Thursday, December 30, 2010

A sweet nibble


I have one more trick up my sugar dusted, butter stained sleeve.

You are sweet. You know you are. You are creative too, so take this basic formula and run off and play.

That is right, one more cookie recipe. Just for you. That is it for the year. I promise.

I am trying to squeeze in (to my jeans) a few treats, including these nibbles, for our lovely friends who will be sending off 2010 off in style with us.

These bars a old school. I made these with my mom, she knew all about them. She uses soda crackers instead of graham crackers.

Old school. It is coming back.

Like tater tot casserole.

Ok not so much.

Like most recipes that fit in the nostalgic bin, they are fast, cheap and the ingredients are usually on hand. Well, that is not nostalgic.

These are good. Like nibble on the "crumbs" when people are not looking good. I promise.


First tear open a a package of graham crackers and eat a couple squares. 

This is important. Take note.

Graham crackers are best when the package is first open. 

Then line a cookie sheet with the rest. Don't get gray hairs over the fact that it isn't evenly covered. 


Over medium heat, mix one cup butter with one cup brown sugar. They are equals. Butter and sugar get along well and will get all nice and bubbly.

Once the butter and sugar starts to turn a bit foamy, about 5 minutes remove from the heat. Pour the caramel sauce over the crackers.

Spready - spread - spread.

 I told you it was easy.

Toss it in the oven at 350. 10 minutes. Bubbly. Molten hot lava.

 While the caramel cracker goodness is still nice and hot, bust out the chocolate chips and distribute.

In just a few minutes, the chocolate will be spreadable. Scmear the chocolate. Lick the spatula. It is easy I tell you.


Get creative while the chocolate is still warm. Smashed candy canes, chopped nuts... 

Nibble - nibble......


Graham Cracker Cookie Bars

Adapted from The Tasty Kitchen

  • 1 package (10 To 12 Pieces In A Package) Graham Crackers
  • 1 cup Butter
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Chocolate Chips
  • ½ cups Slivered Or Sliced Almonds
Line an 11×15 inch cookie sheet with whole crackers. It will fill up pretty much the whole space. Use as many whole crackers as you need to fill the space.
Mix butter and brown sugar in a pan to boil. Stir for 5 minutes while boiling on low.
Spread the butter/sugar mixture over the crackers and bake at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and spread over carmel when it comes out of the oven, top with nuts or anything you desire. Cool for 10-20 minutes in the fridge.
Break into pieces.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Heart Breaker

So I woke up this morning - yep believe it or not. I did it.

That was a high point during the day.


Right up until I sliced through a handful of those sweet Meyer lemons that are almost disappearing from the season.

Then added tequila - of course. who would consume lemons without booze or sugar?
 Com'mon now.

I think the sole reason I got out of bed, besides the fact that our bed is all worn out and is impossible to just to be lazy, is that there was (was) a jar of peanut butter that was just calling my name. I really need to clean the cupboards. Ya'know, be productive. What better way to clean out the wounded soldiers (J pronounces them: souljas) by polishing off numerous jars of peanut better. Before 7am. It is weird. That is just me, having on of those peanut butter days.

Instead of doing the sensible thing, like getting some exercise or at least vicariously through the wonder dog running through the desert, I went shopping.

I need new dishes. NEEEEEDDDDDDD........must have new dishes............want new dishes.....

The week after Christmas deals seem to be floating around. So I pulled up my trousers and went to THE MALL. As it turns out, kids are on winter break and parents are freaking out.  Seriously. Look around you. Craziness.

The desert, people go crazy here.

I left with a clearance Godiva chocolate bar clutched in my hand. I needed comfort as soon as I reached the serenity of my car. Nibble, nibble. That is me, eating in the car that is sitting in the mall parking lot.

No plates. Chocolate will do. Because the peanut butter got me started. It was all the peanut butter's fault or the cupboards for being too small.

