Thursday, December 31, 2009

Olive...the other cookies

Blockette and I were watching The Bonnie Hunt Show one afternoon, and one of the guests brought a reindeer. The reindeer's name was Olive. Olive, the other reindeer. You know, from the song Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. She was such a meanie. I think she was just jealous of Rudolph's nose. That was why she laughed, called him names, and would NOT let him play those reindeer games.

Blockette thought this was a hilarious play on words. She was literally rolling on the floor. Now, every time she hears the Rudolph song she asks me about Olive. "You remember her? She was not nice. Why is she so mean?" Then she starts laughing and continues to sing the rest of the song.

I couldn't help thinking about Olive, that bully of a reindeer, when I made these chocolate chip cookies. I wondered if the other chocolate chip cookies made fun of this one. It's not made with the usual margarine, shortening or butter. It has olive oil! Weird huh?
I found this recipe for olive oil chocolate chip cookies from Crepes of Wrath. I made these as a gift for my uncle at Christmas. While I haven't heard any reviews from him, I did test a few for quality control.

The cookie itself is much lighter in color than the buttery versions. While the cookies were baking I could smell the olive oil. Once the cookies had cooled, I couldn't taste or smell any traces of the oil. There was a very slight hint of toffee. I was expecting something a bit more overpowering. These cookies were tasty, but I still prefer the classic butter version. It was fun to try something new, but unless I get a specific request for them, I won't make them again.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sugar Scrubs

These sugar scrubs were made for my mom as a Christmas present. The top one is a combination of the recipe from Our Best Bites for brown sugar scrub and Condo Blues' Kahlua scrub . The pink scrub on the bottom is also a recipe from Condo Blues. It's the candy canes that give it the lovely color.

The scrubs still need a bit of tweaking. I really wished the scrubs were more fragrant. I tried to find some essential peppermint or cinnamon oils to put into the mix, but they were all out at the stores by me. I'm going to keep looking. I think I'll have better luck after the holidays when crafting supplies aren't in as high demand.

Here are some things I learned in the scrub making process: Use mild, light or extra light olive oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil imparts too much of an olive-y smell. I do like the smell of olives and olive oil, it's just not something pleasant in a body scrub, at least in my opinion. I also discovered that you should avoid using regular brown sugar. It makes the scrub too mooshy. Domino sugar makes a neat granulated brown sugar that helps keep the grainy texture that is desired in a scrub.

Sweet and Spicy Sugar Scrub from Our Best Bites
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C white sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
Oil: olive oil*, almond oil, grape seed oil, apricot oil, jojoba, etc.
optional: a few drops of essential oil, such as cinnamon

*I use olive oil for my sugar scrubs, which does have a scent. If the smell bothers you, try a “light” olive oil which has a milder taste and smell. Or just use a different type of oil all together.

Combine everything but oil in a bowl and then add in oil and stir to combine. I suggest starting with just part of the oil and adding it until it’s the consistency you want it. Store in a container with a lid. I suggest keeping it in the fridge if you have left overs, it should last quite a while. Stop using it if it smells gross.

Kahlua sugar scrub from Condo Blues
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup granulated brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil (or any of the oils in the basic recipe)
6 drops of vanilla

Pour the granulated white sugar and brown sugar into a bowl and mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Pour the sugar mixture into a jar. Pour the liquid ingredients into sugar mix. But the lid on the jar and shake it to mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended.

Peppermint candy cane scrub from Condo Blues
1 cup granulated white sugar
6 candy canes/peppermint candy (approx ¼ cup), finely crushed into a powder
1/2 cup olive oil (or any of the oils in the basic recipe)
6 drops peppermint essential oil (optional)

Pour the granulated white sugar and crushed peppermint into the jar. But the lid on the jar and shake it to mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients into sugar mix. But the lid on the jar and shake it to mix thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Diet Pepsi Nation

I think it goes without saying that Mrblocko and I are geeky geeks. We like to foster that geekiness in our ofspring. With that being said, you may or may not think it odd that we gave Blockette a huge map of the world for Christmas. It is currently hanging on the wall next to her bed. She absolutely loves it and asks a kajillion questions about it since we've hung it up.

The bottom of the poster has all the flags of the world on it as well. I'm not sure which she loves most, the map or the flags. Last night, Mrblocko was putting her to bed and she pointed at the picture of the South Korean Flag. "Look daddy, It's the Diet Pepsi flag!!!!"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Santa's Whiskers


Ok. This is the last of the Christmas cookies I made this year. Finally. I don't know about you but I am sick of writing and reading about sweets. I'm really jonesing for some veggies and stews to bring me out of my sugar induced stupor.

Anyhow...let's get this over with. Santa's whiskers are another one of those cookies I remember my mom making year after year. I think nearly all the cookies I make are shades of brown or white. The reddish pink is a nice festive contrast on a cookie plate.

I don't know where my mom got her recipe from. I've made a few minimal changes here and there to her recipe, because I prefer a moister chewier cookie. If you want a crisper cookie I've included instructions for that as well in the recipe below.

Santa's Whiskers
1c butter
1 c sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 c flour
3/4 c (10 oz jar) finely chopped maraschino cherries, juice reserved
3T reserved cherry juice
1/2 c finely chopped pecans
3/4 c flaked coconut (I used over a cup...I like lots of coconut.)

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in extract. Stir in flour, cherries and nuts. Add juice to make dough desired color and texture. I like a pink wet dough. It results in a softer cookie. If you like a more crunchy cookie, omit the juice, or bake the cookie for longer. Form the dough into 2 logs. Roll logs in coconut. Wrap logs in wax paper and chill overnight. Slice logs into 1/4 inch thick circles. (The thinner you cut these the more crisp they turn out.) Bake in an oven preheated to 375 F for 10-12 minutes depending on desired crispness.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Anise Cookies

These Anise Rosettes were a cookie I remember my mom making year after year. I haven't made this cookie in a long time. After making them, I remember why they fell off the Christmas cookie rotation. They are excessively fussy.

First you make the dough then it has to chill overnight. Then you cut the dough into eighths and roll each piece into a log. The logs then get cut into smaller pieces and formed into a ring. The ring is then sliced to make a flower like shape. Next the dough is baked, and the baked cookies must sit to cool completely. Then you make icing and dip the completely cooled cookies into the icing. My mom always topped the cookies with with rainbow sprinkles which I thought was the best part of this cookie as a child. The final step of the cookie is to wait for the icing to set and dry. The last step seems to take forever.

It had been such a long time since I made these cookies had forgotten how much I liked these cookies. They are like a mildly licorice flavored light, airy, two bite size cake. It was nice to have the cookies again and take a stroll down memory lane, but I'm not sure if they will be something I make every year. Most likely I will make these every 2 years. That will be long enough for me to forget what a pain the butt they are to make.

Blockette really enjoyed helping out with these cookies. It was her job to add the sprinkles. She did a really great job and only got heavy handed with a few. The really cool thing about adding these little sprinkles is that the color runs a bit as the icing dries. This creates a streaky sort of tie dye look. Blockette got excited because the cookies turned into rainbows!!

The bad thing about these cookies, besides their fussiness, is that they have a short shelf life. You would think because these are such a moist cookie that they would dry out quickly. Nope, in fact, the exact opposite happens. They get overly moist and tend to stick together in a gooey mess. You can extend their life by a few days by freezing them. I forgot about that this time around. Hopefully I'll remember that for next time.

