Chocolate Chip Cookies for Chris' Birthday

Our oldest son Chris has his birthday on Groundhog's Day, 2/2/2011. I have been baking his favorite chocolate chip cookies this morning to ship out to him this afternoon Fed Ex. I am afraid to take the trip right now as there are ice and snow predictions for the next three days, then a plunge in the temperature. Soooo, whatever we get will stay a while.

I have wrapped his gift, got some critters made to send the little boys, and I have baked the cookies. Thought I would put down this recipe I tried while they cool. It is the Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chip cookie.

Here is what you need:

2 1/4 C. unsifted flour
1 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
2 sticks softened butter (1 C.)
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 eggs
2 C. bittersweet chocolate chips
1 C. chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together flour, salt, and soda and set aside. Beat the butter with the sugars at medium speed until creamy and add the vanilla and eggs one at a time until incorporated.

Gradually add the dry ingredients until moistened then add the chips and nuts until all is well blended. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Yield 3 dozen very large cookies.


More Stitches, Tea Cozy, Stuffed Mice, & Cuddle Bunnies.

Gees......I have had to keep myself entertained with all the snow and cold or else I would just go nuts or get down in the dumps about some something that I can't quite put my finger on.
So I have taken up felting and thus far have only used the wool sweater in warm soapy water method. I visited a local second hand shop and found several 80% + wool sweaters at $2.00 each so it was an inexpensive trial and it worked well. Just threw them in the washer on warm wash cold rinse with a bit of laundry detergent and ran them through the cycle. I partially dried them in the dryer then let them finish air drying. I had wool felt and could proceed. I made the tea cozy and mice. It works well and was lots easier than quilted cozies I have previously made. Mice are CUTE!!
While at the second hand store I also purchased wool skirts and blazers and did the same process. It isn't felted but I like the idea of making stuffed animals out of the menswear type of fabric and the price is right.
So brown bunny's with fuzzy white fur tails were born!!
While I am playing around with my critters my husband sees an opportunity to get his long johns mended. Thus some are way too far gone and they too became bunny's. REALLY SOFT and cuddly bunny's!!
They do have the look though of Lamb Chop a lamb Sherri Lewis used in her act when I was a girl.....It was a fun week and I have found more free patterns online so I am sure there will be more to come. There are quite a few on Martha Stewart's website. Others you have to look a bit harder for.
I know my granddaughters will want bunny's too but I am thinking they need to a bit more "GIRLIE".

I see another trip to the second hand store!!


Oven Pan Fried Fish

My parents lived in Florida in their retirement years and Dad fished and fished and fished. I expect that was probably the big love of his life (outside of Mom of course). At any rate Mother came up with this method of cooking that was thought to be more heart healthy for the wonderful fresh bass he caught on the Kississamee River and it is really good. I smile when I think of them there.

I don't have any fresh bass but have found that by cutting the fish in small portions it works well on anything I have tried. Here is my version of the wonderful way they cooked it at their home on the river.

Here is what you will need:

1 lb. filleted fish portions
1 egg
2 T. water
4-5 C. corn flakes
2-3 T. olive oil
heavy duty foil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with an edge all around it with foil turning any excess under. Distribute the oil evenly over the foil. Rinse and dry the fish and cut it into small portions. If the pieces are very thick I split them. An ideal size is 2"L. x 2"W. x 1/2-3/4" thick.
Using a fork beat the egg and water in a small bowl. Crumble the corn flakes to a fine crumb using a rolling pin and plastic bag or a food processor. Dip the fish into the egg and season, then roll in the corn flake crumbs. Place portions on the prepared tray and place in the center of the oven for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes turn the fish. Depending on the size and density of the fish you need to watch how long to leave after you turn the fillets. I used cod and left for about 7 minutes. Thinner fish would be less and more dense or thicker fillets would need more. It is easy to tell as the fish becomes whiter and flakes when it is done.

You will have a nice crisp crust on the fish without all the frying a mess. You may also want to add additional seasoning to the crumb mixture and it works well should you try that too.


Chicken Pie

Usually I make this over a couple of days by first sticking the "bird" in the crock pot with a festive group of friends @ carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, parsley, and whatever else stricks my fancy!! Thus yesterday it began.

Here is what you need for the pot:

1 whole chicken or comparable amount of "parts" you prefer
1 whole onion quartered
2 carrots broken
2 ribs celery broken
bay leaf
hand full of fresh parsley
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Set on the crock pot on low and forget until tomorrow.

Bone the chicken dicing the meat into chunks and strain the liquid, set aside.
Here is what you need for the filling.

