Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gingerbread Ice Cream Sandwiches

Our fearless daughter, Tara, managed to brave the weather reports and come home for Thanksgiving.  It did snow, but it didn't stick to the ground and the worst of the snow came after she arrived.  She went to school in Blacksburg, after all.  You can't scare her with a bit of snow!

One of her requests was for me to make the Gingerbread Cookies from the recipe I got in Williamsburg.

These are great cookies with lots of flavorful spices, but not too sweet. 

Then she went home ( :((  ) and took quite a few of the cookie with her.  But we still have some. I wanted to make something, but I certainly don't need more food.  In fact, I plan on freezing a good bit of the turkey for a future use!  A suggestion was made that these cookies would make good ice cream sandwiches.

Actually, just about any cookie of the right size can be made into an ice cream sandwich.

The first thing to do is to get out some ice cream to soften.  Or place the container in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds,  Not more.  You don't want it to melt, just soften.


I cut off a section of cling wrap and placed a cookie face down on it.  I have various sizes of ice cream/cookie scoops and used the biggest one.  When I placed the cookie face up and pressed gently, I could see that there was too much ice cream.


Whoa.  Did you see what I just said?  Too much ice cream?  Is that even possible?

Well, crazy thoughts notwithstanding, I chose the next smaller scoop and, like Goldilocks, it was juuust right. Press gently on the top cookie and wrap tightly with the cling wrap and freeze.  You should make quite a few.  Who doesn't like ice cream sandwiches?


I tried to eat one after freezing for an hour.  It was not frozen sufficiently.  I did have to finish eating it, however.  It is rude to put back something in the freezer that is half eaten.  And I am very polite.

It was late and I went to bed, so I froze the sandwiches overnight.  I had one this morning and it was perfect.  So freeze at least three hours or overnight.


I know ice cream sandwiches don't sound like a winter treat.  But wrap yourself up in a warm blankie and sit in front of a raging fire and it is the perfect snack.  You may want to have a hot cup of tea at your side to stave off brain freeze.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Maybe You Shouldn't Come

Our daughter has plans to come home for Thanksgiving.  It is a hardship for her because she is in graduate school and has classes today.  And then she is moving on Saturday.  She lives about 3 1/2 hours away.


High School grad photo.  And yes, I was too lazy to take it out of the picture frame.

We really want her to come, but the news about the weather the next two days is pretty daunting.  It is already icing up.


We don't want her to drive in horrible weather in the little car we bought her when she was still in high school.


Just in case there is a window of good weather, we bought all the food for a big meal.  Even though there will only be the three of us.  And she is a vegetarian.  That's OK.  More turkey leftovers for me.  Gotta have a bunch of sandwiches.


Christmas a few years ago.  And yes, I was too lazy to take it out of the picture frame.

So I am hoping for some good weather.  And if not, I am hoping she stays home.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Stocking Stuffers

I was perusing Amazon for Christmas gift ideas.  The "kids" will all be here and I was checking out Amazon's suggestions for stocking stuffers.

Really?  There is a special gadget, that probably won't fit in any drawer organizer, to cut bananas?

  • Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer

    by Hutzler
    List Price:$4.99
    Price:$3.75 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35.                         
    You Save:$1.24 (25%)
    In Stock.
    Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
    Want it Tuesday, Nov. 26? Order within 30 hrs 38 mins and choose One-Day Shipping at checkout
    • Faster, safer than using a knife
    • Great for cereal
    • Plastic, dishwasher safe
    • Slice your banana with one quick motion
    • Kids love slicing their own bananas
    How hard is it to slice bananas, anyway?
    I will not be buying one of these.  Unless someone emails me and says they have always wanted one.  If they can fly all this way for Christmas, they can get the banana slicer of their dreams.  Don't forget to bring your stockings.  That's how Santa knows where you are.

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    iPad Class


    The Virginia Department of Business Assistance recently offered a free class for business people to learn some tricks with their iPad.  Lots of people have an iPad and there are scads of things you can do with it.  But most people don't use it to its full potential.

