Monday, November 29, 2010

Mexican Mini Cheesecake Appetizers

To me, December is appetizer and dessert month.  With all of the holiday parties and goodies given and received, it seems that the majority of my calories come, not from three square meals each day, but from snicks and snacks grabbed here and there all month long.
These little cheesecakes are a product of my own imagination.  I am still not completely happy with the crust.  They don't really need one because the filling holds together nicely.  I tried crushed corn chips first and that was a complete disaster.  The little guys in the picture have a cracker crumb crust.  I thought about putting a little round of soft bread under the filling, letting it soak up the cheese mixture as it baked, but didn't get around to trying that.  An old fashioned pastry crust would work, but that was more work than I was willing to put forth at the time.
Mexican Mini Cheesecakes
1 cup fine saltine cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 8 ounce brick cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
1/3 cup salsa
2 eggs
1 tsp oregano
sliced olives, for garnish
more salsa, for garnish
Place crust ingredients into a food processor.  Turn on the processor for 30 seconds or until everything is well mixed.  Spoon crumbs into a mini-muffin pan and press to form a crust.  Place the filling ingredients into the food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour or spoon filling on top of the crust.  Place an olive slice in the center of each.  Bake 12-15 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.  They will puff up in the oven and then fall a bit as they cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Garnish with a dab of salsa.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homemade Toiletries: Make Your Own Monday #47

In a world where I had as much time as I wanted to make homemade presents for everyone, I would.  However, life is fast paced. Time seems to whirl by.  It's Monday and then it's Friday and then it's Wednesday.  Does that happen to anyone else?  

I fully intended to make some homemade soap this year.  There is a lady who lives in my town that makes soap out of goat's milk and it is the best stuff.  There is another person around here who makes olive oil soap.  It's pretty great soap, too.  I wanted to try making both kinds.  I made neither.  

I had a friend years ago that made and sold an entire line of hand creams, lotions, cosmetics, bath salts, etc.  I wanted to learn to make all of that also.  I moved away and never had a chance.  

This week, I am posting all of the things I wanted to make and didn't.  I will be able to come back to this and find the instructions and links for all of these great homemade toiletries.  Have any of you ever made any of these?

Homemade Lip Balm
Melt shortening in the microwave, or over hot water, then add sweetened or unsweetened Kool-Aid drink mix using enough drink mix to color the lip balm and add flavor. Some flavors to try: strawberry, raspberry, watermelon or blueberry. 

Homemade Bath Salts
Start with about 4 cups of sea salt or kosher salt. Mix in several drops of an aromatic bath oil (available at bath and beauty stores) and, if you wish, dried fragrant plants, such as lavender or eucalyptus. Pour into a jar for yourself or to give as a gift. Use a few spoonfuls of salts per bath; to keep herbs from floating, spoon the mixture into a spice sachet

Homemade Hand Lotion or Cream
Almond Hand Cream Recipe

1/4 cup of beeswax 
1/2 cup of almond oil 
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/4 cup of rosewater 

Heat 1/4 cup of beeswax slowly in a double boiler. Add 1/2 cup of almond oil to the melted beeswax. Stir in 1/2 cup of coconut oil. Mix in 1/4 cup of rosewater and stir until thoroughly mixed. You can buy rosewater, or make your own by simmering 1 cup of fresh rose petals in one and a half cups of distilled water for 10 minutes and then straining the flowers from the water. Pour the hand cream into a container while it is still hot, as it will become firm as it cools. 

Homemade Toothpaste
Mix together:
~2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (I buy this from Mountain Rose Herbs - $121 for a 5-gallon bucket.)
~3 Tablespoons of Baking Soda
~5 drops Peppermint Essential oil
~5 drops Spearmint Essential Oil
~a pinch of Stevia powder
Homemade Shampoo
  1. *Rosemary/Sage Herbal Shampoo*

    4 oz of castile soap (there are different scents available, choose the one you want),

    1/2 ounce of rosemary (stimulates the hair follicles and has been known to prevent premature balding),

