Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cherry Spelt Muffins

I wanted to make muffins last week, but I had no particular kind in mind.  I looked through the cupboards and found 1/2 cup of toasted coconut flakes, a bag of dried cherries, that ever present odd ball flour assortment I manage to keep around and thought, "Huh.  I wondered how I can make that all work together in a muffin."  I started thinking about a cherry coconut muffin.  It sounded pretty yummy.  I sat down with a pen and paper to jot down what I thought would make a muffin.

Originally, I was going to use almond flavoring, but alas, that was the only flavor of extract I couldn't find in my spice cupboard.  I decided brandy flavoring was the next best thing, and boy was it!  I don't use brandy extract very often.  In fact, I have no idea how old that little bottle is.  However, with the cherries and the coconut, that was the perfect little oomph to make these muffins phenomenal.

Cherry Spelt Muffins (makes 12 muffins)
6 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup oil (or melted butter)
1/2 cup agave nectar (or honey)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp brandy extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour (can use all white or all whole wheat too)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup dried cherries
With a mixer, blend the cream cheese, oil, agave, eggs and flavorings.  Combine the dry ingredients and add to the wet, stirring until just combined.  Fold in the coconut and cherries.  Scoop into a well greased muffin tin.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until done.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Slow Cooker "Rotisserie" Chicken: Your Recipe, My Kitchen

This week's post is a combination of two recipes from posts and a third from a cookbook.   I have been meaning to give a homemade version of grocery store rotisserie chicken a try for a long time.  At the same time, I am cleaning out my freezer in preparation for our move across the country.  With four whole chickens sitting frozen in that said freezer, this week seemed like a perfect time to "kill two birds."   I went over to A Year of Slow Cooking and then over to Our Best Bites to find a good technique.  I made foil balls and then used the little rack that came in my crockpot to keep the bird off the bottom of the slow cooker.
As you can see from the photo, I sometimes have a hard time getting "breast side up" correct.  Anyway, this seemed like a great way to make chicken.  I put a semi frozen chicken in the crockpot on high for 5 hours and  it was done.   The problem occurred when I kept it in the slow cooker for one more hour.  It was just a tad bit dry.

Next, I wanted to try a technique I learned in the cookbook, Cheater BBQ.  The authors advocate using a slow cooker to achieve great barbecue flavor by wrapping meat in foil and not letting it sit in its juices while it cooks.  So.  I tried a second bird the next day in a foil wrap.  I think it was better.
In both cases, I slathered the chicken with plain old season salt.  I cooked both on high for 5-6 hours.  Both were incredibly tender and flavorful.  The foiled bird, though, seemed more like the grocery store style bird.

Slow Cooker "Rotisserie" Chicken
1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry
enough seasoned salt (or any flavored salt) to completely cover the bird

Rub the flavored salt all over the bird, inside and out, top and bottom.  Line your slow cooker with foil, with enough hanging out and over the edge of the top of the crock to be able to fold it over and seal it shut.  Place the bird on  top of the foil and close it completely over the chicken.  Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on high for 5 hours.  Check with a meat thermometer at 4 1/2 hours.  You want the temperature to be between 175 and 180 degrees F.  When done, remove  the chicken from the foil to a serving platter.  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes before carving.  

Now it's your turn to share your creations of the week:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saturday Stories: Playing at Grandma's House

(I just realized it isn't Saturday.  It's the first day of summer vacation and at 3am, it seemed like Saturday.  I guess the cherry spelt muffins will be posted next's gonna be a long summer if I cannot find my mind!)

Because I was an only child, I spent a lot of time with grown ups.  Makes sense, right?  Who else was there to play with?  However, the grown ups didn't always want to play with a little girl.  Most often, they wanted to talk amongst themselves.  Visiting my grandmother's house was really no exception.  Mamie often took time to play with me, but more often, I needed something quiet to keep me busy in the same room with the adults.

