Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Cranberry Brown Sugar Cookies – Like Little Fruity Cakes

I found the recipe for Cranberry Brown Sugar Cookies on the back of a package of Domino Brown Sugar. I cut it out and put it in my to do pile of IMG_3021recipes for a good long while. I finally got around to making them and they are delish. The cookies are not too sweet and are more like little mini fruity cakes than cookies. I also decided that the raisins and cranberries in them gave me a serving of fruit for the day so I completely chowed down without regret.

Here’s how you make them.

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (although I used Vanilla Yogurt)
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  1. Heat oven to 400 F and lightly grease your cookie sheets.
  2. Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs and sour cream (or yogurt); beat until creamy.
  3. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl. Gradually add to sugar mixture beating until well mixed.
  4. Stir in cranberries and raisins.
  5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets (they don’t flatten out so you can put them pretty close).
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.

Ginger Snaps, Cookie Belly, and a Minor Freak Out

My Cookie Baking Spree

My Cookie Baking Spree

I’ve spent the last 3 days packing up Christmas. There’s a sticky spot of sap on my right hand from taking the ornaments off the tree and I’m sitting here writing this because it seems like a better idea than hefting our now de-ornamented tree out to the curb.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I like the sparkle and the lights and the hope and joy and songs… it still holds that magic for me that it did when I was a child staring out my window looking for Santa and it gives me the calm peace I always feel after singing Silent Night in a darkened church while holding a lit candle. But this year I had a hard time finding my spirit. My cat Ruby became suddenly ill the second week of December and in a matter of 3 days time went from being perfectly fine to dead. She was only 5. At the same time there was the awful shooting in Newtown, CT that I connected with so deeply as I’m the mom of a 1st grader and a teacher. I felt cracked, sad, disjointed and not fully involved. My Christmas spirit was there but only in hints and whispers and quick moments. At the same time it was a very THANKFUL time. My Man was supposed to be shipping off to parts across the world on December 21 for 6 months away – that trip was cancelled. I can imagine the alternate universe we three would have experienced without him and I know we were blessed and lucky and so fortunate to be the 4 of us. By Christmas Day I did find my joy. The pageant at church, the tour of tacky Christmas lights we took, and my children’s excitement lit my heart and allowed me to be present and happy and glad for the holiday.

I went on a bit of a baking spree this holiday. I made many, many, cookies and I ate many, many, cookies. Which leads me to a phenomenon I call Cookie Belly. I watch what I eat, I exercise regularly, I’m no super fit firm mama, but I’m at a good healthy weight and I think I look pretty all right for an almost 42-year-old. My goal is to stay like this for the rest of my life. My baking did not help that goal. I developed a nice little 5 pound cookie belly from all my sampling and snacking and enjoying. By the end of January I’ll lose that belly – but if anyone who knows me wonders why I’m wearing the same jeans all the time it’s because they are the only ones that fit! My Grandma G’s Ginger Snaps were worth every pound of that Cookie Belly. Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy.

Ginger Snaps

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Mix together shortening, sugar, molasses and egg. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  2. Roll into balls and roll in granulated sugar. If you were my grandma you’d make very small balls, if you are me you will make biggish ones.
  3. Bake at 375 F for 8-10 minutes until set when touched lightly. They begin to crack on top and are usually set a minute or two later. They need to be lightly browned on the bottom and not jiggly on top.

If you make these I guarantee you will love them.

The day before Christmas I was getting ready for family to arrive. I began to become a small freak out mess as I got overwhelmed with all the tasks I wanted to get done. My family heard my little tirade about chores and they said to me – no worries and they all chipped in. Buddy picked up toys and organized and put everything in its place. My Man vacuumed the entire house. Little Miss cleaned the bathroom. And my self-induced freak out mess stress just melted away as I felt the love of my family. Christmas morning I opened my present from Little Miss. There was a paper in a box that said on it, “do not go into the hall bathroom”. My sweet 7-year-old explained that I actually could go into the bathroom because I got my present early – she was going to clean the bathroom and she had already done it the day before. She knows me so well – a gift of cleaning is always appreciated – and I also got a hug.

‘Tis The Season To Bake Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ll get to writing down a recipe I recently tried for the most delicious Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies I have ever tasted (I’m thinking it’s the cup of BUTTER that makes them so delish) but first I have to share some cute kid things. For those who don’t care… hang tight…. the recipe is coming. There are some who read this who do care about the cute things my kids do and say and since I care, and I’m the author, read quick or skip ahead.

