Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Pretzel Delights

That's what I'm going to call them.  It's a twist on an old recipe.  They've been called Peanut Butter Balls in the past sans the pretzels, but these don't quite fit that shape anymore. I wanted people to know what was in them.  Not that it really matters.  Anyone seeing these dives right in not knowing anything else about them other than it's something covered in chocolate.  I got the best compliment Saturday.  A friend picked one up and I asked would you like to know what it is.  She said, "Something covered in chocolate made by you?  It's got to be great!"  Why thank you.  They are.

I got the idea to add pretzels from hungrygnomes' blog.  When I saw the circular pretzels at the grocery store I knew they'd be fun to make.

You can find the recipe for the peanut butter filling in a previous post located here.  Once the filling is made it's just a matter of shaping and dipping.

I did find these easier and a bit faster to make, because I didn't have to roll each and every ball by hand.  They went straight from the cookie scoop to the pretzel then add top pretzel and press slightly.

Once all pretzels were used up I placed sheet of Peanut Butter filled pretzels in freezer for 15 minutes.  Then I removed tray to fridge until I was ready to dip in chocolate.

This year I melted chocolate in microwave.  I usually use a double boiler.  I've been working out at the gym this past month.  It's a good tired, but I just wanted to sit down rather than stand at the stove for an hour.

Tap off a bit of the extra chocolate.

I used the bottom of the fork I was dipping with to make the design on the top.  They looked like they needed a little something.

I dipped 80 of these.  That's all I had enough unbroken pretzels for.  Not bad though since each one needed 2 pretzels.  I have enough peanut butter filling for 20 more.  I'll just make them into balls rather than buy more pretzels.

The only thing I'd do different next time is I'd use maybe half as much filling. The delicious peanut butter filling overpowers the pretzels. They are merely a crunch.  Don't get me wrong these are still delightful.

Silly video my daughter made while I was making these.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Delicious Ooey Gooey Monkey Bread

It's Thanksgiving break and my DD wants Monkey Bread.  I'm thinking we have time let's make our own.  I just can't bring myself to buy that frozen one at the grocery store.  I remembered years ago making something that really reminded me of Monkey Bread.

It was a recipe in my "Make A Mix" cookbook called Butterscotch Butter Balls.  The "Make A Mix" part of this recipe is that you make a Hot Roll Mix.  It can be used in many recipes in this book.  So, first I made a batch of Hot Roll Mix.

Hot Roll Mix 

    • 5 lbs all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 4 teaspoons salt
    • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir together to distribute evenly. Pat in a large airtight container. Label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 to 8 months. Makes about 22 cups of Hot Roll Mix.

I have to admit that the name of this recipe I find quite unappealing.  Especially in this day and age where people like Katherine Heigl are launching websites called  All for a good cause in spaying and neutering pets and the adoption of pets that have been rescued.  But come on I'm really getting sick of talking about balls in the media.  My daughter and I threw a few name ideas around.  Her suggestion was Butterscotch Monkey Balls, which elicited a good natured chase around the kitchen and spanking with a spatula.  We still haven't come up with a name we really like, but we did really like the recipe.

Butterscotch Butter Balls 

    • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
    • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or 1/2 cup melted margarine
    • 5 to 6 cups hot roll mix
    • 1 (3 ounce) pkg regular butterscotch pudding
    • 1 cup butter or 1 cup margarine, melted
    • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
    • 1 (1 1/2 ounce) pkg pecans, chopped
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Blend in eggs and oil or margarine. Add 5 cups of Hot Roll Mix. Stir well. Add additional Hot Roll Mix to make a soft, but not too sticky dough. Knead about 5 minutes until dough is smooth. Lightly butter bowl. Put dough in bowl and turn to butter top. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Divide dough in to 48 balls of equal size. Place balls on a cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. When frozen, transfer to plastic bags for storage in freezer. Use within 1 to 2 months. About 8 hours before serving, or the night before, place 24 frozen balls in each of 2 unbuttered bundt pans. Sprinkle half of the butterscotch pudding on each pan of frozen rolls. Combine melted butter or margarine and brown sugar in a small bowl Pour half the mixture over each pan of rolls. Sprinkle half of pecans and half of cinnamon over each pan. Cover both pans with towels and let rise about 8 hours over night. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 c) Bake about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Makes 2 butterscotch rings.

