Friday, December 25, 2009


My computer is ill. I hope that it gets better soon. So, for now, Merry Christmas and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Matzo Brittle

I found this recipe in Nick Jr Family magazine two years ago and it has been a Chanukah favorite of mine ever since. I also make it for Passover. It's really easy but you probably don't want to make it with kids because of the hot, bubbling sugar action going on. They'll be happy to help you eat it up, though!

Matzo Brittle

4 sheets matzo (plain or lightly salted)

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

2 cups (12 ounce bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli or Trader Joes)

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (Trader Joe's sells 'em already toasted)

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread matzo in a single layer on foil, covering entire sheet. It's OK to break matzo to fit.

2. Melt butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until it boils. (Watch carefully to prevent burning.) Pour over matzo and spread evenly to cover. Bake 5 minutes.

3. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Return to oven until chips are soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and use a spatula to spread chocolate over entire surface. Sprinkle with nuts. Let cool about 15 minutes.

5. Place baking sheet in freezer and chill 1 hour. Break sheets into random pieces approximately 2 inches long. Freeze in resealable bags up to 2 weeks. Serve at room temperature.

You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this. It's equal-opportunity tastiness!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chocolate Nut Cookies

Two or three years ago, I found these nut-shaped cookie molds in the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue. After purchasing them impulsively, I promptly placed them in the back of my baking-gadgets drawer and forgot about them. When the most recent catalog came in the mail, it had a recipe for Chocolate Nut Cookies, which uses these molds. I knew these cookies would be perfect for Thanksgiving, so I dug out my set and got to work.

Oh, I'm so glad I made these! They are time-consuming, but not difficult. They taste like brownie edges with a nice fudgy surprise in the middle. I think that making these will become a new Thanksgiving tradition.

The link to the recipe is above. Here are some of my tips that I compiled as I tried these out:
1. I used the weight measurements given in the recipe. If you don't have a kitchen scale and will measure your flour with cups, note that KAF tests their recipes with the spoon in/level off method (as opposed to the dip-and-sweep method).
2. Err on the side of smaller rather than larger when chopping the pecans. Large pieces will mar the definition of the mold shape. I toasted my pecans prior to chopping them.
3. Use a level measuring teaspoon of dough to fill each mold. The finished cookies will have a small indentation in the middle which is perfect for holding a nice amount of the ganache filling.
4. Give them away as soon as possible to avoid damage to your diet.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Taco Crackers

Taco Crackers
from Taste of Home Magazine

1. Place 3 (9 oz) packages oyster crackers in a large roasting pan; drizzle with 3/4 cup vegetable oil
 and toss to combine.

2. Combine 1 envelope taco seasoning (1 oz), 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano,
and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder; sprinkle over the crackers and toss to coat.

3. Bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once. Makes 16 cups.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pumpkin Heaven

I love to bake. More precisely, I love to bake cookies. Along that vein, I have been collecting the Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine annually since 1996. I first flip through and look at all the gorgeous and delectable photos of the cookies, then I spend a little more time
perusing the pages and making mental notes on my favorites. Lastly, I read through the recipes and decide on a few must-makes for the holiday season. The cookies that caught my interest almost immediately in this year's edition were the Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies, whose recipe was submitted by reader, Emily Orton, of Bonner Springs, KS. According to Emily, "they have the consistency of cake and should be sold in bakeries".

On the first day that was cool enough for baking, I fired up the oven (an arduous task as my oven will now only turn on if I first light the right back burner on the stove-top. Note to self: call repair-man before Thanksgiving.), whipped up some dough and proceeded to bake some super-yummy little cakes. While they cooled, I mixed up the caramely goodness that was to frost the tops of these pumpkin gems. Lastly, the taste test. These were as good as I had imagined: Soft and cakey, with a mild pumpkin-pie flavor that is nicely enhanced by the brown-butter, caramel flavors in the icing. They have been added to my "make again soon" list.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies

Preheat your oven to 350-degrees. In a large bowl, beat 2 cups softened, unsalted butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg to the butter and beat until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add 2 eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract; beat until combined. Beat in 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree. Lastly, beat in 4 cups (20 ounces) all-purpose flour.

Drop the dough by heaping teaspoons (the flatware kind) 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Remove from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting, heat 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 cup packed brown sugar in a saucepan until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup whole milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat in 2 + 3/4 cups powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cooled cookies and sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Makes 60-ish cookies.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Men's Dip

Whenever I bring this layered Mexican-style dip to a party, I inevitably find a group of men hovering around it. I'll admit that I eat my fair share of it as well. I like to serve it with Fritos (the "scoop" kind). The picture above is a version without sour cream, 'cause hubby doesn't like it. He does love this dip, though, and has been known to eat it as a meal.

