Monday, December 20, 2010

White Chip Orange Dream Cookies

If you are looking for a different variation of a chip cookie, this may be for you. I got this recipe many years ago at a cookie exchange. These cookies are almost better the next day when the orange flavor settles in. Enjoy!

White Chip Orange Dream Cookies
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1 package (12 oz) white chips - I used Nestle Premier White morsels

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter, sugar and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy.

Beat in the egg and orange peel.

Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Stir in the chips.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Most Special Christmas Ornament

In 1980, when I was 11 years old...okay did I just admit my age...anyway, my great-grandmother, known as Grammy, handmade me this crocheted Christmas ornament.

My Grammy was a crafter, seamstress, and crocheter and she always made her gifts. I still have the clothes that she made for my Barbie dolls when I was a young girl. Unfortunately the crafty gene didn't trickle down to me. I think it stopped at my mother.

Every year when I take out this ornament, I think of her. It is my most favorite Christmas ornament. I am so glad I heeded my mother's advice and kept the handwritten gift tag. This ornament takes a special place towards the top of our tree, so little, inquiring hands can't reach it.

...and yes, that is a fake tree in the background...

What is your most special Christmas ornament? Let us know in the comments.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Twas Ten Days Before Christmas and My House is A Wreck

What moron schedules a major home improvement project 2 weeks before Christmas?

Oh, I guess that would be me. It seemed like a good idea 2 months ago when we scheduled the project. "It will be done in time for Christmas", we thought.

GRRRRRRR...I didn't factor in all of the cleaning that would need to be done after the project was complete.

Double GRRRRRRRRR......

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Type of Christmas Shopper Are You?

Do you shop all year round? Does your shopping begin at 4am on Black Friday? Or do you wait until December 20 to even start?

My husband and I just sat down together last week to go over our gift list. For some reason, we are 'fly by the seat of our pants' type people.

We spend about the same amount on each person on our list every year and we have money set aside, but as far as the shopping goes, we have a lot to do.

I did a little bit on Black Friday weekend and that was mostly in the comfort of my home, in front of my computer.

We'll be busy over the next week and a half, but we'll get it done. And next week I'll say to myself, "I really need to do more through out the year". But next December, I'll be in the same place, with less than two weeks to go and a lot of shopping to do.

What kind of Christmas shopper are you?

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About the photo: That is not my home, I don't have a creative or decorative bone in my body. That display was at a local gift shop last year and I thought it was festive and cute.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gingerbread Men Cookies ~ A Fun Holiday Activity for Kids

Tis the cookie season and the first batch we made this year was Gingerbread Men cookies. I wasn't sure how my girls would like them, but I knew they would enjoy making and decorating them.

I have been looking for inexpensive Christmas activities to do with the kids for the month of December. This idea came to me as I was leafing through a holiday magazine. I knew my kids would enjoy decorating the cookies.

I didn't own a gingerbread man cookie cutter, so I bought one at Michael's where coupons are abundant.

I used this simple recipe to whip up the batter, although there was a four hour gap between making the dough and baking because the dough had to be refrigerated. My oldest had a hard time understanding that since all she wanted to do was decorate the cookies.

Finally it was time to cut and bake the cookies. I have a hard time with a rolling pin most times, but this dough was easy. It just needed a lot of extra flour and to be kept cold.

It was finally time to decorate. I used this recipe for the royal icing. It does call for an ingredient that I didn't have: Meringue powder. I found it at Michael's and used a coupon. The icing was so easy to use that I will probably use this recipe for our Gingerbread houses that we are going to decorate next week, so this powder will not go to waste for me.

I used sandwich bags to pipe the icing, which was easy for little hands to maneuver.

We topped the cookies with M&Ms, which was probably my baby's favorite part. One for her, one for the cookie, one for her, one for the cookie...

My kids and I had a lot of fun making these cookies and in the end we all enjoyed eating them too.

Do you make Gingerbread cookies at this time of year? What do you use to decorate them?

