great vacation with highlights including Chinese massages with back-cracking, volunteer caretaking for two wonderful panda bears (Lulu and Meching) in Szechuan, and, of course, lovely culinary delights!
There is a lot of meat in Chinese cuisine, but also tofu, so as a pescetarian I didn't have any real difficulties...except in actually communicating "no meat please." The Lonely Planet food section was very helpful as I pointed to the Chinese characters for "I am a vegetarian" and "spicy tofu." Many Buddhist temples had vegetarian restaurants attached with lots of scruptious mock meat dishes and bean pastries. Some restaurants had menus in English although the descriptions themselves were sometimes confusing or vague. A lot of dishes simply said "meat," since the Chinese word for pork can also be used for meat in general. In addition, there was "fish like squirrell," in which the fishtail curled upwards to the ceiling (quite tasty).
The best food I had was at the restaurant in the Bifenxia Panda Park next to the traditional-style hostel I stayed at while volunteering. We had noodles for breakfast with green vegetables or egg and tomato. They made lovely pan-fried green beans, and dished up noodles with spicy chili sauce containing a Szechuan peppercorns that made the left-side of my mouth tingle and vibrate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper). Remember the Starbust party-in-the-mouth commercials? Yeah, well, they've got nothing on these little peppercorn punches!
Also memorable were the fresh noodles with egg and tomato served at a Muslim restaurant in Pudong near Thumb Plaza. The noodle guy makes them fresh and cuts them into the boiling water to-order. Nothing like fresh, hot pasta on a cold winter's day to make you love a new place.
I also loved the roasted chestnusts sold on every street corner. And the milk tea! And the little steamed baotze balls filled with cabbage or a darker, kale-like veggie! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baozi Every morning, I saw people lining up for baotze and I quickly joined the queues. Hot pot was neat - putting veggies and dumplings in a heated bowl of boiling broth. In Beijing, my sister and I found a night market with an entire street of food vendors lined up with fried noodles, fried ice cream, fried scorpion, fried beetles, fried centipede, fried starfish, fried dough, fried dumplings, fried rice, fried honeybees, and the list goes on. Yep, no oil spared here my friends. I partook of the fried ice cream and fried banana balls (which btw, contained absolutely no banana) while my more adventurous (and carnivore) sister nibbled on crunchy centipede and scorpion. Yes, many pictures were taken.

Things I want to try:
Bao tze balls
Spicy tofu
Noodles with egg and tomato
Using mushrooms better (the golden mushrooms were lovely)
Doing my own hot pot