To make it, you'll need an 9x2-inch round or 8x2-inch square dish. The first layer is a can of Fritos bean dip. Spread this evenly over the bottom of the dish. Next, spread about 3/4 cup of a smooth guacamole, followed by 1/2 cup sour cream. Drain a can of Rotel tomatoes and chiles and spread these over the sour cream. A small can of chopped olives is the next layer. Finely grate enough colby-jack cheese to cover the top of the dip. (Some people also like to sprinkle sliced scallions on top.)
Dig in with your Fritos Scoops and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Star Washcloth

I was browsing around on Ravelry and I came across this sweet star-shaped washcloth. I had all of the supplies on hand and knew I had to make one right away. If you want to make one too, you can find the pattern here. I have a feeling I won't be stopping at one of these. They are easy and fun to make, not to mention that they are super cute!

This particular wash cloth is going to be part of a gift for a sweet, little bambina. I found this organic, all-natural baby wash at Target. It cost a bit more than I would usually spend on such a product, but it smelled so good and heck, it's for a gift, so I decided to splurge a little. I hope the wee one will be happy with her present.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

It has finally started feeling like Autumn, sunny but with a crisp chill in the air. I have been wanting to try out some new soup recipes and it is now time to do just that. This recipe is from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, the tome I turn to most often when I want to make something tasty. I was glad that I made this recipe because it turned out to be very tasty indeed! It has a beef stew-type flavor but is not quite as heavy. Simply delicious!

I had to go out and purchase a new slow-cooker for this recipe because the 5-quart size I received as a wedding gift 13+ years ago wasn't big enough. I found a 7-quart Rival Crock Pot at Kmart for $30 (plus there is a $5 rebate!). It isn't one of those fancy-dancy programmable pots that you can find nowadays, but I figure that the less it has going on, the less likely it is to break. It made an excellent pot of soup and that's good enough for me!

To make the soup, first trim and cut up a 3-pound chuck roast into 1/2-inch pieces. Dry the meat with paper towels and salt and pepper it generously. Brown the beef in two or three batches using 2 teaspoons of oil per batch in a hot skillet. Put the beef into the slow-cooker. Heat up 2 more teaspoons of oil and cook 2 onions and 2 carrots that have been chopped medium, along with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook them about 5 minutes or until they are soft. Stir in 1/2 cup of a dry red wine and let it simmer for about a minute. Put the onions and carrots into the cooker along with a 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, 4 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, 4 cups of low-sodium beef broth, 1 teaspoon dried thyme and 2/3 cup pearled barley. Cook for 6 to 7 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high, until the meat is tender. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuscan Garlic Chicken Pasta

Here's another winner from Cook's Country magazine. This was in the recipe card section of the April/May 2009 issue. My 9-year old gobbled it up and went back for seconds! It makes a lot (we had enough for 2 dinners) and reheats nicely. Just a warning: it is very garlicky.
Start heating enough water to boil 1 pound of penne pasta. Mix 6 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil together and heat this mix in the microwave for about a minute, until you can smell the garlic. Dry 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the garlic flavored oil in a large skillet (be careful not to add the garlic pieces or red pepper flakes) and cook chicken until brown and cooked through. Cover the cooked chicken with foil for 5 minutes, then slice into bite size pieces.
Salt the pasta water (about 1 tablespoon salt) and boil the pasta until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water in a measuring cup to thin out the sauce later on. After draining, put the penne back in the pot and add the sliced chicken, 1 (5oz) bag of baby arugula or baby spinach (I used spinach), 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, 6 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and the rest of the garlic oil. Thin with pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
(Does anyone know why Blogger sometimes takes out the spaces between your paragraphs? Or how to put them back?)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Burp Cloths

Sometimes I want to sew something for a new bambino, but I'm short on time. When this happens, I turn to embellished burp cloths. They are simply pre-folded cloth diapers fancied up with a simple machine applique. I don't have a detailed tutorial on making these, but I have come across instructions for applique in my travels around the web, and I'm sure that a quick search would turn up some fine sites to visit.

I basically iron a square of fusible web (such as Wonder-Under or Heat n Bond) to the back of a scrap of fabric, draw a simple shape on the backing paper of the web (I used an extra-large cookie cutter as a template for the heart shape), then cut it out. Fuse the shape to one end of a pre-folded cloth diaper and use your sewing machine (with a heavy-duty or denim needle) to make a tight zig-zag stitch all around the edge of the applique (like a satin-stitch). You could also sew a blanket stitch by hand. These are quick to whip up and make a nice, handmade addition to a gift of purchased baby items.

