A Quarter Cup of Cocoa…and….

Here I sit watching my favorite Saturday morning show (Pioneer Woman…just can’t get enough the “life on the ranch” and cooking for her family stuff…horses, baking, cooking…how can you go wrong with that?)

I have had a hankering to bake something with the Irish butter I bought last weekend. So, I decided bake a few cookies. As always, I can’t just leave a recipe alone. So, I hauled out Old Faithful (also known as the New Doubleday Cookbook) and opened to page 831 where a pretty good recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies sits. And…what did I do? What did *I* do? Adjust it, of course. I am pretty sure, even before I turn on the oven (I can’t preheat while I’m mixing until the hot-flashes stop…) that these are gonna be great cookies. So, here’s what I did:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp AP flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp espresso powder

Sift these together and set aside.

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Cream these together until light and fluffy (scrape down sides of bowl as necessary)

1 egg

Add and beat well.

Mix in the dry ingredients. Add in:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I actually used 60% cacao chips)

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Refrigerate dough for about 20 minutes.

Drop by rounded 1/2 tbsp on lightly greased baking sheets spacing cookies 2″ apart (they’ll spread)

Bake 10-12 minutes. Transfer immediately to wire racks to cool.

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It’s hard to keep the quality control team away from cookies…even though I recommended to wait until they have cooled for a bit longer. Only complaint I got was that they were really soft and falling apart (ahem…let them cool a little longer?)

The original recipe was sans:

cocoa, espresso powder, white chocolate chips

Instead, it had pecans (1/2 cup coarsely chopped). I don’t mind pecans but I really don’t like them in cookies. Why? I dunno. And Jim doesn’t like them in cookies either. So…they were voted off the island.

By the way, I’ve decided that my half sheet pan is the best pan to make…well, almost anything on. I’ve got old “jelly roll pans” that I’ve used for years as cookie baking implements but they just don’t stand up to the awesomeness of this brand new (okay, it’s a few years old) shiny half-sheet pan.

My final pile of cookies:

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Thinking of dad

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I’ll not soon forget the last few months of my dad’s life, that is a fact. But as much as possible I try to remember how he and I interacted. Little things.

One thing I remember is a day he wasn’t feeling well. Might have been shortly after a hospital stay or a day or two after chemo which mostly made him tired. I have the amazing good fortune that my company (Blackbaud…still work for them, pray I will someday retire after thirty five or so years of employment) lets me work remotely and so that day I brought my work laptop into his bedroom and sat on the bed beside him working on a class. He watched TV most of the day and slept some.

At some point, I think during the Ellen show, I put my laptop down for a bit, held his hand and put my head on his shoulder. I told him he was the best dad in the world and he squeezed my hand and probably said thank you or whatever. I don’t remember his words, but I remember his hand in my hand. It reminded me of being a kid and holding his hand. How safe do you feel when your daddy is holding your hand when you’re young? He always treated me like a princess…I was, for sure, Daddy’s little girl. But at that moment, I really felt like there were only two people in the world. Dad and me.

Those are the moments I miss. Those are the feelings I wish I could have again. He is here in my heart, but…well, for those of you who haven’t lost a loved parent (I know, some of you are not close with your parents)….you may agree with me that there are just some times that “holding him in my heart” is not enough.

Maybe some people don’t know that in his last month(s), he regretted moving to the Carolinas. He said to me on more than one occasion that he should never have moved down here. Now, admittedly, he probably wasn’t really feeling that way but he often wished he had stayed in the Boston area. I would try to instill reason in him: if he stayed in Boston, I would never have moved to South Carolina, and I would never have gotten the job at Blackbaud, started the greyhound group, bought my first house, moved in with them to help care for him and mom….none of that would have happened. It turned out that if I placed all that information in front of him, well…he didn’t have any choice but to understand and agree he had done the right thing.

Just some random thoughts and memories. There will be more.