Anise Rosettes (makes about 3 dozen)
sift together:
3 c flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

in a a separate bowl cream:
1/4 c shortening
1/2 c sugar

add: 3 eggs, beat into sugar mix until blended
add: 1 tsp anise extract
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 T lemon juice

Stir in 2 cups dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in remaining flour. Knead until well blended. (I was able to stir with a regular spoon) Chill dough overnight. Divide dough into 8 parts. Roll into 20 inch lengths and cut into about 5 inch lengths. Form 5 inch logs into small ring. Make slits on the ring half way through. Bake8-10 minutes in a preheated 350 F oven. allow cookies to cool. Dip completely cooled cookies in glaze and top with sprinkles if desired.

Glaze
3 c sifted powdered sugar
1/3 c hot milk

Combine ingredients until sugar is completely dissolved in milk.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chocolate Crinkles

These used to be Mrblocko's favorite cookies until I made the Snickerdoodle truffles. Now I think they are at least tied for first. They are also my father-in-law's favorite cookie. Either way, they are another mandatory Christmas cookie. They taste kind of like a cakey brownie in cookie form. This is why they are my least favorite out of all the Christmas cookies I make. I prefer my brownies to be fudgy versus cakey.

The recipe is a very simple one, aside from needing to let the dough chill in the fridge overnight. If you are trying this cookie out for the first time, you might want to half the recipe. Or, as my uncle would say, "Make the full recipe and send half to him."

Chocolate Crinkles makes about 6 dozen
1/2 c veg oil
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 c sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c powdered sugar for rolling

Mix oil, chocolate and sugar. Blend in 1 egg at a time until all eggs are well incorporated. Add vanilla, stir. Add in in flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Chill overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F. Drop spoonful of dough into powdered sugar. (small cookie scooper is the perfect size) Roll and shape into balls. place 2 inches apart on parchment. Bake 10-12 min.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Russian Tea Cakes

These are my all time favorite Christmas cookie. Whether you call them Russian Teacakes, Snowballs, Mexican wedding cakes, or Crack for People, they always say Christmas to me. Lots of people put their own spin on this classic cookie by adding things like orange zest or green tea. I like mine plain and simple. Why mess with perfection?

Here are a few tips when making these crumbly-in-your-mouth bits of heaven:
1. If your recipe says to roll in balls...it lies. You've got to press them into a ball shape. The heat from your hands melts the butter a little bit and keeps them roughly in a ball shape. If you attempt to roll the dough into a ball shape the whole thing will crumble in your hands and you will want to shoot yourself in the eye. Seriously, its not happy fun times.

2. Use a cookie sheet with a lip. These little cookies are very roly-poly. If you don't, and you get bumped, trip or your pan decides to bend in the heat of the oven, there will be casualties.

3. Be very gentle when rolling the baked cookies in powdered sugar. If you roll the cookies too soon they will most likely break and crumble with the lightest touch. I've found that waiting 3-4 minutes, after they come out of the oven, is a good time for me. You may need to adjust that time depending on the heat of your kitchen.

4. Don't be skimpy with the powdered sugar. These cookies do not have a lot of sugar on the inside so they benefit from the extra sugar on the outside. I like to roll mine at least three times. I'm of the mind set that if you can eat one of these cookies without making a mess down the front of your shirt, you didn't roll them in enough powdered sugar!

Russian Teacakes
1 c butter
1/2 c sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c finely chopped walnuts

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir flour and salt together. Add flour mix to butter mix. Stir to combine. Stir in nuts. Chill dough overnight. Preheat oven to 400F. Press into 1 inch balls. Bake 10 minutes or til set, but not brown. While cookies are still warm, roll in more powdered sugar. Cool and roll in powdered sugar again. Makes about 4 dozen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fake Almond Joy

Homemade almond joys were another new cookie for me this year. The recipe is courtesy of Baking and Boys. I didn't have any almonds so I guess, technically, they are Mounds, not Almond Joy, They didn't turn out very nice looking, probably because of the chocolate I used for dipping. I had the most success with chocolate almond bark. The other stuff started to seize up from the moisture in the coconut filling.

Here's a bad photo of the ugly end result. Can you believe this is the best picture of the best looking candy?
I originally wanted to make these because one of the ingredients was very surprising. Guess what strange ingredient is a part of the coconut filling? POTATOES!!!! The starch in the mashed potatoes acts as a binder for the sugar and coconut. The sugar content is so high that you'd never know there is a tuber hidden in your candy.

If you want. you can pretend these are good for you. Potatoes have all kinds of wonderful vitamins. Of course you'd probably have to eat the whole batch to get any measurable amount of nutritional value. Hey! I've just given you rationalization for eating an entire batch of these guys!

As I mentioned earlier, I had a bit of a problem with my filling being watery. It didn't set up quite like I thought it should, even after it spent a few hours in the freezer. Maybe my mashed potatoes were too mashy? I used my small cookie scooper and attempted to make them into the traditional oval shape. The oval shaped ones fell apart when they were dipped in chocolate. The coconut filling fared much better when I left it in the round shape straight from the scooper.

Even though whole thing turned out to be an ugly mess, the Homemade Mounds were really quite tasty. Mrblocko said he didn't think they tasted any different than the originals. Of course we didn't do a side by side taste test so he is just going on memories from Halloween. I thought the homemade version was a bit sweeter than the original. The extra sweetness threw me for a loop at first, but after eating the first one I was hooked.

I'm not sure if these guys will live to see Christmas. Right now the homemade mounds are hiding in the freezer next to the snickerdoodle truffles. This actually decreases the safety of both candies. All it is is one stop cookie snacking!

Homemade Almond Joy Bars from Baking and Boys
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (with no seasonings)
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
24 almonds, toasted and cooled
12 oz. chocolate (Almond Joys are made with milk chocolate and Mounds are dark chocolate) Use your favorite.
1 tablespoon butter or shortening

Mix together in medium sized bowl the potatoes, sugar, coconut, salt and vanilla. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Form about a tablespoon of the coconut mixture into an oval shape and push an almond into the center. Set the coconut mounds on a sheet or plate covered with wax paper and freeze them for another 30 minutes or so. Melt chocolate in 20-30 second intervals in a microwave safe dish or in a double boiler on the stove then add the butter/shortening and stir until melted and smooth. With each mound on a spoon, dip them in the chocolate and cover to coat completely. Set them back on the wax paper and refrigerate until set. Makes 24.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wild Buffalo Wing Pie

It had been a while since I'd made Shepherd's/Cottage pie and was craving it's mash potato-meaty goodness. This time around I decided to spice things up, literally. My Kitchen Addiction had this great recipe for buffalo chicken shepherd's pie that she adapted from Rachael Ray's Buffalo Chicken chili. Even though the recipe is named "Buffalo chicken" chicken is not one of the ingredients. I guess you could use chicken, but at Meijer's, ground turkey is super cheap so there's no reason, in my book, to use chicken.

I could have made this dish look a lot nicer had I put the potatoes on in fancy blobs, or piped it out with a fancy large star tip frosting bag. I'm not that glamorous, so I just spread the whole thing out with a big boring old fork.

Mrblocko was over the moon about this dish. I mean why wouldn't he be. There is hot sauce in it. Hot Sauce people. (Have I mentioned his hot sauce addiction before? The man put hot sauce on his lasagna the other day. What kind of freaky freak does that??? My husband apparently.)

Even though this was a hot sauce festival in your mouth, I thought this was delicious. The sour cream and potatoes neutralized a lot of the heat from the hot sauce. It was spicy, but not overwhelmingly spicy.

Mrblocko and I thought the dish would be even better with more cheese. We really like cheese, ooey gooey cheese. Lots of people say cheese isn't good for you. I say it has calcium and I probably don't get enough of that in my diet. That's my excuse for my excessive cheese consumption and I'm sticking to it.

I wanted to point out that you can make this dish the night before. There is a fair amount of chopping and fussy work. It was so nice to just pop this in the oven a half hour or so before I wanted to eat. I had to bake mine for an extra 10 minutes, but it was worth the time saved before dinner.