Little Miss is totally into dancing. She moves the furniture to the side and spins and hops and does what she calls her “signature move” which involves a skip around the room with swinging arms to the latest fun top 40 kid friendly stuff I can find. Here’s the thing, Little Miss loves to dance but has refused to take one step into a real dance class. At first her excuse was her hatred for tights – now it’s her desire to have no structure in her dancing. As she says, “Mom, the music comes on and I have no decision on how my body moves. It just does its own thing.” Her own thing is a joy to watch.

Buddy’s vocabulary is blooming. I LOVE what he calls things. We were decorating our Christmas tree last week. He really liked putting up these little red glass ball ornaments we have and was adamant that no one else should hang even one. “Mom, I’m in charge of the red Christmas dots, OK? I’ll do them all.” DOTS – isn’t that great? The other phrase he came up with that I think should go mainstream is calling snow boarding snow surfing instead. I think that’s just as accurate a description and I will now add that to my repertoire of Buddy phrases.

OK, so here’s the recipe for really delicious Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies. I got this recipe from the back of a package of Gold Medal Unbleached Flour. These cookies are quick to whip up, they are drops so there is no rolling or cutting or slicing, and everyone thought they were yum-o.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven.

  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Oven 350F. Beat brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg until well blended. Add oats, flour, baking soda and salt (I pre-mixed these before adding); mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.

2. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2″ apart.

3. Bake 9-11 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly then remove to cooling racks.

These are moist and chewy and buttery and hard not to keep getting into. Enjoy!

What to do With 12 Pounds of Apples? Apple Crunch!

About a month ago the kids and I had to drop off My Man at the airport. He was going to be gone for 3 weeks and to take all of our minds off the fact that we would be missing him terribly I decided that directly after airport drop off we should enjoy the splendid fall day and go pick some apples.

In all my 41 years I had never been apple picking. Sure, I used to pick crab apples off the tree behind my cousin’s house to chuck at my brother, but heading to an actual orchard and frolicking among the trees I just had never done. I did a little googling and I found a place west of my home that still had apples on the trees. It was called Stribling Orchards. We had a super time. We started off by buying hot dogs wrapped in foil and ate them at a picnic table with some Cokes to chase them down (no way could I do some serious apple picking with an empty stomach). We then checked out the orchard map and decided it was just a pain in the butt to try for a certain kind of apple so we just wandered – and picked all the apples we could reach. Throughout the orchard there were folks with long apple picking contraptions that we did not have. What we did have was a mom who was willing to hoist a 50 pound kid up on her shoulders to reach higher. Little Miss, Buddy and I had a great time! We picked red apples and green apples and little apples and big apples and by the time we ended and weighed our haul we had picked 12 pounds of apples.

Most people automatically go for the apple pie solution when faced with this many apples, but since I had received a fancy pants Le Crueset french oven for my last birthday I decided to put it to work. I made a recipe called Apple Crunch that I found in a little book called 101 Things to Do With a Dutch Oven (which is actually the same thing as a french oven). It was easy to make, every one liked it, and I would have to say it is best served with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crunch

Dutch Oven Size – 12 inch

  • 15 – 16 apples, peeled and sliced (I used half that amount)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 1 TBS cornstarch

Topping:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter

Place apples in Dutch oven sprayed with nonstick spray. In a saucepan, heat sugar, water, vanilla, and cornstarch until thickened. Pour evenly over apples.

Combine topping ingredients and then sprinkle over the apples. Bake at 350 F for 60 minutes.

I Can’t Do It All and Barbeque Chicken Sandwiches

I’ve spent the last 7 years being a housewife. When I write 7 years I’m blown away by how long that sounds, especially because those years seem to have passed as quickly as an inhale and exhale. While I still consider myself mostly a housewife, life is changing here in our household. You see, I’ve kind of gone back to work, sort of, a little, just a drop.

Before I had munchkins I was a teacher. My plan was to go back to work when both the kids were in school full-time. Well, both kids were in school full-time last year and I so did not go back to work. Holy cow was life great! Not only were my kids happy hanging out with their friends all day and the teachers they loved, but my life rocked. I could putter around the house, take yoga classes, read a book, watch trashy TV with no one around to judge, meet friends to do stuff, hike in the woods at my pace, and GROCERY SHOP BY MYSELF! As my man said, “you’ve never been more mellow,” and I agree. I can get pretty uptight when I’m trying to juggle too many balls and last year I think I was juggling maybe two.

