Saturday, November 29, 2008

Something Orange and Something White!

Two things (among many others) mean winter to us here.



We love these little Cuties!  They are sweet, juicy, SO easy to peel, seedless and delicious.  Scott takes much pride in being able to peel them all in one big peel. 




This is all it did though and was melted away by a rainy day by about noon.  Oh well, I'm sure there will be more. 



Yesterday Taylor and I made some homemade play dough.  Taylor chose purple for the color and he played with it for hours throughout the day. 


Sam even got his first try with play dough and didn't even try to eat any!


And here's Sam enjoying a little ice cream tonight.


He definitely enjoyed it much  more than I did as the clean up person!  Really, really miss his high chair.  I made the mistake of letting him sit on the bench with Taylor months ago for lunch one day and he'd never get back in the high chair again.  We gave it away and there's times when I REALLY miss it!  Sigh.


Friday, November 28, 2008

TWD--Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, then some Scrumptious Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Pumpkin---Get Your Pies Here! Also, Cookies, Fudge and Rice Krispy Treats!

This week for Tuesday's With Dorie, we were able to save the post until after Thanksgiving, since we were making a Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, chosen by Vibi from La casserole carree.  What a great gal, she's from France and knew this TWD would be so close to the American Thankgiving, that she chose a great pie for the occasion.  You can get the recipe for this pie on the link to her blog. 

The pie is a combination of pumpkin pie and pecan pie all in one.  I love Dorie's pie crust recipe.  It was easy and I used it for all the pies I made this Thanksgiving, veering away from my usual Never Fail Pie Crust.  I was only going to make Dorie's crust for this Twofer Pie, but liked the crust so much that I used it for all the pies I made.  Now about the pie, I wanted to love it, but for some reason, it just wouldn't bake all the way.  I baked this pie for a good 30 minutes longer than it was supposed to bake and I could tell that it was still not set in the middle.  I just couldn't keep using up oven time on it and was hoping it would set up enough while it cooled.  It looked good, even though I didn't fully read the directions and added the pecans to the pecan filling and then dumped it all on the pumpkin filling.  Maybe that's why it had a baking problem, but it does look like other's pictures I've seen.  One person we had dinner with was excited for the pie, he's the only one who ate a piece and I let it go home with him.  I tasted one pecan from it.  The middle was a little goopy and not fully set up like a true pumpkin pie.  Oh well.  I'm sure done properly, the pie is really good.  I would still rather have a small taste of a pecan pie and a little slice of pumpkin pie and call it Thanksgiving. 

The only other thing I didn't like was that Dorie had us prebake the crust, then it baked more (a lot more) after the fillings were added and I think it made the crust over done.  Next time, I would just bake the crust one time with the fillings (and yes, I covered the edges with foil when I thought they were getting too dark).  I told my friend if they never eat the pie at their house, I don't need to know, just send back my only real, nice pie plate and call it good!


I'm glad I made the pie and tried something new and I'm glad I have discovered Dorie's crust recipe, but let's move on to other Thanksgiving delights I made for the day.


Malted Milk Whopper Cookies, XXX Cranberry Crunch Cookies (really good!), and Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

I also made some super quick Cookie Dough Fudge!


Not the greatest photo, but really good fudge.  Now, I don't slave over a stove making my fudge, especially when there's too many easy recipes out there.  Those malt cookies above, they call for 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (I always use fat free, what the heck, it tastes the same to me and might as well save a calorie or two!)

So there I was with an open can of condensed milk.  This was the quickest thing to do with it. 

Quick, Easy, Yummy Fudge

12 oz. milk chocolate chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (basically, you can use any combo of 3 cups of any chips you want!)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (this one was minus 2 tablespoons, but I don't think it made a difference)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate and milk in a saucepan over medium low heat.  Stirring almost constantly.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Stir together well.  This is where you can add nuts or whatever, try marshmallow and peanuts and make a quick Rocky Road Fudge.  This starts setting up fast, so have an 8x8 inch pan foil lined and lightly sprayed with cooking spray and ready to add the mixture to and spread it out evenly. 

With this cookie dough fudge, I just happened to have some edible cookie dough (no eggs) in the fridge, because I recently made these, Cookie Dough Truffles, that I found at Priscilla's blog, A Peek in Priscilla's Kitchen.  Cute, YUMMY blog by a teenage girl who bakes tons of goodies for her family.  Check it out!  Anyway, I made a bunch of these truffles.


Speaking of yummy--these sure are.  And the recipe makes A LOT!  So, I had cookie dough and decided to put a layer of it in the fudge.  Just as yummy as the truffles!

I also made the traditional Libby's pumpkin pie for Kevin.  It's just not Thanksgiving for him without pumpkin pie.  I whipped out Dorie's pie crust recipe that you can get on Vibi's link above, or better yet, buy Dorie's book, Baking From My Home To Yours.  It's a keeper!  I made the double crust recipe because I was also making more pie. 


The pie on the left, that's none other than THE Pioneer Woman's Scrumptious Apple Pie.  Do you love PW?  I do!  If we could wish for certain friends in life, I would wish for her to be my friend.  Her blog is amazing, her food and recipes and photography are amazing and she is hilarious.  When I need a daily laugh, I read her blog.  And when I saw this pie, I knew I had to make it.  Apple Pie is Thanksgiving to me.  So here's the pie.  Nope, my picture is nothing compared to PW's.  Go look at hers (when you're done reading my blog!).  I'm bummed because you're supposed to drizzle (or slather or drown, whatever you want) this pie with caramel ice cream topping and I forgot it.  I let another friend take this pie home, because I just can't eat all that pie, okay, let me rephrase that, I CAN eat that much, I just shouldn't! 