Blockette was in a mood when I made this and decided she didn't want to eat. I told her dinner was made with buffalo wings and she asked "Buffalo Wild Wings????" I said, "Yes, Buffalo Wild Wings. I got the recipe from the restaurant. Wasn't that nice of them to give me the recipe?" She wavered a bit, but like I mentioned before, she was in a contrary mood and flat out refused to take more than an invisible bite.

When it came time to eating the leftovers she gladly ate her whole portion. Of course it could be that I squeezed a mess of BBQ sauce over the top. Then again it could be because I told her the squashed cherry tomatoes were "Buffalo Tongues." The kid who hates tomatoes was upset when she had "eated all her tongues."

Buffalo Chicken Shepherd's Pie from My Kitchen Addiction
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
2 ribs celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup + dash hot sauce
4 cups mashed potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
2 ounces colby jack cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a deep pie dish or a baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the ground turkey in the oil. Once the turkey is browned, add the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-6 additional minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the cherry tomatoes and smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Add the tomato paste and 1/4 cup of hot sauce. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat and simmer while preparing the potatoes. In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, sour cream, colby jack cheese, and a dash of hot sauce. Pour the chicken mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Spoon the potatoes on top of the chicken mixture.Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Sprinkle with some additional smoked paprika.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cheater Fudge Truffles

Here's another no bake recipe for the holidays, 2 ingredient fudge. I found this recipe on recipezaar, but it is all over the interweb. I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chips and cream cheese frosting. Then, I scooped them into balls and rolled half of them in crushed Oreo cookies and the other half in crushed candy canes.I'm glad I checked out the comment section on recipezaar before making this. A fair share of people had issues with the fudge not setting up. Some people suggested that it was because they melted the frosting. My frosting was already very soft so I didn't even see the point of melting it. Why melt something to make it stirable when you can already stir it?

More than likely, the problems people had with their fudge not setting up was because they didn't read the directions properly. The recipe calls for a 12 oz can of frosting. My can of frosting was 16 oz. Just use 3/4 of a can and you'll have no problem with the fudge solidifying.

In fact, I think my fudge may have set up a bit too well. I made the mistake of putting everything in the fridge for 30 min. Do not do that if you want to roll your fudge into truffles. The fudge will be rock hard. Break out your small scooper right away and portion the fudge into truffles before it cools. I was able to correct my mistake by breaking up the fudge into a microwave safe bowl. I then microwaved the fudge for about 30 seconds until it was scoopable again.

These are Blockette's favorite Christmas treat this year. I think they are just ok. I'll try this recipe again, but with a different chip and frosting combination.

Cheater fudge Truffles from Food.com
1 (12 ounce) can of ready to spread frosting, any flavor
1 (12 ounce) package chocolate chips, any flavor (ie. chocolate chips)

Make sure you have complimentary flavors. Melt the chips in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. Melt frosting until pourable, about 30 seconds. Mix together the chips and frosting and pour into a greased 8x8 pan. Chill until set, about an hour. Makes a very soft, smooth fudge. Try any other flavor combo you can think of.


Read more: http://www.food.com/recipe/2-ingredient-fudge-105452#ixzz1b51Ub7x8

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Truffles

Whooo baby! I thought these snickerdoodle cookie dough truffles, from One Ordinary Day, looked interesting on paper, so I added them to the ever growing list of cookies to make this Christmas. I'm sure glad they made the cut.

These are insanely simple to make. You don't even need an oven because they don't get baked. They do need to be kept chilled so they keep their shape. These babies are resting comfortably in my freezer...ok not so comfortably because we keep eating them.

Mrblocko says they may be his new favorite Christmas cookie. He says he's not quite sure yet and will have to continue to conduct scientific experiments where he eats some of each kind of cookie I make to compare. He has such a rough life doesn't he? The sacrifices he continues to make. I'm sure he does all that only to show his love and support for me, his wife. OK, I'll give you a moment to recover from that laughing fit you just had. Hooo...good times, eh?
The weird thing about this cookie is that I don't even like snickerdoodles, and Mrblocko doesn't like raw cookie dough. (He is paranoid about raw eggs, but there are no eggs in this recipe so he feels safe eating them...eating lots and lots of them.) I think this speaks volumes about the sheer awesomeness of the cookie. Or the bloody brillance of combining butter, sugar and sweetened condensed milk.

Just for fun, I rolled the truffles in a combination of red decoration sugar and regular sugar. I also portioned them out small cookie scoop and they turned out the perfect size. I was worried about the truffles sticking together so I put them in small paper candy cups as well. I think it makes them look extra fancy. We are all about the FANCY these days. Thanks Fancy Nancy, now nothing can ever be ordinary again.

Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough Truffles from One Ordinary Day
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
sanding sugar

In a bowl, combine the salt, flour, and cinnamon and set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and mix until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture, alternating with sweetened condensed milk. Shape into 1″ balls, roll in sanding sugar, and place on cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Flash freeze for about an hour before putting truffles into an airtight container. Store in freezer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Boldly go where no cookie has gone before...

I'm full on in cookie baking mode. I was going to post about these gingersnaps when I realized I had already wrote about them here. What I didn't mention in that post was that I did not find the recipe on Penzey's website. I first came across the recipe in their catalog where it is called "Great Grandma Moog's Gingersnap Cookies."

Being the mega geek that I am, every time I make these cookies I think of this lady pictured below. Yup, that's the mother of Quark from Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is affectionately known by her children as Moogie. Who knew Ferengi were such avid bakers? I didn't think they had the lobes for it.

Gingerboys

Blockette is the only girl in her class at school so I thought what better Christmas gift than Gingerbread men ornaments. I cut everything out, but the munchkin did all the gluing and choosing of the color combinations.
Ain't they the cutest ornies ever??

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tiramisu Bundt

We went to a Christmas party last weekend and we were told to bring dessert. I gave Mrblocko a choice of several different bars, cakes and pies. This was his choice: Tiramisu Bundt with Mascarpone Kahlua Frosting.

On the left is the unfrosted cake. No pan stickage! Hooray for Pam with Flour! Never before would I get such a clean release from the pan by greasing and flouring the old fashioned way. The right side is obviously the frosted side. I thought it looked a bit boring so I tossed on a few mini semi sweet chocolate chips to add some visual interest.


I've never used mascarpone cheese before. I wasn't even sure I'd like it. Most people pronounce it Mar- ska - pone. I've been mispronouncing it for years. Its actually Mass- car-pone. I didn't find that out until I was trying to find out what Mascarpone actually was. I wasn't sure if it was a cheese or a cream. I found out from here that it's actually a cheese that is creamy and spreadable like butter.
The website also tells you how to make your own Mascarpone. It also provides a listing of where the cheese is sold in your state. If that isn't good enough for you, or the cheese proves to be cost prohibitive/you don't have the time or inclination to make the real thing, the website also provides recipes for similar tasting substitutes. Luckily, I found Mascarpone easily at Meijers and it was cheaper than I thought it was going to be. Yay me!
Holy cow. The frosting was bloody brilliant. There was a small amount left over from frosting the cake and Mrblocko and I ate it on Ritz crackers. I have enough Mascarpone cheese left to make another batch of frosting. I'm seriously tempted to make another batch. I probably would if I wasn't already swimming in Christmas cookies and candies.

I wasn't entirely pleased with the cake itself. The Kahlua and coffee flavored layers were a bit of a disappointment. I expected them to stand out more from the unflavored part of the cake. Instead, they both sort of floated up to the top where it was hard to distinguish them from the brown of the baked top of the cake. I thought they were a bit gummy as well. I'm not ashamed to admit that I ate the unflavored parts and scraped the frosting off the top.
The hostess of the party told everyone to bring desserts. Only three people wound up having a slice of this cake, so there was a plethora of leftovers. Even with us Blockos munching on the cake the rest of the weekend, there was still just over half a cake left. Mrblocko gladly took the remaining cake with him to work where it was met with rave reviews.

