Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

Have you seen the commercials for the filled chocolate chips?  Well, I did and they sounded awesome.  I decided to start with the cherry filled ones and experiment from there.  My plan is to diet all January and February, so the other filled chips will just have to wait.  Let's start with these.

They work best when chilled for at least an hour, so keep that in mind when planning.


Chocolate Cherry Chip Cookies

1 cup (5 oz. package) dried cherries, chopped
1/3 cup hot water

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

2  1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed
3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate cherry chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional


Don't preheat the oven yet.  You will want to chill these for at least an hour after mixing.



Chop the cherries and let them soak in the hot water while you mix the rest of the ingredients.


Place the butter in a stand mixer and beat until soft and fluffy.  Add the sugars and keep beating until fully incorporated.  Then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again.


I decided to add some almond flour and ground flax seed to increase the healthy content.  OK.  Not increase, but add a bit of healthy to all the fat and sugar.  Then you can eat these with joy and no guilt.  Sort of.


If you don't want sort of healthy cookies, just use the 3 cups of flour.  For heaven's sake, don't use BOTH the plain flour and the flour with the flax seed and almond meal.  Pick one!


Add the flour or the flour mixture to the creamed butter mix in batches along with the baking soda and salt.  When all the flour is mixed in add the cherry filled chocolate chips, the walnuts and the dried cherries you have soaking.  Include the water you soaked them in.


Mix it all together and put it in the refrigerator.  I DID NOT do this.  I just went right ahead and made the cookies.   They turned out delicious but flatter than I would have liked.  Chilling the batter keeps the butter from melting so quickly and makes for a fatter cookie.  They do taste the same, however.


Heat the oven to 350°.  I used a Silpat, but parchment paper would work well, also. Both keep the cookies from sticking to the pan.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Cool for two minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.


Friday, December 19, 2014

We Torture Cats

We recently had the annual "Torture the Cats" festival at our house.  This involves tricking them into a guest room and stuffing them in a cat carrier.  By their behavior you would think that cat carriers are full of sharp objects and poisonous fumes. I'm pretty sure that's not true.


If there are any sharp objects involved, Ashley has them. And uses them to great effect.


Then they go for a car ride.  Car rides are stomach turning roller coaters, apparently.  For they emit piteous cries for the entire ride.  Cat treats, ordinarily the BEST thing in the world, are completely ignored.


Upon arrival at the veterinarian's office, they routinely refuse to leave the torture chamber cat carrier and have to be dumped and pulled out, respectively.


Of course, then they really ARE tortured by getting sharp pokes in two places.

At this time they happily return to the cat carriers and give us the silent treatment all the way home. Still refusing the cat treats.


When we return home they happily jump in any box or bag they find.  Particularly those we intend to use, or don't wish to have coated in fluffy white fur.

On the other hand, our daughter has to use leather gloves and sedation to get her cat a physical, so we should consider ourselves lucky.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Apple Pancake

We spend way to much time watching cooking shows.  At night.  After dinner.  When it makes me really hungry.  I don't remember the show we were watching, but I think it was Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  I seem to remember Guy Fieri leaning over the chef's shoulder and admiring an apple pancake.  It sounded good to me, so I decided to try my hand.

For my first effort, I decided to go the easy route and used a pancake mix.  I may branch out on a future effort and make the batter, but this is what I made and it was a hit.


Apple Pancake
2 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cored and sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups pancake mix,  mixed according to the directions



You will need a pan that goes in the oven.  I used one 10 inch pan and two 6 inch pans.  I wanted to give everyone their own pancake, but Lee and I split the big one.  There are only so many cast irons pans you can collect!  Preheat the oven to 350°.


Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced apples and sauté until slightly softened.  Add the brown sugar and continue cooking until the apples start to caramelize.  They will continue cooking in the oven.


Pour the pancake batter over the apple mixture and place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it and remove it when it is golden brown and puffed.



Place a plate over the top of the pan, hold tightly and flip your wrists so the pancake can fall out on your plate.


Serve warm.   Some people may like a bit of syrup with their pancake.  Let them, if they wish.


They were pretty good and everyone liked them. I will use a lot more apples next time.  I would have preferred a higher apple to pancake ratio. 

You may have to adjust this recipe depending on how many you are serving.  I served four people.    Just use plenty of butter, lots of apples and enough brown sugar to make a sauce in the pan. Cover them with the batter and bake until golden. 

This recipe is good enough to go on the B&B menu.   Remember to ask for it!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Turkey Casserole

Kroger sends me recipes and coupons from time to time.  They had one for Thanksgiving leftovers that we decided to try.  I made extra stuffing and mashed potatoes just so I would have enough leftovers for the recipe.  We made one with turkey and one with leftover green beans for the vegetarian version.

Turkey Casserole

4 cups stuffing
4 cups chopped turkey, or a cup or two of green beans
1 cup Mayonnaise, divided use
1/4 to 1/2 cup cranberry sauce, the recipe called for 1/4, but I couldn't really taste the cranberry and may make it "pinker" next time.
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat the oven to 375°.  Spray a 8 inch baking dish with Pam and set aside.


Spoon half the stuffing in the dish and top with the turkey, or green beans if you are going vegetarian.

Mix 1/2 cup mayo with the cranberry sauce and spread over the turkey or green beans.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup mayo with the potatoes and cheese in a bowl.  Spread on top of the cranberry mixture.

