Thursday, January 31, 2013

A REALLY GOOD BOOK AND A REALLY GOOD BATCH OF COOKIES

A REALLY GOOD BOOK

I don't know what it is about reading a book, the house is quiet, and I have to stop and bake a batch of cookies.  In case you are wondering, I don't sit there and eat them while I am reading.  I'll eat one after they come out of the oven, but that's all.

Last year, I didn't read many of the books in the Northland New Neighbors Book Club that I attend.  So that meant I didn't attend many of the monthly meetings.  Even though I really enjoy the group of women who attend, I just don't enjoy sitting with a group and not really knowing what they are talking about or being able to join in.  (I do like to talk....guess I taught school too long.)

Anyway I read the book for December, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson (yeah I know it was written for children, but when Christmas comes around, everyone is a child).  I love the book.

I decided that this year I would try to do better and read the books. For January we read Emma by Jane Austin.  I made it half way through the book, but did go since I knew the story....I have seen so many adaptations of it on TV.  and I read the Clift Notes online.

For February the book we will be discussing is Too Close to the Falls ---  A Memoir by Catherine Gildiner. 

I usually like to read the book the week (end) before we meet so that everything is fresh on my mind, but our fantastic library system here in the Kansas City area only had a few copies. (I'm not "knocking" our library....it really is fantastic.  They just don't have a lot of copies of some of the books we want to read sometimes.)  Deb who is leading the discussion had her own personal copy, so I took it at the last meeting and said I would "pass it on" when I finished it.  Oh Dear!  That meant I had to read it early.  I took a lot of notes at the beginning, but that slowed me down even more than my "reading every word to myself with expression" way I read.  

I just finished the book (anxious to hear the discussion about the ending) and
 I loved it.  Catherine was born the year after I was, so I could relate to some of what she talked out.  I am not Catholic so I couldn't relate to attending Catholic School, but I am sure some of the book club members did, so will look forward to what they have to say about that part of the story.

Anyway even if you didn't grow up in the 50s, I can't believe you could read this book and not enjoy a "laugh-a-minute".

Oh, and you can make my cookies too.  They  are really, really good, too. 




A REALLY GOOD BATCH OF COOKIES




OATMEAL CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

2/3     cup butter or margarine, softened
2/3     cup light brown sugar (packed)
2        large eggs
1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1        teaspoon baking soda
1/2     teaspoon salt
1        6-ounce package dried cranberries (I used a 5-ounce pkg of reduced sugar dried cranberries)
2/3     cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, mixing well.

Combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate mixing bowl with a whisk.

Add oat mixture to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition.

Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  (I used my small scoop)

bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. (10 minutes was enough for mine.)

Cool 2 minutes

Remove and finish cooling on wire rack.

Made 3-1/2 dozen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

If you check out my blog very often, especially the recipes, you know I usually change recipes to reduce the calories.  I also choose to make "breads" in mini pans so that I can freeze them and bring out to eat later.  Besides providing variety, we don't have a big loaf tempting us to eat it before it gets old.  

I saved this recipe recently from Smart Balance.  I was attracted to it for three reasons: 1)  Smart Balance had already done a lot to reduce the calories, 2) they were muffins so that meant not a lot to eat at a time, and 3) they were made using bananas and chocolate chips---two of my favorite ingredients to cook (bake) with.

Since this recipe made muffins, it gave me a perfect chance to use a muffin tin I got at a garage sale that had never been used for $5.  It was still in the box and included the booklet that came with it.  
(look closely at the picture....do you see the optical illusion I see?  Are you looking at the top side or the under side of the muffin pan? Neat!)

Sorry, back to the recipe.  The only change I made was using whole wheat pastry flour instead of just whole wheat flour.






BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS


3       medium bananas mashed (I used 1-1/2 cup mashed bananas)
1/3    cup unsweetened applesauce
1-1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4    teaspoon baking soda
1/4    teaspoon salt
2       tablespoon margarine, softened
1/3    cup light brown sugar (packed)
2       large eggs (whites only)
1/2    teaspoon vanilla
1/2    cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt with a whisk.

Mash the bananas in a small bowl.  

Separate the yokes and the egg white in two bowls.  You only use the egg whites in this recipe.

Cream the margarine and brown sugar in mixer til smooth.  Add the egg whites, mashed bananas, and vanilla.  Beat til completely combined.  Scrape sides of bowl as necessary.

Add the flour mixture and combine on low speed.  Scrape the sides of the bowl.  Add the chocolate chips and stir them in.

Fill the muffin tin 

and bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Check doneness with the toothpick test.

Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Then remove muffins and continue cooling them

Aren't they just the cutest things?


I decided to "dust" some with sifted powdered sugar





















Then I mixed up a little powdered sugar and milk and made a glaze for some



















and left one little "guy" alone.













When I filled the muffin tin, I had about "one muffin" batter left.  One of the gifts I got at Christmas from my CO grandkids, was two mini pie pans and two mini bundt pans.  I decided I would take the leftover batter and make one mini bundt "cake".  I could have used a little bit more batter so I decided to "cover" the top with chocolate chips.  (It also gave it some chips since there were very few chips in the leftover batter.)  


Here it is before I cooked it.










and after I took it out.  It's really cute too.  I left it just like that.











I didn't tell you how good these muffins are, but then you know they are.....I wouldn't share any recipe with you that wasn't excellent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

CHEDDAR BACON CHICKEN TENDERS

Yesterday at this time it was above 70 degrees.  Right now it is 40 degrees.  It was raining when I got up this morning, even had some thunder. By in the morning I think we could have 1-4 inches of snow....or at least that's what a customer told me today when I was "working" at Hillcrest Thrift Shop. We really needed the rain.  We are about 19 inches below normal for the past 12 months.   

I am so excited to share a new recipe I tried for baked chicken last night.  It is a recipe I found from Betty Crocker.  I had to make a couple of changes but my husband said it was perfect the way I made it so that's good enough for me.



CHEDDAR BACON CHICKEN TENDERS

1-2    large egg(s)
1/2   cup bread crumbs (I make my own from bread)
1/2   cup shredded cheddar cheese (chopped)
1/4   cup bacon bits (I cooked 4 strips of bacon and crumbled them)*see tip alert below*
1/2   lb (4) chicken tenders

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray OR use parchment paper(that's what I plan to do next time).


Beat egg in a shallow dish.  Mix bread crumbs, cheese, and crumbled bacon in a ziplock bag. (I think it would also work if you had this mixture in a pie plate and dip chicken in it.)



Dip chicken strip in egg mixture










and flip over coating well.










Drop in bag and shake.










Then return to egg mixture and coat again on both sides.


Return to bag and shake again. (or use your hand to cover the strip.) 

Repeat til all 4 strips have been coated.


After I had the 4 strips on the cookie sheet, I took some more of the "coating mixture", and made sure the top of the strip was covered.







I cooked mine about 23 minutes and called my husband to dinner. He really liked the dish....and I did too.










TIP ALERT!   A FAST EASY WAY TO COOK BACON IN THE MICROWAVE

My uncle Jim showed me this way to cook bacon in the microwave a number of years ago.  I also use my microwave bacon "pan" but I think you could use any dish that you can put in the microwave.

First cover the dish with two layers of paper towels.

Then place bacon strips on top.

Lastly, cover bacon with one layer of paper towels.

You might have to experiment with the time to cook since microwaves are different.

I cooked these two strips 1 minute and 45 seconds for crispy (which is perfect if you are wanting to make bacon bits.) 

If you are cooking bacon to eat and you don't like crispy bacon, this method works, just cook it less time.  It will also make a difference if you are using thick bacon or thinner bacon.  I especially like the method because the paper towel soaks up so much of the grease.  At least I don't feel so guilty about eating it then.

Monday, January 28, 2013

AN EVENING WITH MADSION & TYLER

Saturday night our son Patrick invited us to come eat chili with him and his family.  (I will be featuring his chili recipe in another post.)  Since we hadn't seen Lori and the grandkids since Christmas Eve, I was really anxious to see them and see how much the kids had grown.  

Tyler will be a year on February 28 and if you saw the pictures I shared of our Christmas Eve, (HERE) he hadn't quite gotten the whole concept re crawling at that time.  He would get up on all fours, but then didn't know what to do. He also loved to stand up while holding on to things, but that was it.  I was looking forward to seeing him crawl.

I had difficulty getting a picture of Madison on Christmas Eve that was totally clear because she is constantly on the move.  That hasn't changed too much.  She is talking more and quite smart.  She is almost two and a half.

I hope you will enjoy my pictures of our fun evening.




Tyler walking behind one of his toys.















Madison new hairdo (new to us at least)













Tyler giving his daddy a big smile and showing off his cute dimple.









Madison is showing off her knowledge to her grandad and of course she has sound effects or motions for some of them.











Tyler is checking out his grandmother while "standing" at the same time.







Here he almost looks like he is really standing.  Won't be long.  (Patrick and Lori said he has done a complete  "belly flop" three times to the floor.)






Madison and Tyler sharing a moment together.  Tyler was putting something in his mouth.








A quiet moment when Madison is enjoying some cookies and cream ice cream following dinner.  She handles a spoon so well.  Lori said she had taught herself.  I told Lori she had watched them and just imitated them.






After dinner, playing with Grandad in the floor.











Tyler has yet to "cut a tooth" so everything goes to his mouth.













She does quiet down and shows her pretty smile.

















and one last one of Tyler.









Saturday, January 26, 2013

PEPPERMINT CRUNCH SUGAR COOKIES

Last Friday Janice and I went to the River Market Antiques downtown close to the City Market.  It is an old building with 3 stories of antiques of different vendors.  It is hard to go there and not come out with something you can't live without.  

I got some darling small (one scoop size) ice cream dishes that I plan to take to my CO grandchildren the next time we go visit them.  Janice found some small Christmas cookie cutters to use when she bakes Christmas cookies with her two granddaughters...never too early to get ready.  I found a heart cookie cutter just like what I was looking for....I used to have one but it didn't make the move from CA with us.  I also bought a stand-alone cabinet for my kitchen.  Now I have a cabinet for my small appliances and some more work area.  I can also keep my mixer out now.

I was really excited about finding the heart cookie cutter because I wanted to make some Valentine cookies.  I had bought a bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch candies thinking they would be perfect to chop up and add to a cookie recipe.

Thursday afternoon I decided I would try it out so I could take some to share with my friends when we played cards the next day.  I have to have someone help me eat all these "goodies" I make.  

I like to make recipes from "scratch" but I also am willing to take shortcuts.  The Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie cookie mix is one of those shortcuts I really like.

I got the stick of margarine out to let it sorta come to room temperature while I chopped the candies.  I guess I should say while I "unwrapped" and chopped the candies.  After I chopped about 10 of the candies, I noticed on  the back of the cookie mix that if you were going to make "cutout" cookies, you only used 1/3 cup of margarine.  So I cut that amount off the stick of margarine and then put the extra back in the frig.

After I chopped the 10 candies, I put them in a measuring cup to see how much I had. I wasn't sure how much I was going to use in the cookie, but since it wasn't a cup, I unwrapped 10 more and chopped them up. Then I got an idea I should only put 1 cup in the mix and I could use the extra and sprinkle on top.  (You will end up probably chopping all of the candies in the bag.)

I also wanted to make the cookies red and so since I had some Wilton red food coloring, I decided to use it.  I thought I would start with 1/4 teaspoon and see what that looked like and then add more if the dough wasn't red enough.  It was perfect so I didn't add any more.


This is one of the better looking ones I made.











Here is my recipe:


ANDES PEPPERMINT CRUNCH SUGAR COOKIES

1    pkg Sugar Cookie cookie mix (17.5 oz)
1/3 cup margarine
1    tablespoon flour
1    egg
1/4 teaspoon Wilton red food coloring
1    pkg Andes Peppermint Crunch candies




Unwrap and chop the candies measuring 1 cup to add to the cookie mix


  







Stir flour into dry cookie mix thoroughly. (I used the whisk attachment for my mixer.)









Add the soften margarine and egg 











Add the chopped candies before the soft dough forms. 










And add the red food coloring.












After the soft dough formed, I put the bowl in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. (The cookie mix doesn't say to do this.)  The dough isn't as likely to stick to the rolling pin if you do this.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  You will use a ungreased cookie sheet.


"Flour" surface you plan to roll the cookies out on with SUGAR.  I love my tempered glass cutting "board" for rolling out dough.  Dough doesn't stick to it.





Make a ball with about half of the dough and roll it out about 1/4 inch thick.  Put the rest back in the frig.







Using a cookie cutter, (heart shape for Valentines) cut your cookies as closely as you can from the dough.
Add the leftover dough back in the bowl with the rest and take out some new, if you didn't have a cookie sheet full.



Place on cookie sheet and allow room for the cookies to spread when they bake.  Sprinkle more chopped candies on top to bake.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet before removing them to a wire rack to cool.  


The picture on the right was the first pan I cooked.  I wasn't sure how much candies to sprinkle on top. 


This is what they looked like after I took them out of the oven.  


I realized I needed to sprinkle a lot more candies on top.














I was much happier with the way my cookies looked after they baked.
















Oh, btw, my friends really liked the cookies.  I'll take some more for my son Patrick and his family to enjoy when we see them this weekend.  That will leave me a several to enjoy over the next few days....that is, if my husband doesn't eat them before I get a chance to.