    1/2 ounce sage (it keeps things from spoiling and also acts as an antioxidant),

    1/2 ounce nettles (contains nutrients that help the hair grow and is a blood stimulator),
    Few drops of Lavender oil (helps to control itchy scalp
  2. Mix the herbs in a jar and seal it tightly, including the lavender.
    Boil 2 cups of water.
    Add 3 tablespoons of the herbs into the water and then remove from heat.
    Allow it to sit for about 30-45 minutes.
    Strain the mixture into a clean bowl.
    Next add about 2 ounces of the mixture into a a clean 8 ounce plastic bottle (you can use an old shampoo bottle)
    Add in the castile soap.
    Close the bottle and shake well

Homemade Soap
A small plastic dishpan, about 10" x 12" 
A glass or enamel 2-quart saucepan 
1 can of lye (sodium hydroxide), 12 ounces 
6 pounds of lard 
Plastic gloves [really; use eye-protection too] 
1. Pour 3 cups of very cold water (refrigerate water overnight first) into the 2-quart saucepan. 
2. Slowly and carefully add the lye, a little bit at a time, stirring it with the a wooden or plastic utensil. (Use plastic gloves for this; test them for holes first.) Do not breathe the vapor or lean over the container or have children nearby. Above all _use no metal_. The mixture will get very hot. In olden days, a sassafras branch was used to stir, imparting a fragrance and insect deterrent for mosquitoes, lice, fleas and ticks. 
3. Let cool at least one hour in a safe place. Meanwhile, the unwrapped lard should be warming up to room temperature in the plastic dishpan. 
4. Slowly and carefully, pour the lye solution into the dishpan with the lard. The lard will melt. Mix thoroughly, at least 15 minutes, until it looks like thick pudding. 
5. Let it set until the next morning, then cut it into bars. It will get harder after a few days. Then package. 
If you wish to make soap based on olive oil, use about 80 ounces. It may need to harden for a week. 

(NOTE: in the comments below, Darlene said that this is a bad recipe.  I am looking for one that would be safer if anyone has one.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Stories: A Love Story

Once upon a time there was a girl who lived in a small town. She was very smart and she often was chosen to represent her school in county academic events. There she met other kids from the county who were also excelling. She was shy, so she didn't talk to everyone, but she knew most of them by sight. This girl worked hard and received a scholarship to a prestigious university in her state. Though most of the other students at her university were debutantes or daughters of rich businessmen, this girl had to work hard each summer to provide money to cover all of the various costs not included in her scholarship. Every summer, she worked as a waitress in a thruway restaurant.

At the same time, there was a boy following much the same path. He was from a small town in the same county. He also attended academic events and got to know kids throughout the area, if not by name, at least by face. When the time came, he too received a scholarship to an excellent college in the state. Ever popular, he had a girlfriend whose sister worked as a waitress in a thruway restaurant.

And so the stage was set for the girl and the boy to meet. Although they had seen each other many times over the years at those county events, they had never talked to each other.

One day, the boy came in to the restaurant to chat with his girlfriend's sister. She was working the same station as that girl. He said, “Hey, aren't you from ______ ?” She answered yes and asked him if he weren't from ___________. They started chatting. Over the summer, he visited the restaurant many times. By fall, when they both went back to their respective schools, he had broken up with that girlfriend. In that first semester, he managed to get that girl's address and he wrote her a letter.

They exchanged a few letters and arranged to go on a date. That was the beginning of my parent's romance. They dated steadily through their last two years of college. They enjoyed spending time with each others' families. They made up silly names for themselves and for their parents. Dad and his mother were Stanley and Stella Strobinsky. Mom was Rose Pudereski and her parents were Chester and Sophie. It was nuts, but those names stayed with them for years into their marriage.

This was all during the Vietnam War. In the beginning of Dad's senior year, he was given notice that he had been reclassified from a 2S (student deferral) to a 1A (which meant his number was up and he was going to be drafted). He went to the Air Force recruiter and took a bunch of tests and was finally accepted to enter OTS (officer training school) after he graduated that June. He originally thought he couldn't be married as a young Air Force officer, but found out that it was not a problem. He decided to propose at Christmas time.

Dad bought Mom an engagement ring and put it in a small wrapped box. Then, he put it in a larger wrapped box and so on and so on until he had a really large box to put under the tree at Mom's house. On Christmas morning, Mom had eleven boxes to open before she finally got to the small one containing Dad's ring. All Mom could say was “Ooooh!” over and over. Of course, she said yes and six months later, they were married in a little white church in a small town.