Never fear, there was enough crust dough, apples and crumble topping left over when I made the pie to make a quick galette.  I tasted it today with the caramel and ooh, it is GOOD!  The picture doesn't do it justice. 


So you'd probably think that's a lot of pie, good for Katrina.  But nope, I made even more.  You see, in my family there was always a cherry pie, so Dad, this is for you.  Well, okay, sorry, it all got eaten, but I made it with you in mind.  I set out to make this cherry pie, even had the crust all ready, when I couldn't for the life of me find the second can of cherry pie filling (Yep, that the stuff we use, Wilderness brand is a good one and I even bought the LITE version.  I can't tell the difference.)  But the pie should have TWO cans of filling in it, so I improvised and made these little guys.


Used a muffin tin and whipped out 12 of these.  I did one with the lattice topping, one with whole topping and 10 with a streusel topping.  ALL GOOD!  Perfect size and so cute!



How cute are these little pies!?


I thought this was a fun way to make these and everyone liked them.  I might keep doing it this way, especially when I discover I only have one can of cherry pie filling!  I made a cute plate full (forgot to take a picture of it) with these mini cherry pies and I also made about 10 little mini pumpkin pies (there's always too much pumpkin filling, too!).

OH!  I didn't even photograph the rolls I made, but they are sure good.  I made about 60 rolls.  I've been using this recipe off and on for years and it is so simple and good AND bad for you, hence, the rolls are delicious!  You make up the dough, no need to knead (ha), let it sit overnight, then roll it out and shape these in to crescents, like rugelach.  Here's a link to the recipe from Allrecipes.

Blue Ribbon Overnight Rolls

And that, my friends, concludes this Thanksgiving baking extravaganza!  Cheers!  We had a great time with great friends and lots of food. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and remembers to be thankful and show gratitude for all you have.  I am certainly thankful beyond words for all the blessings in my life, especially my family!  And all my friends!  Thank ya'll!

Here's some cute photos of the boys!

Scott and Parker have been going to school early for the last month or two on Mondays and Fridays and participating in their school's Bobcat Marathon.  On those days they run one or two miles (they can decide).  When they have reached 26.2 miles, they are given a t-shirt and are praised for the accomplishment.  We think it's a pretty neat program.  They have been little troopers as it has sure gotten cold in the mornings lately.  Parker finished his marathon while we were in New York a few weeks ago, so we didn't get a picture of him, but did have him stand next to Scott as he finished on Monday.  It is neat to see as the people in charge ring a bell while each kid is coming in for the finish with their .2 of a mile to finish the 26.2 mile marathon.  Others are cheering them on.  We decided to go watch Scott finish and got there just in time!  Way to go, Scott and Parker!

IMG_0334 IMG_0335

And then there's our little hat boy, caught playing around with Dad's hat.




Pretty sure you'll not find anything cuter than this!


Even when he does this!


I thought he was being awfully quiet in the other room.  He'd found a plate of some little pumpkin cheesecakes I'd taken out of the fridge and set on the counter.  There were little pieces of it scattered all over this room as well as some in the window sill.  Can't be mad at that face, and you should see the back of the jammies, there's a smiley face on the bum.  Yep, nothin' cuter!  (Don't worry, the cheesecakes were getting old and uneaten, so I put them on the counter to throw them away--they were good when they were fresh though!)


Not posting the recipe (which I made up), but if you want it, let me know and I'll get it to you.  They had a gingersnap crust.  (Pumpkin Spice Kisses and Cinnamon Chips-I liked the chips better.)

Sorry there's no pictures of Taylor this time!  Stay tuned for the cutest little cherry pies you'll ever see!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chocolate! Get More Free Chocolate!

I'm not kidding.  Get on over to Marye's blog, Baking Delights and enter to win Hershey's chocolate!  I've said it once and she gave away a big basket already.  Now, she's doing it again!  You can't win if you don't enter.  All you have to do is leave her a comment to be entered, in fact, you can enter up to four times this week.  Go, go, go!  I'll beat ya!  ;)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Molten Lava Chocolate Chip Cookie

Need I say more?  Just yum!  Go make a couple of these!

Made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough.  Baked most of them as these:


Then I did this:


Baked these two guys for 15 minutes, next time I'll only do about 12 minutes.  I like goo!  But they are by all means, not overbaked. 


Plenty of chocolaty deliciousness hidden inside.


But that's just not quite enough, so I did this:


And that, my friends, is what I call Molten Lava Chocolate Chip Cookie heaven!

Any cookie dough will work, but here's the recipe I used:

The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
3 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
16 oz. flavorful bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used a 1 oz square of bitter sweet chocolate, a 4 oz bar of bitter sweet chocolate and about 10 oz of semi sweet chocolate chips)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or lightly butter them, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or a large bowl if mixing by hand, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
3. Using your hands (I used my cookie scoop), shape knobs of dough about the size of a large walnut and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Stagger the rows of cookies to ensure even baking. Bake 12-15 for smaller cookies (I found that 10-11 minutes was perfect), 14-17 for larger ones or until the tops are a light golden brown. If the cookies are neither firm nor dark when they are removed from the oven, they will cool chewy and soft. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. If somehow they don't get inhaled immediately, they may be stored airtight at room temperature for up to one week.

I found this recipe from Amanda's Cookin' blog, which she posted recently from the latest Cookie Carnival recipes.  These cookies are good and full of chocolate chunks.  I used 8 oz. chopped Dove Dark Chocolates and 8 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips.  The cookies are not the chewy kind, but have a perfect crispness on the outside and are soft, but not cakey inside.  I sprayed two ramekins lightly with cooking spray, then covered the bottom of each with cookie dough.  Then I put a Dove Dark Chocolate in the middle and covered it with more dough, sealing it on all sides.  Do I say YUM to much?  Too bad.  Yum!   ; )   Again---


Okay, I'm done!

Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cinnamon Chips


I found the recipe for these de-licious! cookies here at Baking Blonde.  Her blog is great.  It is chock full of yummy treats with simple pictures so you can see how each goodie is just that--GOOD.  She rates her cookies on a scale from 1 to 10 as to how much she liked them and would make them again.  She is always honest with whether she liked a cookie, or recipe, or add-in and I really like that.  Baking Blonde liked these and rated them an 8.5.  I really like these!  They are simple and delicious and simply delicious and really kicked up a notch with the cinnamon chips added. aheh

Chewy Ginger Cookies with Cinnamon Chips, from Baking Blonde, with slight revisions

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (BB used 3/4 t.)

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1  1/2 cups brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup molasses

1 cup Hershey's Cinnamon Chips (can be omitted, some say these are hard to find!  But they're GOOD!)

1 cup sugar (for rolling the dough balls)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Sift together first seven ingredients in medium sized bowl.  Set. aside.

In bowl of mixer, beat until well combine and light and fluffy the butter and brown sugar.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.  Add molasses and beat to combine.  Scrape sides of bowl.  Add the dry ingredients a little at a time and mix just until combined.  Fold in the cinnamon chips with a spatula.  The dough can be chilled for 20 minutes or so, but is not necessary.  Pour one cup sugar in bowl, form dough balls (mine were about 3/4 oz. each) and toss to coat in sugar.  Place dough balls on baking sheets and bake for 9 minutes (too much longer, for this size and they'll be too crispy.)  Cool on baking sheets for five minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool.  This made 58 cookies.


And THEN, while I was making these my friend Mindy came by and gave me a fun birthday present of all kinds of chocolates on a cute plate (the green one above), to bake yummy things with.  After she left, I saw this chocolate candy bar:


Milk Chocolate Gingerbread Truffle Bar

Of course, I had to chop some up and add it to the remaining dough, which unfortunately was only enough for ten cookies.  The chocolate added a whole new dimension to these ginger cookies.  Loved it!


I thought the lighting for these cookies on the green plate was a bit strange, but this is the only picture of the cookies with chocolate that I have.  These are a perfect cookie!  Go, go now, make some, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"Healthy" Peanut Butter Oat Balls and The Peanut Butter Boy Blog

So there is this great blog that I love that is ALL things peanut butter.  You'd think it would only be goodies made with peanut butter, but oh no, Nick does it all, from chicken salad with peanut butter (don't knock it, try it), to a healthy peanut butter ice cream made with nectarine and banana.  You've gotta check out his blog.  Not only because of all the yummy things he posts, but because he's donating money to help feed the hungry this holiday season.  For every comment that is left on the Feed The Hungry link above, he's going to donate a nickel to The Hunger Site.  I think that is such a great thing to do.  Go leave Nick a quick comment telling him something you're thankful for and check out The Hunger Site to see how you can also donate to a great cause, especially as we all prepare to sit down to our BIG Thanksgiving meals next week.  Through the internet, we can make a difference.  (Thanks, Nick!)

Now, speaking of peanut butter, I have a recipe I'd like to share that I've made up.  Oh, there really are so many other delicious peanut butter recipes out there, but the thing I love about this one is how simple it is to make and that it's a great healthy pop-in-your mouth treat!  And you never know, Nick might like it so much that he'll post it on his blog! ;)

Who knew that November is National Peanut Butter Lover's Month?  I'm telling you, Nick knows all things peanut butter!  In honor of this, he's asking for a compilation of all the peanut butter recipes he can get from whoever wants to send in their yummy creations.  Therefore, I cranked out this simple, tasty treat.



"Healthy" Peanut Butter Oat Balls  (Play with this recipe, you can change it up so many ways!)

1/2 cup peanut butter (Really any kind you'd like, I used mostly Skippy Natural and 2 T. Naturally More Peanut Butter, next time I'm going to go for straight Naturally More, less sugar, or any other all natural pb, and see what I think)

1/2 cup honey (this could probably even be cut down a little)

1/2 cup oats (maybe even a little more, I've made the recipe twice and once used 3/4 cup, still good!)

2 tablespoons ground flax

1/4 cup unsweetened, organic coconut, finely shredded

2 Graham Crackers, crushed (equals about 1/3 cup)

1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (I used pecans, too)

After warming the peanut butter and honey in the microwave for about 30 seconds, stir until combined.  Then add all the mix-ins and combine.  Form into balls (whatever size you want!) and refrigerate until firm.  I also added a small handful of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips to half the "dough".  Made about 25 ping pong sized balls. 


Here's a picture from the first batch I made, there's no flax and pecans instead of walnuts and I added the chocolate chips while it was still a bit warm, so they melted a little.  All good.  You can play around with things to put in these.


So there you have it, a simple, no-bake, quick, fairly healthy on-the-go snack.  Pack a couple of these to go and you'll never need to buy granola bars again!

Free Chocolate, Get Your Free Chocolate!

Ha, thought that would get your attention!  Marye at Baking Delights is giving away Hershey's Chocolate Baskets full of goodies in random drawings for the next four weeks.  Yum!  Perfect for holiday baking!  You have three changes to win each week.  How cool is that?!  Go to Marye's blog on the link above and sign up for your chances to win!

Yummy, yummy, chocolate, chocolate, Hershey's, Hershey' know you want some.........Go, go now!  ;)

TWD-Arborio Rice Pudding, White, Black (or Both)

This week's Tuesday's With Dorie recipe was chosen by Isabelle at Les gourmandises d'Isa.  She's sure got some tasty looking stuff on her blog.  Check it out and get the recipe for Dorie's Arborio Rice Pudding at Isabelle's blog. 

