Monday, August 30, 2010

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints a winner!  2 thumbs up to this recipe.  Fairly easy to make.  They did have to be chilled for an hour, so need to plan for that.  I used some of my Sour Cherry jelly I made in June; therefore, I didn't need to use the lemon juice in my jelly prep for the cookies.  One could use any type of jam or jelly they wanted I suspect.

Recipe also said to get 36 cookie use 2 1/2 tsp of dough.  To get 36 cookies I needed to use 4 teaspoons of dough.  I used my cookie scoops to scoop out the 36 cookie balls.  Dough was fairly oily and my hands didn't need oiling to shape them into balls.  Refrigerated all 36 cookies on one cookie sheet to save space.  I used a silpat instead of parchment paper..  They peeled off intact to place on other cookie sheets for baking.

2 pictures of the cookies.  I just never know which looks best flash or no flash.

Instructions said to press each cookie with your thumb prior to refrigeration.  BUT after baking my thumbprints were nearly gone.  With the back of a spoon I gave each hot cookie another press.  This worked out well to reestablish the thumbprint to hold the jelly.

Another thing to mention this is a Cooking Light recipe.  It's still a cookie and not really that much lower in calories.  I figure any calorie saving in my day is always a plus.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
7 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and salt, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.

Place sugars, peanut butter, and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating on low speed just until combined.

Lightly coat hands with cooking spray. Shape dough into 36 balls (about 2 1/2 teaspoons each). Place balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb into center of each dough ball, leaving an indentation. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover dough. Bake at 350° for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from pans, and cool on a wire rack.

Place preserves in a small microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH 20 seconds, stirring once. Add juice, stirring until smooth. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon preserves mixture into the center of each cookie.  Yield: 3 dozen (serving size: 1 cookie)

CALORIES 103 (30% from fat); FAT 3.4g (sat 1.2g,mono 1.3g,poly 0.6g); IRON 0.5mg; CHOLESTEROL 15mg; CALCIUM 8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 16.9g; SODIUM 48mg; PROTEIN 1.9g; FIBER 0.5g

Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2007

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unchained Circles Vest

I crocheted this vest in about 10 hours.  I thought it turned out so pretty.  I've shone it around to my friends and they all think it's fabulous.  One is even going to make one.

I wanted to make it for my daughter originally.  She is modeling it here.  She told me before I started she wouldn't wear such a thing.  Well pooh!

So, decided my SILs birthday was coming up I'd make one for her. Since she is a tad smaller than my daughter I used my daughter as a model. When I got it done I asked her to wear it so I could get photos of it. As she was wearing it she said, "Why would anyone wear such a thing?!" I told her one would wear it like jewelry. It doesn't have a function other than just looking pretty.
I wanted to show a picture of the front and what it looks like off a person.  The original pattern only had a picture from the back.  When I hit a snag and didn't know how to shape the arm opening I really needed a picture.  I finally figured it out, but here's a picture if anyone else wants to make one.

Unchained Circles Vest by Thanh Nguyen.  Pattern can be found at the Universal Yarn website for free.  I couldn't find their yarn, so I went with Knit One Crochet Too Ty-Dy Cotton yarn.  I found it at this cute little shop in mid town called Fig Tree Alley.  Gorgeous yarn and so easy to work with.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Curry The Easy Way

I don't like curry.  I don't like the spice.  I don't like the smell or the taste unless in very small quantities.  If a recipe I have calls for it I won't avoid it, but I'll reduce the amount by about 1/3 to 1/4 depending on my mood.  I've been known to just add a pinch.

That's why many years ago about 25 I was very surprised to find I really liked this curry dish.  A friend had made it and I just happened to come over for a visit.  She invited me to sit down for dinner.  I hate curry, but when someone is being so thoughtful and generous I put my juvenile dislikes aside and partake.  (That's how I ended up eating a tuna fish sandwich 30 years ago.  Another story.)

I took the smallest serving I could without hurting any one's feelings.  Then I began to eat.  To my great surprise it was good.  Even great!  It didn't taste like the curry spice I loathe and despise.  It tasted like it had a pinch of curry the way I would season a curry dish.  It was savory and delicious.  I asked my friend for the recipe and she snickered and held up the Vermont Curry Sauce Mix box.  "I just buy it at the grocery store and follow the directions," she said.  Even better how easy can that be.  I knew some day I'd make some at my house.  Being single at the time though I really didn't do any big cooking.

Shortly there after I got a boyfriend.  Wanting to impress him I invited him over for dinner and made the curry dish.  He loved it and to this day he's my husband.  Not saying making this dish will get you a husband, but hey it wouldn't hurt to try.

Over the years I've found it hard to find Vermont Curry.  The grocery stores generally carry the S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix.  It's not bad and I'd even say it's good, BUT the Vermont Curry is REALLY GOOD.  I have found if you can find an Asian Market you will find Vermont Curry Sauce Mix.  The Asian market I frequent is about 30 miles away.  I really need to find one closer.  So, I actually don't go much.  I'll buy 3 sauce mixes and sometimes I'll just throw them in the freezer if I'm not going to use them any time soon.