    The class was held in the Greenfield Center.  I was familiar with Greenfield because of a few occasions I have had to sit in on the Board of Supervisors meetings.  It is a beautiful place.  It has plenty of parking and friendly people to direct you.  Go check it out.


    A lot of the class covered the new features you get with the latest ios7 update.  I wanted to download the update, but my iPad kept telling me I was no longer connected to the internet.  This despite the fact that I was getting my emails.  I mentioned this to the instructor, Sandy Ratliff, before class and she explained this happened some times and I needed to do a hard reboot.  I felt like Bill Cosby with his Noah routine.  ("Riiight.  What's an ark?")  What's a hard reboot?  She explained that it was similar to turning off your computer to restart it when it freezes.  Simply hold down the power button in the upper right corner and the home button in the center of the bottom edge of the screen.

    I had to do it twice and then the computer recognized that I was connected.  But it was going to take about 4 hours.   And I would need to be plugged into a power source so the computer wouldn't die in the middle of the download. Oh.  I waited until I got home and did it there.

    Already it was worth the cost of the class.  OK.  The class was free.  But already it was worth the trip to the class.

    The new update does tons of things.  More than I could grasp in one class.  But then it also did the things I hate.  The icons look different.  The computer forgot the password to our Wi-Fi.  My email looks and acts differently.  You know.  All those annoying things that make it a pain to figure out what you knew how to do a few hours ago!

    Do you know how to get Siri, your personal assistant?  Not anyone connected to Tom Cruise.  Once you go to SETTING, then GENERAL and turn on Siri you can do a lot of things by voice command alone.  You can look up things on the Internet and send emails without touching the iPad.  And she is very responsive.  And she types faster and more accurately than I do.  Plus, she doesn't even need to use spell check!  You can even correct her pronunciation. That's fun for me, but imagine someone who is disabled.  Now they can send emails or get into tweeting.  I don't tweet or twitter, but I do send emails!

    A lot of time was spent on saving information in the cloud.  Then if your computer or iPad dies or is stolen you can still have access to all your data.  There are a lot of free sites for a limited amount of data.  If you need to store more data, you will need to store it in different places or just pay for the additional space.  I am not ready to  explore this, but will need to do so soon.  Or perhaps I can hire a third grader to come and help me.

    Ms. Ratliff showed us a bunch of useful apps that you could get for free and some she liked that cost a few dollars.  She was good at explaining things and used humor to keep us listening.  A great teacher. 

    The iPad will also do some photo and video editing, something I would like to explore.  Maybe I need another class for that.  Or just time to sit and fool around with it.  Or that third grader.


    She also showed us how to get Emoji on our keyboard.  This lets you expand way beyond a smiley face.


    This is an app that allows you to add a bunch of different emoticons to your typing/emails. 


    I don't know how much I will use it, but it was fun to find!  ( SETTINGS/GENERAL/KEYBOARD/INTERNATIONAL/EMOJI)

    Sure, she showed us a bunch about remote printing and data storage and work related things, but we had time to do some fun things, too.

    It was a fun class and I am looking forward to taking more classes at Greenfield.

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble

    My daughters love the recipe site, Smitten Kitchen .  They sometimes send me links to recipes and ask (demand) that I fix them THAT.  And then sometimes I peruse the site and just find something that I like and want to make for ME.  Which is how I came to make the following:


    Pear Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble


    1 cup flour
    1/4 cup sugar
    3 Tablespoon brown sugar
    1 cup Gingersnap cookie crumbs (It took 20 Nabisco Gingersnap cookies to make a cup of crumbs)
    1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    pinch of white pepper (or black, if you don't have any) to add snap to the ginger.
    1/2 cup ( 1 stick) butter, melted and cooled


    2 pounds ripe pears, peeled cored and sliced  SK suggested Anjou, but I ended up with Bartlett
    1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1/2 cup sugar
    2 Tablespoon cornstarch


    Preheat the oven to 350°. 


    I could have used a food processor to crunch up the cookies into crumbs.  Instead I used a Ziploc bag and a rolling pin.  They got pretty finely crushed and I was happy until I got to the next part.