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Long Term Storage of Flour

Have you taken advantage of the flour deals that have been going on since Thanksgiving? I bought a few packages around Turkey Day for about $1.50, but this week Wegmans was offering their store brand flour for 99 cents for the 5 lb bag and the unbleached was included. I thought that was a fantastic deal so I picked up my customer limit of 2 and my mom gave me her limit of two. I now have 4 bags of flour and my Tupperware flour container is full.

I'm not sure how long it will take for me to use all of that flour and the date on the flour is about a year away. I have never stockpiled this much flour, but I am having a love affair with my book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking and I am going through the flour much quicker than usual.

I read online that you should freeze the flour for about 2 days to kill off any bugs and then store in an air-tight container. Bugs in the pantry are not a good thing. I had an infestation one summer and I had to get rid of every single dry good item in my pantry that wasn't in an air-tight container. So the flour bags are at risk. So here's my predicament, I need to find some type of air-tight container large enough to store the flour in so that it stays fresh longer and I don't get any bugs.

I love my Tupperware containers. I'm not sure what era they are from, but I find them at yard sales or thrift stores. I have more in other cupboards. I store everything from popcorn and snacks to all of my baking supplies like sugars and flours. But I need to come up with a bigger container or storage idea for the 4 bags of flour that I have right now.

So I am on a quest for a large, inexpensive, air-tight, food-grade container. Do you have any suggestions? If so, please let us know in the comments.

Do you stock-pile flour or other dry goods? How do you store them?

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"This Was the Best Day Ever"

Our Sunday went like this:
  • Church
  • Head to Lowes to pick out a new toilet and bathroom vanity for our half bathroom
  • Stop for a quick lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant
  • Head home to change clothes, put youngest down for a nap, while my oldest and I go to a birthday party of one of her school friends. I stayed at the party.
  • After party, rush home for quick dinner of leftovers and get dressed to go back to church
  • Go back to church for the Children's Christmas musical where our oldest daughter sang a song in the Pre-K choir. Followed by a cookie party in the church gym.
  • Back home and put kids to bed about an hour and a half past bedtime.
When we walked in the house after the church musical, I realized the cleaning fairies didn't get the memo to clean up while we were gone. The day was such a rush that the breakfast dishes AND the dinner dishes were still in the sink, the dishwasher was still sitting full of clean dishes that were never put away, beds weren't made and the Sunday paper was spread out all over the living room. Our Sundays are not usually that hectic and I think I was home for one hour total from the time we left for church in the morning to the time we got back from the musical.

I was a bit distressed about the state of the house, but as I was tucking in our oldest daughter, who had just sang for the first time in front of a large audience, she said to me, "this was the best day ever".

"Oh yeah, why was that?", I asked.

"Because my dream came true. I always wanted to sing in front of people just like Hanna Montana.", she replied rather dreamily.

And with that, I kissed that beautiful little face good night and decided that the dishes in the sink could wait one more day.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Cooking with Hakurei White Turnips

Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never cooked with turnips. I most certainly never bought them in the grocery store; I never ever considered it. I never gave turnips a thought.

But a few weeks ago, we received turnips in a couple of our weekly shares from our CSA. They weren't just any turnips, they were Hakurei White Turnips. After some web investigation, I found that these turnips were called "salad turnips" and were best eaten raw.

I cut a small one up to try. It was crunchy, slightly earthy, but I couldn't just eat it raw, so I added it to a few recipes in my repertoire.

I replaced the radish (pictured below) in my Radish Canapes with a thin slice of turnip. Not a bad little afternoon snack. I like this snack with dill.

I ran the radishes through the food processor and added them to my Purple Cabbage and Broccoli Slaw. Honestly, I couldn't even taste them with all of the other veggies in the salad, so if you are a little unsure about turnips this is a great way to mask them when eating raw.

Finally I cooked them with garlic and potatoes and made Smashed Garlic Potatoes & Turnips. Apparently, these turnips are best eaten raw, but these smashed potatoes were delicious and so easy to make.

