Monthly Archives: December 2010

Books I’ve Read but Haven’t Written Reviews For (Yet)

One of my goals is to record all books I read.  I’m a bit behind.  Once in a while I manage to review them on this blog (like here and here), but usually I forget and move onto the next book before I remember to post about them.  Hopefully I’ll find time to review all of these, but just in case, I’ll make a list of recent reads.

  • The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town that Raised Them by Amy Dickinson
  • The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  • 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
  • Nim’s Island by Wendy Knorr
  • Essential Manners for Couples : from Snoring and Sex to Finances and Fighting Fair–What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why by Peter Post
  • Project Everlasting : Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages by Mathew Boggs and Jason Miller
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte



Chicken Normandy – Recipe

I have a confession to make.  Before I made this recipe, I’d never cooked bone in chicken, aside from one disastrous attempt with Cornish game hens at the age of 17.  It turned out to be no more difficult than working with boneless, skinless chicken breasts (and quite a bit less expensive), so I’m glad I’ve added this skill to my cooking repertoire.

The chicken and cream sauce in this Chicken Normandy recipe was delicious.  Neither Paul nor I really enjoyed the apples in it, though; I think if I made this recipe again I’d substitute potatoes for the granny smiths.

Chicken Normandy

recipe from Cook’s Country December 2010 issue


  • 4 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 3 pounds), halved crosswise
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 Granny Smith apples , peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 shallots , minced
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar


  1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chicken skin-side down until well browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until meat registers 160 degrees, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter and tent with foil.
  2. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan. Cook apples and shallots until beginning to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, add brandy. Return to heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add cream, any accumulated chicken juices, thyme , and mustard and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened and apples are tender, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Pour apple mixture over chicken. Serve.

A Blogging Break

As evidenced by my complete lack of posting lately, I’m taking a short blogging break.  See you next year, and merry Christmas!

Cat in a Santa Hat

Butter Toffee Popcorn Recipe

One of our Advent activities is to watch a cheesy Hallmark movie and eat caramel corn.  Does a cheesy Lifetime DVD count?

If so, mission accomplished.  As far as cheesy movies go, I’d give this two thumbs up.  It reminded me of that movie Family Man with Nicolas Cage – same basic plot, but with a woman as the lead.  A perfect start to my Hallmark movie marathon.  (Hooray for Netflix!)

Caramel corn fits the bill, too.  I found the recipe on – it was in the October issue, shortly before I started subscribing.  I’m glad I decided to get the online membership (or forgot to cancel my free trial, anyway).

Butter Toffee Popcorn

adapted from Cook’s Country


  • 12 cups stove-popped popcorn (no butter or salt added)
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups corn syrup (dark is recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups salted peanuts


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Grease large roasting pan. Place popcorn in pan. 
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in vanilla and baking soda. Add peanuts and pour mixture over popcorn, tossing to coat. 
  3. Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is deep golden brown and caramel has set, 1 to 1½ hours. Cool to room temperature.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Christmas Cutout Cookies

While these don’t fall quite as high on my favorites list as yesterday’s walnut crescent cookies, they’re a must have at this time of year.  This recipe is a breeze to roll out, so for that reason alone it’s a keeper!

Sugar Cookies

Butter Cookies

adapted from Baking Illustrated


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 (5.5 oz) cup superfine sugar (or granulated sugar processed in food processor for 30 seconds)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened but still cool, cut in to 16 half inch pieces
  • 2 tsp  vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cream cheese, at room temperature


  1. In an electric mixer, mix flour, sugar, and salt at a low speed until combined.  With the mixture still running on low, add the butter 1 piece at a time; continue to mix until the mixture looks crumbly (about 1 minute longer).  Add the vanilla and cream cheese and mix on low until the dough just begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds.
  2. Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for 2-3 turns to form a large, cohesive mass.  Turn the dough out onto the countertop; divide it in half, pat each half into a 4″ disk, wrap the disks in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up (20 minutes).
  3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out one dough disk to an even 1/8 inch thickness between 2 large sheets of parchment paper; slide the rolled dough, still on the parchment, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, repeat with the second disk.
  4. Working with the first portion of rolled dough, cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters and place the shapes on a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart.  Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.  Repeat with the second portion of rolled dough.  (The dough scraps can be patted together, chilled, and rerolled.)  Cool the cookies to the room temperature on a wire rack.

I’m not a glaze kind of a girl myself, but I’m sure many are, so here’s the recipe that came with the cookie recipe.



  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


  1. Whisk cream cheese and 2 tablespoons milk in medium bowl until combined and no lumps remain. Whisk in powdered sugar until smooth, adding remaining milk as needed until glaze is thin enough to spread easily. Drizzle or spread scant teaspoon glaze with back of spoon onto each cooled cookie, as desired.
Sugar Cookie Dough

Christmas Cookie Dough... as you can see, I like sprinkles.

Melt-in-your-mouth Walnut Crescent Cookies

This now tops my list as the number one cookie recipe of all time.  Easy enough to make, pretty to look at, and easily the best tasting cookie I’ve ever eaten, let alone made.

Walnut Crescent Cookies

adapted from Baking Illustrated


  • 2 cups walnuts, chopped fine
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cups (2.5 oz) superfine sugar (this can be made by processing granulated sugar in food processor for 30 seconds)
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar


  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place 1 cup chopped nuts in a food processor and process until they are the texture of coarse cornmeal, 10-15 seconds (do not overprocess).  Combine with remaining nuts, flour, and salt.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in the vanilla.
  4. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula; add the flour mixture and beat at a low speed until the dough just begins to come together but still looks scrappy, about 15 seconds.  Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl again with teh rubber spatula; continue beating at a low speed until the dough is cohesive, 6-9 seconds.  Do not overbeat.
  5. Working with about 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll and shape the cookies into crescents.  Bake until the tops are pale golden and the bottoms are just beginning to brown, 17-19 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
  6. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 2 minutes; remove with a wide metal spatula to a wire rack and cool to room temperature (at least 30 minutes).  Shortly before serving, roll in confectioners sugar.

They're delicious even without the powdered sugar!

Big Sigh of Relief

The internet and phone lines work.  My husband is doing the dishes tonight.  Only 10 more days until Christmas vacation.  *Sigh.*  (Of relief, that is.)