Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Cookie Gun Experiment

Erik woke up from his nap yesterday, very excited, muttering about "... the cookie gun experiment..." Hmm... He was also very mad about Joel and Madeline having gone off to ride bikes with the boys at the park (despite the fact that he had told us three times earlier that he did NOT want to go, but to stay home and "snuggle down").

Anyway, for distraction's sake (and fun too) we broke out the Spritz stuff—for the first time. My great grandma's cookie "gun" did a great job with this "experiment." We used the camel (my favorite!), heart, and "tree" (Erik's fave—I think it's the spade) shapes.
Peanut Butter Spritz Cookies

1/2 c softened butter (1 stick)
1/2 c peanut butter (creamy)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Sprinkles for decorating... you can "experiment" with different kinds of sprinkles too.

Blend the peanut butter and butter, then add sugar and beat until combined. Add egg. Pour in flour, soda and salt and mix in, then chill for 15 mins. Load into cookie "gun" and press onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350-degrees F for 6-8 mins.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lovely, and 21-years Old!

Happy Birthday to Ro!

Rochelle's birthday being in January, and specifically right when I'm working out and lightening/healthy-ing up the diet, she got a non-fat chocolate cake for her birthday today. Now, don't go away just yet. It's good. Really. Moist and delicious, chocolate-heaven. It really doesn't taste light at all... And, while Ro is also lovely, she's got a couple years on this lovely cake recipe that I've kept for 21 years... I've saved it since I was a sophomore in high school. It's originally from SHAPE magazine, circa 1989, and it's got a nearly fat-free frosting to go with it. But, seeing as I'm far less extremist these days, I skipped that super-healthy frosting in favor of a little bit of chocolate-peppermint buttercream for the filling and sides, and a simple ganache poured over the top. Balance is a good thing. I also grated two Lindor dark chocolate truffles over the top and added some candy-cane hearts and other decor to make a flower shape. You know, because this was a birthday celebration cake!Here's the whole SHAPE-approved recipe...

Nonfat Chocolate Cake & Frosting (SHAPE magazine 1989)
1.5 c sugar

1.75 c flour

3/4 c cocoa powder

1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

1 c nonfat milk

1/2 c applesauce
2 tsp vanilla

1 c boiling water

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Spray and flour pan/s (really - do it, or the cake will not come out of the pan). Combine dry ingredients, then add all the wet ingredients except the boiling water. Beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes, then stir in boiling water. Bake 35-40 minutes.

Nearly Fat-Free Chocolate Frosting
4 Tbs light margarine

2 Tbs plain, non-fat yogurt

1/2 c cocoa powder

2 c powdered sugar
3 Tbs non-fat milk

2 tsp vanilla

Cream margarine and yogurt, then add cocoa and sugar alternately with milk. Add vanilla, and add additional milk as needed to get the consistency that you want.

Oh, and to do the candy cane hearts... just heat the oven to 200-degrees F, arrange two mini candy canes for each heart in heart shape on parchment and bake for 8-9 minutes. Remove pan, and shape/squish connection points with chopsticks or spoons (so you don't burn fingers), then pop back in the oven for an additional 1-2 minutes. Voila! Wouldn't these be fun Christmas ornaments to hang on the tree? I just found them online last week, and luckily had an extra box of mini candy canes that fit the bill!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Very Merry Year: January

So, instead of going crazy with holiday baking last year, I decided that it would be much more fun to spread the joy out over the year and gift someone each month (or so) with something lovely from my kitchen.

The first recipient is someone who I went to high school with, has served in the U.S. Navy for nearly 19 years and is on a year's combat mission (away from his wife and two young kids) until May this year! I wanted to send Pete cookies this Christmas, but didn't have the time to fit it in, so he and his family were first up on the list.

He happily accepted (although his wife and kids apparently bake often so he declined for them), and lucky for him he has no allergies, so he gets Peanut Butter cookies with chocolate chips. Mmm... the recipe is from Deb at Smitten Kitchen right here. Make them, but give most away. They are divine.

Happy January To Pete — a great dad, great guy, great soldier.