There were certain places in Mamie and Bumpa's big house where there were always a few things to keep me occupied.  Long before I was born, Mamie and Bumpa bought an antique grandfather clock.  They bought new works for the inside (a kit) and placed the working timepiece in the their front living room.  Looking back, I can see the wisdom of the placement of that clock.  It had a magnificent chime that reverberated through the house.  That particular room was farthest from their bedroom!  Anyway, it also had a little door at its base with two little shelves in it.  Mamie kept five or six books in there.  Although they never varied, it was always fun for me to sit in the small black rocking chair near that clock, open the door and read the books.  She also kept a Fisher Price television music box, like the one below,  in there.
It was pretty high tech for a child of the 1960s.  I was fascinated by it and always wound it up to watch the pictures go by on the screen.

Mamie kept crayons and coloring books in another room.  There was a tall, narrow door with a funny latch to the crayon cupboard.  Mamie kept all sorts of other, non-child, things in it, too, but the crayon tin was what interested me.  She would get out the tin, put it on the floor, and when she opened it, I would just inhale that distinct crayon smell.  I spent hours coloring to the sound of laughter and reminiscing of my relatives.  

On almost every visit to the big red house, Mamie would have a new set of paper dolls waiting for me.  I loved the kind that punched out.  If I had to cut them, it took SO long before I could actually play with them.  I remember all sorts of styles; little baby, historical, fancy, etc.  I went looking for some examples online and found a site that actually has some that you can print out.  I think, in a year or two, I will introduce my own little girl to paper dolls.  

When Mamie played with me, we would often get out her card tables and a bunch of blankets and build homes by draping the blankets over the tables.  Mamie got right down on the floor with me and had tea parties under the tables with me.  On other occasions, we would head upstairs to a huge dresser that contained all of the hats that Mamie or my mom had worn to fancy occasions.  Each drawer had about five or six hats.  I spent hours putting them on, modeling them, pretending in them, and always, always putting them carefully back in their special spot.   Dress up was so much fun with a long staircase to walk down and a big room to use as a "runway."  Bumpa would look up from his newspaper or turn down the television to clap.

Looking back, I am amazed at how few actual toys there were at Mamie and Bumpa's house.  I didn't bring any with me from home, either.  Yet, those visits to their house were so much fun for me.  The anticipation of finding the same toys in the same places, thinking that they were waiting just for me was as much fun as the actual playing with them.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pasta al Roquefort: Your Recipe, My Kitchen

This week, I am featuring a recipe from Culinary Flavors, written by my good friend, Katerina.  She lives in Greece with her husband and son.  I just love her recipes.  They all sound so good.  I happened to have some bleu cheese that I wanted to use up and I immediately thought of her Spaghetti al Roquefort that she posted in December.  It sounded so good that it stuck in my mind all this time.  I didn't even have to look up my bookmark to know just where to find it.
Any kind of pasta will do for the base.  Katerina used spaghetti, I used whole wheat penne.  The sauce is so good, it would go well on rice or a baked potato, too.  It would even taste fabulous as a sauce on a sandwich.  I had a hard time not eating it by the spoonful while I waited for the family to gather around the table.  

I was a bit of a chicken and only used 1/3 cup of bleu cheese.  Katerina used grams to say how much to use.  I think 150 grams is closer to 2/3 cup.  None of my kids think they like bleu cheese by itself, so I thought I would sneak it into the sauce.  It was a success.  They all thought the sauce was delicious.

Pasta al Roquefort: (adapted from Culinary Flavors)
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cans evaporated milk
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 box pasta, cooked according to package directions
In a large saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour until smooth.  Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth.  Grate some nutmeg into the milk.  Stir constantly over medium low heat until it starts to thicken.  Remove from heat and stir in bleu cheese until melted and well incorporated.   Temper the egg with a little hot liquid and then add back into the sauce.  Return to the stove and heat until it simmers slightly, but doesn't come to a full boil.  Remove from heat and serve over hot pasta.
What have you made this week?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Stories: Ramblings

Forgive me this week, my mind is fully occupied with our move and I am not sure there will be a coherent post today.  I am thinking about packing everything up and wondering how soon is too soon to fill our rooms with boxes.  I tend to be the type of person who packs a week early for vacations.  If I pack everything up too soon, however,  we will end up opening boxes, looking for things we need.  If I wait too long, we will be throwing things willy-nilly into boxes while the moving truck idles in our driveway.  There is a fine balance here.  And it's keeping me up at night!