Lynne's note:  I make one.  Saving the 1/2 butterscotch pudding for another day.  We doubled the pecans, because we like them.

It's best eaten while warm.  If you can't eat it while warm from the oven.  Warm it up in the microwave. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ed's Designer Chocolate Birthday Cake

My husband's birthday is right around Thanksgiving.  I couldn't get him to stick a candle in a piece of pumpkin pie and call it a birthday pie.  Can't blame him.  So, many years ago I asked what he'd like his birthday treat to be and he said a chocolate cake.  I've been making the cake for years, but as soon as the kids got old enough I got them involved.  Up till now it's been mostly helping.  This year though my daughter took the project on.  She asked if she could make a designer gourmet cake.  After just a couple suggestions by me for instance it had to be made with things her father liked and steering her back to the fact that this had to be a chocolate cake she did well.

She got out pen and paper and drew out a sketch like she was building a skyscraper and it was her blueprint.  The cake would be chocolate with peanut butter chips baked in.  Then there would be 3 layers of peanut butter fudge.  The whole thing would be coated with a chocolate ganache frosting and pressed into that would be toffee bits.  My husband isn't a big dessert eater.  His main complaint when he has dessert is "it's too sweet."  I didn't know what he was going to think of this cake, but knowing his daughter made it I knew he would be a good sport.

Chocolate Ganache frosting with toffee bits pressed on.
He decided he wanted his cake a day early as to not have to eat a whole chocolate cake practically by himself.  This way he could share it with all who came for Thanksgiving.  This turned out to not be such a good idea for him or me.  Everyone wanted a piece of his beautiful cake.  No one wanted a piece of the pumpkin pie I had baked.
Everyone dove in so heartily into this cake that I barely got a picture before it was all gone!
As you can see there was only 1/4 of the cake left before I realized I wanted to get a picture.

Here you can see the peanut butter fudge layers and the peanut butter chips.
Here's the peanut butter fudge recipe.  My daughter did not chill the peanut butter fudge.  My daughter laid out a piece of plastic wrap and using a rolling pin rolled out some of the fudge.  Using the cake pan as a pattern we then carefully cut away the excess fudge making it the size of the cake round.  Being careful not to cut the plastic wrap.  Picking up the plastic wrap she flipped the fudge layer down on to cake layer.  Then peeled off the plastic wrap and repeated 2 more times.

For the frosting I've been using Mrs. Milman's recipe the last few years.  I hesitate to share it even though delicious, but I've had problems with it every year.  There is even a video where Mrs. Milman talks about how easy it is to make.  My problem is getting it firm enough to frost a cake.  After stirring it for hours in the fridge I ended up leaving the frosting in the fridge overnight.  I figured if it got too hard to spread we'd deal with it in the morning.  Turns out it was perfect spreading consistency.  So, before I call it quits on this recipe I'm going to try making it the day before instead of anxiously waiting for it to firm up the day of.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Yogurt Craze

First I fell in love with Starbucks Black Cherry Parfait.  I couldn't afford to buy one every day, so I started making them at home with a recipe I found online.  Tweaked it slightly to my personal taste.  I  found using greek yogurt really adds a wonderful flavor, but regular works fine too.  I use a coffee filter and in 8 hours there is 1 cup of whey drained from yogurt.  Right now I throw it away, but feel a bit guilty about it.  I'll have to find a use for it.

Black Cherry Yogurt Parfait

4 cups (32 ounces) reduced-fat plain yogurt
1 cup frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed and quartered
1/2 cup 100% cherry juice
2 T honey
1 1/2 cups of granola

Line a strainer with four layers of cheesecloth or one coffee filter and place over a bowl. Place yogurt in prepared strainer; cover yogurt with edges of cheesecloth. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  Quarter cherries before they thaw for ease of cutting.

Remove yogurt from cheesecloth and discard liquid from bowl. Place yogurt in a small bowl; stir in the cherries and cherry juice. Cover and refrigerate until serving. It will keep in the refrigerator for the week. Before serving add 1/4 cup of granola to yogurt. Yield: 3 cups. 6 Servings.

With fall being here I got a craving for something maple, cinnamon and apple.  I thought the combination would make a great parfait and it did!