Back to the dishes (important things), want to trade? I am looking for eclectic pieces, mismatched but pretty. I am easy to please. White, old china that someone has tucked away in their cupboard. I am not afraid to use it. I have some pretty brown swirly plates by TAG. You can have them.

Peanut butter, shopping, chocolate.... this girl is going to make a fancy cocktail to celebrate a day of indulgence. 

I have to start what I finish. I learned that in the new True Grit movie. I am just that way. I loved the movie.

My J loves westerns and I love him.


My husband loves me. He buys nice tequila.


  I buy Meyer lemons.



Who has hot red nails...

 All sorts of nice tequila.


We make cocktails and get all chatty.


I love it.  



The Heart Breaker

I name this sweet puckery boozy drink the heart breaker because when you take a sip, you wish it was summer on a beach but really you are trying to keep warm in a small apartment in the desert during cold winter months.
That my friend is a heart breaker.

1 part tequila
1 part Meyer lemon juice
1 part orange liqueur

mix - go to your happy place.

Repeat?

Consider it play


I have made a resolution not make New Year's resolutions. It was a little odd at first, for years I have made big strides to change numerous aspects of my life. I mean who doesn't want a new better self, a fresh start, and a few lofty pie in the sky targets?

 I need goals. We all need objectives. I do not need more guilt and neither do you.

We do not need more remorse in our lives. Big, unattainable resolutions most likely will set you up for disaster and yet another round of regret. No one needs more guilt in their lives. The stuff -shame- simply is not healthy. We want to be healthy and happy!


Small steps, little changes, habit forming hobbies that are easy to integrate into our daily lives make us healthier and happier people will be sustainable over the long term. Baby steps will keep that pesky voice coming from your shoulder riddling you with guilt because you did not wake up and completely change your life.

In order for a healthy habit to form it must be some what pleasurable, integrate a task that we already do or even better a little of both. Find things that you enjoy doing. I love going to the neighborhood park to take pictures. Instead of driving there I walk. By design, I live close to my gym so I will either walk there or ride my bike, by the time I get there I am warmed up and ready to get to work. We all travel to places near and far, the destinations that are within three miles are easily walkable where as in the vicinity of five miles bikes are extremely efficient.


Getting outside my car by walking or riding my bike more is what my goal this year. I live in town so it is easier, if you live in a less accessible area try walking to get the paper at the end of the driveway once you park the car. My husband has a really busy work week that leaves virtually no time for exercise. A couple days a week he makes the time to walk to the car pool lot which is a mile away. His walk in the morning and evening is a trip that he already makes but by walking is able to squeeze a little bit more out of the trip that in a car. It may seem really small but the twenty minutes here and there all add up. Small attainable changes lead to healthy life long habits.


Go ahead make a few resolutions but save yourself the pain, make them goals you can and will attain. Shape the goals to fit your life and not you to fit the goals.

Here are a few other recent posts that I cover how important health is and planning.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The missing link


OK guys and gals, I have been wandering around the house since the day we returned from our Christmas trip. You can see the wear in the carpet and the cat is dizzy from all the commotion. No, I am not going through withdrawals from my family, I am not starving because I think I ate enough to feed a small army, or on a sugar bender from the cookies.

I am lost because my laptop charger decided to stay on vacation. I don't blame the wee little power source for the all knowing, powerful and pretty laptop.* It decided to stay at the beach eating smoked turkey and prime rib while hanging out with my pops. The thing better go on a beach walk while it is vacationing, because I am a little lonely here in the desert.



I figured we all needed a bit of color besides red and green. The beach house in the summer time. Obviously not taken duning our last visit. It was too cold and raining the entire time to do anything but coax the dog out of the rotten seaweed and check the BBQ.  Come on folks!  It is the PNW, of course the weather is frightful outside in December!
 
I have information to scour, blogs to read, photos that need editing, time to waste, the world to save all from the comfort of my sweet little laptop.

I have noticed a change the last few days. My house is clean (for my standards), I have actually read an entire book, walked the dog more than once a day, actually picked up my cell phone and talked to my friends.