Mostly, though, I wonder how my little family is going to handle the move.   When we adopted our rainbow kids, we lived in Western Washington state, one of the most diverse, liberal and accepting places in the country.  Although we got some curious looks as two white parents walking through the mall with brown children, no one thought too much of it.  We belonged to a couple of support groups made up of families like ours.  When my oldest son started Kindergarten, he went to school with children from Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Central America, and Africa. Out of 20 kids, there were maybe 5 white Anglo-Saxon children.

I know there are a lot of people who, when they adopt children from other ethnic backgrounds,  make a big deal of celebrating it.  I have known people who decorate their homes with African art and dress their little toddlers in traditional African costumes.  Well, that just wasn't my style.  All four of my brown boys came out of little blond white girls and would have been raised in white homes if they hadn't been placed with us.  Heck, we don't even know what my oldest and youngest sons' ethnicities are!  So, in our house, we are all just people of varying shades.

But the South scares me a little, and because I didn't keep my big mouth shut, it scares my second son a little, too.  Is there a lot of racial discrimination in Florida?  If a brown boy acts white, will he be beaten up?  Am I crazy?  Maybe I should worry more about the exotic pets that have been released into the wild and the indigenous creatures like snakes and alligators (thanks, Animal Cops Miami).  Or maybe the fact that Jacksonville feels the fury of a hurricane on average every 2.5 years and fall 2011 is when they are due.  Which would you pick to worry about?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Donut Muffins

This post has been sitting in my files for over a year.   I posted a coffee cake that is incredibly donut like a couple of years ago (with no photo...working on that one, too).  It is still a favorite.  These are like tiny handheld versions.  They are always a hit with my sugar loving crew.  The nutmeg gives them a definite donut flavor.

On a completely different note, I have a question for you.  How much preamble do you like to read before you get to the recipe?  It seems like sometimes I drone on and on and other times I have a quick paragraph like the one above.  I have noticed that I have retreated a bit back into the recipes versus sharing things about my real life.   Sorry.  I have 6 weeks before I move to Jacksonville.  My husband is in San Fransisco until next week, when he heads to Florida to find us a place to live (I know, we are cutting it close).  School ends on the 26th; next week.  My calendar is filled with end of the year activities..and doctor appointments.  I had to get all 5 kids in for physicals so that they can transfer to FL schools.  Right after Memorial Day, my oldest two boys go on to a church camp for 4 days.  The next Monday, my oldest heads off to a summer school program at a local college until the Friday before we move.  The last week in June my younger 3 boys will be at Boy Scout camp.  I don't know if I can fit anymore in. ;-)

Donut Muffins:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup melted butter
Combine the egg, 1/3 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar and milk in a bowl.  In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until just moist.  Scoop into a greased muffin tin.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  While still warm, but not hot enough to burn you, dip the tops of the muffins in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar mixture, covering evenly with sugar.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Challah Bread: The Secret Recipe Club

It's time once again for The Secret Recipe Club.  Our numbers have tripled since last month.  If you would like to join us, visit this link and fill out the form.  As long as you let Amanda know before the assignments are handed out, you don't have to participate every month.  It's been a lot of fun, though, visiting new blogs and reading all of the great recipes.  This month, I was given Flamingo Musings from which to find a recipe.  I enjoyed  reading through her blog and frankly, was having a hard time choosing until I happened upon her Challah bread.  Challah has been on my culinary bucket list for years and here was a chance to cross it off!  There is something about saying Challah with that guttural "ch," that always makes me smile.