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As blue-berry as I can be

I wanted to use up some blueberries that were in the fridge prior to them becoming small green bullets (it’s a novel idea….really, I’m much better at growing science experiments in the fridge. There’s a greek yogurt one working right this minute.

Anyway, I chose to make an oatmeal/blueberry THING I can have for lunch or breakfast this coming week in an effort to keep my one-day streak of eating better and working out (on a three day streak of working out, just a one day streak of eating better). As always, I can’t just copy a recipe verbatim. I have to tweak. So, I took this recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Bars and changed out the banana to be 1/2 a cup of pureed pumpkin, and subbed egg whites for a whole egg. I’m not sure I added enough honey, so I’m thinking of making a blue agave/lemon syrup to pour over the top before I put them away for the week…

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Here’s another thing. I went with organic everything. Honey. Oats. Coconut Oil. Eggs. Everything…except the damn blueberries. Hard to find organic blueberries. But my blue agave is also organic.

…..Update after trying a piece….no extra sweetener needed!

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Basil and Wha?

It’s Memorial Day weekend. And, with three days off, I have to embark upon some sort of culinary or gastric excitement, right?

I did get up in time to watch my favorite Saturday morning show…Pioneer Woman. And I found nothing to actually copy this weekend. But, I did become motivated to blog which is the other part of why I love Ree Drummond. Between her and my Human Vacuum friend, I am reminded about food and blogging….at the same time.

So although my favorite farm market is unfortunately not at full function anymore (super sad…the associated garden store is now closed….the only organic farm in driving distance…so sad…) I did manage to get over to Indigo and grab some awesome fresh veggies – those have been cooked. I arrived too late to get fresh strawberries, but they did happen to have organic basil which I decided to grab.

I felt motivated to make my coconut pound cake for the weekend. And from that I cut up some grocery store-bought strawberries, sprinkled them with a little bit of lime juice and sprinkled them with organic sugar because store strawberries are not always the sweetest when bought from the grocery store.

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And then I took some lemons, squeezed and zested them into my Vitamix. I added in organic honey and a HUGE pile of basil and liquified it. To add a bit to the “sauce” I included the pulp of the lemon. I liquified the sh*t outta that stuff. Just when you thought that was enough “stuff”…I added about a cup of coconut milk. It’s sweet, earthy, tangy….really nice flavor. I intend it to go on top of the pound cake or the strawberries…maybe both.

I’ve also made my standard summer squash and onion stir fry made with summer squash and zuccini from our farm market and baby potato salad with spring onions. It’s been a cooking kinda day.

Why did I tell you all this? I don’t know. Maybe to remind you to step outside the box and use some basil today with something aside from tomato sauce or pizza…

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Apple of my eye

I quote the bible of all cookbooks to me…The New Doubleday Cookbook…frequently. Last night, after a wonderful lunch with friends, I went grocery shopping and had it in my head that I wanted to make another pie, but not strawberry again. I opted for the “old standby” pie of apple. $140 later, I left the grocery store (holy wow, did we need all this stuff?) in the rain…thank you South Carolina for raining on me when I had a pile of grocery bags….and started the process.

I channel Ree Drummond for my pantry – I’ve always got a pantry of baking products because in my world, baking is an impulse item. I don’t always know when I’m going to feel like making cake or baking cookies. So, we must have everything from vegetable shortening to gluten-free flour….you never know when you’ll be baking for someone with celiac. After last week’s strawberry-rhubarb pie, I had the right amount (like…exactly) of shortening for a 2 crust pie. Not my FAVORITE THING TO MAKE but I thought I’d go for it.

I had purchased two goliath honeycrisp apples that I thought would be enough. And…they would have been enough for a 8″ pie. Of course, my pie plate here in mom’s house is 9″ and you’d be surprised how different 1″  in diameter makes when filling a pie. So, I had to supplement with 2 gala apples. Two mom-sized gala apples.