His co-workers really hit the jackpot because this cake seemed to improve with age. I think they got to eat the cake when it was at it's best. I don't know if that is true just for this particular bundt cake, or for all bundt cakes. I have to make another cake this weekend, so I'll test out that theory by baking that cake a day in advance.

Would I make this cake again? Probably not, but I'll definitely make this frosting again.

Tiramisu bundt cake with Kahlua Mascarpone Frosting from Taste and See
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup espresso or very strong coffee
1/4 cup Kahlua

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Working in two or three additions, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk into the bowl, ending with an addition of flour, and mixing just until everything is incorporated. Remove 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Remove another cup of batter into a second small bowl. Add espresso to one of the small bowls and whisk until well-combined. Add Kahlua to the second small bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour half of the plain batter into the bundt pan and spread into an even layer. Pour the Kahlua batter into an even layer on top of the plain batter. Pour espresso batter on top of Kahlua batter. These batters may be slightly thinner, but do not mix or stir them. Carefully spread all remaining plain batter into the bundt pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 15-20 minutes, then turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.


Kahlua Mascarpone Frosting
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
4-ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed until very smooth and fluffy. Use a butter knife or spatula to apply the frosting to the bundt in a thick, even layer.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bajio Chicken

I'd never heard of Bajio Grill. They seem to be located mostly in the western states, with the exception of Texas, Florida, Kentucky and Indiana. Maybe the fact that there are restaurants in Kentucky and Indian means they are slowly branching out to the Midwest. This recipe from Real Mom Kitchen is supposed to be a knock off of their Bajio chicken. I don't know how Bajio Grill makes their chicken in the restaurant, but this recipe is prepared in the crockpot.

There is no photo cause shredded chicken is not a pretty thing. It sure is tasty though. I used Pace Picante because we like that type of "salsa". Picante is much more watery than a regular salsa. It seemed like there was an over abundance of liquid once the chicken was cooked and shredded. I don't know if this was because of the Picante or because I forgot to add the corn starch at the end. Probably a bit of both. Either way, I'll use regular salsa next time.

I'll also drain chilies. That would help eliminate some unnecessary liquid as well. I used mild chilies, but next time I'll use a spicier version. The heat would be a great contrast to the sweetness of the sauce.

I made two other changes to the original recipe. I used six chicken breasts instead of five, just because my chicken was frozen in packages of two. I had some Mountain Dew, so I used that in place of the Sprite. Laura, from Real Mom Kitchen said she had to increase the amount of brown sugar by 1/8 c from the 1/4 c from the original recipe. Instead of doing that, I think using Diet Mountain Dew and Splenda brown sugar instead would make the dish sweeter. Artificial sweeteners seem to make things taste sweeter than the real thing, and in this dish, sweeter is better.

Bajio Chicken from Real Mom Kitchen
5 chicken breasts (I only used 4 large ones)
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 cup brown sugar (more to taste)
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
6 oz. Sprite (1/2 can)

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return to crock pot and cook 1 more hour. Thicken the juices with a little cornstarch mixed in water. Serve with flour tortillas, lettuce, cheese, black beans and any other taco fixings. If you want it spicer rather than sweeter add a hotter salsa and more green chilies.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cake Mix Cookies, Take Three: Lemon Edition

I've made cake mix cookies two times before. Once successfully and once not so successfully. A while back I saw another recipe for cake mix cookies on My Baking Addiction and thought I'd give this lemon version a try.
The cookies didn't spread as much as I thought which was probably due to the fact that I stuck the dough in the fridge for a few hours before I portioned them out with a small cookie scoop. They turned out a perfect size. If you are going to make cake mix cookies, do yourself a favor and chill that dough!

I didn't have lemon extract so I just left it out. There was enough lemon flavor from the cake mix, lemon zest, and lemon juice. If you are freaky about lemon flavor, go ahead and add that extract, but I don't think it's necessary. These cookies reminded me a bit of the lemon Froot Loops. Don't get me wrong, I like Froot Loops, but there was a weird artificial taste that was a bit off putting. Now I'm wondering if the lemon extract would hide some of that funky aftertaste.
I made these cookies for Blockette's Christmas pageant figuring no one else would bring anything remotely similar. I was right, the cookie tables were mostly filled with a wide variety of gingerbread and sugar cookies. The lemon cookies sure looked good, I just wished they tasted as good as they looked.

Simple Lemon Cookies from My Baking Addiction
1 (18.25 ounce) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 F. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, and lemon juice, lemon extract and lemon zest until well blended.Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners’ sugar. Roll them around until they’re lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes in the preheated oven. The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Penzey Sausage Craisin Stuffing

I am not a fan of stuffing at all. As a kid, every year at Thanksgiving, it was my job to rip up the stale white bread for the stuffing. I figured since I helped make the stuffing it was ok to abstain from eating it. My uncle was always happy with that because it meant more for him. I mean, I didn't eat any so my uncle could have more...yeah, that's it.

Penzey Sausage Craisin Stuffing made a stuffing convert out of me.
It has dried cranberries and sausage, so it is colorful as well as delicious. Plus, the stuffing gets baked outside of the bird, so the bread is only slighly less crispy than a crouton. I think that's why I haven't liked stuffing in the past. I'm not a fan of the gummy version of stuffing. Mrblocko isn't either. I'm so happy I found this recipe because now I feel like I can prepare a traditional holiday dish that my family will enjoy. In fact, I like this stuffing so much I could eat it as a main course.


 Penzeys Sausage Craisin Stuffing
8 brat buns (any crusty bun will work - it just shouldn't be a soft hot dog bun)
1 lb. pork sausage
1 small onion, minced (about 1/2 Cup)
turkey liver and giblets (optional)
1 tsp. POULTRY SEASONING
1/2 Cup red grape juice
1/2 Cup craisins
2 eggs
1 Cup milk

Rip buns into small chunks and place in a large bowl. In a large fry pan over med-high heat, brown sausage, minced onion and turkey liver plus giblets if desired, sprinkle with POULTRY SEASONING. When browned and fully cooked, remove giblets and liver to cool so they can be minced into tiny bits. Toss the sausage and onion in with the bread. Pour the red grape juice into the hot pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon to get the tasty brown bits. When the liquid has reduced by about half, add craisins, toss to combine with liquid, then add to the bread. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and add to the bread. At this point the liver and giblets should be cool enough to mince. Add to the stuffing bowl and mix everything well. Place in a covered baking dish or cover with foil and bake at 350° for 60 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking for a nice golden color. After removing the foil, drizzle a bit of the cooked turkey juices over the top for the final 10 minutes of cooking time if desired.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

I don't know where I got this recipe. I made it for the first time for Thanksgiving 2006. In 2006 I rarely wrote down which websites I found recipes on. I did a search online but didn't find anything close to this particular recipe.

This time I wound up, unintentionally, making huge batch. Squash was on sale and I bought the biggest most gigantic monster squash on the planet. I usually bake it in a 2 quart dish, but then I re-read the part where the thickness of the gratin should only be about an inch thick. I decided the 9x13 pan, that holds 3 quarts, would work better. The dish didn't seem to taste any different being thinner, but if you like crusty browned cheese, make the dish on the thin side.