Because this was a spiral bread, I still have to find a braided bread to make someday or better yet, perhaps I will double this recipe and braid it next time.  This was truly a wonderful bread.  It's all rich and a brioche but without the milk.  Anyway, I served it as a side with some beef stew.  My kids went through the first loaf like nobody's business and were well into the second by the time dinner was over.  I will probably toast the rest.
The recipe calls for tenting the bread with a paper sack after 10 minutes.  I did, for about 10 minutes, and then started freaking out that the paper was going to catch on fire in my gas oven, so I removed it after yet another 10 minutes.  I don't think the bread got too brown, so, if you are a worry wart, like me, go ahead and remove it after a bit.

Challah (adapted from Flamingo Musings)
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp instant yeast
3 whole eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
4-5 cups flour (I use Blue Bird - it's 100% wheat and comes in a cotton flour sack!)
In a mixing bowl, combine the warm water and the yeast.  Let it bubble and then add the sugar and salt.  Melt the butter in a small microwavable bowl and then add the eggs to the butter to cool it down (make sure it's not so hot that it cooks the eggs, though!).  Add the egg mixture to the yeast mixture and stir a bit.  Add 4 cups of the flour to the dough and stir by hand or use a dough hood attachment on a stand mixer.  Slowly add the last cup until you have a firm, smooth dough.  Knead for 5 minutes in the machine or on a floured surface.  Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.  Punch down and divide in half.  Roll each half into a long snake with one end fatter than the other.  Starting with the fat end roll up in a spiral and place the beehive looking loaves on either a greased baking sheet or a silpat lined one.  Cover and let rise another hour.  Brush with an egg wash (1 egg + 1 tsp water) and sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, tenting with that paper sack after 10 minutes.   Let cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Your Recipe, My Kitchen

This week, I am doing something a little different.  Once a month I participate in The Secret Recipe Club, a group of bloggers that are assigned a blog within the group and then get to make one of the recipes from that blog.  If you would like to sign up and participate with us next month, here is the link.

Anyway, I just cannot post two recipes from two blogs on one day, so I am linking my own post down below.  It's a Challah Bread from Flamingo Musings.  The post will be up Monday at 4am (that's 6am CDT, but I am on Phoenix time...we don't do Daylight Savings here in Arizona, so during the summer we are on Pacific time and in the winter we are on Mountain time...gets confusing).

Let's see what you have made this week!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Stories: Finding Relatives

I had a slightly unusual childhood...maybe.  At least from what I have gathered from friends, it seems a bit different.  Because my father was a career military man, we moved far away from upstate New York where both of my parents grew up.  Every two or three years (or sometimes three times in one year), we would move to some place new.  As a result, I never put down any real roots.  When I was little, a move meant never seeing friends again.  I was not much of a pen pal until my teenage years and even then, I only wrote to a handful of people for a handful of years.  I have no history with my cousins.  Perhaps that is why I write this feature each week.  I have a deep rooted wish for family ties.

Fast forward a few decades to present time.  I haven't been back to New York since 1990.  My husband and I were newly married and didn't have kids, so we decided to meet my parents back there for a reunion.  I met cousins that I hadn't seen in years and saw my great grand mother for the last time.  After that I started a communication with one of my first cousins.  It was a start (seeings I only have five 1st cousins, that's 20%).

When I joined Facebook, albeit reluctantly, I thought I would initially use it to monitor my sons and keep in touch with current friends.  Then, I realized that I could look for old friends and family, the people that I hadn't seen since I was little.  I found a second cousin that I lived near when I was nine.  He and I were really good friends back then, but his mother died during that time (she was my father's first cousin) and I had moved away.  After connecting on Facebook, he and I were able to actually meet  and have lunch one day when I was visiting my in-laws in Seattle.  How cool was that?!

Then, I was doing some research on and came across a family tree submitted by another second cousin on my father's side.  It was a gal that I had only met a few times, but I found her on Facebook, too and have renewed a friendship with her, too.  So many of my  uncles and aunts only had one or two children, so there seems to be less family than there was a generation ago.  We are spread out across the United States.  A physical reunion seems pretty impossible, but through the internet, we are able to get together and keep the family bonds together.

