Friday, February 27, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Cookies

Since Ryan has been at college, Mark announced that he hates cake, pie, quick bread, and just about every confection save ice cream, brownies and cookies.  This is one cookie I made during this massive cold snap.  They were gone in a day, even with only 2"starving" gents to consume them.

adapted from the Red Plaid Cookbook

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites or 1 egg
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Cream the butter and sugars; add the egg/egg white and beat until fluffy.  Stir together the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda, and add to the creamed mixture.  Add the vanilla and milk, and beat until smooth.  Stir in the peanuts.  Drop on greased cookie sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  I used my smallest cookie scoop, and so got about 4 dozen from this recipe.

Using margarine, nonfat milk and egg whites makes these cholesterol-free and heart healthy.  But even with real butter, they only contain 3mg of cholesterol per cookie if you use egg whites, so that's pretty healthy, right?  Still, I won't call these health food cookies.  They are not too sweet, more like a semi-sweet cookie, which is very nice.  I also didn't chop my peanuts much, because that's too much like work; I just fed them through the slicing blade of my food processor.  Naturally, my youngest fussbudget announced that he hates peanuts, and picked them out, but my dearly beloved consumed them like it was the end of the world.

My conclusion is that you all need to make these cookies this weekend!  And have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Expired Milk Rolls

Do you have problems with kids in the house who refuse to drink milk beyond the "sell by" date, despite the fact that the milk is still good?  That attitude is epidemic around here.  So, a couple of days ago, Mark announced that our milk was 3 days past the sell by date, and despite the fact that I was still drinking it, including in my hot beverages (which will bring out the curdle in milk that's not quite ready to curdle), it was considered "rotten."  What to do?  Use it for baking, of course.  After all, plenty of recipes call for sour milk!  So I came up with these rolls when I was making broiled chicken sandwiches for dinner the other night.


1-1/2 cups expired or sour milk
1 or 2 tbsp yeast*
3 cups flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp gluten powder

Heat the milk to about 100F, then pour it in your mixer or bread machine bucket.  Sprinkle in the yeast, then add the other ingredients in the order given.  Mix in the bread machine or mixer for about 20 minutes, or as according to my directions to the right --------->  Let rise until doubled in size, form into rolls and let rise again.  Brush with warm milk, and bake at 350F for 18 to 22 minutes.  Makes 10 large (3-1/2 ounce) or 16 medium (2-1/4 ounce) rolls.  Perfect for sandwiches or burgers, and delicious just for nibbling.

*Note: Use 2 tbsp yeast for fast rising; you'll have your rolls in under an hour.  1 tbsp yeast allows you to proceed at a more leisurely pace, but I never plan that far ahead.

The white whole wheat makes these rolls higher in fiber, but no one will notice.  Use nonfat milk, as I did, and these are a heart-healthy alternative to store bought: no cholesterol!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cookbook Wednesday: Bread

In answer to Karin's musing about our temperatures, I've been baking bread.  Oh, cookies and brownies, too, but lots of bread.

Along about October, my bread machine decided it didn't like me any more, and was no longer going to function correctly.  Well, that was OK, because I only use it as a mixer anyway, and I do have a Kitchenaid.  But then, a couple of weeks ago, my dearly beloved wondered why I wasn't using the bread machine to knead my bread, and I reminded him that the bread machine had decided we were no longer friends.  So he ordered me to get a new one.  (And, really, who has trouble complying with an "order" such as that: buy yourself something!)

In honor of the new bread machine, this Cookbook Wednesday focuses on the biggest bread machine cookbook out there - and it's useful even if you don't have a bread machine!  It's Beth Hensperger's Bread Machine Cookbook!

The table of contents barely gives you an idea of the scope of this book.

You can see by my ribbons and whatnot that I have some favored recipes in this book.  To be fair, since I got it for Christmas in 2004, I've had time to try out a recipe or 2.

I like the fact that when a recipe calls for an odd ingredient, she gives you assistance in obtaining or creating it.  This description of sprouting wheat berries is an example.

She also has many things related to how you use your bread dough, such as this page about making pizza sauces and cooking pizza.  I read it eagerly, but usually buy my pizza sauce anyway.

Her recipes for jams are great, too.  Who knew a bread machine could be so versatile?  I think my dearly beloved needs this strawberry jam for his breakfast bread.

There are plenty of other goodies in here, too, including making spreads for breads, using stale breads, gluten free breads, creating your own bread recipes, and too much else to list.
If you want pictures, this is not the book for you, because there aren't any.  But that's OK with me, because my creations are never as pretty as the pictures.  Anyway, I probably need to spend more quality time reading and absorbing this book!