1 1/2 sticks of butter plus 2 T. olive oil
2 C. diced onion
2 C. diced carrots
1 C. diced celery
16 oz. bag of frozen peas
3/4 C. flour
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
5 C. chicken stock plus all of the liquid from cooking chicken (I also fortify with a couple extra cubes of bullion)
1/3 C. evaporated milk or cream

Using a medium saucepan combine the stock, cooking liquid. carrots and celery and bring to a boil.
Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are tender crisp. Turn off the heat and set aside. 

Using a large heavy bottomed pan or dutch oven combine the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium low for 10-12 minutes until translucent. Add the flour and stir as you cook the rue for 2-3 minutes. Add the hot broth and vegetables all at once continuing to stir over the heat until it thickens and comes to a boil. Add the chicken and peas and mix well. Stir in the milk and turn off the burner and set aside.

Here is what you need for the pastry:

3 C. flour
1/2 C. cold butter
1/2 C. Crisco
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1/4 -1/3 C. ice water

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of food processor. Add cold butter and pulse until like course meal. Add ice water enough to start to ball up when you pulse. Remove to a floured surface and pat into a disk. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. If you leave it will be fine but you will need to take it out about half an hour ahead to soften a little.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Divide the pastry according to how you plan to bake. I am using oven proof 12 oz. bowls and topping with pastry that I brush with beaten egg and salt and pepper.

Roll for your containers. I divided into 8 portions and rolled a 6" round for each dish.
After filling the containers I brushed them (the top of the container and about 1" down from the top) with the beaten egg mixture. Next I placed the pastry over the chicken mixture and topped with the pastry, then pressed to make a seal at the edges. Cut slots for the steam to escape. Salt and pepper the tops if desired and bake 1 hour until a golden brown on a cookie sheet to catch any bubble over.  Serve pipping hot.  This yields 7-8 generous servings.


Beef Barley Soup on a Cold Snowy Indiana Day

It was clear to me when I heard the weather forecast yesterday that I would be staying home today and making a kettle of something warm. It didn't take long to choose a hearty beef and barley soup. We have this maybe twice a winter and it is a hearty good for you soup that slowly simmers away while you got about to other things.
It simmers alone upstairs as I type away down here in my office slash, family room slash, sewing room and exercise (not that it sees much of that!) room. Oh yes, we could call it a jungle room too due to the dozen or so big plants living here winter to spring.
Anyway here is what you need to make it.

 1/2 C. barley
2 pounds stew meat or about half of a large chuck roast
2 1/2 qt. water
1 clove garlic
1 onion
1 stalk celery
1 carrot
bay leaf
salt and pepper
1 dried red pepper

Combine everything except the barley in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook 2-3 hours until meat is fork tender. Remove the meat and tear or cut into bite size portions. Strain the broth and return it and the meat to the kettle. Add the barley and any additional vegetables you like and cook over medium low until tender. Serve with a salad and hot crusty bread.


Sewing Baked Potato Bags, Sleep Sacks, Tote Bags, and Stuffed Mice

I have been toiling with the fact I do other things besides cook as does everyone and there are times I have much more interest in other things.
Since I started this blog I spent a good deal of time sewing. Not necessarily for me but I have made a whole collection of tote bags. Which I have mostly given as gifts.
I have made tons of rice bags. These are filled with rice and sometimes essential oils are added for a special fragrance. This year one of my daughters-in-law gave them as Christmas gifts to the doctor and nurses at the medical office she works at. I made something like 14 total and had requests for more. You can heat them in the microwave and they hold the heat very well with no electrical cord to mess with plus it can be wrapped around or scrunched up to anyplace that needs a bit of warmth.
Over the last year I did a big Christmas stocking project and since Christmas have finished an embroidery project of lace edged pillow cases and started another in cross stitch. I also made cute little potato bags for fluffy baked potatoes in the microwave oven.
I made dozens of zippered sleep sacks for my grandsons in their first two years and have mended and repaired lots of clothing for my granddaughters. I made a few rice bag toys and a silk purse.
Currently I am interested in felting and am in the beginning of making some little blind mice and perhaps the three pigs.

At any rate I am wondering if I should start an additional blog or incorporate all my "stuff" into this one?? Say maybe adding a sewing and a felting drawer to my pantry???
I really do enjoy taking all of the pictures for the blog. It is the most fun of all. Just because I had to learn to do these new things with my new camera and on the computer and then again on the new computer.
I also like to sketch and watercolor a bit.
So if you have an opinion and would like to share it I would like to hear it.