Now, I'd be lying if I said I loved this pudding and must tell you that 1)I haven't had rice pudding much in my life, 2)I don't really care for rice pudding, 3)I didn't really enjoy making this, 4)I thought it was eh, okay, and 5)I'm pretty sure I'll never made rice pudding again.  That being said, it wasn't horrible, turned out just fine, tasted okay and I'm glad I can now say I've made rice pudding.  So there.

My biggest complaint, I guess, is that it took WAY too long for the milk to come to a boil.  The recipe says to cook the milk and sugar over medium heat until it begins to boil.  I began this process at 7:08 p.m. and by 7:38 when it hadn't really started boiling yet, I added the rice anyway and turned the heat down a bit.  I felt like I really had to babysit the milk while it was on medium heat.  Milk burns so easily and I really hate it when that happens.  I did not constantly stand over the stove, but checked it OFTEN, while Dorie suggests to stir occasionally.  So the milk and rice never really simmered while the heat was on medium low, but it did reduce over time.  By 8:55 p.m., when it was well past time to get the boys in bed, I called it good.  I think it turned out fine and just as it was supposed to, but I just didn't enjoy the process.  I failed to mention that I used brown rice instead of Arborio, which I know would have made it creamier, but for kicks, I went for the healthier option.  Why?  Since the recipe calls for whole milk and that is what I used.  I dunno.  I separated it into two bowls and made half chocolate (Gharidelli 60% cacao chips) and half vanilla (1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract).


I stirred the mix-ins together with the pudding and put plastic wrap over the top so the rice and I could go to bed for the night.  Nite-nite!  See you in the morning!


The recipe didn't make very much pudding, but I suppose that's okay, since it wasn't well loved.  Again, don't get me wrong--it tasted fine.  I actually liked the vanilla better than the chocolate.  I KNOW!  Hello.  'Sup with that?  For a mid-morning snack I had a small amount of the vanilla pudding with some chopped walnuts and dried cranberries.  A friend came over later in the day and I had her eat this---


She liked the chocolate side better.   There is still some chocolate rice pudding left.  Anyone?  I'm glad I made this and now I know--I'll stick with yogurt or ice cream or even Jell-o pudding cups.  Thanks!  Seriously, I'm not mad or upset or even sad that I made this, I just prefer MANY, MANY other desserts.  See you next week for TWD's Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, we're talking two pies (pumpkin and pecan) in one!  We've been told we can make the pie for Thanksgiving and not have to post until after the holiday, so maybe don't expect me to post it on Tuesday.

Hey, check out all the other baker's rice puddings at the Tueday's With Dorie site.  I can't wait to see what other's have done!  Check my blog tomorrow for some yummy peanut butter treats!

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The occasionally mentioned and rarely photographed husband here.....

Today is Katrina's birthday (sorry, I can't tell you her age). Since she and I already spent a couple of days in New York last week, Katrina made me promise that I wouldn't buy her anything more for her birthday. Well, I couldn't just sit back and do nothing, so I thought I would write her a quick public note and invite her fellow baking bloggers to offer their best wishes as well.

Katrina never ceases to amaze me. While I am at work all day, she somehow manages to take care of four boys, keep the house from falling in (due to the four boys), and yet still find time to bake some of the most incredible food. I know how jealous many of you must be of me that I have the privilege of not only seeing all of the wonderful food she makes, but I actually get to eat a lot of it (I am often given the instructions to make certain goodies disappear so she won't eat them). It's a miracle that I don't weigh twice what I do :-).

I often tell people that Katrina is the one that works in the family. I just happen to be the one that gets paid for what I do. I would never be able to fully put into words and convey the gratitude and love I have for my dear wife. I feel that I will never be able to repay her for all of the wonderful things she does for this family. However, I look forward to many more years of trying to do so. Katrina, I love you and will love you forever.

To her blogging community: I want to thank you for being such good friends and supporters of Katrina and this blog. Many of you have become close friends to Katrina and she feels like she knows you so well even though she may never have met you in person. If you can, please take a moment and wish Katrina a Happy Birthday.

Thanks...."The Husband"

Friday, November 14, 2008

Walnut Coffee Cake-Whole Wheat and Peanut Butter Candy Cookies

I finally posted about my trip to New York yesterday, so make sure and read it on the post below and see all the yummy cookies, if you missed it!  Today I wanted to post a few quick recipes that I made yesterday.  The first one, for Easy Whole Wheat Walnut Coffee Cake was one that my bloggin' buddy, Anna at Cookie Madness made a few months ago that I thought looked yummy and easy and pretty healthy, so I've been wanting to make it since then.

It is perfectly moist, crumbly, nutty, cinnamon-y and super easy to make!  And wow, it looks like for once, I followed a recipe exactly as it was written.  Go see Anna's cake here and get the full, double recipe that she posted from a Pillsbury Bake-Off entry years ago.  Anna halved hers and made an 8 inch round cake and so did I. 


You could serve this as a simple little treat/dessert, have it as a snack, or have it for breakfast!  My friends and I really liked it.

Easy Whole Wheat Walnut Coffee Cake (from a Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist in the 80's)


1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

2  1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 cup whole wheat flour, lightly spooned and swept

1/2 cup granulated sugar (this would be a great one for xylitol, Mom!--you gotta try it.)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup milk (I used skim)

2 tablespoons egg, lightly beaten (about 1/2 an egg--I was out, but Egg Beaters would have worked great here)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


6 tablespoons powdered sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon water (just realized I forgot this, but it doesn't need it)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8 inch round cake pan with cooking spray (I used a sprinform pan, worked great!)

Stir together walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl.  Stir very thoroughly.  Add the soft (but not melted) butter to the flour mixture and mash with a wooden spoon, combining as much as possible.  Using a pastry cutter or fork (or your hands), cut mixture in together until it is coarse and mealy like soft bread crumbs.