I am not in anyway affiliated with Facebook, but it sure has opened doors that seemed nailed shut.  I am so glad to have found a few cousins, to be able to keep track of my brothers who are scattered around the Midwest and South, to be able to send pictures to my sisters-in-law on the West coast and even to chat with my husband when he is out of town on business (maybe that should have been first in this list).

Have any of you been able to reconnect with friends or loved ones because of the internet?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cranberry Crumb Muffins

I am going crazy trying to repost all of the scheduled things that Blogger lost for me yesterday.  Just saying.

It always seems like just about the time that Spring is ending and the temperatures start to climb above 80 degrees, I start wanting things made from cranberries and pumpkin.  There are nary a fresh pumpkin or cranberry in sight at the grocery stores, but that doesn't stop me, because I plan ahead.  My freezer has quite a few bags of cranberries and containers of frozen pumpkin puree.    Hope you don't mind, because you may see quite a few recipes using those ingredients in the next month or so.  Once the summer heat is truly here, I won't feel much like baking at all, so I have to get my fix while I can.
I really wanted cranberry orange muffins, but all I had in the produce drawer were a few measly tangerines and some lemons.  I juiced what little I could get out of the Cuties and then zested the lemon.  It only gave the muffins a tiny hint of citrus.  Next time I will make sure there are some oranges around before I make these.  Then I will increase the orange juice to 1/2 cup and decrease the milk to 1/2 cup. 
Cranberry Crumb Muffins (adapted from Taste of Home)
1 bag frozen cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup milk
zest from 1 lemon, chopped
1 heaping Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
In a bowl, combine the cranberries with 1/4 cup sugar and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, oil, orange juice, milk and lemon zest.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just mixed.  Fold in the sugared cranberries.  Spoon the batter into 18 greased muffin cups.  Combine the remaining sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle it over all the muffins.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until done.  Let sit in the muffin tin for 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool.  

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rye Spelt Bread

Have you ever gone into a grocery store and bought ingredients because you have always wanted to use them, but really had no particular plan?  That happened to me a little while ago.  I was in a health food store (a very dangerous place for me) and got stuck in the bulk food section.  I kept thinking about how I really needed to make more whole grain breads.  So, I bagged up a few cups of spelt flour, rye flour, sorghum flour and, well, even more and took them home to my freezer.  This last week, I decided to tackle "odd flours."

I found a recipe for rye bread that had no caraway in it and then tweaked it so much that it hardly resembled the original.  I threw in spelt flour for part of the all purpose flour.  I cut the three sweeteners down to one.  I added a bit more salt.  You get the idea.  The result was a lovely brown bread (I used molasses as the sweetener) that became a fantastic breakfast toast...especially with peanut butter or a great side with butter at dinner.

Rye Spelt Bread: (slightly resembling a recipe from Taste at Home)
1 Tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp warm water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
3 Tbsp molasses
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups dark rye flour
1 cup spelt flour
4 cups all purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Warm up the milk in the microwave until it is no longer cold.  Add the milk, oil, molasses and salt to the yeast mixture.  Stir  in the rye, spelt and 2 cups of the all purpose flour.  Continue to add the rest of the all purpose flour until a nice soft dough forms.  Knead with a dough hook or by hand for 5-10 minutes.  Cover it and let it rise in a warm place until double (about an hour).  Punch down and shape into two loaves and place into two greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until at least 1 inch about the rim of the pan.  Bake 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.  Brush top of loaves with butter.  Let cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Your Recipe, My Kitchen: Shrimp Fajitas