Maple Apple Cinnamon Yogurt Parfait

4 cups (32 ounces) reduced-fat plain yogurt
1 diced apple
1/2 cup 100% apple juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp maple extract
1 1/2 cups of granola

Line a strainer with four layers of cheesecloth or one coffee filter and place over a bowl. Place yogurt in prepared strainer; cover yogurt with edges of cheesecloth. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove yogurt from cheesecloth and discard liquid from bowl. Place yogurt in a small bowl; stir in apples, apple juice, maple syrup, cinnamon and extract. Cover and refrigerate until serving. It will keep in the refrigerator for the week. Before serving add 1/4 cup of granola to yogurt. Yield: 3 cups. 6 Servings.

Both are absolutely delicious and make a great start to ones day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Where Has November Gone?

It occurred to me on Friday that Thanksgiving is a week away.  I've bought nothing!  Not even a turkey.  I like to get a turkey some where between 23-25 pounds and if I don't get it pronto it won't be defrosted in time.  So, out I went on Friday to get at least a turkey.

When I found out that DH's family weren't coming to Thanksgiving this year (due to health issues of their matriarch) this cut my cooking and planning in half.  I was disappointed they weren't coming, but tickled that Thanksgiving isn't going to be a 3 ring cooking circus.  It's going to be my extend family and I cook a meal for them about every month.  No biggie there.

I got so relaxed about it all I completely forgot that a little planning and prep was needed.

Hot Cranberry Cider
Mashed Potatoes
Brussel Sprouts
Homemade Dinner rolls
Cranberry Sauce, Jellied
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Whipped Cream

Every thing will be made by me except for the canned jellied cranberry sauce.  I just love it for some strange reason.

I don't like sweet potatoes and nobody has ever complained that there aren't any.  I also don't like the green bean casserole frequently pushed this time of year.  Sometimes I'll make a wild rice mushroom dish if I'm feeling ambitious.  Frequently, we'll have a green salad too.  It's a big meal and I plan for leftovers.  That's why I get a big turkey.  Everyone can take some home for sandwiches the next day.

On another topic I crocheted a hat to test a pattern for a designer this week.  Here is a picture of the hat.  This Jester doesn't like to be called a fool. :)

FYI:  This pattern is sold on Ravelry (free site to join).  It is located here Silly Court Jester/ Elf hat.  I found the pattern easy to follow and crocheted up fairly quickly.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Starbucks and the Free Coffee

I'm not a Starbucks frequenter.  I don't drink much coffee and I just can't see spending $3-$4 on a cup of coffee every day.  I do however treat myself about once a month usually due to traveling and wanting something delicious and warm to drink.  Either I'm on my way to my knitting meeting in the bay area or this month I was in Portland.  My friend had JUST moved into her house and wasn't set up for any real food prep in her house.  So, she asked where I wanted to go for breakfast the next day and I suggested Starbucks.  They are close and I love their Maple Oat Pecan scones.  Once we got there I ordered my usual a Grande Decaf Latte.  Then I changed my mind and bought a Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfait to go with it.

Now I'm down at the "wait for your coffee" shelf.  I'm waiting.  I'm waiting.  I realize that I forgot to order a Pumpkin Latte.  I'm waiting.  Now people who have walked in the door long after me are getting their coffee.  So, I ask the Barrista, "Any Grande Decaf Lattes coming down the pike?."  He says no.  Then he asks me if he can make me one.  I say yes and add, "Since it hasn't been made make it a Pumpkin Decaf Latte please and I'll pay the difference."  He tells me don't worry about it.  I'll make it for you.  Then when he slides the coffee to me he slides a coupon for a free coffee and apologizes for the mix up.  Wow I think that's pretty nice.  I got my Pumpkin Latte and a free future Latte.

I come back home and forget all about the coupon in my purse.  I had an encounter with my daughter's school front office crabby lady.  It's nothing new she's always crabby, but she runs a tight ship and gets the job done.  I can always count on her to help on those rare occasions I need it.  This particular day she flat out tells me she's having a bad day even though her crabbiness didn't seems any worse than usual.  After leaving the office I felt like I should get her a pick-me-up.  I decided to anonymously give her a Starbucks gift card.  Off to Starbucks I go.