Mix together in a small bowl the milk, egg and vanilla.  Add to flour mixture and stir (do not beat, the wooden spoon worked fine).  Stir until well mixed.  It looks a bit like cream of wheat.

Spread about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle half the walnut mixture over batter.  Spread remaining batter over nuts, then top with remaining nut mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes or until done.

Cool a bit, then drizzle with icing.  To make the icing, mix together the powdered sugar and water until smooth.  Spoon over cake or put the icing in a plastic sandwich bag and snip off a tiny hole in one corner.  Squeeze the icing out over the cake decoratively.



Next.  My boys are just about out of Halloween candy. (Yeah!)  They really only have the things left that they really don't care for.  I cleaned out their pumpkin buckets so I could put them away (They've been on the kitchen counter WAY too long!) and I found that Parker apparently doesn't like Snickers and Baby Ruth.  Hmmm.  I couldn't just take the candy, oh no.  I tried, but Parker insisted that he wanted them.   Then I made him a deal to pay him $2 for six Snickers and two Baby Ruths.  It took quite the convincing that I was really making him a good deal until he finally went for it, but not before insisting I give him a 5 dollar bill and he give me three ones back instead of me just giving him two dollar bills!  So, finally everyone was happy.  I was going to make some cookies with the Snickers and Parker was even more rich!  (This kid has quite the stash of money as we've been paying him $5 for every book (chapter books) he reads and there's just no stopping this guy!)

Before I get to the cookies, we had Scott and Parker's parent/teacher conferences yesterday and they went great!  We really like both their teachers this year.  Not that we haven't like the teachers they've had in the past, but you know, there's just something about the two they have this year that really makes us feel good about their learning and the help and teaching they are getting at school.  Although Scott (5th grade) does not have a love for learning and reading as we'd like him to, he's actually doing quite well.  (All in part, due to Kevin's constant helping him with homework and studying for tests.)  Scott's teacher thinks he is about the nicest kid ever and is friends with everyone. 

Parker's teacher could not praise him enough!  This is GREAT news as last year towards the end of kindergarten, Parker was talking out in class so much that the teacher had to give him smiley or frowny faces at the end of each day so I'd know how he was doing.  We worked on this with a sticker chart at home for Parker to earn simple rewards.  It worked great, but Parker is a no fear, wanna-be-in-the-limelight kind of kid who is still learning when to not talk so much, so we were concerned how things would go this year.  In a few emails, his teacher told us there was nothing to worry about.  We were happy to actually sit down with her yesterday and Parker's teacher could not say enough good things about him.  She kept saying things like, "I'm serious, I would take this kid home right now and keep him if you'd let me," or "If I had 25 Parker's in class, that would be so great!"  She said Parker is always SO happy to be there and to do work and help out and read and well, on and on.  We even saw his kindergarten teacher in the hall and she said she sees him in class all the time and he's always just quietly reading.  Parker's teacher even suggested we possibly get him tested for being gifted.  I don't quite understand the numbers, but she said most first graders right now should be at a level 7 in reading and that Parker is at 28!  We are excited and hope that Parker continues his love for reading and learning!  He gets home from school so excited when he has homework and gets it out immediately and gets it done.  That is the one thing they are working on at school, is for him to slow down just a bit with his work.

Taylor brought home a "report card", too.  He is doing great, loves all the things they do, especially playing in the different "centers" at playtime and that he participates well, etc.  The only thing they noted with Taylor is that during play time, he prefers to play independently rather than with other kids.  We knew that and aren't really worried, since Taylor does have some friends he enjoys playing with. 

Okay, back to cookies!  I thought a good peanut butter cookie base would be yummy to put the Snickers in, so I finally made these cookies that fellow blogger, Judy, has raved about for a while now.  Check out Judy's Kitchen for a great blog with lots of yummy and healthy recipes.

Here is the recipe for these peanut butter cookies as I made them with all the fun add-ins.  These cookies are great for adding things to them and are crispy but soft and buttery. 


Lalee's Peanut Butter Cookies, adapted from Judy's Kitchen (I made a few changes and omissions)

1/2 cup butter, unsalted

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed (can use up to 3/4 cup if you want)

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural)

1 large egg and 1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (I was just about out and probably only got about 1/3 teaspoon out of the jar)

1 teaspoon cinnamon (I left this out, but it's probably good!)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

6 Fun Size Snickers bars, coarsely chopped (freeze for a short time first)

1 Fun Size Baby Ruth bar, coarsely chopped

3 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, coarsely chopped

(You can add whatever you want to these!)

Combine butter, peanut butter and sugar.  Cream together.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix together. (You don't have to cream each addition for very long, just until combined.)  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat until combined.  Scrape down sides.  Fold in chips, nuts, and whatever else you'd like. Chill dough for at least two hours (which I didn't do at all, as I needed the cookies right away, so they were great without the chilling.)  Drop tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 11-12 minutes.  These are good soft/slightly underbaked.  Cool on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper, it's my favorite way to go) for five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.  After baking the first sheet full, I threw in a Fun Size pack of mini M&M's that I'd found.


These are great for sharing and/or giving away!  I liked the occasional chew from the caramel/nougat in the candy bars and the crunch from the peanuts.  Good cookie!  Thanks, Judy.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New York City News!

Our trip began VERY early in the morning last Thursday, November 6.  Kevin scheduled us an early-as-possible flight, so we'd get the New York with plenty of the day left.  We got up about 3:45 a.m.  No stopping me though, as soon as we got there, we were off.  We ate some lunch at a yummy little Italian place called Ralph's.  It was already about 1:00, and since we had dinner reservations for 5:30, I just had a mozzarella and tomato salad on arugula.  But that with the yummy bread, was so good.  Perfect.  We then made our way on foot uptown.  We were staying at a Hampton Inn on 8th and 51st.  We NEEDED (ha) to get to 74th--what for? Bakeries and Cookies!  We stopped in at Jacques Torres first.