Do I really spend that much time on my computer?

You don't need to answer that.

*My name sure does have a nice ring after those words

Friday, December 24, 2010

With Love

To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
~Oren Arnold

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Barbecue Sauce - for giving

Blessed I am.

Blessed with time this holiday season.


So I made my gifts. They came from the kitchen primarily. I feel good about that.


I would feel better if my sewing machine wasn't at the very back of the spare room's closet. Next year. I mean as in January 2011, I will find that hunk of metal and figure out how to sew because I really want to make these hand towels in fun funky colors.

Goals.

I also want to race road bikes.

And get a job......

Goals.

My Dad has become a fantastic little "kitchen bitch" these days. He has ventured out of his comfort zone of tried and true ribs, hamburgers, fried potatoes, steak... you get the idea. In the last few years he has purchased a meat grinder and makes his own ground beef and pork. I can get behind that. Over the summer I popped in to soak up some of the beach house goodness and he had made these delightful crab cake/sandwich thingys which consisted of crab salad, cheese, more cheese, a slice of home grown tomato, atop an open faced English muffin, finished under the broiler. Wow. He also sent me home with strawberry jam one day. Last time a bag of beef jerky from the smoker. Need I say more?

When I sit with him at the table, drinking coffee, I see his mom, my grandma Carol, shining through.

I am blessed.


My Dad was the easiest and most intriguing person to come up with a gift for. He would be into anything. He loves to grill all summer, I take that back all year, he keeps his grill under cover making it possible to cook outdoors in what seems like 300 days of rain that Bellingham gets a year.


I trolled the web and found a BBQ sauce recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Um yeah, the obsession continues.

The perfect gift for the men in my family!

Ina Garten’s Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from her Food Network show

This is a tangy, subtly spicy, delicious barbecue sauce. You can freeze it in one cup containers to use later. Works like a charm.  I smoothed my final sauce out in the blender. You could leave it with the small chunks of onion floating around as well and save the final steps.

Happy grilling!

Makes 6 cups

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tomato paste (10 ounces)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan on low heat, saute the onions and garlic with the vegetable oil for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes. Use immediately or store in the fridge. If desired, blend in a food processor/blender for a few seconds for a smooth texture.

Do ahead: This sauce freezes excellently, for months at at time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Presents and plans

From my favorite everything blog including many belly laughs: Pioneer Woman
It is Christmas week. WEEEE!

As a child I remember being able to cut the anticipation with a knife. I was excited about gifts, presents, and stuff. Lots of stuff. The more stuff the better. Hoards. It was great, I hope that my parents and family know this.

I have always been very blessed.

I still am. More than ever.

Now my needs are simple. I want family and friends around, I want to be healthy and happy, doing what I love.

I already received a lovely present(s) from J. Thank you!

And his parents. WOW! Thank you! As always!

Packages are the best, I am a sucker for a box full of goodness.


I am also a sucker for Texans......

 And cornbread

and bike rides....

Ok sorry

What I really want to tell you is that I hope you stay sane this week.

Find balance. Please.

I talked about it the other day, I still feel, now more than ever that it is so darn important. Get out and get some exercise. Even just a little.

Just do it.

Here is my plan - have a plan for the week.

See I am here in bed and I don't want to leave. I don't want to go to the gym and there is snow and ice outside. I set a plan at the beginning of the week knowing this would happen. I am sticking to my plan as much as I would rather squirrel away in my house and finish my homemade gifts or make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. I will go and I will be glad that I did.

The hardest part is just starting, walking in the door. Make it happen.

Have a plan for the rest of the week, extend that plan to the New Year.

Take care of yourself.

M.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

TARALLI PUGLIESI

I woke up to snow again this morning.

I moved to the desert, this was not in the cards. It is not like we moved to Summit County, at least not yet. There is a supposed 300 days of sunshine here in the south east corner of Washington. I think they are just trying to get people to move here.