I ordered myself a Pumpkin Decaf Latte, one $20 gift card and a $20 reload on my coffee card.  The cashier pushes the cash button instead of ATM and now he's got a problem he can't fix.  I'm smiling and joking with him and then the manager as they try and figure out how to remedy the situation.  Once the manager gets it all worked out it took probably 10 minutes.  He, I thought, forgot to ring up my Latte and I point that out.  I like to help out cashiers; after all, I'm there to buy a cup of coffee not steal one.  He says, "Oh I'm not charging you for the cup of coffee you're a really nice lady and I really appreciate your patience."  Earlier in the transaction the first cashier had given me my "sorry for the trouble" coupon.  I tried to give this back and the manager would not let me.  So, now I've received 2 coupons from Starbucks.  I leave with my free Latte and great feeling that I'm a valued customer.

Today, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I had a hard time sleeping last night.  I'm just generally feeling cranky on my rounds of errands this morning.  I decided to cash in one of my coupons and treat myself to a Latte.  And BTW their Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfaits are so good I wanted to get another one of those for my lunch.  As I walk up to the cashier the guy in front of me orders 42 $20 gift cards.

"Are you kidding me," is what I'm thinking.  It's really OK though he was in line before me and I'm just going to have to wait.  The manager and cashier are counting cards and asking what kind of card does he want... this picture or a generic card.  Now he wants the cards rung up in 2 separate orders.  I'm keeping my crabbiness to myself, but I'm thinking really they couldn't open up the 2nd cash register?  The barista takes my drink order.  After some more fiddling around with the 42 gift cards my barista is loosing patience that I'm having to wait.  I tell her really it's OK.  She tries to open the 2nd cash register, but apparently there is an ongoing problem with her employee number.  They haven't been able to get it to work.  The barista/cashier, assistant manager and now the manager are trying to figure out why her employee number doesn't work and she has to use the generic number when she rings anything up.  The 3 of them are huddle around the cash register.  The other cashier is loading 42 gift cards on the other register.  Honestly, as crabby as I feel I'm very patient about this whole thing.  What am I going to do?  Her employee number I'm sure is an important part of doing business.  15 minutes has past.  She now can ring up my order.  Only my Parfait is rung up and I'm thinking that's because I used a coffee coupon.  She then hands me my receipt and my coupon back saying, "Please keep the coupon for another day.  I apologize for your trouble.  Thank you for your patience."  I can't believe it.  That is 5 free Starbucks drinks in a 3 week period.  Now I've only drank 3 of them.  The other 2 are in my purse waiting to be enjoyed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lots of Baking No Pictures

I've made 3 Bundt cakes in the last three days and didn't take pictures of any of them.  I've discovered that bundt cakes are better when stirred together by hand rather than by the mixer.  Why?  I've found if I use a mixer it beats the cake batter so it's really full of air and rises really high.  Sounds like a good thing right.  No, not for a bundt.  Once released from the pan it falls quite a bit.  It still tastes great don't get me wrong it just doesn't look as nice.  The sides get quite wrinkly making them the Shar Pei of the cake world. I've found a bundt needs to be a little denser. Mixing by hand still gets a good rise just not as high. The cake keeps it's beautiful bundt shape which is the whole reason for using a bundt pan.

The only thing I'm going to try and remember to do the next time a make a bundt is to sift the cake mix.  I've spent my life avoiding the extra step of sifting, but cake mixes are pretty lumpy out of the box.  Lots of stirring using a wooden spoon and a whisk and there are still lumps.  I've found the small lumps do seem to bake up and are not noticeable.  I just think sifting the cake mix will save on stirring and whisk washing.

What cakes have a made this week... Bacardi's Rum cake an 80's favorite and still loved in the 2000's.  I also made Pampered Chefs Gingerbread cake a favorite of the 90's.  Then I made a beloved Chocolate Kahlua cake that was a favorite of my Grandma's and her coworkers.  When they had a potluck sign up they would just put her down for the Chocolate Kahlua cake.

Oddly, I never use Bacardi.  I just never have it on hand.  I use Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum.

Bacardi Rum Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 package Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 (3 3/4-oz.) package Jell-O vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Wesson or Criso oil
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof )
1 stick butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum ( 80 proof )

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease and flour 10-inch tube or 12-cup Bundt pan.

Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan.

Mix all cake ingredients together.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake 1 hour.

Cool; invert onto serving plate. Prick top with fork.

Spoon and brush glaze evenly over top and sides.

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar.  Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, and remove from heat.  Stir in rum.