This Christmas will mark forty-four years since Dad proposed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Apple Bars

 These may not count as cookie bars, but they are in the same family.  When I found this recipe on, I knew I wanted to make it (only I tripled it to make a half sheet size pan instead of a measly 9X9 pan that wouldn't have been enough for my crew).  The results were a very moist, brownie like bar.  Because I tripled the batch, I had to adjust the baking time (and clean the bottom of my oven when they over flowed, open all the doors and windows in my house to get the blue haze out and hope that the smoke alarm didn't go off).  I am giving you the 9X9 pan amounts.  Just know that this recipe is forgiving and you can at least double it.
Apple Bars (adapted from (italics denotes my changes)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp brandy flavoring
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
Beat together the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and brandy flavoring.  Fold in the apples and pecans.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix into the apple mixture.  Spread the batter evenly in a greased 9X9 pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Happy Thanksgiving

While most of us foodies are cooking up a storm in our kitchens, I thought I'd repost a list I made of things I am thankful for.  I am so often guilty of getting so caught up in the "now," that I forget what makes life worthwhile.  I wish all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.   Thank you for making this blog such a fun experience for me.

To my Children:
~Thank you for the knee deep clutter in your room. I am glad we are able to afford those toys, books and warm bedding.

~Thank you for asking me to drive you all over town. The time we spend in the car is often the only time we get one on one time to really talk.

~ Thank you for waking me up in the middle of the night with bad dreams or sickness. It is good to be needed.

~ Thank you for the hours of homework we do together each week. I am so proud of the improvement you have made this year.

~Thank you for the “ick” of childhood. I used to be such a gagger. Now, I think I could handle anything.

~Thank you for wondering about so many things, even embarrassing ones.. My mental faculties will never rust while you are in the house.

~Thank you for challenging every one of my requests. You have made me think about really matters and which battles are really worth fighting.

~ Thank you for quoting stupid movies and commercials. Hearing you giggle together is music to my ears.

~Thank you for expecting three meals a day. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to indulge my love of cooking and baking.

~Thank you for asking that you be allowed to dress yourself, wear your hair a certain way, or even administer your own shots. My job is to get you ready to function on your own. These are steps in that direction.

~Thank you for whining about anything new. It makes me realize how much you need consistency.

~Thank you for all speaking at once, for forgetting to tell me about things you need for school until the night before, for having three activities scheduled on the same night. You have taught me organizational skills no university could teach.

~Thank you for the wet, sloppy kiss, for holding up the “I love you” hand sign as I drive away, for the picture you drew for me when you were supposed to be listening to your teacher, and for every other way you make my investment in you worth while.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cookbook Review: Bacon, a love story

Bacon: A Love Story: A Salty Survey of Everybody's Favorite Meat (Hardcover)
Not wanting to do anything by halves, when I decided to start a cookbook review feature on Wednesdays, I went to the library and came home with a pile of cookbooks so heavy I could hardly carry them all at once. On top of that, I put so many other cookbooks on hold that I will have posts through the end of the year! What I didn't realize, though, was how much I would learn in the process.

Case in point. Today's review is the book Bacon, a love story by Heather Lauer, published by William Morrow. Although bacon is one of my favorite foods, I had no idea that there is an entire subculture filled with bacon devotees. These are people who eat bacon every single day. These are people who have bacon chachka all over their house (forgive the mix of Yiddish and pork, please). They dream in bold colorful bacon.

Did you know there are blogs that talk only of bacon? Check out, or the author's own if you don't believe me. It's unbelievable!

So. Back to the book. It wasn't as much a cookbook (it only contains about 25 recipes) as a book about the history and social importance of bacon. There is a chapter devoted to the crispy versus chewy bacon eaters. There is another chapter containing various ways bacon has influenced our culture, from songs and movies to restaurants and closet bacon eaters. Really, this book contains everything you ever wanted or didn't want to know about bacon. My only real complaint was the very brief and off-handed way the author treated nitrites and nitrates.

As for the recipes, have you ever tried bacon ice cream or brownies? Maybe you haven't considered putting bacon in your stroganoff or quesadillas? This book covers the usual bacon and eggs (in omelet and pizza form) but also suggests snacks like bacon wrapped tater tots or hot dogs.

If you don't feel like you know your bacon well enough, or you are a closet bacon eater and want to come out, this is the book for you. It will arm you with enough bacon information to fulfill your wildest bacon dreams. It's also a quick and entertaining read.