Everyone in their right mind gets excited form snow and then makes a mad dash for the mountains.  It seems like a great way to spend the endless dark days between fall and spring. Mountains of any kind are good for the soul, anytime of year. The thought of sliding down a hillside scares me, my hair stands on end. Really, seriously. I am scared stiff to ski. I might be the only person in the world to feel this way.




I comfort myself with baked goods and a healthy dose of yoga. It is nice.
My camera (my fantastic early Christmas present, thanks J!) is keeping me busy!

Instead I pass the winter squirreled away in my humble little abode. I craft, write, read, and bake. I channel my Grandma. I love it. The time slips away, my mind spins with possibilities and I learn. I am learning to follow directions, learn that if I am actually going to have true success baking I must use a digital scale when baking, I learn patience and the value of quality ingredients.
A quality olive oil will make these nibbles shine.

On this snow chilled weekend I found self on Ilva's blog, Lucullian Delights, a fellow baker, who is part of an on line collective called Bread Baking Babes. This month's challenge were an Italian treat called taralli pugliesi.

Fennel is key. I would use at least 2 teaspoons salt next time.
Lets be honest.
I have no idea how to pronounce these little nibbles, I have never had them before, I have never even heard of them. It was a challenge that took a better part of a day to say the least. I followed through and rolled out every last cracker circle thingy, boiled them and then baked them to a crisp. I was skeptical the entire time, thinking I was spending this huge amount of time and nothing felt right - I had no idea what right was supposed to be.
Fresh cracked pepper to add a bit of bite. Go for it, grind and combine!

These are no cinch to whip out but once they cool and you find yourself eating handfuls, I see where they get their appeal.
There is still time to play along with the Bread Baking Babes. Give it a whirl!
TARALLI PUGLIESI

Copied from Lucullian Delights
adapted from Anna Maria Gostti Della Salda's monumental food bible Le ricette regionali italiane

1 kg/ 2,2 lb flour, I think she intends AP flour
200 g/ 7 oz extra-virgin olive oil
tepid water
50 g/ 1,75 oz fennel seeds, optional as you already know
12,5 g/ 0,45 oz (or more if it is cold in your kitchen) fresh yeast and about 5 g/ 0,176 oz instant yeast (they say)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs or the equivalent of dry white wine

Dissolve the yeast in 2 tblsp of tepid water. Mix the yeast water with the lightly whisked eggs and the olive oil.

Mix flour, fennel seeds and salt and then add the liquid. Start working the dough and continue to add small amounts of tepid water until you have a firm but pliable dough.

Start rolling 10-12 cm/ 2-2,5 in long ropes that are as thick as your little finger and pinch the ends together to make an oval. Put the taralli on a parchment paper, cover with a towel and leave them to rest about 20 minutes.

Turn on the oven to 200°C/390°F.

While the taralli rest, bring a biggish pan with water to the boil.

Dump 3-4 taralli at a time in the simmering water and when they surface, take them up and put them to dry on a kitchen towel or a rack.

Put them on baking sheets covered with parchment paper and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes but it is best to try them so that they are properly baked, we don't want them to be soft in the middle!

Read more: http://www.luculliandelights.com/2010/12/bread-baking-babes-in-december-taralli.html#ixzz18c9DRSzm

Also featured in Yeast Spotting. Check it out!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Greatest Gift

The greatest gift we can ever poses is health. It is something that most all of use are capable of to differing degrees.

Health is a our greatest wealth.



No Joke.

It is impossible to fully enjoy life and all the little pleasures when our bodies feel sub par.

You know what you need to do in order to feel good.

DO IT! It is worth it, the pain, time and effort. It may be hard to muster at times but I promise in the long run you will be thanking yourself.

I often need inspiration to get my body moving. Sometimes It is as simple as a burning desire to feel good, other days tell myself that my jeans will be so much more comfortable if I do go to the gym for even 30 minutes, I can think clearer after I get my blood flowing or we just go play on our bikes or walk the dog.

Each time it gets easier and with consistency it has become my every day routine. I feel great because I work at it. I do it for myself and NO ONE else. Actually I also do it for the people around me because I am a much more complete woman when I excersise.