Well, this year I threw another ball in the mix. I started substitute teaching. For now, this is the perfect match for me. I get to do a job I love on some days and on other days I can continue to have ME time. I really just started doing this last week. I had one job and it didn’t really affect anything. This week I’ve worked two days (and had to turn down one today because I picked up the sinus crud the teacher I was covering for had). Two days doesn’t sound like much, but when one of those days is grocery day and I take these jobs on the spur of the moment, life gets a little messy. We’re chock full of after school activities, and with me and My Man working all day, and then busy evenings (soccer, swimming, girls scouts, boy scouts, blah, blah, blah) we’re eating canned soup and toast if I miss grocery day. It’s all good – no one complains about wonky dinners – but I realize that I do a bunch of stuff around the house every week that just isn’t getting done. There’s dog hair in the corners, and the kid’s sheets need changed, and there’s a sticky spot on the kitchen floor, and our dump spot is covered with piles…. and I’m OK… but I realize why I stopped working when I had the kids. There’s just no way to do it all. Of course I’m not running this ship on my own, my man is a helper, but when the kids were little they just weren’t much. Sure a toddler can play with the Swiffer and get some of that dog hair up, but sometimes toddler help is no help at all.

Buddy and Little Miss are excited that I’m working again. They understand that if I’m at school all day I won’t get all the chores done I normally do and they are willing to pitch in. Isn’t that cool? We had a big conversation this morning about how if, as a family, we all pitch in on the weekends we can get it all done. And I like that. I like that my family is working as a family and roles are shifting as the dynamics change.

Well, busy families need a quick meal. I found this recipe in some magazine – I have no clue which, this was a ripped out page that’s been sitting in my “to make” file for months. This is a recipe for a Barbecue Chicken sandwich topped with coleslaw that is so good My Man and I had to duke it out who got the leftovers for lunch the next day!

The recipe calls for rotisserie chicken, but I don’t like to use that. Although it is delish I find it too salty for my tastes. To make your own super shredable chicken use my crock pot method – put some boneless chicken in a crock pot (frozen even works) with a little water and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high for 3 hours and done. The meal itself (minus the chicken cooking time) takes about 20 minutes to make. LOVE that!

Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbs honey mustard
  • 2 tbs water
  • 3/4 tsp chile powder
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (I used dried onions)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken (or cook your own)
  • 3 tbs mayo
  • 2 tbs cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 cups packaged coleslaw
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 6 hamburger buns – toasted
  1. Combine first 10 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer; cook 10 minutes. Combine sauce and chicken.
  2. Combine may, vinegar and sugar. Add coleslaw and onions, toss.
  3. Place chicken mixture on a bun, top with coleslaw, and devour!

PS I found the coleslaw to be a bit too vinegary on its own – but it’s transformed to perfection when eaten on the sandwich.

My Man is A-Traveling and Chocolate Chip Pancakes

My man is out-of-town. It’s the first of 3 major trips he’ll be making this fall before he embarks on a 6 month adventure/mission/job/departure to parts across the world. I’ve known he was leaving since June and it’s one of those bits of news that is always gnawing away at the back of my head. I can’t shake a sense of disequilibrium – of being off – of not being quite myself. He leaves in December.

My man and I have a good marriage. We love, we argue, we laugh, we love some more, we live, we’re happy – together – and while I know our marriage is strong enough to hold up for a time apart, I just don’t like it very much.

Little Miss and Buddy are working through figuring out how to handle living with just me. Buddy is OK – although has become a bit more baby than I think a six-year-old should be. Little Miss is a mess. She’s very angry sometimes, very sad others, and then back to normal. All this has been with My Man coming home for dinner each night, playing with them on the weekends, and tucking them in at night. I’m pretty nervous when the actual separation occurs that Buddy will start crawling around sucking his thumb and Little Miss will explode into a super nova of 7-year-old girl anxiety.

Then there’s me. I let myself worry about who is going to hold the ladder when I have to clear the gutters of the little maple trees that grow there each spring, but I don’t let myself worry about who’s going to snuggle with me each night. I let myself worry about who is going to be the kid’s reprieve when I’m grumpy or need a mom break, but I don’t let myself worry about who’s going to kiss me on the forehead when I’m feeling blue, or sick, or just because.

This week is the beginning of Little Miss, Buddy and I getting used to it being just us. So far, chocolate chip pancakes for dinner has made it all right.