Once again, I'm hosting Cookbook Wednesday for the lovely and talented Louise from Months of Edible Celebrations!  She will likely be back next week, but if life is still overwhelming, I'll continue to carry the torch for her.

If you want to be added, leave me a comment, and I'll list you below.

Louise from Months of Edible Celebrations posted a booklet of Mexican recipes on Frozen Margharita Day.  I'm happy to list her as the first link!

Poppy's Surplus Recipes, including the delightful sounding Split Pea Bars and Bean Pudding Cake!  Poppy finds the humor in every cookbook. 

Debbie's Ground Beef Recipes with the bonus of her making meatballs for us!  Happy to have you join us, Debbie! 

Nellie's Breakfast Cookbook gives me more baking ideas!  It's a very well loved book, judging by her pictures.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

This is what 9 degrees and sunny looks like.

 No wind, at least for the time being..

Note that Mark has simply given up shoveling, because either the snow drifts back in to the path, it snows again, or, most often, both occur.

Let us hope the -7 overnight is the coldest we'll see for the rest of this season!  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Book Review

I know - how unusual!  I went with Shannon to a wedding dress try-on on Saturday, down near Philadelphia.  Of course, you all know it's been bitterly cold here for weeks.  So, on Friday, my dearly beloved announced that I'm "too stupid" to drive 250 miles alone in the cold, so he hired me a driver.  It's nice to be loved, isn't it?  Anyway, that 4 hour ride gave me time to read a book, so here's your review!

By Tom Cooper

This is set in the bayous of Louisiana, 5 years after Hurricane Katrina, and after the BP oil rig explosion.  There are a fair number of parallel stories, which intersect through the book, not necessarily at the same time.  Almost everyone in the town is a shrimper, and the haul is nothing but meager, small shrimp this year.  Wes Trench, 17, works with his father, both mourning for and blaming his father for the death of his mother when she slid off the roof of their house into the floodwaters following the hurricane.  One day he became irate and quit, finding himself a position on a trawler captained by Lindquist.  Lindquist's wife left him, fed up with his lifelong obsession with finding Jean Lafitte's treasure; he's out there every night hunting for that gold, using maps that he has meticulously marked up.  Then there are the Toup twins, who grow great weed on an island in the bayou, and shoot anyone who gets near their hydroponic greenhouse.  Cosgrove and Hanson, who became acquainted while in jail for petty crimes, and drifted into town for jobs cleaning oil coated birds, and stumbled into the Toups' operation.  Then there's Brady Grimes, born and raised in Jeanette, who couldn't wait to get away.  Then BP sent him back to Jeanette to get people to take petty settlements so they couldn't sue BP.

The settings were very well described, and the characters felt real.  The book was dark and funny at the same time, and completely "politically incorrect" in the way folks talked and thought.  There really weren't any happy endings, merely some contented endings, and some not so contented, much as in real life.  I very much enjoyed this book, and was sorry to see it end.  5/5

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Happy Monday, everyone!  Stay warm!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cookbook Wednesday: Shortcut Cooking!

We all need shortcuts in our lives, especially in things which are time consuming.  So, when I was shopping for books for the kids for Christmas at least 20 years ago (I think maybe 1991 or 1992), I spotted this cookbook on a display table in the book store - yes, that was back in the day when there were still small, independent book stores, although few and far between.  (Actually, while it was a nice, inviting looking store, the employees there were rather nasty.  They actually told me one night, when I had about 20 books in my arms, that it was 9PM and I needed to leave right then, because they were closed.  I inquired how many people spent money in their establishment, because with that attitude, I was done looking, and wouldn't be back.  Then I paid for those books, told them I'd spotted 4 others that I wanted but wouldn't be buying, and left.)

Anyway, Betty Crocker's Shortcut Cooking for the Smart Cook:

It's a beautiful book, with many wonderful pictures.  Printed on glossy paper, it feels nice to turn the pages, and the recipes abound.  It seemed like it would be wonderful.  And it should be, for folks who didn't need to serve 5 pounds of meat, 3 pounds of starch and 3 pounds of vegetables for dinner every night.  They have 2 categories of food: "Fix it and forget it", which go together quickly and then get cooked for some time, and the "Fix it Fast" section, which involves foods that are put together reasonably quickly and cooked in a hurry.  Each category is further divided into eggs, skillet cookery, etc.