I have also used this technique to embellish kitchen towels:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken

Oh, baby! This is a keeper. I just tried this recipe from the October/November '08 issue of Cook's Country magazine. Not only did hubby like it, both kids liked it, too! This will be showing up on our plates often. Most of the recipes I try from Cook's Country are ones that I will make over and over again. I'm a big fan of America's Test Kitchen, who puts out CC and Cook's Illustrated. All the testing they put into their recipes makes each one turn out great.

For the Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken, you need to cut 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in half, cross-wise. Kitchen shears are very helpful here in cutting across the bone. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. For the sauce, whisk together 1/2 cup real maple syrup, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon grated orange zest, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon minced, fresh thyme together and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, oven safe skillet and brown the skin side of the chicken. Flip the chicken over and put the skillet into a 475-degree oven until the chicken is brown and cooked through (15 minutes). Put the chicken on a plate and cover with foil.

Pour off the fat from the pan and add the sauce ingredients. Cook the sauce over medium heat until thickened. Add salt and pepper as desired. Add the chicken to the sauce and turn to coat.

I ended up over cooking my chicken slightly; it was a bit on the dry side. But, the sauce made up for some of the moisture. The next day, the left-overs were actually quite moist. I think that next time I will double the sauce ingredients so there is more of that delicious goodness to go around.

Monday, August 24, 2009


sweet, green pods of soy
popping them in one by one
they're nature's fun food

Enough with the haiku. I offer up thanks to the humble soybean, or its fancy Japanese name, edamame (ed uh mom aye). It is one of the few vegetables that my kids actually beg for. (Actually, the only one.) They love to pop the beans out of the pod and hilarity ensues when the beans over-shoot their mark! I also love that they are so easy to prepare and keep on hand. And they're cheap, too.

When I make them, I boil 2 to 3 quarts of water for a 1lb bag of frozen beans (in the pod). When it comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon table salt and then dump in the soybeans. Cover and cook until the water just starts to boil again and the pods all float to the top. Drain and rinse with cold water. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Pop the beans from the pod straight into your mouth. If they are difficult to pop, cook them just a bit longer next time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I've been on a hat kick lately. I like the almost instant gratification of knitting or crocheting a hat or cap. I can usually finish a basic style in 2 or 3 days. Although I'm not much of a hat wearer myself, I like to see other people in them and so I make them as gifts.

This is a hat that I just finished for my hubby. It's made from 2 skeins of Mission Falls 1824 Wool that I had in my stash. It is a nice, soft yarn and not itchy because it is a merino wool. I found the pattern for The Boy Hat on Ravelry and knew I wanted to try it out. It is a simple ribbed hat, but has a clever shaping to give some visual interest at the crown. If I make another one, the only change I will make is to make it a bit shorter to fit my boy better.

I've also made another Shells Sunhat. This one was for my husband's cousin's daughter, Lily. This was made from Lily Sugar'n Cream yarn (Lily for Lily) and is a bit more stiff than the one I made from Cotton-Ease. I sent it to her as a surprise in the mail, so I haven't seen her in it yet. Her mom is supposed to send me a picture soon and I'll post it as soon as I receive it. This is a pattern I plan to use a lot because it makes a nice, quick and easy last-minute gift.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Favorite Guacamole

This is a nice, simple guacamole recipe that I've adapted from Molly Katzen's book , Honest Pretzels. It is a perfect base for your favorite additions, such as tomatoes, onions, or cilantro. I like it just as it is.

For 2 hass avocados, add 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1 finely minced garlic clove. Smash all these together with a fork, leaving small chunks of avocado.

That's it! Now, sit back end enjoy. Best served with chips and good company.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The New Arrival

To celebrate the birth of my new "baby" (this blog), I thought it would be nice to show some baby items that I've made recently. These were made for my neighbor's new baby girl, Ainsley Lynn. I used a basic knit-on-the-diagonal, garter stitch pattern from Lion Brand yarn, using Cotton-Ease in Lime. It is somewhat plain, so I knew that I wanted to crochet some cute flowers to make it pop. I found this free daisy bookmark pattern, and completed rounds 1 through 3 with Lily Sugar'n Cream yarn.

I made a daisy for each corner and attached them by sewing around the base of the flower with the green yarn, leaving the petals free.

I wanted to make a little something else to go with the blanket so I purchased this sunhat pattern from (one of my favorite sites). It is made from the same yarns as the blanket.

I entered both of these items at the Ventura County Fair this year and received honorable mentions for both. There were some amazing knit and crochet items entered this year. It's nice to know that lots of people are still out there making awesome things!

Now I need to wrap these up and present them to little Ainsley. She's almost 3-months old now so I better get crackin'.