Note: I received no compensation for this review and all opinions are mine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Apple Cake Two Ways

Last year I made a Fall Cake made with applesauce and butterscotch chips.  It was an over the top sweet treat. This year, I got out the recipe, thinking to make it again, but at the last minute took a pen and changed it completely into an Apple Snack Cake.

This year, we had the opportunity to go pick apples on a golf course nearby.  We came home with two bushels of apples from trees that had pretty much been left to grow on their own.  I ended up canning 21 quarts of applesauce and we have been enjoying pies, cakes, bars, cookies, etc made with the remaining apples.

I am posting both recipes today because somehow, the Fall Cake never made it onto my blog.  I have the picture I took from last year, though.  Both are spicy cakes that need no frosting.

Fall Cake
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cups applesauce
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins

1//2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs and applesauce.  Combine dry ingredients and add, mixing well.  Stir in raisins, chips and nuts.  Spread into a greased 9X13 cake pan.  Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle all over the top of the cake batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done in the center.

Apple Snack Cake
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp salt
1 cup oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 apples, cored, peeled and chopped
2/3 cup currants
powdered sugar for dusting
Cream brown sugar and oil.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Combine the dry ingredients and add to the sugar mixture.  Stir in the apples and currants.  Spread in a greased 9X13 pan and bake 30-35 minutes or until it tests done in the center.  Let the cake cool completely and then dust with powdered sugar.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homemade Molasses Taffy: Make Your Own Monday #46

I have always wanted to take part in a taffy pull.  It's been a secret wish of mine.  Reading L.M.Montgomery has done that to me.  There is something so sweet about those days at the turn of the twentieth century.  The girls and boys wore their best clothes, they sang songs, they ended the night with taffy and cider.

Since I began these Make Your Own Mondays, I have been waiting all year long for Autumn to have my own taffy with my family.  It wasn't as exciting as it would have been if we'd all been been wearing long dresses and suit coats.  None of us broke out into song.  There was no cider to drink.  But. The candy turned out perfectly and was really delicious.  So, though the atmosphere was lacking, the end results were well worth the effort.

I combined two recipes from that I found from the turn of the last century.  I think my high altitude stove plays tricks on candy thermometers.  Hardball stage is supposed to be 260 degrees, but at 250 degrees my taffy came dangerously close to burning, so I took it off the heat.  Therefore, my unscientific theory is that candy thermometers are meant for sea level and you have to adjust for height.  Correct me, if you know any better.

Old Fashioned Molasses Taffy: 
2 cups molasses
1 cup sugar
2 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
In a heavy dutch oven, combine the molasses, sugar and vinegar.  Put the remaining ingredients in a bowl and keep it handy.  On medium low, head the molasses mixture to the hardball stage (somewhere close to 260 degrees Fahrenheit).  The mixture will really rise a lot and even spit a bit, that's why you might want to use a taller pot and a long wooden spoon to stir it.  When it gets to the desired temperature, remove it from the heat and add the other waiting ingredients.  Stir the mixture vigorously and pour it into a buttered pan (I used a jelly roll pan).
Wait until the mixture cools down and then divide it up into tennis ball sized balls.  Hand them out to four or five guests (read children) and start pulling.  

 (notice the Engineer trying to put bunny ears behind the Musician's head)
The taffy will immediately turn almost metallic gold color.  Keep pulling until it becomes a uniformly light tan color.  Form it into ropes and cut into pieces.  Don't wait too long or it will get really hard to cut. Wrap pieces in waxed paper and store in an airtight container.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Stories:College Pranks

My parents had a ball in college.  Plain and simple.  Dad was a member Chi Psi and Mom was in Alpha Delta Pi.  To this day, neither will talk about what they had to do as pledges to join their respective fraternity and sorority, but throughout their years in those houses, they played a lot of good natured pranks within their houses, on other houses, and on innocent bystanders.  I am afraid there are a lot of incidents that will remain forever locked in my parents' minds...things that they feel foolish for doing or participating in.  However, here are a few of the most tame antics.