These fajitas almost didn't make it into this post.  I had been meaning to make them ever since I drooled over Jennifurla's post  on her blog Indigo's Sugar Spectrum back in April.  Then, when I finally did, it was a comedy of errors on my part.  First of all, I neglected to read the package of shrimp in full detail.  Yes, they were deveined.  No, they weren't shelled.  That little bit of information would have saved me quite a bit of frustration a few hours later if I had paid attention.  So not only did I learn that I should read shrimp packages very, very carefully, I learned that marinating shrimp in the shell is a little like salting an unpeeled egg.  Yeah.  Doesn't really work.
After mixing up the marinade and placing the impervious shrimp in the fridge for a few hours, I brought them out to cook them.  I place about twelve in a pan with oil, tossed them around, smiled as they turned pink and then looked at them.  I mean really looked at them.  Egads!  Shells!  How awful to bit into a fajita only to have to spit out the yucky parts.  Paaa-tooey!  It was nearing dinner time and what was I doing?  I was shelling the uncooked shrimp with marinade all over my hands.  
Luckily, it all ended up okay.  There was enough marinade in which to cook the shrimp.  I added caramelized onions to the cooked shrimp and served them in warmed tortillas.  I served the cilantro lime sauce on the side, but ended up opening up the fajita and pouring the sauce inside.   They were delicious.  I can only imagine how well they would taste if I had done everything right.   I am still working on that.

Shrimp Fajitas (adapted from Indigo Sugar Spectrum)
2 pound shrimp (carefully shelled as well as deveined)
1/4 cup chile flavored olive oil
3 Tbsp dried cilantro
4 cloves minced garlic
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
Mix marinade and place shrimp in it.  Refrigerate 2 hours.  Cook in olive oil in a single layer over medium heat until the shrimp turns a lovely pink color.  Remove to a bowl and continue cooking the rest until all is done.  Pour the remaining marinade in with the last bit of shrimp to be cooked so you can use it in the tortillas.  Serve with sauted peppers and or caramelized onions and the following sauce.

Cilantro Lime Sauce (also adapted from Indigo's Sugar Spectrum)
2 cups sour cream
3 drops Tobasco sauce
juice of 1 lime
3 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp dried cilantro
Whirl all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
Homemaker Monday
Mouth Watering Monday

Now it's your turn.  Please be sure to link back to this blog as well as to link directly to a post on your side of things.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Stories: Things I Learned From My Mom

Since I was old enough to be as tall as my mom, people have told us how alike we are.  I have never thought that we actually looked much like each other, but our mannerisms, the timbre of our voices and our likes and dislikes are definitely similar.   If you were to call me on the phone and then moments later call my mom, you would have a hard time figuring out who was who.  If you were to watch us talk, you would see us make the same gestures with our hands and hear us laugh the same way.  If you were to ask us our favorite things to do, we'd both say cook, read and garden.  Alone in the family, we both love opera, cranking up classical music while we cook or drive, singing along to arias that we have no business, with our voices, singing along with!

However, there are deeper things that my mom has taught me, that have stuck,  for which I will always be thankful.  I thought, because tomorrow is Mother's Day, I would share a few with you.

Mom taught me to serve willingly.   When I was young, Mom was always serving on one committee or another.  She helped out with PTO fundraisers, she edited Officer's Wives' Newsletters, she served in all sorts of positions at church with ladies, teenagers and children.  Always, she followed through with any assignments, doing her best, giving 110%.   Everyone always knew they could call on her to help.

Mom taught me to be organized.  She was never a procrastinator.  If she had to teach Sunday School, that lesson was planned as soon as she got the assignment.  If she was having a dinner party, the menu and schedule for that night was written down at least a week in advance.  She told me that in school, her papers and projects were done and ready to hand in within days of the teacher giving the homework.  Some of this was due to her being a worrier.  Planning and preparing helped her sleep better at night!

Mom taught me to work hard.  From the time I was old enough, I was given chores and expected to do them.  She showed me how to change the sheets on my bed when I was five.  I still remember how frustrated I got trying to get that last corner of the fitted sheet over the mattress.  She made me work on it until I could do it.  I was eight when I started cleaning my own bathroom and wash the dishes.  If I didn't do a good job, she would send me back to redo the task.   When I tried to cheat on a task, she was there to teach me that a job worth doing was worth doing well.