It's simple to make the recipe it is right on the back of the box. 

1 box Vermont Curry Sauce Mix
Meat (beef or pork) or chicken (1 1/8 lbs.)
4 Medium onions (1 3/4 lbs.)
4 Medium potatoes (1 1/2 lbs.)
1 Medium carrot (1/2 lb.)
5 3/4 cups water

I have made a few small changes over the years.  I always use chicken breast.  That's our favorite, but beef is good too.  Recipe asks for 1 carrot, but we like almost as much carrots as potatoes.  I usually use 4 or more carrots.  Also when it calls for water I put in chicken broth.  I use to make my own chicken broth, but I use canned now days and it's still great.  Also the recipe calls for  4 med. onions.  That seemed like an awful lot from the very beginning.  I've always used 1 to 2 onions.  This recipe is for the 8.8 ounce bar which makes 12 servings.  The package does talk about using half for 6 servings.  The curry bar as I like to call it, because it looks just like a large chocolate bar.  The curry bar in the 8.8 ounce size comes sealed in 2 packages if you only want to use half.  I make the 12 servings, because I have teenagers right now and a hubby who likes to take leftovers for lunch.

The curry bars come in mild, and hot.  My husband likes hot food.  I do not.  So, I've been pretty cautious using the other bars.  What I've found is that the med. hot isn't that hot.  I haven't had the courage to use it exclusively though.  I buy a mild and a med. hot.  I use half of each for one batch.  I don't find it to be hot at all.   Last night I got a bit braver.  I used half of a mild bar, 1/4 of the med. hot and 1/4 of the hot .  This did give it a slight zing.  I still wouldn't have even called it hot by my standards.  Next time I'll try 1/2 a mild bar and half a hot.  I think though I'll only do a 6 serving batch in case it's too hot and hubby has to eat the whole thing by himself.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oscoda, Michigan... Did I hear you say huh?

Yep that's what I get when I say Oscoda, Michigan is my 2nd favorite place to live.  Being an Air Force Brat I lived in many states, but this one stood out as the most beautiful.  Now I was a kid I'm not sure how I'd like it as an adult.  I've threaten to vacation there one day, but hasn't happened yet.  I remember swimming in Lake Huron, running in the woods, climbing trees, picking wild raspberries, fishing in the AuSable River, catching frogs, playing with garter snakes, collecting multicolored leaves in the fall, ice skating, sledding, snowball fights, just to name a few of my favorite things.

The other day a miraculous thing happened.  I found out someone I've known for about 8 months lived and went to high school in Oscoda, Michigan.  I was dumbfounded.  I never thought I'd ever meet another single living human being that had been there.  I was reading her Facebook info and it said "High School Oscoda Michigan."  I knew it couldn't be a joke, because no one could be that random.

I sent her a FB note asking if she really went to Oscoda High School.  The good news is yes she has and now I have someone to reminisce about Oscoda with.  The bad news she wasn't even born when I was there.  Man, I'm getting old.  I was there from 1968-1972.  She was there from 1990-1992.  She was born in 1975.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Birthday Cake Turns 16.... errrr 10?

We're going on our 10th anniversary of the Chocolate Cherry birthday cake.  Ten years ago my little girl was turning 6.  A few weeks prior to their birthdays I ask both my kids what kind of cake they want for their birthdays.  This "what kind" usually refers to the shape.  It also helps with the theme of the party.  I love decorating cakes and have had a great time making some pretty creative cakes over the years.  One year for my daughter's 6th birthday she gave me a flavor.  She said, "I want a chocolate cake with cherries and I want to decorate it myself."

I was a bit in shock and thought to myself, "WHAT?! I don't get to decorate the cake."  Up til then I had decorated about 14 kid birthday cakes between the 2 kids.  A few of the cakes I had made were a Pokeman ball, gigantic hamburger, a panda bear , large strawberries, and a gumball machine.  Now she was grabbing the reins of my cake decorating juggernaut and I wasn't very happy about it.  After all, these gorgeous and delicious cakes were ALL ABOUT ME...ME...ME!  OK I needed to step back and remember the birthday cakes were made for the person who's birthday it was.  A cooler head prevailed and if they wanted to put MORE than their 2 cents in on it's flavor and design I need to get off my high horse.  I needed to remember the day is about them.  *hanging my head in minor shame*

So, I shook it off and went on a hunt for a Chocolate Cherry cake recipe.  I found the below recipe and boy it was sure wonderful.  We've used it every year.  The moist chocolaty cherry cake is topped with a rich fudgy frosting.  There is never any leftover birthday cake when this cake is made.

Chocolate Fudge Cherry Cake
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix (your favorite)
1 can cherry pie filling
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond flavoring (optional) (It's not really optional you must use it.)