As you probably know if you follow me, recipes are just suggestions in my house. I already kind of knew the ratios for the crust. If you took my advice and got the above bible of cooking and baking called The New Doubleday Cookbook, you can flip to the Flaky Pastry II recipe in the Pies and Pastries chapter. Luckily apple pie is less than 10 pages later. I really only used the apple pie recipe for a guideline but please note…I need to skim less and read more. Here’s why:

I peeled and cored the apples, added the lemon juice (fresh squeezed cuz that’s the way I roll) and then added the sugar. Then I went to my stand-by Penzey’s Apple Pie Spice. I actually looked at the recipe and saw it called for a whopping 3/4 of a teaspoon of spice…and well, that just doesn’t do it for me. With apples, the cinnamon needs to be bold. I believe that Penzey’s Apple Pie spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I really love that combo so even if I didn’t have the “pre-mixed” seasoning, I probably would have opted for this combo.

Here’s where I think I erred. I did know that I needed to dot the apples inside the pie with butter, but in the heat of the moment (ha), I forgot until after I put the top crust on. I’m not sure how I missed sealing the bottom crust to the top crust. I totally thought to myself, “Don’t they suggest sealing the crusts?” as I crimped. They had. But I didn’t. So, I’m not 100% sure the top will be stuck to the bottom.

And, I do have to say…although I know how to use the food processor to make pie crust dough…and it’s super easy….these last two times, I haven’t. I used the normal ole pastry blender (in fact, I have a favorite Pampered Chef pastry blender that I think is SUPER) to cut the cold vegetable shortening into the flour. It did take about 6 1/2 tablespoons of ice water…I suppose I could have used 7 but I didn’t want super-sticky dough and with pie crust you can go from perfect to sticky-soupy in 1/2 a tablespoon very quickly. I did choose not to brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar but I’m pretty sure we’ll use whipped topping for the final presentation. That’s sweet stuff.

So….yeah here’s where I have to pause. I baked it for the perfect amount of time. It is a gorgeous slightly browned, gorgeously toasty looking pie.

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An Interesting End

So, I did wind up making the pie after a long wild day at work. I did something unusual. My plan was to make a struesel topping. I even broke out the trusty Doubleday cookbook to be sure I had a good recipe for struesel. But then I noticed I still had puff pastry in the freezer. Yes, and what a great plan….flaky pie crust pastry on the bottom, crispy puff pastry on top! 

We haven’t taste-tested yet, but here it is – egg wash and a bit of sugar to make it a little sweeter.

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Whip it up

Yesterday I bought local rhubarb and local strawberries. I had every intention ​of making a pie last night but alas…I didn’t. 

I was reading one of the two books I’ve got going right now and had a wild desire to make a pie crust.

Oh…should I mention it’s 9:00 pm?

So, off to the kitchen I dashed…sifted flour and salt, cut in vegetable shortening, drizzled in ice water, formed a smooth disc, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and popped it in the fridge. 

Tomorrow after work, I will make us a strawberry-rhubarb pie. 

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Berry Sweet

My first attempt at food photo blogging. Yes, I am on it right now.

So, I bought my third batch of berries for the spring. It seems that the true measure of spring having sprung is when you walk into the produce section of any grocery store and you are barraged with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. In this area of the country, April starts strawberry season. Blueberries come in May/June, and blackberries seem to be the June/July berries (along with raspberries).

It so happens that my favorite grocery story of the moment is struttin’ both strawberries and blueberries. I have yet to make it to a farm stand, although two are open. I hope next Saturday. I prefer local produce, but my organic farm stand nearby is not open on Sunday. It’s also the garden center where I bought my blueberry bushes, and where I got my fig tree. Yes, the one that died. I will be replacing said fig this year.

A story for another day, however.

I don’t have a wild and crazy recipe for you, except I did something interesting with the berries I bought (strawberries and blueberries). After washing them and cutting the strawberries into quarters, I poured about a half a cup of prosecco over them and let them sit. Upon tasting about half an hour later, the berries were not sickly sweet…but lightly flavored with prosecco. I suppose this would work as well with a champagne or spumante also, however I have discovered that prosecco suits my palate much more than either of the other sparkling wines. And…I sprung for the $14 bottle.