If you look closely you can see little leaves on top of the gratin. These were the last surviving bits from my sage plant. I had to scrounge up these bits because most had succumbed to the cold weather. Good thing I made this dish when I did because it's brr freezing cold now and all the leaves are kaput.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
1- 2 1/2 lb spaghetti squash
9 fresh sage leaves, 6 leaves finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced into a paste
2 1/2 c Gruyere cheese, about 8 oz
3/4 c heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
butter

Chop your squash in half. Scoop out the seeds 'n' guts and throw them away. Place 1 half of the squash cut side down on microwave safe dish with 1/2 c water. Cover with plastic wrap. Nuke for 8-10 minutes. Repeat with remaining half of squash. (You could bake the squash in the oven for 45 min at 350. I'm a microwave girl so I use it when I can to save time.) Once squash is cool enough to touch, scrape out noodle like flesh with a fork. Place in a large bowl. (My squash had a lot of liquid so I let hang out in a strainer in the sink for a while.)

Preheat oven to 375. rub baking dish with butter. Toss squash with sage, garlic, 2 c cheese, cream, salt and pepper. Spread the mixture evenly in a baking dish. The mixture should only be about an inch or so thick. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. arrange 3 sage leaves on top. bake 45 min. top with black pepper.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Magnet Tins

These are the Christmas gifts Blockette and I made for her teachers this year. They are Altoid tins filled with 8 tiny magnets. The magnets are made from small circles cut from Christmas cards placed under small glass stones. I knew there was a reason why I kept all those old Christmas cards!

I also used part of a Christmas card to decorate the inside of the tin. Blockette picked out her favorite cards and I cut them out for her.

Then we decorated the outside of the tins with felt and buttons. Again, I did the cutting and she did the gluing. She did such a great job centering everything I don't think I could have done a better job myself.
Blockette was upset at first to learn that we were giving these buttons to her teacher for keeps. She thought that they would give them back to her after Christmas. I had to remind her that was not what gift giving was about. I think she's OK with it. We'll see when she gives them to her teachers next week!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coffee Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

I'm not quite sure what happened with this coffee chocolate chip banana bread from Baking Bites. It did not turn out the best. I didn't care for it because it was super dense. Blockette loved it and Mrblocko thought it was good, but not at the top of his list of favorite banana breads. I don't know if the changes I made were the reason why my bread turned out wonky. First, I used 1/4 c applesauce instead of 1/4 c oil. Maybe the oil makes the bread have a lighter crumb. I also used powdered buttermilk instead of the fresh. I've never had powdered buttermilk have a negative effect on a recipe before though.

The recipe said to divide the batter into 2 small bread pans. I was afraid that the pans would overflow if I did that so I put them in 3 pans instead. It was almost as if I had 3 small banana bread bricks! I don't know enough about the chemistry of quick breads to know if the volume of batter in each pan caused the loaves to be so compact.

The last change I made was to use dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. I liked this recipe alteration the best. The dark chocolate and coffee flavors were very complimentary. It was probably the only thing I liked about this bread.

I froze one of the loaves and it was no worse (or better) for wear. Blockette still liked it but I ended up tossing most of it out because it got forgotten in the back of the fridge. I won't make this recipe again. There are banana bread recipes out there that are much tastier than this one.


Coffee Chocolate Chip Banana Bread from Baking Bites
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 packet Starbucks Via, or 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 medium bananas, mashed (approx 1 cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two two 5×3-inch loaf pans (or use disposable foil pans). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, Via or instant espresso, sugar and brown sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, vegetable oil, buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract until smooth and well-combined. Pour into dry ingredients and stir only until no streaks of flour remain. Add in chocolate chips and stir to evenly distribute. Divide evenly into prepared pans. Place pans in a baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack.

Makes 2 mini loaves
Note: This bread can be baked in a 9×5-inch loaf pan, increasing the baking time to about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Apple Dumplings!!!

Do you remember Strawberry Shortcake...the doll??? Well she had a friend named Apple Dumpling. I had both Strawberry Shortcake and Apple Dumpling dolls back when I was a shorty short pants. I rarely played with Apple Dumpling. I always preferred Strawberry Shortcake. The same was true with their dessert namesakes. I was gaga over strawberry shortcake and would pass over the apple dumplings.
Photo from Pinkyjane's photostream on flikr

I first encountered this particular recipe for apple dumplings on Pioneer Woman. I didn't give the recipe a second thought because dumplings weren't my cup of tea. Then I saw the same recipe for apple dumplings again on Our Best Bites. I'm a big fan of these bloggers and I thought I should take their advice and make this recipe.

Oh the Shame! Oh the Horror! Why did I ever wait???? Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just make these Apple dumplings. They are the easiest things ever to make. Can you peel and cut an apple? Can you open a can of crescent rolls? Can you melt butter and then add sugar and vanilla? Can you open a can of pop? If you've answered yes to the above questions, what in the world are you waiting for. Make yourself some delicious apple dumplings and don't forget the ice cream!

Apple Dumplings from Pioneer Woman
2 whole Granny Smith Apples
2 cans (8 Oz. Cans) Crescent Rolls
2 sticks Butter
1-1/2 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Cinnamon, To Taste
1 can (12 Oz.) Mountain Dew Soda

Peel and core apples. Cut each apple into 8 slices each. Roll each apple slice in a crescent roll. Place in a 9 x 13 buttered pan. Melt butter, then add sugar and barely stir. Add vanilla, stir, and pour entire mixture over apples. Pour Mountain Dew around the edges of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve with ice cream, and spoon some of the sweet sauces from the pan over the top.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hoisin Chicken and Rice Bowls

Hey! What in the world is that mess on the computer screen? Click on the picture and you'll see hoisin chicken rice bowl from My Kitchen Cafe. It looks much more appetizing when the picture is enlarged. This picture is, of course, before I added the rice.

I made quite a bit of changes to the original recipe. I added 1 small minced onion that I cooked until it was brown and caramelized. I roasted the red pepper and minced that as well. I'm still getting used to eating peppers, I'm not quite up to eating them in long strips just yet. The recipe called for 4 T of Hoisin sauce. I thought I had enough, but was 1/2 T shy. I used Peking Sauce to make up the difference.

We all thought this was a great dish. Blockette pretended that we were in China visiting Po from Kung Fu Panda
and Hoho, Lulu, Tolee, Rintoo, and Kailan from Ni Hao Kailan.Blockette loved this dish. She got to use her learning chopsticks my best friend Mrs Thunder was kind enough to share. When I was reheating the leftovers, Blockette started playing with her learning chopsticks. Guess she got a bit too rough and they broke. After that, Blockette wanted nothing to do with her rice bowl. She said the dish was yucky and refused to eat any of it. Lucky, Mrs Thunder has another pair for her so I can make the rice bowl again.

The next time we have this dish I'll add a few things. Mrblocko wished there was a bit of heat to the dish so I'll add a bit of red pepper flakes. I'll also add additional veggies like baby corn, pea pods and carrot coins. Not only will it be a bit better for us with all those veggies, but the dish will be more colorful too.

Hoisin Chicken and Rice Bowl from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large red pepper, diced small
1 10-ounce package baby portebello mushrooms, diced small
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 average-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced small
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained, diced small
2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce (you can find this by the soy sauce)
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 cups of hot cooked rice
romaine lettuce leaves
sesame seeds
scallions, thinly sliced

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add red pepper and mushrooms and saute for 5 – 6 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute an additional minute. Add chicken to pan and cook for 6 – 8 minutes or until cooked through. Stir chicken and red pepper mixture occasionally while it cooks. Add water chestnuts, teriyaki sauce and hoisin sauce and stir to coat the chicken and vegetables. Continue cooking until heated through.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pecan Tilapia and Wild Rice Corn

Fish, why does it always have to taste so...fishy. I'd probably like it a whole lot more if it wasn't so stinky. I like other stinky food, like blue cheese and garlic. To me, blue cheese and garlic are a good stinky, kind of like cookies baking in the oven is a good stinky. Although, the idea of garlic and blue cheese cookies is not an appetizing one. Go figure.