Gingerbread Cake

Source: The Pampered Chef

1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1/3 cup molasses
3 eggs
1 tablespoon Pantry Cinnamon Plus Spice Blend (or 1 tsp Cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ea. nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger)
1 (18.25 ounce) box German chocolate cake mix

Brush Stoneware Fluted Pan with vegetable oil using Pastry Brush. In Classic Batter Bowl, whisk pumpkin, molasses, eggs and Spice Blend until smooth, using Stainless Steel Whisk. Add cake mix; mix with Mix 'N Scraper until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.

Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. Microwave on HIGH 14 minutes or until Cake Tester inserted near center comes out clean. (Cake will be slightly moist on top near center.) Let stand in microwave 10 minutes. If necessary, loosen cake from sides of pan invert onto serving plate.  Let cool 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping, if desired.

Yield: 12 servings


1 Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. chocolate or vanilla instant pudding mix
2 cups sour cream
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup Kahlua
1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, eggs, oil and Kahlua. Mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into well-greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until tests done.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool or not.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Frosted Pumpkin Mini Donuts

There was a yard sale 2 doors down from my house Saturday.  Couldn't resist taking a peek.  I found a mini donut pan for 50 cents.  Thought it was cute and would be fun to play with.  I figured there would be mini donut recipes online.  Or I could use a regular cake mix.  Or my favorite fall recipe for Frosted Pumpkin Cookies came to mind.

My search on the internet didn't yield anything exciting, so thought I'd go with my Frosted Pumpkin cookie recipe.  I thought it would work well for a couple of reasons.  One I really love maple frosted donuts.  Two the recipe makes a cake like cookie perfect for a mini donut.  Recipe is below, but see my notes below the recipe for instructions on how to use the recipe with a mini donut pan.

Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly
2 Large Eggs
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 tsp Lemon extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup all purpose Flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 T milk
3/4 tsp maple extract

Cream butter; gradually add brown sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in pumpkin and flavorings.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in pecans.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 F for 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Frost with Maple Frosting. Makes 7 1/2 dozen.

Frosting: Cream butter; gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add remaining sugar alternately with milk, beating until smooth enough to spread. Add maple extract, and beat well.

Lynne's notes for mini pumpkin donuts: I put a couple of tablespoons of milk in dough to loosen it up a little. I spooned pumpkin dough into a ziploc sandwich baggie (if you don't have a ziploc use a twist tie to close bag and keep dough in bag) and then cut the tip off enough to let the pecans pass and fill mini dough pan at least 1/2 way with one pass. This technique filled pan easily, quickly and without a mess. I buttered mini donut pan feared the donuts would stick. Last batch I sprayed pan with Pam and that worked great too.

I baked mini donuts for 8 minutes. The 10 minutes for cookies was too long for the donuts.  I made a 1/2 batch and it made 36 adorable and delicious mini donuts. 

For the frosting I added a tad more milk to loosen it up a little too. Don't want it too runny. Dipped top of donuts in frosting and placed on plate.

Make sure you set a few aside for yourself as your family will inhale them before you get back to the kitchen.

P.S. I make my own Pumpkin Pie Spice.  I always have all the spices to make it and I don't use it often enough to have a whole jar of it alone.

3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Stir to blend.  Makes 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kit Kat... I think I love you!

My son declared his love for Kit Kats many years ago.  So, I thought it would be a perfect theme for a young man's birthday treat.  Last year was the very popular Kit Kat cake.  Earlier this year I hadn't even begun to think of what was next until my son and I saw this blog entry.  My son marveled at it, but I thought in my head, "THAT'S IT! That is what I'm making my son for his next birthday."  This was back in March.  I bookmarked the entry and sent the link to my email.  September rolled around and when I went back to double check how it was made the links didn't work.  Minor panic set in, but it was still very clear in my mind what I needed and how I needed to do it.  With some more web searching I did find the entry and photos moved to another person's blog.

So, to begin with I knew exactly where I'd buy my supplies.  I went to Cost Plus World Market.  I knew they'd have the wafer cookies I needed.  They also have many chocolate choices.  I decided upon Ghirardelli chips.  They came in milk chocolate in a 2 pound bag.  I bought 4 - 2 pound bags of chocolate and 4 bags of the Quadratini Chocolate Wafer Cookies.

I also owned the perfect pan.  It had belonged to my mother-in-law.  I've kept it for over 25 years thinking I'd bake bread in it maybe an angel food cake.  Never thinking what it would finally end up using it for.