I cut a recipe for “Extra Rich Biscuits” into 1/4 and came out with 4 small to medium shortbread servings so we could have berry shortcake. The biscuit recipe is from my favorite Doubleday cookbook that I have referenced here before. One thing I did do to the biscuits before baking was to brush them with a mixture of honey and agave cut with a couple of tablespoons of prosecco.

Other attempts at awesome experimentation failed – I tried to make a strawberry cider-prosecco syrup for the presentation but it wound up tasting a tad burned.

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Even more exciting, I downloaded a free trial of Photoshop/Lightbox and after taking about ten pictures I began my learning of how to take and then edit a picture into something I want to share. I think the picture looks okay and that’s pretty untouched…a little bit of saturation and color correction…but remember, this was my first attempt at Photoshop so I am not far enough along to do much “retouching”.

With any luck, I will become a bit better at choosing the right plate (although I love the plate I used…the color combo isn’t the best with red berries).

Let me know what you think. Is there a chance I will maybe some day be able to consider myself a food photographer and blogger? Yea or nay?

Posted in Daily Fat Fight | 2 Comments

Hot Child in the City

It’s probably no great surprise to my frequent readers that I have a pretty crappy body image. I know all the lines…. it’s not what is outside but what is inside….your weight should not define you….TV and magazine images are not representative of real women… I’ve got it. None of that changes my feeling of being g fat, because I have been more fit than I am now. 

I learned a long time ago not to judge myself by stepping on a scale, but by how my clothes fit. And, since I moved here to take care of my parents, I have gained 4 dress sizes. That means I’ve bought at least two new wardrobes in 6 years. 

Working out with John (Myers, my trainer) has made me much stronger and toned my muscles, but menopause is wreaking havoc on my ability to lose the fat that covers my toned muscles.

Believe it or not, there’s a positive end to this wordy post……

Last night, I actually felt good about myself as my new Lil Maggie Lucky Brand Jeans would not stay “up” even tho I had a belt on. And…..even better, when I went into Kroger to get mom her Sunday New York Times (it was after midnight), Jim saw the cashier dude totally check my ass out as I walked by him to pick up some other groceries….and then watch me walk out the door.
When I got back in the van and Jim told me, I swear, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I’m vain, I know it. I will probably go to hell on a road paved with the sin of vanity but for just a moment….I felt good. 

Both me. 8 years apart.

Posted in Daily Fat Fight | 4 Comments

New camera and blogging

I keep thinking about how I can possibly work in a weekly blog using pictures I take. Several friends…and a few TV personalities (The Pioneer Woman)…blog regularly. I have always wanted to do it regularly…blog, that is. And I typically resolve to do something but don’t follow through.

After getting my new camera (thank you 20 years at work…) I am trying to learn about composing photographs while trying to learn all the abbreviations for each setting on this wild and crazy camera. I love the camera. I can’t wait to learn what each abbreviation means, but it’s taking a while….because as with everything, it takes time and patience. Two things I typically don’t have.

I’ve taken a few food pictures and by looking at the display screen, they are pretty great. The non-food pictures…well, I just don’t know. I’m thinking I may not have a career in portrait photography OR “action” photography (read this as rock-concert-photos). I still wind up needing to take about 30:1 ratio when the subject of the photos are moving.

So, if you follow my blog, you know I typically add a photo. This particular blog is photo-less because with any luck, the blogs to come will be blogs with better photos. Possibly photos of food. I may just try that “online cookbook” thing where I take pictures of my successes.

And…with any luck, I will blog more than just once a month. Okay, once every six weeks. Okay, sometimes it’s two to three months, I know, I know. I have to be inspired. But I’m working on being inspired more often.

Stay tuned.

Posted in Journaling, My Thoughts and Musings, Photoblogging | 1 Comment