New York Strip Steaks and Hash Browned Potato

It's cold, it's raining and snowing and it is dark out of doors so I don't have the heart to ask Brian to stand outside and grill these after he has worked all day in spite of the fact there is no comparison between what he does outside and what can be done inside. 
Having clarified that here is the best alternative I know about. The searing hot grill pan. I seasoned the steaks well with a steak mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and the slightest bit of sugar and cornstarch. Just a pinch of the latter two. They help in the crusting. Sear well and finish in a preheated 425 degree F oven for 4-7 minutes depending on the thickness and you wellness preferences. These are a good inch thick and we like medium so I let them go about 6-7 minutes and they were just right pink and juicy!! 

The potatoes are what we made at home when I was a girl and they are simply peeled and boiled in salt water until fork tender. Drain well and dump them into an oiled hot pan and brown them with a bit of added salt and pepper. There is seldom leftovers!!

My Ultimate Egg Sandwich and Blueberry Peach Crisp

So far it isn't going too well.....Couldn't even make diner Sunday as the kitchen sink backed up and we are still messing around with it!! We have plunged our little hearts out and finally gotten some drain opener from the hardware store. It is running slow but it is running.

Don't you just hate plumbing problems!!!! 

So I am not wanting to make much of a mess til I am sure I won't have water backed up into the dishwasher or some other unforeseen mess trickling when I am unprepared. I am treading lightly.

Both of these are recipes without recipes. So I will just tell you how I went about it!!

For my egg sandwich......
With that in mind I set about to boil some eggs and prepare my favorite egg sandwich. I placed a dozen eggs into a pan and covered them with 1" of tap water. Added a pinch of salt and set them to boil. As soon as they came to a boil I turned them off and let them set for 10 minutes in a covered pan.
Meanwhile I washed and dried crisp lettuce and prepared wheat bread with both my favorite mayonnaise and mustard. The lettuce was torn to fit the bread and placed to rest upon it like fluffy sheets on a soft bed. 

By now it was time to drain the eggs and shock them in cold water. I peeled 2 for my sandwich and set the others aside. They were lovely when quartered and they fit perfectly upon the crisp green lettuce that awaited them. A bit of kosher salt and a sprinkle of black pepper......perfection and simplicity at it's best. Lunch fit for me!!

For my fruit crisp......I had opened 2 quarts of peaches from the freezer for Sunday diner that never happened and although both Brian and I have eaten a dish of them I need to use them up before they totally discolor and become unappetizing!!

Using a deep casserole dish I prepared it by spraying a butter flavor nonstick preparation. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F. 

There were about 4 cups of the peaches left and I stirred in 2 T. of cornstarch and added a cup of fresh blueberries and spooned them into the prepared dish. In a small dish I combined a cup of brown sugar, a cup of old fashioned oats, a half cup of flour, a pinch of salt with a fork. Then I diced a half cup of butter into small dice and stirred it into the dry mix. Then I tossed the dry mix atop the fruit and spread it about evenly. It baked for 45 minutes as it spread a wonderful aroma throughout the house. It was delicious topped with a spoon of ice cream.


Veggie Corn Chowder, Cereal Snacks, & Expanding thoughts

Yesterday I looked into the refrigerator and saw a quart of potato soup I had made last Saturday and thought it would be a great base for a vegetable and corn chowder. That was what I made for supper and Brian, my husband loved it. When I told him it was a re purposing of potato soup from a few days ago he was really pleased. I tend not to be wasteful and am somewhat frugal so Brian suggested I share some of the things I do on the blog. 

I always have 2 or 3 things in mind for diner. This is easy for me because I keep a well stocked pantry which I view as a money saving thing to do because I very rarely have to make an unplanned run to the grocery for anything. I purposefully avoid these runs because you ALWAYS spend more then you intend to. I freeze leftovers with an intended purpose for them. I buy sales but I only buy what I intend. By that I do not impulse buy or purchase something just because I have a good coupon. If I would not have bought it in the first place, I don't buy it at all.

I like specific ingredients for specific things and buy them on sale and store them. A good example is King Arther Flours, I buy several varieties when they are on sale and store them in the freezer. This is a two fold bonus as you don't ever develop weevils or other pests when you store items in the freezer! and some items like coffee retain their freshness better in the deep freeze than in the pantry.
So here is the way I developed the chowder and what I used:

1 quart homemade potato soup
6-7 slices platter bacon, diced and fried in the bottom of the soup kettle
1 large onion diced
3 ribs of celery diced
1 carrot diced
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1 can creamed corn
1 can whole kernel corn drained
2 T. butter
1 C. half and half or milk

When the bacon is half way cooked to brown and crisp add the diced vegetables and stir as you reduce the heat and continue to cook them altogether. I like the vegetables to start to caramelise a little and the bacon to finish browning. Add the potato soup and both corns, milk , butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until heated to piping hot and serve. Yield 6 servings.