One time, a bunch of senior members of his fraternity, took Dad and  the other new pledges, blindfolded them and drove them way out into the country.  They dropped the newbies off and told them to make their own way back to the school.  The other guys laughed as they drove off into the night.  Meanwhile, the Dad and the other pledges waved a passing car down and hitched a ride back.   Dad and his friends beat the older members home to the college that night, so I guess that prank backfired.

On another occasion, Dad and some frat brothers filled a bunch of balloons with Coca-Cola and waited for the night watchman to walk by on his rounds.  They pelted him with the balloons, drenching the man with the sticky liquid.  (I wonder if it might not have been payback for some real or imagined trouble the night watchman had caused the guys).

There was a dining hall on campus where Dad went to school, but the frat boys all ate in their own houses.  When there wasn't enough snow for sledding, the Chi Psi boys would sneak out to the dining hall and purloin dining trays.  They'd go back to their frat house and slide down the stair cases.  No one got hurt, but perhaps they were too drunk to care.

Mom was always successful in talking a few other gals into her schemes.  However, there was always a rat in the group, so Mom always got caught.   One time, she and her group put plastic wrap across all of the toilet seats. Another time, they put lemon Jell-O in all of the toilets.  That prank backfired, however, because not only did the water in the toilets congeal, a plumber had to be called in to snake them.  Mom got in a lot of trouble for that.

As a pledge, Mom thought she'd show what a worthy member of Alpha Delta Pi she would be by putting Gentian Violet in the fountain outside the Alpha Tau Omega (fraternity) house.  It turned the entire thing, including the concrete and the water, a vibrant blue.  Mom had to scrub it clean.  She tried Ajax, Clorox, Brill-o pads and after a few evenings of hard scrubbing, realized that the entire thing was going to have to be repainted.  So that's what she and her lackies did.

In retaliation, the Alpha Tau's brought in bales of hay, placed them around the Alpha Delta house, planning to light them on fire.  Luckily, Mom recognized one of them and called out the window, "If you don't want to be arrested for arson, you'd better get out of here!"  The boys were more than a little drunk at the time, but they scrambled away,  leaving their hay bales.  The girls went out afterward and rolled the hay back over to the Alpha Tau's house.

Mom's sorority house was three stories tall.  The bottom level was the common area with a living room, dining room, kitchen, chapter room, house mother's quarters and bathroom.  Men were welcome to visit the lowest level.  The second level was divided into rooms that contained desks, closets, dressers and a couch and chair in each room.  The third level was a large room with bunks and single beds.  All of the girls slept up there.   Between Mom's sophomore and junior year, they made provisions for and built an outside fire escape.  A few weeks after school started in the fall, Mom awoke one night to the noise of footsteps walking around the bunk beds.  The Beta Beta Beta boys had managed to get into the Alpha's house for a panty raid.  The president of the sorority that year was an Irish girl who wasn't quite five feet tall.  Head in curlers, she threw back the covers of her bed and grabbed the nearest boy by the shirt and told him and his cohorts to leave immediately. They laughed at her fiery outburst, but the boys all left immediately.  The door was a crash door, which opened only from the inside.  The Beta boys, however, were the houseboys for Mom's sorority.  Somehow, one of them must have managed to get past the house mother and all of the girls to wedge the door open that night.  From then on, one girl would double check the door each night before lights out to make sure that escapade was never repeated.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookie Bars with Nutella Glaze

Maybe you have noticed a trend.  I seem to be hooked on cookie bars.  I can't seem to help myself.  They are so easy and tasty.  I am finding myself wondering what other cookies can be converted to bars. So the trend will probably continue for a few more weeks. Or longer.  

My kids really like peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in the center.  There is something almost magical in the way those kisses soften with the heat of the cookie and then remain soft after the cookie cools. I don't particularly like unwrapping all of those kisses, though.  And then I have to keep younger hands from swiping them while the cookies are baking.  Inevitably, a few will be palmed by a passerby and a few cookies will end up being plain peanut butter.  

Peanut Butter Cookie Bars with Nutella Glaze
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup oatmeal
½ tsp salt
½ tsp soda
½ heaping tsp powder
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
he pan.
Cream the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar and sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Combine the dry ingredients and add.  Spread into a greased 9X13 pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until done (but still slightly soft in the middle).  Allow to cool completely in the pan.
Nutella Glaze
1/3 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
4 or 5 Tbsp powdered sugar
milk, enough to thin to desired consistency
Mix the sugar and Nutella until smooth.  Add the milk, slowly until it becomes more of a glaze than a frosting. 
Pour over the cooled bars, either before or after they are cut.

Peanut Butter Cookie Bars on Foodista

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cookbook Review: Food 2.0: Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google

Food 2.0: Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google
After reading Charlie Ayers' Food 2.0: secrets from the chef who fed Google, I am a little sad that I don't live in California, am not a computer guru and don't work for Google...just so I could eat there.
With a guy like Charlie in charge of the food in their cafeteria, it's no wonder that the company has been so successful. His whole food approach to keeping the employees happy is really admirable.

His food mantra is “Fast, Raw and Organic.” Using cute computer symbols like //s and calling the pantry our database, he ties his technical employer into his culinary loves. The four sections of recipes go through the four phases of the work day's eating: Start my day, Take a break, Winding down and Pick me up.

Breakfasts include smoothies, hot cereal, soy pancakes, granola and a surprising number of alcoholic beverages. (what exactly do they do at Google?) The lunch items feature lots of spice in salads, noodles, soups and sandwiches. What I didn't know is that apparently beets are a lot more popular than I thought. Ayers has many, many beet recipes in his book; more than usual, most really tasty sounding.

Dinners in the cookbook (are people working 24 hours a day at Google?) include filet mignon, seared scallops and wild salmon. If dinner were like that in Detroit, would car companies be in so much trouble? Finally, the “pick me ups” or snacks for refueling throughout the day contain such treats as dried cherry chutney with goat cheese and crackers, sweet potato biscuits, mint chocolate brownies and coconut oatmeal bars with chocolate chips (those last two were the only sweets included in the entire book).

I made a variation of his Butternut Chilejack (butternut squash, bacon, corn, onions, chiles, spices and more) and plan to make some of his many beet recipes soon.

Overall, this was a great read, filled with all sorts of great recipes. Most are a little edgy, not your feed a family of 4 on a budget type meals. However, remember that cookbooks are guides, not commandments. Many of these recipes can be altered to fit any budget, lifestyle or schedule. Although Ayers advocates buying locally and buying organic, if that isn't something you are concerned with or can afford, substitute, substitute, substitute.   

note: I received no compensation for this review and all opinions are mine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Homemade Candies: Make Your Own #45

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who wished me well last Monday.  I really appreciated it!!

Second, see that obnoxiously large picture above this post where I am begging for a vote?  It's for my 4 cheese stuffed pasta with white bean sauce.  Could you, would you, please take a minute and go vote for me (They called me Frugal Antics over at blog name is obnoxiously too long).  Thanks.

Homemade candy has long been something I have wanted to master.  As the holidays approach, I figured there was no better time than the present.  Both of these candies are super easy.  I have yet to attempt the molded chocolate type....but the year isn't over and I have some fun recipes to try.

In the meantime, I give you homemade turtles and homemade Frango mints.  Turtles have long been my mom's favorite candies.  I can remember many Christmases that I used my scanty savings to purchase her a little box of these treats.  It was my birthday this last week and I could think of nothing better than honoring Mom with her favorite candy after putting up with me for 40 some years.  She got the first taste and thought these treats were spot on like the store bought kind.

Homemade Turtle Candies (as seen on this video)
Pecan Halves (5 halves per turtle)
Caramels (1 per turtle)(a bag has about 40 in it)
1 12 ounce package chocolate chips
Melt the chocolate chips in either a double boiler or a microwave.  Place the pecan halves on a cookie sheet clustered together to form the turtle head, arms and feet.  Unwrap the caramels and flatten each one with a rolling pin.  Place a flattened caramel on top of each cluster of pecans.

Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 6 minutes or until the caramels are just melted, but not bubbling.  Remove from oven and spoon a dollup of chocolate on each turtle.

Frangos.  For any Seattlites, these are the old Frederick & Nelson treats.  Macy's now has the rights to them and they are sold all over.  They are traditionally mint flavored, though they used to be made in other flavors.  I can't remember which because mint was my favorite.  I could have eaten an entire little box of these yummies.  In fact, I probably did. 