The Cookie!  This cookie is SO chocolaty!  I bought two and saved them for later.  You can get a warm, gooey, crisp, chewy cookie.  I really like this cookie.  Chocolate ribbons are in every centimeter of the cookie.  The bittersweet chocolate is good, but just a tad too bitter for me.  Still, give me a JT cookie any day and I will not turn it down.  ;)



I bought two of these and ended up bringing one home and sticking it in the freezer.  But not before taking this great photo showing the layers of chocolate.


Let's see, where did we go next?   Hmmm.  Oh yeah! (kidding)

Levain Bakery!  It was nice just walking around the city.  Kevin probably wasn't as thrilled.  There were LOTS of people and he just doesn't like crowded places and big cities.  (Thanks SO much for taking me to NYC, Hon!)  Levain Bakery was all I remembered it to be--tiny, downstairs and yum-a-licious! ;)  (By the way, I hate being in pictures, but Kevin insisted.)  Just note that the whole time we were in New York, it was cloudy, humid and kind of a misty rain.  My hair does NOT like that!  You'll see in a minute.  Some of the pictures are also kind of dark, because of the dark weather and the nasty hotel lighting!)  Levain, Levain.  Oh how I love this cookie.  I have now tasted many a New York cookie and maintain that, in my opinion, these are the best chocolate chip cookies in New York City.  It's so great that we all have our own opinion, huh!  Go taste for yourself.  ; )



Love them fresh, gooey, underdone, crisp on the outside and chock full of chocolate and walnuts!  I should have bought more than two!  Kevin and I ate one (the big guy above here) during the next two days.   I brought the other one home and after taking a small bite of it and leaving it on the counter, I noticed Kevin took a big chunk of it, so I wrapped it up and put it in the freezer.  Must savor it!  (Not that I wouldn't share, mind you.)


Yes, right outside this little bakery is a nice bench to sit on (that was wet) and some lovely garbage.  Doesn't matter, you gotta get these cookies!

Quick stops at a few other bakeries brought more cookies!  Here's Bouchon Bakeries chocolate chip cookie and their GIANT Nutter Butter.  The Nutter Butter is better than their chocolate chip.  It is thick with a buttery/peanut buttery filling and soft (not crunchy like Nabisco's Nutter Butters).  Both are huge.  The chocolate chip cookie was a little dry, more crisp than chewy, but not horrible.



I would freak out if I ever saw someone sit down and eat this guy in one sitting!  One little bite at a time and lots of time in between, I say.


We meandered back to the hotel room to basically redo my nasty, frizzy hair and get ready to head out by subway to our dinner reservations around 18th street.  Hampton Inn, where we stayed on 8th and 51st, serves cookies at 3 p.m. every day.  Couldn't pass that up.  This trip was about cookies (well, and Spamalot and being with Kevin.)  Here's the little Hampton cookie surrounded by all the bakery goods.  Poor thing, didn't stand a chance! ; )


This is my hair on humidity.  It's hard to see in the picture all the frizz around my head. 


This is my hair on flatiron!  This is how I HAD it and how I want it to stay.  You lucky people with naturally straight hair.  Mine has a natural nasty curly wave to it.  I know, everyone wants what they don't have.  So, I'll shut up now.  I only complain briefly, then move on.


It only stayed this way for about five minutes after we went back out in the mist.  We headed toward Times Square (crazy busy there!), but that was the nearest subway station.  The New York subway is an interesting place.  Still, can't beat how fast it gets you places.  The only thing I don't like is, well, being underground, you can't see where you're going and can't see the "scenery". 

We had reservations for dinner at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.  And can you say, YUM-O!  Goodness that was good food.  We didn't take any pictures there, but here's a link to the website, Mesa Grill.  They informed us that the wait for our meals would take some time because they cook everything fresh.  Fine by us--we never get to eat this way!  I was just excited for warm food!  While we waited (and by the way, we were seated in what we were told were the best seats in the house--we were upstairs and were able to see the whole restaurant and into the kitchen.  It was pretty cool.  A delicious basket of bread came to the table.  I want the recipe for Bobby's blue corn muffins.  They were so good, moist yet a little crumbly, buttery, with a little fresh corn and just a touch of spice, the perfect amount.  Never tasted cornbread like this!

I ordered: 

with Bourbon-Ancho Chile Sauce + Sweet Potato
Tamale with Crushed Pecan Butter and

Brussel Sprouts, Toasted Pecans
+ Pomegranate Seeds

Three perfectly grilled pork medallions that were so tender and perfectly spiced.  The sweet potato tamale was a great, mild palate cleanser when every now and then I thought the pork was just a tad too spicy for me.  But it didn't stop me from savoring it.  (Mom, you could suck the juice out of it and taste it all night--just your thing!)  I even had mine cooked well done, as I always do and it was still just perfectly tender and moist.  How do they do that?  I shared some of mine with Kevin and he raved that, "wow, if you could cook a tenderloin like this!"  (I'm not a very good meat cook as I like my meat well done and tend to always make it dry!  I know a lot of that is buying cheaper store brand meat.)  The brussel sprouts on the side were okay, but laden with some type of alcohol that I didn't really like.  More so because it would change the taste of the pork when I'd switch back and forth between bites. 

