My New Hero

Last week, I had to submit a recipe for the kindergarten cookbook.  Nice, but like I need one more thing to do.  Anyhow, like a good mom, I dutifully submitted my recipe.  It was a recipe that my mom adopted as one of our family recipes, ironically found, in a classroom recipe book that one of us bought home when we were younger.

Today, the “Our Favorite Recipes” cookbook came home, and because of it, I now have a new hero.  She might never know this (because I’ll never say this to her, in case she doesn’t have the wicked sense of humor and I don’t give a crap attitude that I imagine she does), but she makes me feel good about myself, while reminding me not to take this stuff too seriously.

Here is her recipe, verbatim.

Recipe Name:  chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients:  Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350.
2.  Break cookies apart and place on pan.
3.  Bake for about 11 minutes.
4.  Remove from oven let them sit to cool then pour a glass of milk and yummy enjoy !!  (like I said verbatim)

How awesome is that!  We’ve only met a few times, but I knew I liked this lady.  In this day and age of excessiveness and oneupmanship, when all you see are Pinterest posts and blogs of superwomen baking, gardening, creating, and looking lovely with nary a hair out of place, she is like a breath of fresh air.  Simply put, she is my new mom hero and every classroom should have a mom like her.

And while, in my book, chocolate chip cookie mom takes the cake, that’s not to say there weren’t some close seconds, like the milk shake recipe, written totally in kid writing with the directions of get a bowl, add some milk, add some ice cream and mix. And then there was the grilled bolonga and cheese sandwhich.  Exactly where does one buy, bolonga?  And, last but not least, the pizza bagel. Need I say more?

I never realized how much I liked my son’s kindergarten class.  Forget requesting a teacher for next year, I just want to be with these moms.

And now, for my recipe.  A refrigerator cookie.  Nothing too fancy or difficult, but definitely worth making (as long as you like peanut butter).

Patriot’s Delight
1. 2 c. sugar                                                    5.  1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter
2. 1/2 c. cocoa                                                6.  3 c. quick-cook raw oatmeal
3. 1/2 c. milk
4.  1/2 c. margarine or butter

1.  Put sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter in a pot.
2.  Bring to a boil and cook over low heat for one minute, stirring frequently.
3.  Add peanut butter and oatmeal.  Mix well.
4.  Drop from teaspoon onto waked paper.  Refrigerate.  Cookies are ready when hard.

You can thank me (or curse me), later.  Enjoy.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Perhaps a sugar cookie post on Valentine’s Day is a tad bit late, but that’s how we roll around here (no pun intended).  But, since it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to make sugar cookies, I thought I would share this recipe for the other sugar cookie days in your life, pick a holiday, any holiday.  Because let’s face it, sugar cookies are a pain in the ass to make (and this recipe isn’t any different), but the nature of the cookie makes it pretty darn flexible. Halloween, use a pumpkin cookie cutter, Christmas, a tree, you see where I’m going with this.

Anyhow, I’ve been noticing a trend out there in blog land and on Pinterest, everyone seems to call their, insert type of cookie name here, best cookie in the world.  Well, I hate to be the one to break it you, but I think some of these people might be exaggerating a bit.

Some, near and dear to me, as well as myself, have been trying out some of these best of recipes and well, let’s just say they’ve fallen a little short of the title.  That doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on blogs and Pinterest, completely, when it comes to recipes, because I have struck recipe gold, but lately, in terms of cost and time, I’ve been feeling like it might be wiser to stay with the Food Network.  Most of their recipes are developed and perfected in test kitchens.

So, having said that, does it make sense that I present to you a sugar cookie recipe?  Of course not, but I do a lot of baking, and while I don’t consider myself anything close to an expert, I have tried a lot of sugar cookie recipes.  And (you’ll have to trust me on this one), I would not offer you anything on this blog that I didn’t think was fabulous.  Or else, I would have shared the chocolate chip cookie dough brownies (discovered on Pinterest) I made this weekend, which weren’t terrible, but weren’t worth blogging about, either.