I have to confess that I've not used this cookbook much.  First, with everyone home, cooking anything in a skillet is a real chore; it has to be cooked in many batches and kept warm.  Second, my husband doesn't think just a bowl of, say, this carrot soup, is a meal.  It's just a great appetizer.  So, there's that.  And then there's my foible in not liking my food to co-mingle, or even touch.  And then, we still need side dishes to go with some of these skillet dishes, as an example.  Shortcuts? Not so much.

But one of our favorite desserts comes from this book: Hot Fudge Sundae Cake, AKA Magic Cake.  There are a couple of other cakes baked quickly and served warm, along with some freezer desserts (which fall into the category of fix it and forget it).

Overall, this would be a great cookbook for someone without the peculiarities of my household, and it does have some great ideas in it.  And maybe, with so many of my hungry horde grown and gone, I'll give it a try again.

How about you?  Anyone else out there have a cookbook you'd like linked up?  I'm carrying Louise's Cookbook Wednesday torch until she has time to get back to it.  Leave me a comment, and I'll add you here.

Poppy's Family Favorites Cook Book (you can always count on Poppy to find the humor in her cookbooks, like Ham Cookies). 

Nellie's Ideal Family Cookbook

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Stay warm as it gets colder again tonight!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Garden Tuesday: A Blast from the Past

After my mother died, I found some slides in the trailer, which I scanned.  I'm pretty sure everyone is tired of looking at the "Snow du Jour" from the eastern US, and from my back door, so here's snow from a long time ago!

I suspect these were taken in perhaps January or, more likely, February of 1967.  I know this is a covered bridge in Kent, Connecticut.  I don't remember this specific journey, but I recognize the car in one of the pictures as belonging to one of my mother's friends.  I'm even in one of the pictures; I'm the taller child.

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone; let's hope for a reprieve from the single digit temperatures soon!

Monday, February 16, 2015

"These Actually Look Good" Potatoes!

Yes, that is indeed what my youngest son, the perpetual fussbudget, said when I served these potatoes.  I was looking for something easy and a little different one night, and stumbled upon this idea.


Red Skinned potatoes - 1 or 2 per person, plus 1 for the pot
olive oil
minced garlic
fresh ground pepper
parmesan cheese

Wash and slice the potatoes (I used my food processor - the slices needn't be beautiful), and put in boiling salted water.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until partially done.  While the potatoes are cooking, put 1 tbsp of olive oil per 2 potatoes in a small bowl; stir in the garlic (1 clove minced per 4 potatoes or thereabouts), pepper and 1 tbsp parmesan per 2 potatoes, and mix well.  Drain the par-boiled potatoes, return to the pot, pour the olive oil mixture over them, and stir to coat.  Spread out on a greased baking tray, and sprinkle with more parmesan if desired (you can never have too much cheese, after all).  Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, turning once or twice, until golden brown.  Splendid with roast beef!  Even my fussbudget said so!

I hope my friends to the north and east are doing well with their snow.  It's largely missed us; we might have gotten 4" or so in the last 2 storms, but it's bitter here.  We're talking high temperatures yesterday and today of under 7 degrees, and lows below zero.  I got my garage door unfrozen with Mark's help, but we are staying home until it gets to be at least 15 degrees outside.  Nothing warms up a car when it's this cold.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day is Nigh...

This is Ryan's first year of college, and I wanted to send him a box for Valentine's Day.  Oh, I know he's big and stuff like that, but we moms have the right to be sentimental and hold with tradition.  Initially, I was going to just get him a nice big box of chocolates, wrap and send it.  But then, it rained over the weekend, so I stayed home.  And then it got colder Monday, so when I went out on Tuesday to buy milk and Valentine's Day candy, my garage door wouldn't move.  The rain melted just enough snow to cause it to run under my garage door and freeze it shut.  And it's only gotten colder as the week has gone on; today's high was 9. (For those of you in celsius-land, that's like -13C.)  So, after contemplating Poppy's comment about cocoa powder in her oatmeal, I knew what I had to do.

(with variations)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk (I use nonfat milk)
optional: 2 tbsp dry milk powder
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/3 cup chopped nuts

Melt the butter in a pan with the milk.  Stir together the sugar, cocoa powder and milk powder if you're adding it (to give them a richer flavor), and whisk into the warm milk/butter combination.  Bring to a boil, and boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla, until the peanut butter is melted.  Add the oats and nuts, stir until combined, and drop by the teaspoonful onto baking sheets lined with waxed paper which has been sprayed.  The recipe says it makes 30 cookies, but I use my smallest cookie scoop, which makes 2-bite sized cookies, and routinely get about 70 cookies from this recipe.