Mulitgrain Chocolate Chip Pancakes (May 25, 2012 – All You)

  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk (but I had to add an additional 1/2 cup because my batter was too thick)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup miniature chocolate chips (mini are awesome because there are more chocolate bits per pancake bite)

1. Mix dry ingredients in a big bowl. Whisk wet ingredients in a small bowl and then pour into dry. Mix until combined. Let stand for 10 minutes.

2. Pre-heat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with oil. Cook the pancakes – 2 or 3 minutes on the first side. Flip and 1 minute on the other.

3. Eat with butter and syrup or do as Little Miss does and spray whipped cream on one and eat it like a taco.

Blueberry Muffins and Easy Ciabatta Pizza

Summertime cooking is all about quick and easy. Who wants to stir a pot all day or have the oven on for hours as a roast roasts away? I like to grill a lot, eat cold things like sandwiches and salads, and of course partake in all the fresh fruits and veggies I can get.

I know you all know how much I love magazines, so a few months back when my mother-in-law called me and asked if I’d like any magazine subscriptions (she was cashing in her airline miles before they expired) I said YES. So, a bevy of magazines comes to my door every month. One of those magazines is Glamour. I know I’m pretty much not their demographic – many of the articles are geared towards the young career woman and while I am a woman I am not too young and have a career (ahmm… housewife!)  which only requires fashion advice on what yoga pants are best to wear while shopping at Target – yet, I really enjoy looking through the pages.

Did you know Glamour has recipes in it? It does, and I decided to try a couple.

The first was a recipe for Berry and Cream Cheese Muffins. These muffins were very easy to make and are a yummy way to start the morning – or so I thought. I was the only one in my family who would eat them! The muffin part was sweet without being too sugary and the cream cheese in the middle gave them some substance. I used frozen blueberries to make mine, but fresh from the farmers market would probably be even better.

Blueberry & Cream Cheese Muffins

Makes 12

  • 7 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • Just under 1 cup superfine sugar
  • ¼ tsp. fine salt
  • 6 oz. blueberries
  • 4 oz. cream cheese

Line a muffin pan with wrappers; preheat oven to 400°F. Melt butter in a  medium nonstick pan over low heat. Remove from heat; whisk in the oil, yogurt,  vanilla, and eggs. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl, stir in the  sugar and salt, then make a well in the middle. Pour the yogurt mixture into  flour well. Lightly fold the dry ingredients into the wet using a rubber spatula  until the mixture has just come together. Pour in the blueberries, working them  into the batter with the bare minimum of stirring. (The mixture will still look  lumpy.)

Spoon half the batter into the prepared baking cups. Then dot about ½ tsp. of  the cream cheese on top of the batter in each half-filled muffin cup. Add  remaining batter, then another ½ tsp. of cream cheese on each muffin. Bake the  muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Let cool in the pan for 10  minutes, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

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The next recipe up was for a Ciabatta Pizza. This was easy to make and EVERYONE ate it – even Buddy. Of course he ate it only because I didn’t use any of the toppings of the original recipe, but that’s the cool thing about this meal. The toppings can be made to order. The tomato paste sauce is really good, and be sure to spread it to the very edges of the bread – it’ll keep it from burning. While My Man and I ate the original version (just substituted baby spinach sprinkled on top instead of arugula because of course the Commissary didn’t have any) the kids ate a version with mozzarella cheese instead of goat. I also sprinkled a bunch of shredded mozzarella on the pizzas My Man and I ate as well.

Ciabatta Pizza
Serves 4 to 6
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling Sea salt and freshly  ground black pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 medium ciabatta loaf or Italian bread loaf
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1-3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 10 slices spicy salami
  • ½ cup pitted black olives
  • 2 handfuls arugula or fresh flat-leaf parsley

Mix tomato paste, all but a pinch of oregano, the olive oil, and some salt  and pepper in a small bowl. Crush garlic, and stir into mixture. Preheat the  broiler. Cut bread in half lengthwise, then place on baking sheet, cut side up.  Put under broiler until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Spread the tomato-paste  mixture over the bread. Slice or crumble goat cheese, and put on top; add  tomatoes, salami, and olives. Sprinkle with remaining oregano and some black  pepper, then drizzle oil on top to meld it all together. Broil pizzas for about  10 minutes. Top with arugula or parsley. Cut into halves for entrées, thirds for  apps.

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I may not be sporting the most current trends for the 20-something office worker, but I am making some yummy summer meals. Go Glamour!