Some other things I do is to prepare and freeze things ahead. For example in the freezer right now is an unbaked meatloaf that only needs to be slipped into a hot oven and baked.

Today when I finish this post I am going to freeze the last of a Swiss steak and its gravy from earlier in the week. This re purposes beautifully into the basis of vegetable beef soup. I have already frozen the peas left from that meal for soup. Green beans I plan for next week will join them if there are any of them left. 

Tonight for supper I had thought we could have either strip steaks I purchased Wednesday at the butcher on sale, or salmon patties with a side, or chili cheese dogs and french fries. I am thinking we will go with the chili cheese dogs and re purpose the leftover chili from Tuesday night!!! Brian has been hankering for chili cheese dogs and mentioned them a couple of times lately. He encouraged me to write down my thoughts about menu planning. (I usually have all this in my head.) So I am going to try to write my next weeks thoughts and menus sometimes between Thursdays and Monday mornings. My goal is to post this on Friday mornings but I am going to leave it loose as that is just my preference. After working for 40 years I do not want to lock myself down into a tight commitment now.

Here are my thoughts for next weeks diner menus:

Sunday: Butterflied boneless pork chops, either grilled or pan seared and finished in the oven for 6 (family diner). Seasoned green beans, home style hash browned potatoes, Cole slaw, and thawed peaches I froze in the summer with homemade cookies.
If there are any chops left over they can be used in stir fry or a quick batch of BBQ for sandwiches.
The slaw stores and keeps well for a day or two.
Monday: Salmon patties, baked beans, and Cole slaw with rice crispy treats. I have gotten way to many marshmallows at this time and need to use them up.
Tuesday: Meatloaf. (already made up in the freezer) macaroni and cheese, lettuce wedges.
We love meatloaf sandwiches hot or cold so these will either reappear for lunch or supper!!
Wednesday: Fried fish 'n french fries and apple salad.
Thursday: Bean soup, corn bread, cottage cheese, celery and carrot sticks. This we will share with Mike and his family as he loves bean soup.
Note* I have chicken 'n dumplings banging around in my head also so it might just appear in place of what I have supposed as may anything else!!!
Friday: Many Fridays we have carry out or we go out. If we stay home I may make beef curry. If not on Friday I will probably make it for Sunday diner. I will try to post most of these recipes as I go if they are not already in this blog.
I also mixed up my own version of cereal treats out of left over odds and ends this week. I microwaved in a small bowl until melted 1/2 C. butter and stirred into it 2 rounded T. Lawry's seasoned salt, 2 T. Worcestershire sauce, 2 rounded t. onion salt, 2 rounded t. garlic powder, and a few shakes of hot red pepper.
In a large glass bowl I measured about 14 C. of assorted dry toasted and not sweetened cereals, nuts, pretzels, and snack crackers. I poured the seasoned butter over the cereal and stirred until everything was well coated. Microwave in high 2 minutes and stir. do this 3 times until the total of microwave minutes is 6 and you have stirred 3 times. Dump out onto paper towels and allow to sit until cold. Store in an airtight container.


Cinnamon Honey Cookies and Elder Berry Tea

There is a lovely young lady on the cooking channel who has caught my attention. Her name is Laura Calder and I really like her music, it is a bit quirky but jaunty at the same time. I like her way of speaking, her light hearted attitude and last but not least, her food! 

I LOVE these cookies. She called them Honey Fleur De Ly's but I don't have a Fleur De Ly cookie cutter so I can't very well pull that off!! I also adapted her recipe by adding a pinch of salt and using specifically my favorite Vietnamese Cinnamon. I must say this is a wonderful cookie. It is crisp but chewy with the lovely tastes of honey and cinnamon. It is unique and believe me I have made a lot of cookies. These might just be my new favorite. The recipe is easy with just a few ingredients which makes it an even more impressive find. Another thing I like is the use of honey and of Cinnamon for the nutritional properties of each. NOTE: After running all over town and not finding the a-fore named cookie cutter I got on the Internet, ordered, and received one in 2 days with regular shipping!!!! Hoary. This is indeed the Honey Fleur De Ly's as seen on French Cooking at Home with my adaptations.