To make these lower sugar if you have sugar issues, substitute 1 cup of Stevia for 1 cup of sugar - don't replace all of the sugar with Stevia, or the cookies will fail.  These are good without peanut butter or nuts for nut allergy sufferers, and fine without cocoa powder for chocolate allergies.  Using the small scoop as I do, each cookie only contains 3mg of cholesterol, even using butter; I figure the oats surely counteract that, right?  So comfort yourself in the knowledge that these are almost-health-food treats, perfect for Valentine's Day if your car is frozen into your garage!

Happy Weekending, everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thorsday Book Review: The Barefoot Queen

The Barefoot Queen
by Ildefonso Falcones
copyright 2014
641 pages

January, 1748: Caridad is a slave from a Cuban tobacco plantation who was being brought from Cuba by her master back to his home in Spain, where he planned to live out his days.  He died on the ship voyage home, and Caridad was manumitted, given her papers, and advised by the priest on board the ship to seek out a specific religious sanctuary.  Turned away there, she wandered for a while.

Milagros Carmona, a 13 year old gypsy girl, daughter of Ana Vega and Jose Carmona.  Bright, beautiful and spirited, Milagros (and every other girl in the gypsy alley) had a crush on Pedro Garcia, the grandson of the man who had had Milagros' grandfather, Melchor Vega, sentenced to the galleys for 10 years - a feud not forgotten.

Father Joaquin, a white Spanish priest, was smitten by Milagros.  His mission was to help and convert the gypsies (and sell tobacco products to finance this mission).

The first 50 pages or so of this book introduce us to all of these characters, without telling us when they will meet and how they are or will become intertwined.  After about 50 pages, Melchor Vega, who has spent most of his time wandering about after being released from the galleys, finds Caridad gravely ill, and brings her home to the gypsy alley, leaving her in his room for Ana and Milagros to nurse back to health, admonishing them to keep the Negress until he returns.  Caridad says little, but becomes friends with Milagros.  To help earn her keep, and earn money for the Carmona/Vega family, Milagros and Caridad begin dancing and singing in a local inn.  This continues on for some time, during which time, Milagros is betrothed by her father to a boy she dislikes.  Life goes on, and ultimately, the gypsies are rounded up and imprisoned by the Spanish government.  Caridad escapes this roundup, because she is very black, and not a gypsy; Milagros escapes because she was, at that time, exiled from the alley.

This is a very well written book about the time from 1748 through 1754, during which virtually all gypsies were imprisoned by the Spanish government, with no possibility of release without converting to Catholicism, and meeting certain other criteria.  There is one main story, that of Caridad and Milagros, their friendship and their interactions with other.  There are other subplots, including the enmity between the Vegas and the Garcias, the tobacco trade (legal and illegal), and Caridad's relationship with Melchor.  This book is very long, and it's a slow read; don't start it unless you have an hour to meet all of the characters and begin to see where the story is going.  It's not the type of book you can read in 10 minute intervals, but it is good enough to make you want to continue reading it.  I was somewhat surprised to note that it was originally written in Spanish and translated into English; the translator is to be commended, because the verbiage never feels clumsy, as sometimes happens in translations.  3.5/5

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cookbook Wednesday: Chocolate, of Course!

This weekend is Valentine's Day.  And while I'm not a big celebrant - my dearly beloved just buys me whatever he thinks I want regardless of the date - everyone at least pays lip service to the day.  This week's cookbook is perfect for Valentine's Day sweets for your sweets - or for yourself!

Ryan found this at a used book sale and demanded that I get it; we've tried a number of recipes from it over the years.  The table of contents shows just how comprehensive it is (and this is only half of it).  There's everything from Chocolate on a Pedestal to Chocolate in the Freezer, plus cookies, pies and anything else one might dream up.

These are some decadent looking cakes.  The one on the bottom of the right hand page looks rather like a great Valentine's Day cake, with chocolate, peaches and berries, doesn't it?

Many pies involve chocolate, of course.

And there are candies...

...and cookies, bar and otherwise.

I suppose I'll have to make something I can ship to Ryan for Valentine's Day (although maybe I'll just send the traditional box of chocolates), but there will definitely be something excellent cooking for my dearly beloved and Mark!