So, here it is, what I think is the best, if you like soft, chewy, sugar cookies, recipe. It literally fell into my lap, when Second Son bought it home from enrichment class, after making cookies in class.  Enrichment rocks!  Hope you like the picture, what can I say, I’m feeling a little lazy today. Just a few notes, after my first batch got a little too brown on the edges at the minimum baking time, I lowered the oven temperature to 375, and baked them for eight minutes, checking them at seven.  I suggest you start lower, too.  There’s nothing worse than a burnt sugar cookie.As far as the icing, this stuff was like magic.  It spread on roughly, but then magically smoothed, with no help from me, providing the perfect canvas for decorating.  I thought the icing was a tad bit sweet, I really think this cookie is good enough to stand on its own, but the men in my life, as well as one little lady, really liked it.

So, this is how I spent the better part of my day, yesterday, making sugar cookies for Second Son’s kindergarten class, while the naked painter (which is how she prefers to be when not in some ridiculous costume), occupied herself painting.  She created a masterpiece.  I rolled and cut dough, cursing under my breath, wondering why I didn’t just volunteer to make cupcakes with with some candy hearts thrown on top.  For those of you who don’t know, rolling out sugar cookies is such a ridiculous task.  The dough is sticky, if it gets too warm it doesn’t work right, cutting the dough leaves you with lots of scraps that then need to be re-rolled.  It’s just tedious.  I’m seriously ready to get one of those dough shooters that you see around Christmas time.

Once the cookies were done, we decorated them, and I use the term we, loosely. Two hours later, not accounting for refrigeration time, we had approximately forty decorated sugar cookies. And that’s Tuesday’s fun and frivolous.  Have a LOVEly day!

A Week in Cooking

Last week, I did a lot of baking.  On Monday, I made a pepperoni roll using this pizza dough recipe from In Jennie’s Kitchen (which has been tragically, yet beautifully poignant, in the last few months).

Just so you know, I skipped the food processor part, because I only have mini-prep.  I don’t think it made a difference.

Pepperoni roll is an easy, delicious dinner.  Make the dough in the morning and let it work it’s magic all day.  About a half hour or so, before dinner, roll the dough into a rectangular shape, lay down row after row of pepperoni and then cover the pepperoni with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese, followed by a sprinkle of oregano and a healthy dose of Parmesan.  This is how we like it, but you could add different seasonings, or even sauce, depending on your tastes.

Starting at one end, roll the dough as tightly as you can.  The tighter you roll, the prettier it will look.  Mine never looks that pretty, but that doesn’t affect the taste, so don’t sweat it if your roll looks like a deformed log.  Once rolled, pinch or fold the edges over so that the cheese does not ooze out the ends, and then bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.It’s just as good the second day.

As you know, I also made a peanut butter chocolate cake that day, that I discovered on Smitten Kitchen, before I knew what Smitten Kitchen, or a even a blog was.  I just googled peanut butter chocolate cake and it appeared.  I have made this cake several times and it has never disappointed.  Here is my, not as pretty, but equally delicious, cake. I should have added more cream to the chocolate topping to thin it out a bit more.I also added chopped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to the top, just to up the yum factor (and give something for Second Son to surreptitiously pick at).

I froze the remainder of the cake on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I was on to cupcakes.  If you know me, then you know that I would rather have something made from scratch than from a box or package.  I feel no different about cupcakes.  I don’t see the need for added food coloring, flavorings or preservatives. However, there was also another reason I began baking from scratch, food allergies.

There was a time, when I would have happily opened up a box of cake mix, added some eggs and oil and called it a day, but things changed.  In the infancy of first son’s food allergy, I mistrusted almost all packaging.  I didn’t see how one cake mix produced by a company could contain nuts and yet, another, produced by the same company, contained nothing.  That’s when I started baking from scratch.  I’ve since learned to trust manufacturers more, but once you go scratch, it’s really hard to go back.

All that being said, besides a delicious, but labor intensive recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, up until last week, I had had a hard time finding a vanilla cake recipe that I thought was worthy.  Then, on a google search, I found the recipe for Magnolia Bakery’s vanilla cupcakes.  Absolutely delicious!  I also used their vanilla icing recipe, which is a variation of a homemade icing that I’ve been making for years.  I added some pink sprinkles, and voila, fourteen happy preschoolers and two happy teachers (and brothers who enjoyed the leftovers)!I froze the remaining cupcakes on Friday.

On Saturday, I was on to Little Lady’s cake.Yes, I am proud to say that I made this cake. After doing a little googling on princess cakes and watching a Betty Crocker sponsored video, I was feeling confident that I could make this.

Then, I made the cakes.