Wonder who else is on my Cookie List...? Is it you? Just wait and see...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Speedy, Healthy, Fun!

Bento for me: I take what I have and get creative with it—it's all about making M's little preschool lunch boxes fun and appealing. With a choice of faux veggie sushi (tortilla wrap with cream cheese, carrots and arugula), quesadilla, rolled lunch meat, leftovers, peeled shrimp, Inari sushi (from QFC), and fresh fruit and veggies tossed in (or just a tossed "Rocket" arugula salad) on any given day... all in a fun one- or two-tiered bento box (and picks, food cups and dividers) from Daiso in Lynnwood, M's out the door with her school lunch in no time!Seriously, packing lunch takes me between 5-10 minutes, depending on what I'm doing with it. I mix things up with slicing fruit in different ways (mandarin orange "flowers" with dried cherry centers, or vertical slices of apple cut into shapes with cookie cutters), and tossing in some dip for veggies. I occasionally toss in a couple maraschino cherry for a treat with her fruit... Easy for me, fun (and healthy) for her, which is excellent all around.

Friday, January 15, 2010

On The Menu...

So apparently, I really am bad at following directions... this week I shopped online to buy the ingredients for the shopping list for the weekly meals in Everyday Food. However, rather than stick to their menu, I started winging it, and got carried away. I think the only similarity is that they served polenta (I didn't follow her recipe though... too much butter!) and that I served beef and sauteed mushrooms. Ah, well, at least I got dinners on the table every night. Now, what to make tonight?

By the way, check out this very cool menu generator on RedKid.Net — love it!!
  • Monday: Huevos Rancheros with orange and grapefruit sections
  • Tuesday: Tarragon Chicken with tortillas and rocket (arugula) salad
  • Wednesday: Annie's Mac and Cheese (with butternut squash puree - shh...) turkey dogs in "blankets," peas, cherry tomatoes and mandarin oranges (we had produce-averse kiddo dinner guests ...)
  • Thursday: Grilled beef strips with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, creamy polenta, and steamed broccoli
  • Friday: ?????
Update... "Specials"
  • Friday - From the Everyday Food menu, I made grilled (broiled) polenta wedges with creamy mushrooms (or pesto sauce) and peas. Did a Japanese-style lunch at Ro's today too, so lots of good food this week!
  • Saturday - Chilequiles with fruit salad (strawberries, blueberries and sectioned oranges with a splash of balsamic, vanilla, some sugar and a dash of salt).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Floppy Rubber, or Flappy Blubber?

What IS Flubber, anyway? It's absolutely NOT edible. It's a fun, squishy, rubbery substance, and is exactly the consistency of a product called Mars Mud that we bought at a toy store last summer. It's not as messy as Playdough, but since it has Borax in it, it is not for little kiddos who might eat it. It is a very fun science "experiment" for observation purposes and high on the "gross-ometer" too. Abby, Madeline and Erik loved it.
(I halved the recipe I had, since I only have one bottle of glue)
1 c. white glue
3/4 c. warm water
liquid water color tint (if you use food color, it will stain everything - table, hands, etc.)

1/2 Tbs. Borax (powdered laundry booster)
1/2 c. warm water

Mix the glue, water and coloring in one bowl very well, and the Borax and additional water in a seperate bowl (until all the Borax powder dissolves). Then, pour the glue mixture into the Borax mixture, and observe. Set a timer for 2 minutes and check consistency again. Then, this Mama scooped the Flubber out of the bowl with my hand kneaded it on the table, and divided it up into three for the kiddos (3, 4.5 and 6.5 years old) to enjoy! I gave them several different shapes of containers to make "cakes" in - they used crayons for candles, and Bento lunch picks too. Fun!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bûche de Noël - 2010

Madeline helped decorate the Bûche de Noël this year, and enjoyed making the snow on it very much. We also decorated with a small leaf cookie cutter cut-outs of sugar-cookie flavored holiday Peeps (got two leaves from each Peep), candy berries, M&M's and fresh Lady Apples. I used the usual recipe this year, but replaced the crushed candy canes with finely chopped candied orange peel. It was fabulous.


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