Once my son was off to school I had 6 hours to work my magic.  I had thrown the pan in the dish washer the night before.  I had also worked on the lettering the night before.  I printed out the Kit Kat logo twice in the size I wanted it.  One I used as a pattern to cut out craft foam I had in the craft room.  I wasn't really sure if this sort of thing should be used with food, but since I wasn't going to be stewing it and its an item kids craft with odds were in my favor there wouldn't be any potential poisoning.  You'll have to decide that for yourself.

I began melting the chocolate on very low heat.  The water in a double boiler is not supposed to boil.

As the chocolate chips melted I stacked the cookies in the pan to get an idea of whether or not I had bought enough.

I then decided to stick my foam letters down with a little chocolate.  I wasn't really sure how to stick them down.  I was afraid they might float.  I also didn't want chocolate to ooze beneath them if I used some sort of bulky tape adhesive.  Notice how the letters are in the pan.  One can not read them.  This is so you CAN read them on the finished product.  To keep me from messing this one up I pictured it as a mirror image of the original print.  Having the extra printed out copy of the logo was a big help in keeping me on track with this very important detail.

I poured about a 1 inch layer of melted chocolate in the bottom of pan.  I was just winging it.  I wanted it to be sturdy, but leave room for the cookie center.

After chocolate had set (in the refrigerator) I began placing the cookies.
Here's where I made my only mini mistake.  I didn't know it until the end when the Kit Kat was sliced.  The chocolate encased the cookies on the outside holding them in place, but the cookies on the inside were glued to nothing and fell out of the slice.  Don't get me wrong NO ONE said, "I don't want a slice of the Kit Kat, because the middle cookies are falling out."  It was more of an aesthetic thing for me the perfectionist.  If there is a next time glue cookies together with a dot of chocolate.  I'd melt chocolate in a baggie in the microwave.  Cut small corner of baggie.  Use the hole to squeeze dot of chocolate on cookies as placed in pan.  This would go the fastest.  I say dot of chocolate, because this is so rich and chocolately a lot more chocolate in the middle isn't necessary.  Plus you don't want a lot of chocolate getting in the way of the cookies.
Next step was to melt more and more chocolate until the cookies are covered.  It took 7 pounds of chocolate to cover mine.

My biggest fear was that I wouldn't be able to get the Kit Kat out of the pan.  My next fear would be the letters floated up and mixed in with the chocolate.  I waited until my son went to school the next day and figured I'd have about 5 hours to figure out how to get it out of the pan if it didn't pop right out.  I also figured I'd have time to carve a Kit Kat on the top if my lettering didn't work out.  Thank my luck stars it popped right out.  I was so excited to see it out of the pan.  The lettering right where I wanted it.

I used an x-acto knife to lightly carve the edges of the craft foam to make sure they didn't lift away any of the chocolate as I peeled them out.  Except for a few bubbles they came out perfectly and easily.  I was so pleased it came out so well.

I wondered if my son would have remembered our looking at the Kit Kat online and would be expecting this.  He had forgotten all about it.  He was speechless!

Saturday when my son had his friends over I asked him to come get me when he unveiled the Kit Kat.  Of course I had gone to run a quick errand when they decided they needed a treat.  I came home to Kit Kat mayhem.

So, I just went and asked them, "So, what did you guys think about the Kit Kat?"  Like my son their eyes all got as wide as saucers as they excitedly told me how cool it was.  The one young lady at the party exclaim, "You're my hero!  Kit Kats are my favorite."

Monday, September 12, 2011

OMGosh was this Delicious! Pastitsio Lynne's Way

I went to the Greek Festival a few Friday's ago at the urging of a friend who was once married to a Greek.  She has 3 sons who love Greek food and she still loves it to this day.  We went when admission was free and had lunch there.  They had a full on cafeteria style Greek food set up.  I ordered Pastitsio, but I was torn between that and Moussaka.  I love eggplant.

Pastitsio as I had remembered it was like a lasagna with a cheese sauce on top.  The Pastitsio at the Greek Festival was good, but I remember making it at home a few years ago and decided I would do it again.  I bought what they called uncut macaroni at the Greek Festival.  They had used that noodle in their dish and I thought it was really fun.  It was a tube as long as spaghetti.  I've looked around at the grocery stores near me and that might have been the last bag I'll see until the next Greek Festival.  Or you can order some at this link.  I bought this Misko brand at the Greek festival and all the writing on the package is in Greek.  It made me chuckle when I went to read the instructions on how to cook it.  "It's all Greek to me."