Mom taught me to take care with my appearance.  Mom took time to look good every night when my dad came home from work.  When they went out together, she made sure their clothes were pressed, mended and ready to go.  She "put on her face" every morning before I even got up.  In fact, I don't remember ever seeing her without make up when I was young.

Along those same lines, Mom taught me to be ladylike.  Manners were extremely important.  Not only did we always say please and thank you, there was no coarse language spoken in my presence.  Often I was told, "young ladies do not do that" and so I didn't.  Dresses were worn for church, concerts and traveling.  Sitting tall, crossing my ankles, not pointing, using the proper fork, serving from the right...all of these things were just what we did.   I remember sitting in church next to mom when I was about five or six.  I became fidgety and was twirling my fingers.  Mom quelled my actions with a look and I sat still for the rest of the service.

I cannot say that there was any one moment of teaching or any single great lesson that I learned from Mom, but so much of who I am I owe to her.   I love you, Mom.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Curried Morel Shortbread with Morel Chutney Cheese: Marx Foods Morel Challenge!

It's time for Marx Foods' 3rd Annual Morel Mushroom Recipe Challenge!  Each year, a group of bloggers is sent a sample of dried Morels and is asked to create an original recipe using these lovelies.  This year, we participants were asked to make an appetizer (which shot my Maple Monte Cristo sandwich idea right out the door!). Have you tried morels?  I didn't take any pictures of the mushrooms before I turned them into "cheese and crackers," but you can visit Marxfoods here to read all about them.  I thought they looked a bit like a little old lady's old-fashioned swim cap....with flowers.
I am afraid I spoiled my dinner on these little sweeties.  The shortbread rounds aren't actually sweet, but have a nice curry flavor mixed with the nutty flavor of the morels.  The cheese is slightly sweet and is a nice compliment to the savory of the shortbread.  They would make a luscious addition to an appetizer buffet.  

Curried Morel Shortbread
8 ounce brick cream cheese
1/2 cup +3 Tbsp softened butter
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup reconstituted, chopped morels, sauted for 2 minutes in olive oil
With a mixer, combine the butter, cream cheese, sugar, curry powder, salt and poppy seeds.  Add the flour and mushrooms and blend until a dough forms.  Roll into a log, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Slice into 1/8 inch thick rounds, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Morel Chutney Cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Muenster cheese (or any really mild cheese like Havarti or even Mozzarella)
1/2 cup chopped reconstituted morels
1/4 cup apple poppy seed salad dressing (I used Girard's)
2-3 Tbsp mango chutney (I used Major Grey's)
Saute the morels in the apple poppy seed salad dressing for 2 minutes.  Drain off the remaining dressing.  Beat the cream cheese and cheese until fluffy.  Add the morels and chutney and whip until well mixed.  Place in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

(this post originally aired in April 09, but without pictures)

 After my sister in law was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, we received a huge box of Jell-o, ice cream syrups, candies, puddings and other sugar filled things from her house.  It was an attempt to remove the temptation so she could get her diet under control.  My kids ate a ton of just plain Jell-o, but I also tried to get a little fancy, too.
This is where I say how very wonderful I think the internet is. I just did an internet search for  jell-o and yellow cake mix and Voila! at least 3 different ways to use it appeared on my screen. This is the one I chose.  It's a step away from the traditional poke cakes and it totally works for me!  The kids loved the flavor, I loved the redeeming fact that there was actual fruit in the cake.   I should mention, yet again, that I have no, zilch, nothing when it comes to cake decorating talent.  I absent-mindedly added too much liquid to the frosting and got more of a glaze...a gloppy, unattractive, but tasty glaze.  Luckily, I don't have harsh critics in my home when it comes to presentation.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake
1pkg yellow cake mix 1 6oz pkg strawberry Jell-O
dash of salt
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups frozen strawberries, thawed (keep juice for frosting)
3 eggs
Combine cake mix and jell-o. Add strawberries (drained) Add oil, water and eggs, beat 5 minutes. Bake in 2 layers, 350 degrees for 30 minutes(LINE PANS WITH WAX PAPER)
1 stick of butter, melted
dash salt
1/2 cup strawberry juice (drained from berries in cake)
4 cups powdered sugar
Combine butter, salt and juice. Beat in sugar a cup at a time until until smooth and a good spreading consistency.  When cake is cooled, spread filling in between layers and on the top.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies

My grandmother was the head baker for a school district when I was a little girl.  It was back in the days when schools served homemade food.  She went to work early, early, early in the morning and baked dozens upon dozens of cookies, tarts or cakes every day. This is one of her recipes.