Kevin ordered:   Hmm, I'm not sure, I didn't even care.  jk  But the pork tenderloin was voted (by Kevin and I) as the best!)  He really liked all of his food, but I didn't taste any of it.  I was too in love with the little piggies on my plate! ;)

with Red + Green Chile Sauce and

Anaheim Chile Relleno
filled with White Cheddar Cheese,
Black Beans + Rice

I was stuffed, which since changing my eating habits, I rarely eat until I'm full anymore, but this made me pleasantly satisfied to almost too full.  GREAT!  Gotta do that now and then.

After dinner we walked around the "flatiron district", as it was called, and found that Blue Man Group (Kevin had actually looked this up ahead of time and we knew the show was somewhere in the area we were already in) was doing a show.  We didn't have any plans for the rest of the night and since Kevin has always liked them, we talked ourselves into seeing their gig.  All I knew about Blue Man Group was their sometimes annoying commercials they'd be on.  And while I did think it was all a bit strange, some of the things they do, were really COOL!  Fun to see.  They had lots of audience interaction and were pretty amazing on the drums. 

We made our way back to the subway and back to the hotel and plopped in to bed.  Great day!


Day two, Friday, November 7 we started pretty early with a good continental breakfast at the hotel.  From all the walking the day before and Kevin not wearing the most proper shoes, one of his feet was killing him.  I also had a blister forming on my foot, although the shoes I brought for all the walking were comfy.  But because of this, we decided to take a break from the walking and bought a bus pass on the double decker tour bus, Gray Line.  Again, kind of a misty, dreary day, but not cold, we sat up top the bus, but it was covered with plexiglass.  This was a great way to see the city, but not have to walk so much.  The bus made plenty of stops, but we decided to just sit and let the bus show us the city.  Some of the traffic we went through was amazing!  One place, in particular, near Madison Square Gardens was cars double parked (some of these weren't even cars, they were delivery trucks and such) on both sides of the street and the bus b a r e l y squeezing in between it all to get through. 

We stayed on the bus until we got to Battery Park (where you can get on a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty).  We had a GREAT tour guide and didn't want to get off!  (It really makes a difference on those buses if you get an annoying tour guide.  If you do, get off and wait for the next bus!--thanks for the tip, Bon!)  But decided to get on the next bus down at the park that would take us on a tour around Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Bridge



This was the closest we got to The Statue of Liberty.


New York City from the Brooklyn side.


It was so nice to just sit and see the city.  We made our way out of Brooklyn and by this time it was lunchtime.  So we wandered around Battery Park area and found a place to eat.  We chose a Mexican food place called Red.  Pretty good food!  I just had some chicken tacos with salad, but at least their chicken was flavored and perfectly spicy.  I don't like when you're eating chicken tacos, enchiladas, etc. at a Mexican restaurant and it's just chicken, no flavor.  Their salsa was also good, which is another must for me at a Mexican restaurant.  The place was all windows, so it was nice to people watch and warm up a bit (I didn't wear a jacket on Friday because the day before I kept getting too warm and was tired of holding my jacket, so of course, this day, sitting on the bus with the breeze blowing, I was a little cool.)  So lunch was good.

We made our way back to the tour bus and headed back uptown a bit.  We got off and walked to another must-try bakery, City Bakery.  I wanted to love their cookie, but it was just okay.  A bit too oily for me and not enough chocolate chunks.  All the cookies were also strangely shaped.  But shape does not make a cookie, taste does.  Not horrible, but not my favorite.  Let's all say in unison where my favorite cookie is found. "Levain Bakery!"  jk


After visiting City Bakery, we made our way to Chelsea Market where we had heard some other GREAT chocolate chip cookies were.  Again, okay cookies, but nothing to blog about, I mean write home about, okay, whatever--nothing to buy again, but fun to see all these bakeries.

Eleni's Bakery, Chelsea Market (hotel bathroom lighting, was a little better than just in the room)  The cookies were crisp and slightly chewy, a little overbaked for my liking.  They were really dry/stale the next day.



Ruthy's Bakery, Chelsea Market  I liked that these cookies were packaged--great for travel.  The chocolate chip cookie was very soft, almost cakey, but not too much.  The cookies reminded me of Chip-a-hoy Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies.  And as I write this, four days after returning home, I just realized that chocolate cookie is still sitting on the counter unopened and not tasted!  Oops!  It's probably won't be very fresh now.  But I thought it looked good--Brownie Cookie Swirl


And then don't forget this baby, another Hampton Inn goodie as we made our way back to the hotel, very sore feet and all.  I couldn't pass him up, even though I had armfuls of cookies I'd just bought.


Kevin napped while I sat taking pictures (in horrible lighting!) of cookies and catching up on emails and such.  Kev's foot was really hurting and I felt bad.  I'd have to say the Hampton cookie was actually better than the Eleni's, City, and Ruthy's cookies.

We got ready and headed out again on foot to the Shubert Theatre (44th St., our hotel was on 51st).  It's really not a bad walk, besides it being right through BUSY Times Square, but with our sore feet, it was plenty.

IMG_0217  IMG_0218 

We were there pretty early, but my excitement for seeing this hilarious show was building.  I love Clay Aiken, he is an amazing singer and person.  And I have to tell you, he is so stinkin' funny in Spamalot and the roles he plays in it.  Who knew a southern boy from North Carolina with a funny accent could learn to speak with a darn good English accent?  We were right up front in the line to enter the theatre and they were literally about to start taking tickets when I glanced down at the printed tickets Kevin had purchased online months ago.  The tickets said in big, bold print, November 6!  I started shaking and said to Kevin, "What day is today!?"  He said, "November 7."  Need I say more?  Our tickets were for the night before!  WHAT?!!!  Having already seen the show back in April, NO, I would not have died if we missed the show, except for the tiny little fact that this was the BIG reason we went to New York City and were only there for a day and a half!  I was sick inside!