I made my first leap into the stinky a few weeks ago with Tuna noodle hotdish. I actually liked that, but I wasn't sure if that was because it was so terribly bad for me. Things that are horrible for you always seem to be the most delicious. That's probably why cats like antifreeze so much.

I've been hesitant to try another fish dish because I was afraid I wouldn't like it. I am afraid that if I don't like a food that is new to me, Blockette will follow suit and say she doesn't like it just because I don't. I'm trying to be a good example for her...at least most of the time I am.

I saw a recipe for Pecan Crusted Catfish in the Dec 2009 issue of Woman's day(see bottom of post for recipe), and thought the flavor and aroma of the cooked pecans might minimize the fishy ish that is fish. I showed the recipe to Mrblocko and he agreed, only he suggested Tilapia. He said it is a less stinky fish and I would be more inclined to like it. Wouldn't you know it, the next week frozen tilapia was on sale.

Was I ever pleasantly surprised. The fish was only mildly fishy, but not so much that I couldn't tolerate it. We did have a problem because the fish was not completely defrosted by the time it was cooked. We had to cook the fish a bit longer than the suggested time. There's no picture of the fish because it got a bit mangled in the checking for done-ness process. Next time I'll take the fish out to defrost at least overnight. The 6-8 hours the package suggested was definitely not enough time.

The Pecan fish was paired with Pioneer Woman's fresh corn with wild rice. Wow! They made a great combo. Mrblocko is not a big fan of rice but he will eat it. He does seem to like wild rice a bit better than the plain white stuff though. Even he thought it was delicious. I halved the recipe and it still made bunches. I also substituted frozen corn instead of the fresh. I don't know about you, but it is next to impossible to find fresh corn at the end of November.


I don't know how I managed to pair up a dish I thought I might not like with a dish I thought Mrblocko might not like. Must have been my subconscious saying, "Well if you're not going to be happy with this meal you won't be alone." Lucky for both of us everything turned out so tasty.

Pecan Crusted Fish from Dec 2009 issue of Woman's Day
4 fillets (6-8 oz each) tilapia or catfish
2 tsp honey mustard
1 c pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 450. line rimmed baking pan with foil. fine chop pecans. spread on wax paper. put honey mustard in small cup stir in 2 tsp water. brush one side of fillets with mustard mix, then press in to the chopped pecans. place on baking pan. bake 10-14 min til pecans are lightly toasted and fish is just cooked through.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wild Olive Tees

Pioneer Woman is one of my favorite blogs. She just came out with a cook book called Pioneer Woman Cooks, Rcipes from an Accidental Country Girl. She's been on a book tour promoting her book. She's even had T-shirts made to commemorate the event.

The T-shirts she's had made were through the company Wild Olive. They have some great looking tees for women and children with scripture versus encorportated into the design. Stop by their site and check em out! If you like what you see, head on over to their blog and enter their contest to win a free shirt.

Super Sweet Sweet Potato Hotdish

The Blockos started a tradition a few years back where we go to Mrblocko's Grandma's for Thanksgiving and my mom's for Christmas. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement, but we are. There's no way we can make everyone happy so we figured we should make ourselves happy since we have to live with ourselves all the time.(Everyday.)

Every year I'm asked to bring my sweet potatoes. I get sick of making the same every Thanksgiving. Last year I rebelled and brought a pie instead. Can you say anarchy? Someone else brought sweet potatoes. Just a can of sweet potatoes. Ew. No wonder why everyone was upset.

So I've resigned myself to the fact that I will be bringing this dish every year. If the alternative is plain canned sweet potatoes, I'm willing to be predictable. I got the original recipe for Charline's Sweet Potato Casserole from Allrecipes. The original recipe says it serves 24. This dish is so sweet if you are serving it as a side versus dessert, it will feed a lot more people than 24.

Even though this dish is highly requested, I've had a lot of issues with it. Namely, the cooked dish never really solidifies. It has always turned out to be a soupy mess. The soupy nature never seemed to stop anyone for going back for seconds or thirds. It bothered me though.

This year I increased the amount of sweet potatoes from 2 cups to 2 1/2 cups, reduced the amount of butter, used half brown and white sugar, and baked the potatoes instead of boiling them. Viola! Problem solved. No soupy mess. Hooray! I think I can finally stop tinkering with this recipe.

Here is my scaled down version for 12:

Insulin Shock Inducing Sweet Potato Hotdish
2 1/2 c sweet potatoes (about 3 medium large)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
1/4 c butter, melted
1/2 c evaporated milk
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1 c mini marshmallows
1/2 c flaked coconut

Topping
3/4 c crushed corn flakes (This year I used Touch of Honey Cornflakes. The topping didn't get as crispy as it did with the plain cornflakes.)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c chopped pecans
1/4 c butter, melted

Wash and stab the potatoes all over with a fork. (It helps if you make the stabbing sound from the movie Psycho as you do this.) Cook for about 1 hour at 450 degrees, until the potatoes are tender. Some of the sugars from the potato may bubble out and caramelize on top of the potato. That's OK. When the potatoes are cool enough to touch peel off the skins.

Place the potato flesh in a large bowl and mash slightly with a fork. Mix potatoes with 1/2 c sugar, 1/2 c brown sugar, eggs, 1/4 cup butter, evaporated milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, marshmallows and coconut. Scoop the mixture into a 2 quart baking dish you've buttered, or sprayed with PAM. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the crushed cornflakes, 1/4 c brown sugar, pecans and remaining 1/4 cup butter. Spread the topping over the baked casserole. Bake an additional 10 minutes until the topping gets brown and crispy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Not Barney Dino Plushie

I feel like I'm making great progress on the hand made Christmas presents this year. Last year I was just running around, scrambling at the last minute trying to cram everything in. This year I had a plan. I decided ahead of time what I was going to make and for who. Already I'm feeling less stressed out. Since I'm not rushed, I can actually get excited about the things I'm making for people as I'm making them.

This little guy is made out of fuzzy purple microsuade for my newest nephew. He was born at the end of Oct at 26 weeks. The little guy is a fighter and is making great progress. At about 12 inches, the Dino is probably just a bit smaller than my nephew.

I know when people think of purple dinosaurs they immediately conjure up images of Barney. This is clearly not Barney purple. Besides, isn't Barney more like a T-Rex than a Brontosaurus? It kind of makes you wonder why Barney hangs out with all those kids. I get the impression Barney is NOT a vegetarian. It's a great plan, lulling those kids into a saccharine induced stupor with his viral songs. Barney's no dolt. He's got a good racket going.

Anyhow, I didn't make this Dino purple because of Barney. Nope. I did it cause of the Vikings. Mrblocko and his brother are big fans. I'm wondering if it would be overkill to stitch, in gold, a number 4 on the side or the word "Vikings" on the tail. What do you think? Should I leave well enough alone or add embellishment?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fairy Poppet Present Finished!!!!

Blockette is going to her first Birthday party of someone who isn't one of the offspring of my or Mrblocko's friends. I've been feeling the crafty bug so I figured I'd kill 2 birds with one stone, and make a special present. This is the fourth poppet I've made. I got the pattern and various tutorials from ghilie's Poppet-a-long on Craftster.

This time around, I really learned a lot. I got better at attaching the hair, worked up enough courage to bake a clay nose (which involved sticking the whole head in the oven), and successfully made bendable fingers instead of paws. I also finally figured out how to make decent looking eyelids as well.

The thing that I'm most proud of with this doll is that I made the wings, dress, undies and shoes completely from scratch. I've never been good at drafting patterns. These all turned out far better than I expected. They actually look decent. Yay me!
Have you guessed yet who she is supposed to be? Maybe this will help:
Don't they look flitteriffic together?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sure looks pink to me

So Blockette has an ear infection, and it is coming out her eyes? Apparently, that happens with kids sometimes. Who knew.