In a large soup pan, add 2 lbs. potatoes, 2 large turnips, 3-4 garlic cloves and cover with water. Bring to a boil and add 2 Tbsp salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until soft. Reserve a cup of the water and set aside. Drain the rest of the water. With a potato masher, add enough potato water and/or sour cream and smash the potatoes until you get your desired consistency.

Do you like turnips? What is your favorite way to eat them?

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cookbook Ideas for the Foodie On Your Gift List

Are you looking for some gift ideas for the foodie or cook on your gift list? These cookbooks are sure to please.
  • During the spring and summer, we grill A LOT. When my grilled chicken kept coming out too dry, I turned to Bobby Flay's Grill It!. He also inspired me to grill fruit, for which I am eternally grateful.
  • My husband gave me, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, for Christmas last year with a message from him on the inside saying, "I will LOVE everything you make in this book. You enjoy, cuz if I do I'll be 300 lbs." Well we are enjoying and he hasn't gained 300 pounds, but this is an addicting book. The "5 minutes" part comes after a bit of prep work. There is a master recipe that is easy to mix up, but it needs a few hours of rising before it can be baked. What's nice about the method in this book is that there is no kneading required and after rising, the dough is ready to bake and it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. The main recipe bakes 4 loaves of bread. When you are ready to bake, pull and cut off a piece of dough and shape it into a loaf. Let it rise for 20 minutes and then bake. No more buying specialty loaves of bakery fresh bread, because you can now make it in your kitchen for a fraction of the store-bought cost. I feel like I have mastered the main recipe and I'm ready to elaborate with other variations offered in the book, such as Olive bread, calzones, flat breads, focaccias and pizzas. Okay, so maybe 300 pounds isn't so far off for us, but it will be worth every baked fresh bite.
  • Speaking of 300 pounds, Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook is the most fun baking book to look through and bake through. You'll have a hard time figuring out what to bake first, second or third. Whether sweet or savory, there is so much to choose from: pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, bars, tarts, tortes, and so much more. Next on my list to bake is the Coconut Cream Pie or wait, maybe the Key Lime Tart. Oh, but the Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake looks amazing too.
  • I fell in love with The Pioneer Woman a few years ago. She is a city girl who married a rancher and is now a homeschooling mom and owner of the mega-popular blog, Pioneer Woman. Her book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, will make your mouth water with dishes like BBQ Jalapeno Poppers, Maple Pecan Scones, Perfect Pot Roast, Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler and Simple, Perfect Enchiladas. She is also a skilled photographer and shot all, but a few of the pictures in the book.
  • I did not always love to cook. I loved to eat good food, but only if someone else was preparing it. I started really cooking five years ago when I became a mom. It was then that I discovered Ina Garten, aka, Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. It was Ina who inspired me to roast a chicken and to make my own chicken stock, although I use a different method now. But her simple style gave me the confidence to try it. She is a real food cook who has the most fabulous home and kitchen in the Hamptons. Her dishes are sophisticated, but easy to prepare and made with everyday ingredients. I have two of her books, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients and Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again. The titles of the books pretty much sum up her cooking style. Some of my favorite dishes are the Roasted Butternut Squash soup with Curry Condiments and Spring Green Risotto.
  • For my birthday, my husband gave me Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. After several months, I am still pouring through it. It is so densely packed with information and recipes that my head is spinning, BUT it is also changing how I am looking at food, how I cook and our diet. This is not just a cookbook, but a book that will make you re-think your eating habits. This book kicks the Standard American Diet to the curb and looks back at how our ancestors ate. Real food, real fat, real ingredients.
  • My next book was actually one of the first cookbooks my husband ever bought me. We were at a church thrift sale and he found it on the $1 table. It is Moosewood Restaurant New Classics and it is a vegetarian cookbook. At the time we found it, we were dabbling in vegetarianism, but we have since gone back to eating meat. However, I do refer to it when I need inspiration for the produce we receive from our CSA. Aside from a few seafood recipes, the book is primarily vegetarian.

Hopefully you find some gift ideas for the foodie on your list. You also get a glimpse at the cookbooks that inspire me in my kitchen.

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