1 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
6 oz package of semisweet chocolate chips

Mix cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs, and flavoring by hand. Pour batter into greased and floured 13x9x2-inch pan and bake at 350° about 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. (Bundt shaped pan works great just takes a little longer to bake.)

For frosting, place sugar, butter, and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Pour over warm cake.

Lynne's Note:  If using a bundt shaped cake I place it on a wire rack over a plate to catch excess frosting.  Pour frosting over cake.  Excess frosting cake be saved and used later for whatever you want.  This way you don't end up with a huge puddle of frosting on your cake plate.  Then I use 2 spatulas to move cake to a clean platter.  This is a very delicate cake.  Ask for help moving it if need be.  If it breaks don't worry you have excess frosting to cover the break.  I've never had any exclaim, "I'M NOT EATING THAT CAKE IT'S BROKEN!"

That first year my daughter decorated her cake with Skittles and Lego figures.  I tried to talk her out of Skittles back then and tried to again this year.  Suggesting M&M's might be more suiting.  She confidently stated then and now, "No, I like Skittles and I think the taste great."  After that first year the family knows they are Skittles and most flick them to the side.  The first year was hilarious watching people bite into a fruity candy thinking it was an M&M.  Then watching some politely spit them into a napkin.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making Ice Cream

My son's friend was over today and she asked what I was doing.  "Making ice cream," I said blandly.  Her face lit up and she said, "You are always doing the coolest things when I come over."  I smiled and thought, "Really?!"  They seem like ordinary things to me.

Notice frost on outside of the ice cream maker.  You know it's working.

Today I was using a wedding present.  My Waring Ice Cream Parlor.  I got it in 1987 and it still works great.  I really haven't used it that often over the years.  Since my kids are teenagers they've really been the ones to rediscover it.  Today I just got the urge to make my own "Ben and Jerry" like cherry with chocolate chunks ice cream.  I just happen to have all the ingredients.  I discovered this while doing my quarterly deep cleaning of the refrigerator.  The one where I pull all the shelves out and wash drawers and all.  Get rid of any questionable items and jars of who knows what.  I noticed I had heavy cream, half and half, and maraschino cherries.  None have expired.  LOL

It's getting close!

What's great about my ice cream maker and why I kept it is no special ice, no special salt.  Load it up with the ice and salt one has in their kitchen.  I thought it was pretty cool someone put the instructions on how to use it online.  Seems like the instruction book is usually what gets lost over the year.  I have my instruction book though!

Had the perfect size rubber maid container for the ice cream to harden in and to serve out of once done.

With the instructions are recipes too.  It had a recipe for Cherry Nut Ice Cream.  I thought why not swap out the pecans for chocolate.  So, no great creative process on my part.

The ice cream turned far better than I expected.  I expected something "sort of" like Ben and Jerry's.  This was JUST LIKE Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.   We'll definitely be making it again.  Here's the recipe:

Cherry Nut Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream (1 pint)
2 cups half and half (1 pint)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup juice of cherries
1/4 cup of chopped pecans
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
20 quartered Maraschino Cherries

Pour heavy cream and light cream into cream can.  Add sugar, cherry juice, almond extract and salt.  Stir thoroughly with wooden spoon or plastic spatula.  Proceed with Basic Steps, page 5.  Fold in quartered cherries and chopped pecans after processing, but before hardening.  (Remember every time it says pecans use a coarsely chopped up chocolate bar.  I found Hershey's Special Dark to be very good.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mad Dog Strikes Again

Some how my son bribed my daughter into making him a "Mad Dog" I'll never know.  What is it exactly?  A couple summers ago on our way to the beach for a week vacation my husband convinced me to make a detour through Lodi.  Not exactly on our way, but his idea to surprise our son with an incredible burger made it worth our while.  Just seeing his face when the burger came out made us all laugh out loud.  The place is called Andre's Cafe & Catering.  Located at 722 W Lodi Avenue, Lodi, CA 95240 (209) 367-5411.  Click both links for info on the cafe and it's hours.

They serve a gigantic burger.  Well, it is tall not wide.  I think my daughter captured it pretty well.  They have a deal if you eat it within 30 minutes including all the fries you get it for free.  You also get your picture on the wall of fame.  My son can eat a lot, but even this was too big for him.  He chuckled when he asked for a "doggie" bag for his Mad Dog.  While on vacation it took him 2 breakfasts to finish the burger.

Even tonight he couldn't finish Allison's version of the Mad Dog.  He loved every minute of it.

I asked Allison to smile for the camera.  She said she couldn't, because she was too tired from cooking.  I think it might have been the cross country 5 mile run yesterday and the sleepover last night that might be contributing to her tiredness.  BTW she's wearing an apron I made her a few years ago for Christmas.  It says, "Tease me and I'll burn your dinner."  Yes, she is a bit of a cranky cook.