I used the vanilla cupcake recipe above, but instead of cupcakes, I poured the batter into two nine inch round pans.  For the top layer, I used the recipe for chocolate cake found on the Hershey’s Cocoa container, which is my go to chocolate cake recipe.  I baked the chocolate cake in a greased and lightly floured round glass bowl, but I only used 3/4 of the batter.  I used the remainder of the batter to make cupcakes (no sense wasting).

This is where things started to get messy.

I can be impatient, which is not a good quality in a baker.  Some things, like cakes cooling, just need time.  I am always reminded of this the hard way.  When I went to remove the cakes from the pan, both the bowl cake and one of the layers of the vanilla cake, came apart.  If you’ve ever spent time making more than one cake, or any recipe for that matter, and have taken the time and energy to not only make the recipe but wash the bowls you need (because who has an endless supplies of pots and pans), not to mention the money spent on ingredients, than you know the complete frustration you feel when something doesn’t turn out exactly as you planned.

At four o’clock on Saturday, I had two broken cake layers and one intact vanilla layer that dipped precariously in the middle. I had  serious doubts about the cake, and couldn’t decide whether I should go forward, or run to the store and cake two box cakes and start over.  Yes, I know what I said about box cakes, but with less than twenty-four hours to party time, I was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

I decided to move forward.

I made a full batch of icing, using two sticks of butter and it still looked like this. I seriously questioned my decision.  Frustrated, I put the cake in the refrigerator, something I probably should have done before I even tried to ice it (which by the way, was suggested in the video), and took a break.

Once the kids were in bed, I went back to work, this time undistracted.  I made another batch of icing, with two more sticks of butter, and tinted it pink.  Time, patience, and the refrigerator worked.  I loved that cake and so did Little Lady.I did not use a full doll, like the woman in the Betty Crocker video, instead, I went to Joanne’s Fabrics and bought the half doll cake topper and decorated her bodice using icing.  I was a little disappointed I couldn’t find a doll topper with brown hair, to match little lady, but it was much easier to use a blonde doll than buy a Barbie and wrap her in plastic.  I also put the doll’s hair up, using one of Little Lady’s hair ties, and jazzed it up with the hair pin little lady wore for my brother’s wedding.

This is by far, the most elaborate cake I have ever made.  It was labor intensive, but nothing that the average baker couldn’t tackle.  I was really happy with the end result, not only with the appearance, but with the taste.  I don’t know if it was the two pounds of butter that went into it, but it was delicious.

Yesterday, I sliced it and put it in the freezer.  There’s no shortage of cake in this house.



Party Time

Three years have gone by in a blink of an eye.  It feels like little lady has been here forever, yet, like no time has passed at all.  Either time is at a standstill, or like the Earth, moving so fast, I can’t even feel it.  Sadly, I know it’s the latter.

I agonized over her birth, big time.  Both my boys were born five weeks early, and they came fast.  With a husband working thirty minutes away from home, a mom, who lives an hour away, and no close neighbors or friends, at the time, I envisioned first son delivering my baby.  Well, maybe not first son.  He’d panic and run.  No, I envisioned second son delivering his baby sister on the kitchen floor.

But God smiled down on me.

As luck would have it, I had my 36 week check-up the day my daughter came into the world, so my mom was already at my house, watching the boys.  At 10:00 am, I went to the doctor’s office.  I asked her how much longer she thought I had.  The doctor assured me that I was nowhere near ready to deliver.  So, after my appointment, I went to the mall to buy my niece a birthday present.

My water broke at the mall.

By the time I drove home, I was in active labor.  My mom, the boys and I took a somewhat comical (though, only comical in hindsight) ride to the hospital.  My mom, very nervous, me, in pain, yelling at her because she was slowing down at every green light. (Why do people do that?)  She wanted to flag down a police officer.  I told her to keep driving or else she was going to be the one delivering my daughter, a step up from second son, but I really didn’t want to scar the boys for life with a road side delivery.

We arrived at the hospital at noon. Little Lady was born forty minutes later, talk about timing!

Yesterday, in honor of that wonderful day, we celebrated, with a cake fit for a princess,  cousins to share in the love,and Little Lady’s favorite partner in crime.  There were also a few princess themed presents,and a big brother to assist in the opening,a Pa and an Uncle (Notice the shelf?  I’m trying it out in the den.  I think it’s a much better fit.)and, an end of the night dance party.A small, but perfect affair, sort of like the birthday girl, herself.

Have a great day!