Her eyes look more pink than this picture shows. The pharmacist commented that it was the worst case of pink eye she's seen. I told her it wasn't pink eye. You could have knocked her over with a feather.

I hope Blockette never actually gets pink eye, cause her eyes would probably glow infrared and have lasers shooting out of them. Although, she'd probably think that was super cool.

Dulcie's Acorn Soup

Are you familiar with Dulcie? She's a baking talent fairy from Fairyhaven in Neverland. You know, one of Tinkerbell's friends. You don't know?? What! You mean you don't read books from the Pixie Hollow series? Blockette cannot get enough of these books, and we have read every one our library has. Dulcie is featured in Fairy Berry Bake Off and Dulcie's Taste of Magic.
I've mentioned once or twice that Blockette is not big on soup. She's also not a fan of onions or potatoes. I was in the mood for soup so I knew I'd have to do some serious scheming to get Blockette to even try Taste and Tell's corn sausage chowder. Enter Dulcie's Acorn Soup. I told Blockette I got the recipe from Dulcie and that the potatoes were actually acorns.

It worked better than I could have hoped. She ate a few spoonfuls, which were a few more than I thought she would eat. Dinner was still a battle, but at least she tried it. Strangely enough, since I told her the potatoes were acorns, I didn't hear any whining about how she didn't want to eat potatoes. I think part of the problem was that she is still sick. This soup made a lot, so I'll serve the leftovers up when she isn't getting over Bronchitis.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe. I used almost 4 c of chopped potatoes because I wanted to use up the potatoes I had in the fridge before they went bad. Since there were extra potatoes, the soup was a bit thicker than I like. I didn't drain the corn and added water until the soup was the desired consistency. I'd guess it was about a cup or 2. I'd definitely make this soup again. It was delicious!

Corn Sausage Chowder from Taste and Tell
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 cups potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 15 1/4-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 14 3/4-ounce can cream-style corn
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven, cook sausage and onion until sausage is browned and cooked through. Drain well. Stir in potatoes, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in both cans of corn and evaporated milk. Cook until warmed through.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Crockpot Applesauce Chicken

This is another one of those ugly meals. Even if you look at the photo for crockpot applesauce chicken on Crockpot365, it it ain't perty. I figure if a high traffic website can't make something look super fancy then I shouldn't feel bad about it not looking swell either.

I used cinnamon applesauce because it was what we had on hand. I really liked the extra cinnamon taste. I also increased the amount of red pepper flakes to 1/2 tsp. I think it could have been even spicier, but then I don't think Blockette would have been able to stand the heat.

Blockette loved this meal. She was hesitant to try it at first, probably because it didn't look to appealing. Once I told her the sauce was applesauce she loved it. She even asked for the leftovers.

The leftovers were just as good as the first night. I think this was because the chicken was so moist. The pieces barely held their shape coming out of the slow cooker. Overly moist and tender chicken is never ever a bad thing. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Crockpot applesauce chicken from A Year of Slow Cooking
4 frozen chicken breast halves or thighs (I used 2 of each)
1 1/2 cups of applesauce
1 T dried onion flakes, or 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

A 3 or 4 quart crockpot is the best size for this, but I did use a 6 quart. If your pot cooks fast, err on the lower end of cooking time. Put the frozen chicken pieces into your crockpot. Add the onion (if you are using the dried onion, wait and add it to the applesauce). In a bowl, mix the applesauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices together. Pour on top of the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, or on high for 3-4.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wormy Apple Burgers or Help with a Picky Eater

Burgers and Tater Tots!! Dinner of champions and 4 year olds! Yes, I realize this isn't the most glamorous looking meal. When you are working with new foods and preschoolers, familiarity trumps fancy.

As a general rule, we all eat the same thing at dinner. Sure there are times when we have leftovers and everyone eats something different, or I'll let Blockette have something like nuggets and Mrblocko and I will eat something a little more grown up. Most of the time our plates look very similar.

This goes back to the days when Blockette was in food therapy. Blockette had difficulties with the transition between phase 2 and phase 3/solid foods. She just didn't want to chew. A good portion of her problem was the result of stubbornness. (Where did that come from?!) Anyhow, one of the rules while she was in therapy was to eat what she eats. Ew. I cringe thinking about all the weird food combinations I ingested. (Think french fries dipped in grape jelly and tartar sauce. Gag!)

When Blockette graduated from therapy, I continued to use many of the therapy rules on a daily basis. The rules not only became effective tools to get a picky toddler to eat, but to try new things as well. The concept behind this particular rule is: kids are instant replay buttons. If they see a certain behavior enough times they will mimic that behavior, whether it is a good one or not.

This isn't an instant fix for the picky eater problem. It took us many frustrating months of trial and error to figure out the specifics of what would work the best for Blockette. There are days when it doesn't work at all. (Like, say when she has Bronchitis.) However, if you look at the big picture, most of the time she tries a lot of new things with little or no objection.

The other therapy rules we still use are:
1. Who ever is home at meal time, we sit down together at the table. This also means she is not allowed to get up from the table unless she asks first.

2. No TV. This used to be no distractions at all. I used to have to close the window curtain because even that was too distracting.

3. If we are having a new food, some of it has to be on her plate, and she has to try at least one bite.

4. If she wants dessert she has to eat all of her dinner. This sometimes encourages her to get past that first bite of new food. A lot of times she realizes she likes the new food on the third bite.

5. She can't have her drink until she has finished her meal. This eliminates saying she is full from her beverage. We are working on removing this rule now by allowing her to have half her drink during the meal.

6. Getting her involved in making the meal. If she helps make the meal she has pride in it and is more inclined to eat it.

7. She has 40 minutes to eat her meal. It's her choice to eat if she wants to, but when the timer goes off the meal is over and the table is cleared. This was one of the more difficult rules for me at the beginning of therapy. I was convinced Blockette was going to starve because she was going to screw around/stall/do anything but eat. Then the therapist pointed out that most people eat a Thanksgiving dinner in less than 40 minutes. This includes going back for seconds (or even thirds) and dessert. Blockette has not wasted away from starvation and I haven't gone insane from 3 hour dinners (or lunches or breakfasts). Most of the time we don't even have to set the timer. She just eats like a normal person. Then there are days when she can only manage 2 bites in those 40 minutes. When that happens, you'd better believe she wolfs down her next meal.

8.Finding fun new names for food. Sometimes if the food sounds fun, it makes it fun to eat.

Rule #8 is my favorite. I told Blockette the meal pictured above was called Wormy apple burgers. This might not work for a lot of little girls, but I know Blockette finds the idea of eating worms hilarious. I also told her the "worms" were made from apples. She has it in her head that she doesn't like onions. (Maybe I should write a rule #9-- down right trickery!)

Mrblocko and I saw this recipe for Autumn Harvest Burger with Caramelized Onion and Apple last year on Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Burgers. This recipe wasn't the winner, but we sure thought it looked tasty.

The recipe says to make 4 burgers, but we thought the portion size would be insane for us. Instead we made 8 bun sized burgers and 2 half size burgers for Blockette. Four of the burgers we stuck in the freezer, uncooked, to eat another day. We did use all of the Caramelized onion and apple topping for the 4 regular and 2 small burgers. I really liked the onion and apples together, and totally pigged out on it.

We decided to omit the bun for a few reasons. First, we weren't sure that all the toppings would stay put. Second, Blockette sometimes gets a bit overwhelmed by all the bread in the bun. All the onion and apple and cheese on top would have made for a sandwich that was too thick for her to bite into. Third, we had enough carbs with the tater tots. Mrblocko and I agreed that the burger would have tasted good on an onion roll, but overall, we didn't miss the bun.