I didn't get a picture of my Pastitsio, but this blog has a great picture of their version of Pastitsio.

I looked for Pastitsio recipes online and found 3 that sort of fit the bill.  I liked a little bit of each of them and decided I'd do just the parts I liked and make my own vision of Pastitsio.  One noticeable thing I changed was the amount of cinnamon.  2 recipes called for 1 tsp and the other recipe called for 1 tablespoon.  I recalled from the last time I made Pastitsio and the reason I haven't made it since was the cinnamon over powered the whole dish.  I didn't want to leave it out entirely, but I wanted to greatly reduce it.

Another thing the recipes said it would feed 8 people.  This made a giant Pastitsio that would feed at least 12 people.  Maybe the Greeks have bigger appetites.

Pastitsio Lynne's Way

3 T Olive Oil
1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes in puree
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound uncut macaroni (can use macaroni, ziti, penne, small shells)

4 T unsalted butter
4 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups Parmesan
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup Greek style yogurt or sour cream

For sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in large pan.  Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the beef and saute over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until it's no longer pink.  Drain off any excess liquid.  Add garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme and cayenne and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and simmer stirring occasionally for 35 minutes.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente.  Don't over-cook because the pasta will later be baked.  Drain and set aside.

For the Bechamel, melt butter in medium sauce pan.  Add flour and cook over medium heat.  Pour cold milk and cream into the butter and flour mixture whisking constantly.  Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until smooth and thick.  Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Stir in 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of tomato and meat sauce, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Stir in the eggs and yogurt and set aside.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.

Place a 1/4 of grated Romano cheese in a 11 X 14 inch pan and then layer with 1/3 of the pasta.  Continue until both ingredients are used up.  Spread on the meat sauce.  Pour the Bechamel on top of the meat sauce.  Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 1 hour until golden brown and bubbly.  Set aside for 10 minutes and serve hot.
Serves 12.

Friday, September 2, 2011

If You Knit Or Crochet Join Ravelry

It's free and I really have a good time over there talking to other fiber lovers.  Someone I discoved over there is PlanetJune.  She makes the most adorable amigurumi.  What is that exactly?  The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.

My first experience with June was her Groundhog pattern.  I don't know why, but he was so adorable I had to make him.  I've made several of her patterns since.  She did a free pattern a while back that looked fun.  It was the apple.  This pattern like the groundhog was so adorable that when I'd show my finished product to friends and family they'd want it!  I had to keep a close eye on them or my daughter would snitch them.  In fact where are they?  Have I let my guard down?

Well, now June has a new pear pattern and has created a "Fruit-A-Long" on Raveley.  The "Fruit-A-Long" refers to making her fruits along with other people.  Sharing your experience of making them and then photos of your finished crocheted fruit.

I'm hoping you'll join Ravelry, look up PlanetJune and join in the fun.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Stick Up For Yourself As A Consumer

I'll let my email speak for itself...

"My parents had your "Tagnabbit" quick release on their dog's collar. I thought how ingenious as my dogs tends to wear the same collar all their lives, because I don't want to bend those wires to take off the tags.

I ran straight out and bought one in April 2011. Less than a week later my teen said "Mom here's Little Stars tags."  She was holding them in her hand. Shocked I looked at the gadget and surmised that my husband had put the leash through it. I had warned every one it was for tags only not the leash. Hubby and I got in a mini argument. He claiming he had NOT put the leash through it. I just figured he accidently did. No more arguing. I pushed the metal lever back to it's original place and went on with life.  About every week or so the tags would be found laying some where in the house.
One at left possible leash damage operator error.  One on right snapped right off sending tags all over floor.

Finally, in July I bought another figuring operator error on the first one. We know better. This is still a very cool dog tag holder.

Not one week later I find my dog's tags laying on the floor. This time not the Tagnabbit, but each individual tag. The Tagnabbit's bottom metal bit had broken off some how. Not the spring loaded piece, but the whole bottom piece sheared off at top puppy paw piece. I have a picture if wanted.
Now I'm wondering "hmmm maybe this isn't operator error, but a defective product." I have a middle aged, liver damaged, gimpy legged 23 pound dog hardly a candidate for rough treatment of the product.