You get the point I will get off my soap box.

I was just getting a little concerned I just posted a recipe for parmesean cream crackers. They are great, they are made with cream and cheese, what is not to like..... I am making them again today....

I just want to express my fondness for everyone, so please especially this time of year strike some balance as best as possible. Go for walks as families. Walk and look at the Christmas lights instead of driving. Walk to the corner store to get another pint of eggnog or bottle of wine (whatever your vice may be) instead of driving. Walk the dog one extra time a day (they will love you even more!). My favorite these days is to turn up the music and dance while I make cookies. It seems silly but makes me happy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Parmesan Cheese CRACK(ers)

Ya'll might remember me raving about the wonders of cheese straws (mouse your way back to it, totally worth a whirl). Remember now?

Were you the one that ate half of the platter when I took them to a friend's birthday?

They go fast. I have warned you! To make up for it, they are just as fast to make. We all win.

Even before Cheese crackers are baked, the dough smells heavenly and yes it is worth nibbling on. Go ahead, just see for yourself. When they are baking - you will get the munchies - no drugs required.

Baked cheese.....


As with so many easy and simple Mark Bittman recipes, crackers require a few simple ingredients that you will most likely have in your kitchen. The crackers in this post require the same ingredients the presentation is slightly different, they are rolled then cut into little squares as opposed to long "straws."

I use whatever cheese we have on hand, even a combination. The most ideal is sharp white cheddar, but really, I live in a conservative rural area, most people think cheddar should be yellow/orange and I don't think I could find white cheddar at the store. White cheddar seems purely aesthetic for this recipe (well I am sure it probably tastes a little better). If using white cheddar, the final product won't be speckled with yellow flecks of cheese. It is ok. I have used anything from pepper jack, Parmesan and sharp cheddar and a combination of all. What ever is fine, use your imagination and discretion. 

I utilize the milk product on hand as well. I recommend at least half and half, this batched I splurged for cream. The final product was far superior using cream. Splurge! Cream it is!

See Jonny is turning 90. Not many people turn 90. We should all be working on it. Jonny works on it. She still lives on her own in a rural Tennessee (she probably couldn't find white cheddar either so it is ok), oh yeah - she still has a horse she looks after.

Jonny is J's Grandma. I heard that she once skated through the house on her roller skates just to turn some heads. She still pulls tricks out of her bag to get attention. Jonny lets us stay at her house for as long as we want. She also has made the best cornbread I have ever ate. I still crave it from time to time but never seem to come across a recipe.

When J and I were trying to figure out a few shippable treats for his dear Grandma Jonny, cheese straws were the first thing that popped into my head. She likes to snack on crackers, so do we. I made a double batch one afternoon and we skipped dinner that night. CRACK(ers). You know what happened there!

They are best the first day but I know once they get there they won't last long.

Oh Nibble NIBBLE!

I had to make cute little crackers for a cute little lady!
Jonny with two of her grandkids, JMS and CBS Thanksgiving 2010



Parmesan Cream Crackers
Adapted from Mark Bittman



Rolling the dough 1/4-inch thick, yields 30 1 1/2-inch square cookies that shrank slightly and puffed to 3/8-inch thick

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half, more as needed
Coarse salt, pepper, or whatever you like for sprinkling (optional).

Heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add about 1/4 cup cream or half-and-half and let machine run for a bit until a dough forms. If it does not come together, add more liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/4-inch thick or even thinner, adding flour as needed. From here, you can either form them into individual crackers (I went for 1 1/2-inch squares cut with a fluted pastry wheel) and bake them an inch apart on your baking sheet (the method I used) or transfer the entire rolled-out sheet to your baking sheet (draping it over the rolling pin will make it easier) and score them lightly with a knife, pizza or pastry wheel to break into crackers after they are baked. For either method, dock all over with a fork and sprinkle with salt or any other toppings you are using.

Bake until moderately browned, about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.

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