This is my effort to carry the Cookbook Wednesday torch while Louise is on hiatus for February.  If you'd like me to link you to this page, just leave me a comment!  I'm not Linky Literate, but I'm always happy to have others join in the fun!

Edited to Add: Poppy's Glamorous Cooking for Busy Women (this is funny)

Nellie's Church Cookbook 

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Garden Tuesday: Less Snow

Does this look like less snow to you?

Probably not.  But, first, we didn't get nearly the snow that was threatened; we've only gotten a total of about 24" in the past 2 weeks, while I'm sure you know about the disaster that is greater Boston.  And, second, it rained here on Saturday, and probably melted 2 feet of height off that snow bank next to my garage.  So, yes, less snow.

Less snow on the parked cars, too.

And you can see the aftereffects of the rain on this boxwood.  That's ice on those branches, not rain drips.

William must love me this winter, because I keep calling him to plow away the drifting that inevitably follows after he's plowed the real snow.  And today he had to plow away the ice that formed atop said drifts.  Ain't life grand!

Happy Tuesday, everyone; stay warm!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Daughter-in-Law Chicken Parm

My oldest son and his bride bought their first house the week before Christmas.  Naturally, the entire family is really excited for them.  So, between Christmas and New Years, several of the siblings made the trek to Connecticut to visit the new house.  A couple of weeks later, my dearly beloved and I went to visit.  The house is wonderful, and, some day, when they get enough furniture to fill it (they moved from a one bedroom apartment, after all), it will be fabulous.  They have 2/3 acre on a cul-de-sac at the end of a long, quiet street, so it is a house they can reside in comfortably for many years.  And they paid an excellent price for it, because they bought a foreclosure and were willing to spend 3 months waiting for the bank to finish dithering and finalize the agreement.

My daughter in law's favorite feature is, of course, her kitchen, newly renovated by the bank.  (Oh, there was a problem with the sink, because the contractor put in 1/4" diameter water lines, so they had no water pressure, but Dan fixed that in about 12 minutes while he was there.)  And she put her beautiful kitchen to excellent use in feeding us.  I was a little leery that she was cooking chicken breast, which I always find dry, but hers was so good that I replicated it here, with just a minor change.  And now I'm happy to share it with you!


Chicken breast
Roasted Garlic flavored hummis (or plain, if you prefer)
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ground Pepper
Grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Olive Oil

Spray a baking pan.  Cut the chicken breast in half, and slather each piece with a generous amount of hummis.  Sprinkle lightly with fresh ground pepper, and sprinkle very liberally with Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes.  Toss the grape tomatoes with olive oil and garlic, then arrange in the pan around the chicken.  Bake another 15 minutes, or until the chicken is done.  Serve with hot pasta stirred with olive oil and garlic.

This is so good that even Mark liked it.  And you know that fussbudget doesn't admit to liking anything!  Plus, it's heart healthy and low in sodium!  What more could you ask?

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cookbook Wednesday!

Last week's featured cookbook, Foods From Famous Kitchens, really struck a chord with almost everyone.  So I thought I'd confess that I, too, had collected 487 scraps of paper, index cards and whatnot.  But, as Larry guessed, mine were not loose in a drawer.  They were carefully filed in a little grey box.

But then came this:

 Looks like an ordinary cookbook, right?  Look at it on my shelf.

I found this gem at McCrory's for about $3, some 10 to 15 years ago, before they closed.  (Does anyone else miss those cheap variety stores, where they had odd things for absurdly low prices?)  It came with section dividers,

and pages to write recipes on (these pages, by the way, are a thin cardboard, and will never wear out).

I took some of my scraps of paper and recipe cards and simply glued them to pieces of paper which I then punched.

This book also came with sleeves akin to photo album pages, to hold more complex things, like newspaper pages.

Remember when companies used to send out sample recipe cards, in hopes of convincing us to subscribe to their service, whatever it might have been?  Yep, I punched those, too.  I couldn't throw out such nice items!

And I've even punched some of those recipe booklets that come with pans and appliances, like this one for my Pampered Chef springform pan.

All of my girls like Mom's Recipe Box, so I wonder who will try to pilfer it first!

This post is carrying on Louise's tradition of Cookbook Wednesday, which is on hiatus for February.

If anyone else is posting about a cookbook, and would like me to mention yours, just leave me a comment and I'll add a link to you below.  It's not as good as Louise's Linky Tool, but I'll try to carry on her delightful tradition for as long as she needs a break!

Edited to add:

Poppy's Pressure Cooker Cookbook

Nellie's Mary Starr Cookbook