We cooked up enough burgers to have one as a leftover meal later in the week. I find that reheating burgers can be tricky without drying them out. These burgers were moist enough that wasn't a problem. Instead of having the leftovers in burger form, I chopped them up and reheated them in a pan with the onion/apple topping. Had I been thinking, I would have added a few scrambled eggs. The leftovers would have made a tasty omelet!

Autumn Harvest Burgers with Caramelized Onions from Food Network
2 tablespoons butter
2 Vidalia onions, sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
2 pounds 80 percent lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 egg
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 large crusty rolls, split
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup blue cheese

Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to hot pan and begin caramelizing, stirring occasionally. After 4 minutes or so, add apples to the onions and continue to cook until onions are golden brown, about 6 more minutes. Remove from heat when done. While onions and apples are cooking, blend together in a large bowl the ground beef, salt, pepper, thyme, Dijon, egg, and bread crumbs. Be sure ingredients are well incorporated, but don't over work. Form mixture into 4 good-sized patties. (hint: If you create a concave burger, with the center thinner than the edges, when it cooks the burger won't swell up to look like a meatball, but will remain flat and patty-like)

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place burgers on grill and cook about 10 minutes per side, or until cooked through. As burgers are finishing (after the first flip), spread mayonnaise on both cut sides of each split roll. Place rolls on grill, mayonnaise side down, to toast for about 1 minute, or until golden. Place each burger on the bottom half of a toasted roll. Top with about 1/4 cup of blue cheese, then with a generous scoop of the caramelized onion and apple mixture. Cover with the roll and serve.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An open letter to the man walking outside of the mall with his daughter

Dear Sir,
I saw you walking toward the mall with your daughter as we were returning to our car. She could not have been more than 8 years old. I couldn't help noticing she was not wearing a coat. I realize 50 degrees is pretty mild for this time of year. However, it is NOT warm enough for your daughter to be taking the long trek from the back of the parking lot to the mall entrance in a tank dress. Maybe you forgot that it is late November, not August or September?

I couldn't help overhearing you talk to her as you passed us. I heard you say something like, "See everyone else is wearing winter jackets, but you don't want to wear one." I am sorry that I was rude. You see I had just dealt with an extremely rude sales clerk and left the mall because of it. You were the first person I encountered and I took my frustration out on you. Still, that is no excuse for me being rude in return. When I heard what you said to your daughter, I tried to bite my tongue, but obviously I was unsuccessful. Maybe you didn't even hear me, I did mutter it under my breath. I'll never know if you heard me, because I kept on walking.

Rude or not, I do stand by what I said. You ARE the parent. It's your job to clothe your child in seasonally appropriate clothing when out and about in the elements. So what if your kid is going to have a fit in public because you won't let them wear what they want. Suck it up. A fit in public is better than the flu. If you don't want to lug around a jacket in the mall, at least make your kid wear something with sleeves for pete sake.

Respectfully,
Mrsblocko

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Leftover Halloween Candy Recipes

Here are some more recipes I thought would be a great way to use up leftover Halloween candy. Since ours is finally gone, I won't be testing these delicious looking recipes any time soon. I'm posting them here so I can find them easily next year.

Snickers Carmelitas from Cookie Madness.
Snickery Peanut butter and oat cookies from Cookie Madness.

Candy bar stuffed baked apples from CDKitchen. (uses toffee and nougat based candy)

Butterfinger Delight from Recipezaar. (ice cream and pudding bar)
Butterfinger cookies from CD Kitchen. (peanut butter cookie)
Chocolate fudge Butterfinger cookies from Picky Palate.
Butterfinger pie from Recipezaar. (cream cheese and cool whip based pie)

Candy bar croissant from Recipezaar. (uses refrigerator croissants and misc candy)

Milky Way Bundt from CDkitchen.
Halloween candy bundt from Baking Bites (brown sugar bundt with misc candy)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Italian Buttermilk Chops

Powdered buttermilk is my new best friend. The brand that I buy is from saco foods. I don't have any particular brand loyalty. This is just the brand that good old Meijers carries. Before I heard about powdered buttermilk, I'd always cringe when I saw there was a recipe that required that particular ingredient. Most recipes that call for buttermilk only require about a cup. So what do you do with the leftover stuff? You either have to plan out another recipe that uses the leftover buttermilk, or toss it out because it spoiled.

The powdered buttermilk wasn't the cheapest thing ever. If you are an infrequent user of buttermilk, like me, it winds up costing the same or less because you aren't throwing your money away.

Yeah, I know you can make your own buttermilk with a cup of regular milk and a Tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. I tried that once with vinegar. The milk was supposed to curdle after a few minutes. It didn't after 20. The milk smelled so vinegary that I decided to forget about the whole thing. It may work for some people, but not me.

I've used the powdered stuff a few times now and I can't tell the difference. Ultimately that's all that matters.
These Italian Buttermilk Pork Chops, from What's Cookin Chicago, were awesome. Maybe I've been living under a rock, but I'd never heard of marinating anything in buttermilk. These chops turned out really moist and tender.

I flubbed up and forgot to add the garlic to the marinade. Mrblocko was in charge of the actual meat cooking so I had him toss in the minced garlic to the pan while he was cooking up the meat. The meat wasn't infused with garlic flavor like it would have if it had been soaking in it all day. The bits of garlic were still tasty on top of the meat.

Our chops were the thin boneless kind. I thought they would get dried out if they were baked in the oven, so Mrblocko just cooked them all the way in the pan for around 10 minutes. I don't know cause I was making rice and a salad. I really wasn't paying attention.

Blockette said we should make these again because pigs are great. She's right on both accounts. We'll be making this again, and pigs are great.

Italian Buttermilk Chops from What's Cookin Chicago
4 pork chops
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 - 2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

Season your pork chops with salt and pepper; place chops in a gallon sized zip top bag. Add the remaining ingredients and place in the fridge for 4 hours to chill (or you could chill overnight too.) Remove the pork chops from the bag and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a hot skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, brown your pork chops on both sides. Once browned, place the pork chops on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. Don't over cook otherwise it will result in dry, tough pork!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Espresso Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mrblocko went over to his friends house for a game night this weekend. He asked me if I would please make some cookies for him to bring along. I told him I would, as long as his friends were willing to be guinea pigs.

Ever since I made the Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies back in June, I've been wanting to experiment some more with the espresso powder. Baking bites posted this recipe for Coffee Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in July. It's been on my to do list, but there are just so many good things I want to make. I don't have the time, money or stomach for all the sweets on the to do list.

These must have been good because Mrblocko brought home an empty container. I thought they were just ok. I guess I was hoping they would wow my socks off like the Shortbread ones did. The coffee flavor was quite mild the first day, but grew stronger after the second day. The cookies were definitely better the second day.

My dough was extremely soft and sticky after I mixed all the ingredients together. I let the dough chill out in the fridge overnight and it was much easier to scoop into balls. These cookies really spread out a lot and made much more than 3.5 dozen stated in the recipe.

I had set aside the milk chocolate from Blockette's Halloween candy stash for baking purposes. I chopped up all the Hershey bars and kisses and came up with 1/2 cup. For the remaining cup of chocolate in the recipe, I used semi sweet chocolate chips. I think dark chocolate would pair better with the espresso. These are a grown up cookie and really deserve grown up chocolate. I'll use dark chocolate chips next time.

Coffee Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Bits
1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder
3 tbsp water
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, dissolve instant espresso powder in water. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, followed by espresso mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in rolled oats and chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingertips and leave about 2 inches between cookies to allow room for them to spread. Bake for 11-14 minutes, until cookies are golden around the edges and set in the center.
Cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen