Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peas and Espresso

No...not together!! That would be really icky. Peas and anything coffee are two things I don't normally say "mmmm!" too, but there is always an exception to every rule.

I've been feeling very daring in the kitchen as of late. I told Mrblocko that I was making Crunchy Pea Salad as a side dish to burgers for dinner and he indicated that he thought it sounded unpleasant. I went ahead and made it anyhow. I loved it. The salt from the bacon and pecans went great with the uncooked peas. Plus, everything was crunchy. I think that is the big thing I don't like about peas, they turn mushy and pasty when cooked. Mrblocko said he thought they would taste better with some grape tomatoes. I just happened to have some and he liked it enough to tolerate the salad as leftovers for lunch. Blockette said she didn't like it, but we made her eat a small portion anyhow. After the 3rd bite she said, "Maybe I do like this after all, but I don't think it tastes good." (I think she was in an especially contrary mood.) Next time, I'll add some chopped water chestnuts for even more crunchy goodness. I couldn't get a good picture, so if you want to see what the salad looks like there is a great pic in the link above.

Now onto dessert! I bought this instant espresso specifically to make this shortbread. I had a hard time tracking it down. A few months ago I was near a Whole Foods and thought I'd check in there. Lo and behold, there it was.
Why go to so much trouble to find an ingredient for something I was unsure I'd like? First, this recipe got such rave reviews I thought it would be worth the risk. Second, there are quite a few people in my life that are coffee freaks. I thought they would really go ga-ga for this cookie. Third, I've found a few other dessert recipes that call for instant espresso powder. If the cookies bombed, I'd have a great excuse to experiment with something else.

The Espresso Chocolate shortbread cookies are originally found in a book called Baking:From My Home to Yours, but I found them on a great blog called Smitten Kitchen. The book is by Dorie Greenspan who apparently is some sort of baking guru. There are blogs where all people do is make recipes from her books. Food bloggers can't seem to say enough good things about her creations. Guess you'll have to add me to the list. While this is the first "Dorie" creation I've baked, it won't be the last.

I had always heard how fussy shortbread was. I don't know how true that is as I've never made shortbread before. This recipe was super easy! I loved rolling it out inside the gallon ziploc bag. I usually have trouble with roll out cookies. The dough always sticks to whatever surface I roll it out on. Inside the bag it didn't matter if it stuck. Once the dough chilled, I cut away the bag. I think the heavens parted and a ray of celestial light filled my kitchen. (or that could have just been the sun coming out from behind a cloud through the kitchen sky light. We'll never know.)
You are supposed to measure out the dough into 1.5" squares after it has chilled. I thought that might be tricky until I remembered my clear plastic quilting ruler. I wrapped that sucker in plastic wrap so I wouldn't have to worry about cleaning it or if the ruler was food grade plastic. I even used my pizza cutter like a rotery wheel. Zip, zip, zip!

I don't know why I like these cookies. I don't like coffee at all. Coffee flavored things usually gross me out. Maybe the coffee taste is too mild for me to care? Whatever it is, it's hard for me to stop at one. Naturally, Blockette took the eentsiest nibble and handed it back to me. I would have been shocked if she had liked it. Mrblocko said that he wouldn't ask for me to bake them again. HUH? I was stumped at that reaction. I thought he would have flipped over them at least half as much as I did. After getting over my shock, we talked about it and he said that he was expecting them to be sweet like a regular cookie. (They are shortbread after all. They're not supposed to be super sweet.) He did ask if he could take some to work to drink with his coffee. I guess a mediocre cookie is better than no cookie at all.
I think the biggest test will be over the 4Th. My uncle is a coffee nut/freak/snob/loonie toon AND a cookie tester of the nth degree. If he doesn't like them, I guess I'll have to eat them all myself. Hopefully they won't magically disappear before he gets a chance to evaluate them.

Crunchy Pea Salad from Savour Fare
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Ground pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
10 oz frozen peas, thawed and drained
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
6 slices bacon
1/4 cup minced red onion

Cook bacon in a 400F oven til crisp, 15 min. Crumble and set aside. Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in a salad bowl. Add peas, bacon, nuts and onion, toss thoroughly and chill before serving. Make at least an hour in advance so the flavors blend.

Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies from Smitten Kitchen Makes 42 cookies
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Dissolve espresso in the boiling water, and set aside to cool to tepid. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium for 3 min, til mix very smooth. Beat in vanilla and espresso, then reduce speed to low and add flour, mixing only until it disappears into dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in chopped chocolate with a sturdy rubber spatula.

Using spatula, transfer soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9 x 10 1/2" rectangle that’s 1/4" thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.

Bake 18-20 min, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale–they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack. If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Awwww Snap!

Last week it was hot and gross in the 90's. I didn't even want to leave the house to get the mail. Today it is in the 70's and breezy. It's a great day for baking. The wind carries all the heat from the oven right out the window.

I had intended on making Penzeys Spices' Gingersnaps yesterday while Mrblocko and the Blockette were out and about, but alas, I was short on molasses. They ever so kindly picked some up on their way home so I could make gingersnaps this morning instead. Please don't ask me how many I've tested for quality control. One can never be too careful when it comes to the safety of one's family. I'm still not sure if they're up to snuff...maybe 2 or 3 or 10 more and I'll be 100% certain.

Penzeys Gingersnaps
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 Cup vegetable shortening
1 Cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 Cup molasses - either regular or unsulphured
1 tsp. GINGER, powdered
1 tsp. CINNAMON, powdered
1/2 tsp. CLOVES, powdered
1/3 Cup granulated white sugar (to roll dough in)

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar until well blended. Beat in egg, molasses, GINGER, CINNAMON, and CLOVES. Add the flour mixture in two parts, blending well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350°. Shape dough into 11/2" balls for large cookies - smaller are fine too. Roll the balls thoroughly in sugar, place on ungreased cookie trays. The cookies spread out during baking, so don't crowd them. Bake 15 minutes. Cool for a minute, then remove from cookie sheets. Store in an airtight container for crispy cookies, or in a regular cookie jar for chewy cookies. Yield: 40-60 cookies

Sunday, June 28, 2009


It's official, once the gigantic mutant lilies have bloomed, it's truely summer!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Honeycomb Flower Pasta

I'm on a red sauce kick these days. For so many years I just couldn't eat anything that was tomato based without a severe stomach ache and digestive problems. I've solved that problem and apparently it is Red Sauce City at the Blocko house.

Last night I finally got around to making Taste of Home's Wagon Train Pasta. The recipe kept popping up and I kept saying, "Oh, that looks good. Maybe I'll make that next week." It's really too bad I waited so long to make this because after Blockette took her first bite she said, "Mommy can you make this again?"

The recipe originally called for wagon wheels, but I could not find them at Meijer's. Why my store doesn't carry them I don't know. It's not like it's some exotic shape or anything. I did have Fiore noodles in my pantry. Fiore is apparently Italian for flower, but they remind me of Honeycomb cereal. Where did these Fiore noodles come from? I know I didn't get them at Meijer's because it was not a brand they carry. Maybe my pantry just spits out weird shapped noodles. Last week I found Turkey and Christmas shaped noodles in there! Those are an even bigger mystery than the Fiore noodles!

I doubled this recipe as well. I hate it when a recipe calls for 1/2 a pound of ground meat. I always wonder what I'm supposed to do with the other half. It's much easier to freeze red sauce than to freeze an already opened package of meat.

The last alteration to the recipe was simply because the only bread crumbs I had were panko. I wasn't about to use the panko mixed into the meat. Panko is for crispy crunchy coatings and toppings, not as a filler. Instead, I substituted crushed Ritz crackers and omitted the salt. I thought the crackers would add enough salt to the mix.

I'm not sure what made this so tasty. The sauce wasn't that different from other red sauces I've made in the past. I think the difference was the egg added to the meat mix. It gave the meat ragu something that made you say, "Hmmm what is that? It tastes different, but in a good way."

Wagon Train Pasta from Taste of Home
3 cups uncooked wagon wheel pasta
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons seasoned bread crumbs
1-1/2 cups meatless spaghetti sauce
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

Cook pasta. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat egg, salt, garlic and pepper. Add beef and mix well. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bread crumbs; mix gently. Crumble beef mix into large skillet. Cook over med-high heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 2-4 min til heated through. Drain pasta; place in a serving bowl. Add beef mix; sprinkle with 1/2 c mozzarella. Toss til pasta well coated and cheese melted. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Yield: 5 servings.

Frogurt pops

Last week my mom came to visit while Mrblocko was in Atlanta. She brought with her some cherry yogurt and promptly forgot to eat it.

I'm not the biggest fan of yogurt these days. I only like to eat it with a nice crunchy bowl of granola. I've spoiled myself and now the store bought granola tastes stale and bland. I'd much prefer to make my own. However, the recipe I like makes A LOT of granola. I just didn't feel like going to all that trouble for 2 individual servings of yogurt.

Then, at a play date, one mom, unknowingly, gave me a great idea. She was talking about how her daughter didn't like to eat breakfast and that she would just give her a Pop tart or a frozen yogurt tube so she had SOMETHING in her system. Then she went on to say she wished they made frozen yogurt out of "grown up" yogurt. For some reason her words were rattling around in my brain when I got home. (HEY! No comments from the peanut gallery about my rattling brain and it's one lonely idea!) I opened up the fridge to make lunch and there were the yogurts staring back at me.

Duh! Why not freeze them before they expired? It's so simple I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this before. All those poor expired yogurts that wound up in the trash when they could have been delicious frozen treats!

I whipped out my swanky Tovolo shooting star Popsicle molds and began to pour in the cherry yogurt. I soon realized that it would make only 3 and a half Popsicles. Now I ask you, who wants a half a Popsicle? Then, I had another brilliant idea! I scooped out some of the yogurt from the full molds so 4 molds were evenly filled. Next I stirred in...wait for it...mini chocolate chips. Not only did the chocolate pair nicely with the cherries, they made eating the Popsicles even more fun.

Countdown to Harry Potter

I'm so jazzed about the next Harry Potter movie. Less than 1 month to go! I've already stocked up on a crate of kleenex. It's going to be a tear jerker for sure. My goal is to re-read the books before we see the movie. Since I've read them a million times they are always quick reads for me. Over the past few months I've been reading some new series that I think Harry Potter fans will enjoy.

"The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel" series: The third book in a series of six,"The Sorceress" was recently released. Harry Potter fans will be familiar with Nicholas Flamel from "Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone," although this series' storyline has nothing to do with the world of Harry Potter. The story takes place in modern times in various locations around the world. There are also several other historical characters that play a prominent role in the story. The main characters are twins who's discovery of their magical powers can either doom or save the world.

"Theodosia" series: So far, only 2 books have been published in this series,"Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos" and "Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris." Theodosia lives in turn of the 20th century England with her parents who run London's Museum of Legends and Antiquities. The main character has the ability to identify cursed objects and has taught herself Egyptian magic through the many ancient texts she has access to at the museum. One reviewer dubbed the series as a cross between Nancy Drew and Indiana Jones; I can't think of a more fitting description.

"Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series: The fifth and final book, "The Last Olympian" was released this spring as well. This series deals with modern day teenage demigods and their struggles fitting in between the mortal and immortal worlds. I believe there is another series coming out by the same author with a different demigod as the main character.

"39 Clues" series: I cant say enough good things about this series and how it encourages children to read. Each book is written by a different author. They come with a card pack that will help in the interactive online game to search for more clues. The books are short enough to hold the interest of a reluctant young reader. The authors also sneak in educational facts into the mystery and adventure of the plot line. The male and female main characters must find the clues to become the most powerful people on the planet, before their extended family members do.

The final series, "The Dresden Files", is the only "Grown up" series on this list. The main character, Harry Dresden is a modern day wizard/Private investigator from Chicago. There are a lot of boo scaries "Buffy the Vampire" style and adult themes, so definitely not a book for kids. I'm not much for boo scaries, but the writing is so good the books were near impossible to put down.

So read! read! read! And adults, don't be afraid to read "kid's" books!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cinnamon Stewed Chicken

Last night I made Cat Cora's Greek Cinnamon Stewed Chicken for the first time. There is no photo because it's basically a red sauce dish and all the photo's I took looked like something was massacred on my plate. If you want a visually pleasing picture of this meal please feel free to click on the link above.

This dish was a nice alternative to all the other chicken dishes I've been making lately. After a while doesn't everyone get sick of the chicken dishes in their repertoire? The smell of carmelized tomato paste and onion mixed with the spice of the cinnamon are still lingering in the house this morning. It's not a smell I'm used to, and I'm still undecided if I think it is a pleasing smell. Mrblocko thought it smelled delicious though. He didn't get home in time for dinner last night, so I'll have to wait until after he has some for lunch today to find out if he thought it tasted as good as it smelled.

I still don't know if this is something I would make again. I'll have to see how it fares as leftovers. That will be the deciding factor if this dish gets put into the recipe rotation. Blockette liked it well enough. She gobbled up her portion. I think that had more to do with the fact I told her she could have M&M's for dessert if she ate her dinner like a big girl. She did like the rice shaped orzo, and there were no complaints from her that I over cooked it.

No recipe entry would be complete if I didn't write up the changes I made. I didn't want to use bone in chicken, so I just used chicken breast. I know the recipe calls for a 2.5-3 lb chicken, but I didn't want a mess of leftovers, so I only used 4 breasts. I used half a vidalia and half a plain white onion instead of a whole yellow onion. I wanted to use the partial bits of onion before they stunk up the whole fridge. I think they added another dimention of sweetness to the dish that went nicely with the spice of the cinnamon. I didn't have Italian spice blend so I used equal parts of basil, thyme, oregano and sage to make up the required 1 T. Because I used boneless chicken I only let everything stew for 20 min. The sauce got really thick and started thinking about sticking to the pan. I think if I had left it for the full 30-40 min it would have burnt.

1 (2 1/2-3 lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces (legs, breast and thighs)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 c. water, divided
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. dried Italian herb seasoning
1 c. orzo, cooked according to package directions
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. A wet chicken will cause the oil to splatter while the chicken is sauteing. Mix the cinnamon, salt and pepper in a small bowl; rub the chicken pieces on all sides with the seasoning. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonreactive, deep skillet over high heat. If you don't have a skillet large enough, brown them in 2 batches using half the oil for each batch. What's important is that the chicken isn't overcrowded, which would cause them to steam rather than brown. Add the chicken to the oil and brown for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Turn the pieces using a metal spatula, as they have a tendency to stick to the pan. Remove the pieces when they are well browned on all sides.

Mince 3 of the garlic cloves. Lower the heat to med-high and add onions and minced garlic. Cook for 3 min, stirring constantly, til onions softened and are a rich golden brown. Add 1/2 c water and scrape bottom of the pan with the spatula or a spoon deglaze the pan, loosening any particles stuck on the bottom.When water has evaporated, add the remaining 1 1/2 c water, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and remaining 2 garlic cloves, minced.

Return chicken to the pan. The liquid should cover about 3/4 chicken pieces. Cover pot and simmer over med-high heat  30-40 min til chicken tender and thoroughly cooked. If sauce becomes too thick, it can be thinned with a little more water. Season the finished sauce with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Georgia on my mind

For most of last week Mrblocko has been in Atlanta. This post is to taunt him with the tasty treats he missed while he was away.

Below is a photo of Betty Crocker "twice the blueberry" muffins and Oatmeal raisin cookies.

Yeah, I know that some people consider box muffin mixes to be sacrilege, but to that I say a resounding "Plbbbbt." They were quick, easy, moist and full of blueberry goodness. I realize some of you may be thinking blueberry goodness? Mrsblocko doesn't like blueberries. The fact of the matter is I only ever like blueberries in muffin form. OK, scratch that, I also like the chocolate covered blueberries from David and Harry's. That's beside the point.

The oatmeal raisin cookies were cracktacular as usual. It's hard to tell they are oatmeal raisin because I used golden raisins. I find the golden raisins don't get hard as a rock from baking like the purple-y black run of the mill raisins. These cookies spread out more than they usually do and in writing this post I've figured out why. I made Quaker vanishing oatmeal raisin cookies. The problem was that the recipe under the lid of oatmeal calls for 2 sticks of butter and a cup of brown sugar vs. the 1/2 c plus 6 T butter and 3/4 c brown sugar listed on the link above. I think the recipe on the Quaker website is the one I prefer and I followed the recipe on the lid. Mental note: do not follow recipe on the lid of the oatmeal container if you don't want a lace-y cookie. I also think the cookie needs more raisins. Probably a heaping cup would be a good place to start.

Moving right along... I present to you Roasted garlic, poblano and red pepper guacamole.

I do not like peppers, red or any other kind. To me, they have this bitter stinky taste that sits in the back of my mouth that I can't seem to get rid of with toothpaste or mouthwash. Having said that, this guacamole was a big risk cooking wise. I had hoped the peppers would sweeten upon roasting like garlic does. Guess what? They did! Hooray! Will I make this recipe again? Sweet sassy molassy you bet I will. It's definately not a quick whip me up recipe, so it's going to be a special occasion sort of thing. When I make this again I'll use 2 avacados, more lime and garlic. I think a bit of chopped roma tomato would be a good addition too. I think adding tomato makes it more of a salsa than a guacamole, but I don't think there is any shame in that!

Quaker Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (The good recipe)
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup raisins

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer til creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and raisins; mix well. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 min til light golden brown. Cool 1 min on sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Roasted garlic, poblano and red pepper guacamole from Ezra Pound Cake
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 medium red bell pepper
1 medium poblano pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ripe peeled avocado, seeded and coarsely mashed

Preheat oven to 450F. Wrap garlic cloves in foil. Bake 15 min til soft. Let cool lightly; remove skins. Place garlic in a medium bowl; mash with a fork. Preheat broiler. Cut peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 min til blackened, turning frequently. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 min. Peel and finely chop. Add peppers, onions, and next 4 ingredients (through avocado) to mashed garlic; stir well.

STORING: Press plastic wrap against surface of guacamole to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown.

Ask and ye shall receive...

Mrs Thunder left a comment on my Strawberry Cheese Pie post requesting sugar free strawberry drinks. Here ya go girly! I haven't tested any of these so let me know if you've tried them and liked them! I hope they were what you were looking for.

omit the alcohol on these 2:
Sugar Free strawberry daiquiri
Guilt free strawberry margarita

Could make it extra fruity by adding frozen strawberries:
sugar free koolaid slushy

The sugar in this recipe could easily be replaced with substitute:
strawberry watermelon slushy

The ingredients for this recipe are on the left side at the top of the page. For some reason I had a hard time locating it:
monster blood slushie

Use diet soda:
strawberry cherry fizz slushy

You could easily make this into a frozen drink by adding frozen strawberries/ice:
strawberry lemonade

Monday, June 8, 2009

Strawberry Cheese Pie

Sunday we went to visit Mrblocko's best friend and his family for lunch. They have a little boy who is about 9 months younger than the Blockette, so you can imagine the shenanigans had by those 2 little monsters, I mean children.

I asked if there was anything we could bring and they said dessert. Well, that wasn't specific enough for me, so I weaseled out of them that they wanted something strawberry. OK. Want to know what I didn't have any dessert recipes for? Yeah. Interweb to the rescue! I found this recipe for Strawberry Cheese Pie by doing a search for strawberry on Food gawker.

Here is how my version turned out.

Perty ain't it? If only it looked like this when I served it.
Problem #1: I had to put the strawberries on the night before. Since we were going over to our friends' house for lunch we had to leave right after church. There was no other time to do it.
Problem#2: We had a 45 min or so drive to their house. I tried to keep it as chilled as possible with ice packs, but apparently that wasn't enough.
Problem #3:I think their fridge was on the warm side. With the long drive and the humidity I don't think the cheesecake-y part had enough time to set back up to firm.
Even though the strawberries started to get juicy, and the resulting liquid made the already soft cheesecake-y middle separate, it still tasted like strawberry cheesecake. That was the important part I guess. At least it didn't taste like curdled slimy goo.

Next time I make a dessert like this I think freezing it before a long car ride would be the best course of action.
As for the recipe itself, it was very easy to follow. The only thing I changed was instead of a pre-made crust I made my own from here: graham cracker crust . There is a tip in the crust recipe that says if you don't want the crust to stick to the pan, chill the crust for 1 hour. Since the pan went into the oven cold, it took over 30 min for the filling to set properly. I was freaking out about this at the time, thinking the pie would never solidify and the crust would burn in the process. Thank goodness that didn't happen or I might have turned into curdled slimy goo myself.

Graham Cracker Pie Crust from What's Cooking America
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs or 10 to 12 whole graham crackers*
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.In small saucepan or microwave, melt the butter. In a medium bowl or a food processor, combine graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter; blend until the texture of coarse meal.

Press into a 9 or 10" pie pan. Try to make the crust about 1/8" evenly all around. If the crumb mix won't stick where pressed them, add another T water. Even crumbs up and make sure there are no gaps or holes. NOTE: If you chill the crust for an hour before you bake it, this will help prevent crumbling when you want to serve it.
Bake 8-10 min. Remove from oven and let cool before filling.

Strawberry Cheese Pie from My Kitchen Snippets
1 9" inch graham cracker pie shell (store bought)
8 oz. low fat cream cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup of slice strawberry (for filling)
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tbs. lemon juice
2 to 4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced (for decoration)
1/4 cup strawberry Jam + 2 tbsp of hot water

In a food processor add cream cheese, eggs, sugar and lemon juice. Blend for a few seconds til smooth. Turn off machine and add in the strawberries for the filling. Mix well and pour into the pie shell. Bake at 350F for 15-20 min. Cool and refrigerate. Place slice strawberries completely over pie top or around the edges, depending on the amount of strawberries you’re using. Heat up the strawberry jam in the microwave until soft and brush tops of berries until thoroughly glazed. Serve cold.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Anheuser Busch Banned in this house

Over memorial day I saw what I thought was a really cool rebate. Here is the wording from the rebate: Michelob: Save $6 via mail in rebate on your purchase of one (1) 6 pack of Michelob Ultra Lime Cactus, Ultra Tuscan Orange Grapefruit, Ultra Pomegranate Raspberry or Ultra Amber and one (1) Michelob Ultra 12 pack or larger, cans or bottles.

See I was thrown by the wording. I saw the "Or" and missed the "and".

I got something in the mail saying I was denied the rebate because I didn't have the correct upc codes. I would have to resubmit the entire thing according to the rules on the rebate but how can I do that when I don't have my original recipt? It's not like I can go out and repurchase the items because part of the rebate was that it had to be bought over memorial weekend.

Yeah, mea culpa for not reading carefully, but there is no way I can get any sort of rebate now and I called Anheuser Busch and there is nothing they can do for me. I'm in a really bad mood today so I am holding a grudge and boycotting. It's no skin off my nose since I only use beer for cooking. It's Mrblocko who will be bearing the brunt of my grudge. It's not like Anheuser Busch is the only fish in the sea when it comes to beer though so don't feel too sorry for him.

I don't back down when I get pissed at a company. Trust me, I've been boycotting McDonald's since 2001. The only time I've been there since 2001 was to poop in their toilet and not flush. Oh, and I drove my car through the drive through so MrsThunder could get some fries. It was the only food place close and I didn't want her to go into a diabetic coma or anything.

So Booooo! Hiss! To Anheuser Busch! I know I'm only a drop in the bucket but it's the only constructive thing I can think of to do, well the only legal constructive thing I can think of anyway.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Choc chip oatmeal and the sweatshop revisited

I went over to Mrs Thunder's house again today to help her make more anklets. I was in a baking mood last night so I brought Crunchy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. These are a crispy cookies, which Mrs Thunder prefers. In the Blocko house we are of the chewy cookie persuasion. MrBlocko grumbled a bit that they were crispy, but I caught him trying to take 4 cookies with him to work this morning.

I think Cookie Madness was on the right track using dark chocolate chips. Next time I make these I'll use dark chips and pecans. I omitted the nuts because I couldn't remember if Mrs Thunder liked them or not. I do know she thinks dark chocolate is double plus ungood. I didn't think it would be very nice if I went to a friends house and said, "Here you go, here are some cookies that you will hate. Watch me eat them. Neener neener." Although...it might be kinda fun. Muhahahaha!

Crunchy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cookie Madness
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups quick-cooking oats
12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. Cream shortening and sugars in bowl til light and fluffy, using electric mixer at medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Blend in vanilla. Gradually stir dry ingredients into creamed mixture. Stir in oats, chocolate and nuts. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls or shape into 1 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart, on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake in 350F oven 12-15 min til golden brown. Remove from baking sheets; cool on racks. Makes 6 dozen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cream Cheese Fondue

This weekend I offered to help my friend Mrs Thunder of Wednesday Night Accessories make some jewlery. She is going to be a vendor at the Port Washington Pirate Festival in WI June 5-7. This is her first big show and I am super excited for her! I went crazy on making ankle bells. I think I may be getting the beading bug again. (I blame Mrs Thunder because she always has the coolest beads.) I had so much fun I would definately help out again.

Anyhow, she made us Cream Cheese Fondue for lunch. It was delicious! I don't know where she found it but here is the same recipe, 3rd from the bottom. Not only was this tasty, but unlike most fondues, it won't turn into a gloppy mess. If you have leftovers you can just add a little more cream and reheat, or, I am told, straight out of the fridge, it makes a tasty bagel spread.

Herb and Cream Cheese Fondue from Great Party Recipes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped, or 1/2 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped, or 1/2 tablespoon dried
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, or 1/2 tablespoon dried
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 to 1 1/2 cups light cream

In a large, heavy, non-stick skillet, sauté garlic in olive oil, just til tender. Add cream cheese, and continue cooking on low , stirring, til cheese is smooth and melted. Gradually stir in cream, a little at a time, til mix reaches right consistency for dipping. (It thickens as it cools.) Add parsley, oregano and basil, and continue cooking 2-3 min to let the herb flavors blend. Transfer to a warm ceramic fondue pot. Serve with cooked, shelled shrimp, tortellini and crusty French bread, cubed. Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, but you will need to add more cream before serving; as it thickens when chilled. Shrimp and scallops cook quickly and dry easily when overcooked, however, so it's best to prepare them shortly before serving this fondue recipe. Serves 6.

Choc Chip Ice Cream Bowls

I made these a while ago, but I always get so excited about eating them that I don't remember to take a pic until I'm done eating. You'd be able to see a bigger contrast between the bowl and the ice cream if someone hadn't eaten all of the chocolate ice cream. Shame on whoever did that!

This is my new favorite way to eat ice cream, esp when it comes to Blockette. She is such a slow eater that most of her ice cream ends up as soup at the bottom of her bowl. With the cookie bowl, all the juices get soaked up by the cookie. It's like dessert for your dessert!

The recipe was easy to put together, but the dough was beastly. I followed the recommended time for chilling the dough, 2 hrs. I don't think a longer chill time would have helped. Once I began to roll the dough out it warmed up very quickly, and stuck to the wax paper. I had to stick the scraps in the freezer before rolling the dough out a 2ND time. I mistakenly put the dough I had already cut out on the inverted muffin pan while I fought with cutting out the remaining dough. Since it took so long to cut all of the dough out, the dough on the muffin pan sort of oozed down which created a few holes in the cups. I had thought I patched them all before baking, but I wound up missing a few.

Next time I will place the cut pieces between wax paper and place them in the freezer until all of the dough has been cut. I will also roll them a bit thicker than suggested. 1/8 of an inch seemed too thin. Then again, I got 12 cookies vs. the 10 the recipe says it makes.

I tested a cookie cup, plain with no ice cream in it and thought, on their own, they were nothing special. I'm used to all butter cookies and I could really taste the shortening. I think an easy fix for this is to use butter flavored shortening. I would not substitute the shortening for butter. I think an all butter cookie bowl would be too chewy. It would get too soggy and fall apart before you finished your ice cream.

Here's the recipe:
Ice Cream Cookie bowls From Gourmet Mom on the Go
1/4 c. shortening
1/4 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. miniature chocolate chips

Beat shortening, butter, and sugar in a large bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Add baking powder, salt, and flour. Stir in chocolate chips. Divide dough in half, shape each half into a flat disk and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough at least 2 hrs in the fridge. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Turn two 12-cup muffin tins bottom side up and cover 10 of the cups with aluminum foil (5 on each pan--leave every other cup empty so there's some space between them). Spray the foil with nonstick spray.

Unwrap 1 disk of dough, place it between 2 sheets of wax paper and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out 4-inch circles of dough and place each one over a cup bottom, smoothing out any cracks. Repeat with the other disk, re-rolling and reusing any scraps. Bake the cookie cups for 10-12 min til light brown. Let the cool for 10 min then remove the foil and cookies from muffin pan. Peel off foil and let cups cool completely. Fill with ice cream or your favorite dessert and enjoy!