Homemade Frangos (from my friend, Jeanette)

1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cap mint extract
1 12 ounce package chocolate chips
Dipping Chocolate (like those discs Wilton sells...or better quality if you can find it)
In a mixer, beat the sugar and butter until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg, vanilla and mint and beat again.  Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or a double boiler and add to the sugar mixture.  Spread in a buttered 8X8 pan and cool in the freezer for 30 minutes.  While the fudge is cooling, melt the dipping chocolate according to package directions.  Cut the fudge into 1X.5 inch rectangles and dip in the melted dipping chocolate.  You must refrigerate these because of the raw egg.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Stories: Animal Lovers

I am starting to think the well is running dry and I am headed for the end of Saturday Stories. Each week it is getting more and more difficult to think of something to record from the old days. The end isn't today, however.

Pa, one of my great grandfathers, loved animals. He had horses that pulled his ice truck in the early 1900s. He was sorry when he had to give them up because modern times brought along an ice truck. He was a farmer at heart, but he lived in a town and couldn't have as many animals as he'd have liked. There was always a dog and some cats in the house, though. Nonny, his wife, tolerated the animals, but it was Pa who loved them best.

One time, the family went on a picnic to Honeoye Falls and took their dog, a Boston Bull Terrier named Jack Dempsey along. The family stood close to the edge of the riverbank to see and feel the spray of the water as it rushed over the falls. Jack Dempsey got too exuberant about the water and jumped over the edge into the water. He went over the falls and the current started to carry him downstream.

As the children shrieked for their lost dog, Pa dropped everything and ran to the car. He drove downstream. When he got to a place where he could reach the river again, he rushed to the bank only to find Jack Dempsey swimming toward the shore. Pa went into the water to rescue him. When the dog got on shore, he shook himself off and started racing back to the family by the falls. They were afraid he'd had so much fun that he was going to do it all again, so one of the children tackled him and got him into the car. That was the end of a very memorable family outing.

Pa drove his ice route all the way until the early 1950s when refrigerators finally made the ice men obsolete. He had a maroon truck that he drove all over the county. He'd start his route at a filling station owned by a man named Mr. Nice. The man owned a Dalmation named Spot who was considered a mean dog. Pa had a special way with animals, though and that dog loved Pa. When Pa got out of the truck to make that first delivery, the dog would jump up into the cab. Spot would ride through the county next to Pa until the end of the route when Pa passed the filling station again and dropped him off. Often, Pa would stop by my grandparents' house for a coffee break. When my mom would go out to greet her grandfather, Pa would say, “Now you stay away from the truck. Spot isn't a friendly dog.”

Pa's love for animals was passed on to his children and then on to the grandchildren and even on to my generation. Looking back on all of my family, I can see where families pass along their feelings toward animals, either positive or negative. Mamie's family never had animals, but she put up with them for Bumpa's sake. My dad's family never had another animal after my grandfather, the family's animal lover, died because Granny didn't care for them.   

Monday, November 8, 2010

4 Cheese Porcini Vegetable Stuffed Schiaffoni with Fennel Cannellini Bean Sauce

Recently, I received a goodie basket from as an entrant in their Truffles, Pasta & More Recipe Challenge.  Inside the box I found some schiaffoni pasta, some fennel pollen, some black truffle salt, and a packet of dried Porcini mushrooms.  All I had to do was come up with an original recipe using the pasta and at least one of the other items.  
Schiaffoni are tubular noodles, perfect for stuffing.  The first thing I thought of was a hearty red meat sauce and cheese, but that seemed too predictable.  Instead, I opted for combining the porcini mushrooms, spinach and carrots with ricotta, Romano and some other cheeses and topping it with a sauce flavored with the fennel pollen.  That pollen is a wonder.  Its aroma is reminiscent of anise, but its flavor is much more subtle.  By putting cannellini beans in the sauce, the meal contains a complete protein and can stand alone without any meat. 

4 Cheese Porcini Vegetable Stuffed Schiaffoni with Fennel Cannellini Bean Sauce
16 ounce package Schiaffoni pasta
for the stuffing
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms,cut into small pieces and rehydrated in 1 cup hot water (save the water for the sauce)
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
1 Tbsp olive oil
dash nutmeg
2 cups ricotta cheese
6 ounces marscapone (or cream cheese)
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
for the sauce
4 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1/4 cup flour
reserved mushroom liquid
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock (to make this truly vegetarian, use vegetable broth or water)
2 tsp fennel pollen
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 
In a large skillet, saute the onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil.  Combine the ricotta, marscapone, Romano and mozzarella in a food processor and blend until smooth.  In a bowl, stir the spinach, carrots, mushrooms, onions, garlic, nutmeg and cheese mixture together until well blended.  Meanwhile, boil the pasta for 10-12 minutes (note: the package said 16 minutes, but I wanted it to be slightly less than done so it would stand up to filling and baking later). When the pasta is al dente, drain  and stand each upright in a greased casserole (9x13).  Spoon filling into each noodle.  (You may want to add a little bit extra liquid here if your noodles are really al dente) Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes at 350.