What are your thoughts?"

I received a quick reply back from the company...

"Thank you for the product feedback regarding the Tagnabbitt. There was a "run" of this product where our supplier did not meet particular specifications. Unfortunately, there is no lot number to track the item that were affected, which leaves us to address the end-user as we receive the complaints. We are looking to receive the revised product by month end. If you will provide your mailing information, customer service will send one to your attention, when they are received.
Best regards,
On-Line consumer Services

I thanked them for their quick reply and sent my address.  Honestly, I thought it would be a long time or not at all that I'd receive a replacement.  I wasn't really looking for a replacement as much as I wanted to let them know how their product was holding up in the real world.

On August 24th I received 2 Tagnabbits and a dog treat in the mail to my great surprise.  Less than 2 weeks from my product review to the company I had 2 new dog tag holders.  So, if you're looking for items for your pet I'd recommend Petmate products.  Their customer service is awesome.  Now to test this one out.

UPDATE 10/23/11:  I started using one of the new Tagnabbits.  It wasn't too long after that I found my dog's ID tag on the floor.  This happen several more times where I'd find just the ID, but the dog license and rabies tag stayed on the Tagnabbit attached to my dog's collar.  I had what my friend's and I call "evil ESP" about the situation.  I had a feeling I should take the Tagnabbit off and secure the tags to my dog's collar the old fashioned way, but I didn't.  Well, it bit me in the butt.  All my dog's tags with the Tagnabbit are now gone.  We can't find it any where.  Is it in the house?  Is it in the backyard?  We've looked and can't find the tags any where.  They are here some where and will show up one day.  I'm starting to replace the tags as I don't have time to wait for that day to come.  So, bottom line don't buy a Tagnabbit.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cherry Cake for the 17th time!

OK it's really the 11th time, but my daughter turned 17 and again she wanted her favorite cake.  My plan this year was to do something a little different like make it into an ice cream cake.  She decided though that she wanted to spend time on the lake with her friends for her birthday.  Sounded like fun to me, but ice cream would not do well at the lake.  I didn't know if any of them were going to come back to the house, so it was time for plan B.

Left on a kayak.
Came back on a paddle board.

I got to thinking that cupcakes would be a great plan.  I'd never made cupcakes out of this recipe and was a little afraid that it might be too soft of a recipe for cupcake wrappers.  I hate it when you peel the wrapper off a cupcake and half of the cupcake sticks to the wrapper.  You then feel the need to scrap the cake off the wrapper with your teeth eating some of the wrapper in the process.  I wasn't sure if this wasn't going to turn into one of those times, BUT one doesn't know if they don't try.

The recipe made 21 cupcakes.  Now what to do with the frosting.  I made the frosting as the recipe said.  The cupcakes did cool off by the time I got the frosting done.  This turned out to be a good thing.  I decided to dip the top of the cupcakes into the hot frosting.  Sort of a dip, pick up and twirl keeping the frosting on the cake and not on the wrapper.  It worked out great.  I let the cupcakes sit and the frosting cooled to a really nice semi hard shell.  Perfect for placing plastic wrap over on a tray and taking to the lake.  Turned out they peeled out of their wrapper perfectly.  The frosting layer was the perfect amount of frosting according to my daughter.  We may have found a great new way to serve her favorite birthday treat.
All the wrappers ended up in front of Diana and they started saying "Diana save some cupcakes for the rest of us."

I took 18 cupcakes to the lake for 7 teens. I sent an easy picnic lunch with them for their trip, but knew they'd be hungry when they returned. Thirsty and starving is what they said when they returned. I had an ice chest with cold drinks and 18 cupcakes that they promptly devoured.

Chocolate Fudge Cherry Cake
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
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:  Cupcakes take 1/2 the time to bake.  While they are cooling prepare frosting.  Holding bottom of cupcake dip just the cake part of cupcake in frosting.  Pull up, twist and do a 1/2 twirl so string of frosting breaks and frosting stays only on top of cupcake.  Let all cupcakes sit not touching one another.  Frosting will harden to a beautiful chocolate shell that does not stick to plastic wrap.

PS.  BTW they all came back to the house.  Cell phone out daughter calling her dad, "Could you pretty please order 3 pizzas."