Today having gotten the Christmas tree down and packed up and preparing a kettle of soup for supper the other thing I really like to do on a cold snowy winter day with the wind and snow howling is to brew some tea and enjoy a really great homemade cookie. I adore adding dried elder berries, Jasmine green tea, and black tea to my pot and adding freshly boiling water. After it steeps a few minutes it has a lovely scent as well as a luscious flavor. The elder berry has anti-viral properties and is a very good addition to a winter diet!! I use dried Kosher Bulgarian elder berries, about a tablespoon to a 6 cup tea pot and the same quantity of the green and black teas. I don't really like the flavor of green tea so my solution is to create a blend I enjoy. 

To make the cookies you will need:

3/4 C. plus 2 T. soft butter
3/4 C. plus 2 T. sugar
3 T. honey {local is best}
2 C. flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. Vietnamese cinnamon
pinch of salt

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter then add the honey. In another bowl sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the butter mixture combining until smooth. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. When you are ready to roll the cookies preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Let the dough sit on the floured work surface about 10 minutes and roll them about 1/4 " thick and cut with floured cutter. Place on parchment and bake about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them sit in the pan 5-7 minutes before cooling on rack. They are very tender and will want to break if you don't let them sit a few minutes before removing them from the pan. Store in an airtight container. Yield 24 large cookies.


Ambrosia and Butter Cookies

This is a salad that always shows up at our family gatherings be it spring or winter or fall!! It is always good and easy. It is also known as Five cup salad. The cookie is a new one I tried and adapted posted on another blog I really like, Annies' eats. These are really good as are most of her postings.

Here is the fruit salad:

1 C. Mandarin oranges drained
1 C. pineapple tidbits drained
1 C. coconut
1 C. miniature marshmallows
1 C. sour cream

Stir together well and serve.

The cookie ingredients are:

1 large egg
10 T. butter softened
1/3 C. plus 1 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla ( I use the Tahitian vanilla in this cookie)
1 1/2 C. unbleached all-purpose flour

Place the egg in a small pan and cover to 1" over the egg and bring to a boil. Remove at once from the heat and cover. Let it stand exactly 10 minutes, then remove from the hot water into a small bowl of ice water for exactly 5 minutes. Crack and peel the egg discarding the white. Press the yolk through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.

Using the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter, sugar, salt, and cooked egg yolk. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla mixing on low. Continue on low adding the flour until just combined. Press into a ball and divide in half with a large spoon or spatula.
Roll each half into a log about 6" long and wrap well in parchment or waxed paper. Place the rolls into the freezer for 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with silpat or parchment. Using a chef's knife slice the dough into 1/4" thick rounds. Place 1" apart on prepared sheets. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with demura sugar or sugar of your choice. Bake 15 minutes. cool 5minutes and remove to cooking racks. Yield 28 cookies.

Califlower Salad

I really am in the mood for something fresh, crisp, and sweet. I really like cauliflower and it is at a good price right now. This salad is an old recipe that a co-worker shared when I was about 24 years old and we have been making it every since then. The whole clan makes it!!

Here is what you need:

1 head iceberg lettuce or equivalent amount of romaine lettuce
1 head cauliflower
1 pound of bacon diced, fried, and drained
1/2 red onion
1 C. Hellman's Mayonnaise
1/4 C. sugar
1/3 C. Parmesan cheese

Using a very large bowl tear the washed and dried lettuce into the bottom of the bowl. Remove the cauliflower from the heart and trim off any stems and impurities. Slice the florets onto the lettuce.
Dice the red onion and scatter it atop the cauliflower layer. Spread the bacon over the onion. Frost the bacon layer with the mayonnaise and top it with the cheese and sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
At serving time stir well and combine well. 

You may adjust the mayonnaise and sugar and cheese amounts a bit according to how large the heads of produce are. This serves 10-12 and refrigerates well for a day or two.

Christmas Cactus Blooms and Friendship Amaryllis Bulbs

The absolute worst thing about "after Christmas" is the gray, depressing days that seem to go on forever. Or so it seems to me!! The tree droops, there are leftover treats, just a few, too good to waste but I am quite tired of them. The sky seems to give birth to endless dark clouds and there is nothing green, no sign of life.
Then it happens. Bright fuchsia blooms appear like magic on the Christmas cactus and I remember........plant the Amaryllis bulbs I have stashed away in the closet until after Christmas. The seed catalogs will be coming soon. As welcome as the toy catalogs were in our childhood. The Amaryllis will soar quickly and I will feel I can almost see them grow!! They they magically bloom huge multiple blossoms on sharp spikes two feet tall. My best friend sends them to me each year as only a best friend would.
This reminds me as I look toward the darkest days of winter yet to come that spring is really just around the corner and my Christmas cactus is in bloom as is my friendship.