Kevin felt horrible.  We had both completely forgotten that when he'd bought the tickets at least two months ago that we talked about seating while he was checking what was available and decided that the Friday night showing didn't have nearly as good of seats and the Thursday night show.  So we reasoned that we'd get to NY early enough in the day on Thursday that there would be no reason we couldn't go then.  We never thought about it again, but both of us always thought we were going to the show Friday night.  Never even really looked at the tickets he printed out until right then in line.  We were standing right next to the ticket booth, so I explained to the ticket man our little problem and he kindly, but rather annoyed-ishly explained that he can't just give us seats.  He looked up what seats WERE available and did have two seats that were pretty good, not too far back from the stage down on the main floor, but that we'd have to pay full price again for them.  The man told us to hold on and that he was getting the theatre manager.  Kevin told me he was willing to buy new tickets.  (I really am SO spoiled, I know!)  The manager talked to us and explained that he would be willing to give us seats, but that they would not be the two good seats he had up front.  He couldn't do that because he knew those tickets would sell before the show.  He was willing to give us mezzanine seats.  I still questioned what to do, because well, like I said, I'm a spoiled brat.  The manager left for a moment and when he returned, he told us that he thinks he got us some pretty good seats.  So we went with the "free" deal.  And he really did get us good seats, just a few rows back in the mezzanine.  Thank you, Sir!  (When we got home, I sent him a little thank you note!)  Whew!  Crisis diverted! 

The show was just as funny as the first time I saw it and it was fun to see different parts that were changed up a little and where the actors ad-libbed some lines as they went along.  Clay, just as funny as ever, stole the show.  I didn't realize this, but January 18 is the last show for Spamalot.  It is no longer playing in London, Las Vegas, soon-to-be no longer on Broadway, but possibly still touring.  The show is too darn funny to miss.  After the show, I wanted to wait outside the stage door for Clay to leave, like many others, so Kevin obliged me and we stood there in the crowd.  I don't know why I think it's fun to do that, but lots of other ladies were there waiting to see Clay leave.  Others from the show made their way out and went through the rigors of giving out autographs, etc.  Clay never came.  We waited and waited.  Some in the crowd said that as they've been there before, a stage person usually comes out and tells them he's not coming out that way or something.  So we waited some more.  My husband, I tell you, is TOO nice to me and was just game for whatever silliness I put him through.  (Thank you, Honey, I love you!)

The show got over not long after 10 p.m.  Finally about 11:15 they came out to tell us Clay wasn't leaving from that door and that he was already gone.  Now I know that celebrities probably get sick of that type of life and such, but really, couldn't they have just told us an hour before that that he wasn't doing that today?  That's all I wanted was to know for sure.  Oh well.  I don't even know why I care about seeing him or any others for that matter.  I just think it's fun.  I don't even care if I'm one of the ones who gets an autograph (I already have his and a picture with him!).  So anyway, the show was great and fun and once again, Thank You, Kevin!

We made our way back to the hotel, but never ate dinner that night and were starving.  We found a little deli and ran in and bought a couple sandwiches.  I don't think we got to bed that night until around 1 a.m., then got up about 6 a.m. and went to the Manhattan, New York temple of our church.  The beautiful thing (besides how they all look) about temples is that you can be in a place like New York City, loud, kind of dirty, busy, etc. and you can go in the temple right there in the middle of it all and hear no outside noise.  It just feels so peaceful and is a great break "from the rest of the world".

 Manhattan New York Temple

What I love about the New York temple is that it's right there amongst all the other buildings in New York.  It is on about 76th and Columbus.  It is even attached to the other buildings on the block, but once you enter, is so different from anything else you'll experience in New York City.  It was great to go in that morning and put the cares of the world aside for a short time!

It was, again, a drizzly, misty morning, but was had an enjoyable walk there and back.  We then ate a nice breakfast at the hotel and took our time getting ready for our shuttle to take us back to the airport.  The shuttle picks you up four hours earlier than your flight, which I guess I can understand, in case there are problems, but we got there, checked in, and through security in probably less than ten minutes.  Ahh, I love sitting for over two hours and waiting!  (That was MAJOR sarcasm.)  Oh well, the time actually seemed to go by quickly.  At the airport I bought a couple other cookies from a chain bakery I'd kept seeing all over New York City, called Au Bon Pain.  I had to try them.  The cookie was big, somewhat flat, brown sugary, buttery and chewy.  It was pretty good, just different from the kind I prefer.


And as if this trip wasn't enough about cookies and I hadn't had enough, we flew Midwest Airlines, and I don't know if you've heard, but the seating on their planes is more roomy and comfortable AND--get this, they bake fresh chocolate chip cookies in flight and serve warm cookies to you while you fly!  Hello!  How cool is that?!  While the cookies are similar to a really good Toll House cookie and are certainly not Levain's or anything, they are/were delicious!  We flew from NY to Milwaukee for a short layover, but that meant two flights, double the cookies! hehe.  I didn't get the camera out and take pictures, felt a little silly doing that, but trust me, Yum-o!  There's just nothing like having a warm cookie instead of a stale, miniscule bag of peanuts while you're flying!  You get two cookies each time.  I gave Kevin one of mine.  If you're flying in the continental US, you gotta fly Midwest Airlines.  (Hey, was that a plug?  Do I get some compensation for that?  Hello?)  Okay, I don't really care.  Just go fly and get yourself some cookies!  (Go check out the link to Midwest and see the pretty cookie!)

So, that was our trip.  Loved it!  I've really felt all cookied out, but feel a hankerin' to do some bakin' comin' on!  Thank you, thank you, Kevin.  Great rememberies!

Oh are you still here reading this?  Sorry it's been such a lllllooooonnnnnnggggg post.  I'm done now though.  Thank you for visiting!