To make the sauce, melt butter in the same skillet that you sauteed the vegetables.  Scrape the cooked on bits of  vegetables up into melted butter.  Add the flour and stir until smooth.  Add the mushroom liquid, white wine and chicken stock to the flour mixture, stirring all the while to prevent lumps.  If the liquid seems too thin, add more thickener in the form of a flour/water slurry.  Add the salt, pepper and fennel pollen and simmer 5 minutes to let the flavors blend.  Add the beans and heat through.  Serve the sauce over the schiaffoni.

I was a little afraid that the fennel taste in the sauce would overpower everything, but when combined with the pasta, it mellowed out to just a faint flavor.  All of my kids gobbled theirs up and said it was marvelous.  Although this is not a thirty minute meal, it well worth the effort.

Please give me your vote November 15-19th over on the Marx Foods blog.  I will have a reminder link at the top of  my site during that week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Stories: Home Remedies

In January 2009, I made a New Year's resolution to preserve more of my family's history by recording a story or event or even recipe from the past.  This week, I am nursing a hard cold and feel pretty lousy.  The darn bug made me start wondering about what my grandparents' generation did for sick people.  

When I asked my parents what they remember about being sick, both said, with a great deal of disgust, "Cod liver oil!"  In my mom's house, if you were sick, you got to sleep downstairs on the family room couch because it was the warmest room in the house.  The doctor, who still made house calls, wasn't called in unless you were really, really sick.  Mom remembers the doctor being called only a handful of times.   

How different that was from my childhood!  Because my dad was in the military, we went to the base hospital all of the time.  Of course, I was a really sickly child.  If I had been born back in my grandparents' time, I'd have died within my first few weeks of my life when I came down with pneumonia, followed by years filled with ear infections, mumps, German measles and all sorts of other ailments.

My husband's family's favorite home remedies were paregoric and (gulp!) turpentine.  I don't think they actually ingested the was used with lard and rubbed on the chest for congestion.  Another thing they did and my husband still will do if he is sick is pin a sock around his neck.  I always know if he doesn't feel well because he will come out of our room with an old sock sticking above his collar.

What about your family?  Do you remember your parents or grandparents talking about an unusual home remedy?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Since The Good Guy came back into town a few weeks ago, he has mentioned about 8 times that he'd really like some chocolate chip cookie bars.  Instead, he got cupcakes, key lime pie, a homemade version of Entenmanns, brownies, molasses cookies and just about everything under the sun but those cookie bars until a few days ago.  
My favorite thing about cookie bars is than instead of having to scoop out individual cookies and wait for each batch to get done, the dough goes into one pan and is baked all at once.  Poof!  They're done.  My husband's favorite thing about them is that the edges can be dunked in milk while the inner parts are gooey and chewy.   It's like getting two types of cookies in one batch.  My kids, who indiscriminately eat any sugar filled treat I put in front of them, are just happy to have dessert.
In amongst all of my baking chips, I found a partially used bag of chocolate covered caramel bites that I threw in along with the regular chocolate chips.  They added a little extra chewiness to the bars and a little surprise for the unsuspecting eater.  These bars are perfect.  I have made some in the past that were really dry.  I have made others that were too gooey (okay, that may have been my fault for taking them out of the oven too soon).  These, however, turned out just right.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars:
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
12 ounce package chocolate chips
Cream butter with sugars.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in eggs and vanilla.   Combine the dry ingredients and mix into the sugar mixture.   Stir chocolate chips into the dough.  Spread dough into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until golden brown and done.  Let cool in pan 15 minutes before cutting.

All content in this website including text and pictures is copyrighted and belongs to me. If you need to use it or reproduce it, please ask first. Any unauthorized usage will constitute plagiarism.