Top with the remaining stuffing.


Bake for 40 minutes.

The addition of the Mozzarella made for a cheesy, goosy casserole, but if you are trying to watch your weight, and who does that at Thanksgiving?, you could probably leave it out.


We served this with corn pudding.


I liked this dish, but to be honest, I don't have a problem with heating up the stuffing and potatoes and eating them for a few days, along with a bunch of turkey sandwiches.  I only make stuffing for Thanksgiving and we rarely have mashed potatoes.

If you tend to get bored with the same old, try this casserole.  But I kind of missed heating up the leftovers for several days of post Thanksgiving fare.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Corn Pudding

I saw an article from the New York Times about which states feature which traditional side dishes over Thanksgiving, based on Internet searches.  Virginia seems to like corn pudding.  Tara and I thought that seemed like a good thing to try so we made it together.  Yes, we made it after Thanksgiving, but there were only five of us and we didn't need any more dishes for our meal on Thanksgiving.

I followed the recipe I found from the New York Times article.  It used a bit of sugar for a sweet pudding.  If (when) I make it again, I will leave out the sugar and make a more savory version.. I might even add a bit of cheese.


Corn Pudding

3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups fresh corn, about 3 ears
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole milk, I didn't have whole milk so I used a mix of 2% and half and half
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Heat oven to 350°.  Butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and set aside.

Melt the butter and let it cool for a bit.

Cut the corn from the cob.  It is kind of important to use fresh corn.  I used frozen corn from our garden and the pudding was watery on the bottom.  It was not a big deal, because I just used a slotted spoon to serve, but it would have been nicer without the excess water.


Place the cut corn in a bowl and add the sugar and salt.  Stir. 


Mix the eggs with the milk and then stir into the corn mixture. 


Add the melted butter.  If it is still hot, temper it by add a spoonful of the corn mixture into the butter while stirring.  Add another and keep stirring.  Then add the butter to the corn.


Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared dish.  Grate the nutmeg on top.

Place the baking dish in a larger baking dish.  Fill the large dish with water until it comes about halfway up the side of the smaller dish. Don't fill it too full.  You will have to carry this dish to the oven and then back out when it is REALLY hot!

Bake for 40 or 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  It will be wet, but should not be milky looking.

Set the whole shebang on a couple of cold burners and let it cool.  Remove the pudding and let it cool a bit more.

The corn pudding had crunchy corn and a sweet silky custard.  It was very good and I didn't hate that it was sweet.  I just remember eating a savory corn pudding and want to try and make one of those.


So, do you make a sweet corn pudding or a savory one?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

I'm Dreaming Of A White Thanksgiving


Our daughter and her fiancé came here for Thanksgiving.  They left their home in Northern Virginia on Tuesday night to avoid the projected snow.  Good thing, because it did snow!

Not a lot, but enough to build a snow man.


And enough that RJ was really, REALLY happy.


And enough that Tara and Greg could do a bit of sledding.  Don't worry.  They didn't have to climb up that steep hill.  Lee picked them up in the Mule.


Greg tried to stand on the sled and ride it down the hill like a snowboard, but the sled did not cooperate.  Maybe he'll bring his actual snowboard at Christmas. 



Then again, we have a ridge of rocks running along the bottom of the hill, so it will have opt be a LOT of snow.

The snow was gone in a few days, but the snowman lasted a lot longer.  Guess his Tech hat protected him from the heat.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

No More Furniture

We recently won two items in an auction at Crowning Touch.  One was a painting for the bedroom of our B&B.  The other was a small dresser we intended for the closet.

When we designed the closet, we wanted to have a blanket cabinet of some sort.  We also wanted to have  a surface to place items for charging batteries, so we Lee installed a tall plug in that corner.


We have been looking for the right piece for a long time.  It had to have large drawers for spare blankets, in case a guest was cold.  It had to be short enough that you could place a tablet or laptop for recharging and still have the outlet exposed.  The niche in which it needed to be placed was narrow so we couldn't have a long piece.

And most important, it had to be cheap affordable.


We won this decent walnut dresser.  It's not glorious, but it was around $100 and I liked the look.  The drawers weren't as big as I wanted but they would do.  It needed a bit of work.  One of the side pieces was loose and came off during transporting it home.  That required some wood glue and clamping.


I found an old shirt and pair of underpants behind the drawers.  Yuck!  That space also had a large amount of sawdust from years of the drawers moving in and out. 


I vacuumed everything out.  I used Murphy's Oil Soap to wash all the surfaces, inside and out.  Then I wiped all the finished areas with a good quality furniture oil.


It is now installed in the closet and ready for our next guests.


Now I don't have any more excuses to go to any more auctions or estate sales.  We have all the furniture we need.  I had thought at one time that I might buy a Hoosier cabinet or a corner cabinet.  But I certainly don't need anything else. 


My father once had a rule.  If my mother bought any new piece of furniture, she would have to find a new home for an old piece.  My mother had an aversion to getting rid of anything and my father had a minimalist idea of decorating.  Unless it was something he liked and then all bets were off.

If I follow this edict, then I can get nothing else.  But I don't really need anything else, so that should be easy to do.  After all we probably won't live here forever and when we move, it will be to a smaller place that would be more conducive to old people.

Unless I find a really good deal on a corner cabinet, because they are pretty cool and don't take up a lot of space. And I have wanted  Hoosier cabinet for a long time.  They have all those fun cupboards and drawers.