I had to make them before we move from Arizona because they don't last in a damp climate.  I made them when we lived in Seattle and the marshmallows dissolved the next day.  SO.  If you live in a humid area, plan on eating all of them the first day.   That's not really a hard thing to do.  They taste like a homemade SuzieQ.  Yum.
I was a little chintzy with the frosting, I think the next time I make them, I will glop it on a bit more so the marshmallows are more covered.  

Chewy Marshmallow Cookies
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
24 regular marshmallows cut in half
2 cups powdered sugar
5 Tbsp cocoa
3 Tbsp melted butter
6-8 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk.  Drop small spoonfuls of dough on a greased or lined cookie sheet.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7 minutes.  Bring out of the oven, press the marshmallow halves cut side down into the cookies and return to the oven for 2 more minutes of baking.   Remove to a wire rack.  Beat the frosting ingredients together and drizzle over the cookies.  If the frosting doesn't drizzle, add more milk.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hard Boiled Egg Cookies: Your Recipe, My Kitchen

Princess Pat, my four year old, came home from preschool last week with a dyed egg.  Her Easter party had been postponed due to an unexpected death in her teacher's family.  The egg was shown to everyone in the family. Then it was reluctantly placed in the fridge, only to be gotten out at least two or three more times that day.  She cradled it and talked to it.  When I asked her if she wanted to eat it, she looked at me with something akin to horror and said, "No!!"  I tried to explain that the egg was not going to last a long time, that in fact, it may turn a bit stinky if she didn't make a plan for it.  Then, I remembered a recipe I had seen recently on  Baking and Boys involving hard boiled eggs and cookies.  "How would you like to help Mommy make some cookies out of your egg?"  I asked her.  She can never resist helping in the kitchen.  After she peeled the egg all by herself, she gladly supervised the rest of the cookie making, too.
Because this was a completely new to me kind of cookie, I actually followed the recipe...except that I substituted pecans for the walnuts.   I was a little worried because Katrina said the cookie dough would be crumbly and mine wasn't.  I also have a really hot oven, so I took another minute off the time.  They turned out just right, though.  The recipe made 8 big, thick cookies.  Princess Pat ate 2 1/2 of them.  I don't know if it was pride of ownership or what, but she gobbled them up!  My other kids thought they were great, too.  This is a great alternative to Deviled Eggs after dyeing eggs for Easter.

Hard Boiled Egg Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (created through a collaboration of three bloggers: Katrina of Baking and Boys, Anna of Cookie Madness and Rita of Clumsy Cookie)
1 stick butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick oats
4 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins
In a large food processor, pulse flour and butter until crumbly.  Add sugars, honey, salt, soda, cinnamon and vanilla.  Pulse again (here is where my dough became pretty stiff).  Add oats and pulse.  Add  the chopped egg and pulse again until combined.  (I could still see a few bits of egg and wondered if that would be a problem, but it wasn't).  Pour/spoon the dough out into a mixing bowl and work the raisins and nuts into the dough with your hands.  Form it into a symmetrical shape and cut it into 8 equal pieces (the original recipe said 9 pieces, but I am better at halvsies than thirds). Place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.  Do not over bake!  Let cool on baking sheet then remove to a wire rack.  (The cookies don't spread much).

Now it's your turn. What have you made this week that has been in your bookmarked pile (blogs, cookbooks, etc)?  Please be courteous and link back to this blog, as well as to link directly to your post!

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