    Sift together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger, salt and pepper.  I tried that and there were still quite a bit of brown sugar and cookie crumbs in the sifter.  My solution was to dump out the rest on top of the sifted mix, stir it all up and keep going.  Low stress cooking is my favorite.  Pour the melted butter on top and stir until moistened.  Set aside.


    Zest one lemon and cut it in half across the middle of the lemon.


    The quickest way I know to peel, core and slice is to cut the clean pears in half from the stem.  Then cut each half in half through the core.  You have now quartered the pears.  Then a quick slice to take off the core and another couple to remove the peel.  Slice each quarter into about 1/4 inch pieces and place then in a 2 quart baking dish. 

    This will take a bit of time and pears tend to brown when the cut portions are exposed to the air.  Because you will be putting lemon juice in later, you might as well do it a bit as you go.  Cut two pears, squeeze half the lemon over them and give them a bit of a stir with a rubber spatula so you don't damage the pear slices.  Make sure you don't get a lemon seed in the bowl by squeezing over your other hand.  Allow the juice to flow into the dish through your fingers and trap the seeds. 

    Continue peeling and slicing and then squeeze the other lemon half.  Is this the Tablespoon called for in the recipe?  Of course it is.  An exact amount.  Then put in the lemon zest.  Is this 1/2 teaspoon zest like I am supposed to use?  I am sure it is.  Well, actually it is a bit more, but who's counting?  And besides, lemon zest is lovely.  Remember the low stress portion of this dish.  Use the zest and juice from one lemon.  Or worry about it and measure it all out.

    I used four large pears.

    Add the cranberries and vanilla.  Give another gentle stir.  Mix the sugar and the cornstarch in a small bowl and mix that into the pears.  Gently.


     Spread the crumble mixture on top of the pear mixture.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  The crumble will darken and the pink tinged juices will bubble up through the crumbs.  And it will smell really good.


    Let cool a bit and serve warm.  If you have vanilla ice cream, this would be a good place for you to put it.  If you don't, you could add Cool Whip.  Save some for tomorrow because that is too much dessert for two people to eat.  Next time invite someone over, or better yet, make it for Christmas when the whole famdamly is around.  It's that good.


    Thursday, November 21, 2013

    The 9th Girl


    I don't know what it is about people that they are drawn to books about serial murderers.  Perhaps we are just so horrified by the idea that there are people out there that kill for the joy of committing murder.  That some people's brains are wired so that they a get some kind of sexual thrill from killing others.

    The latest book by Tami Hoag explores the serial murderer that has been dubbed Doc Holiday, because so many of his victims have been killed on holidays.  He picks them up in one location and then dumps their tortured bodies in another location.  Perhaps they are victims of a cross country trucker.  It seems that being a long distance trucker is one profession that a serial murderer can choose to assist in preventing discovery.  They are long gone before a body is discovered and there is no known association with the victim.  No offence to those perfectly nice truckers out there.

    Homicide detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska are assigned to a murder that seems to fit the profile of Doc Holiday and they are trying to get the Minneapolis police department to authorize funds and manpower to track him down.  The department is not sure there is a serial murderer out there. This is the 9th Jane Doe of the year and she may be the 9th victim of Doc Holiday.

    I also read romance novels and there is generally a male and female lead that end up falling in love.  In this case there is a male and female lead, but they are long time partners and romance is not an issue.  They are committed to solving the murder, even as Nikki Liska finds herself increasingly torn by the amount of time a homicide detective must spend to solve a case.  She has young boys at home and a mostly absent ex-husband.  The boys need more of her time, while the needs of the victim and safety of the community pull at her.  Liska is not sure how much longer she can work these hours, yet she loves the job.

    Perhaps the attraction of a novel about a murderer lies in the solution of the puzzle by the end of the book.  In real life, things are not always so tidy and satisfying.   I look forward to Hoag's next book starring these interesting police detectives.  There will always be murders to solve.  Kovac doesn't want to lose a partner and Liska doesn't want to lose the this precious time with her young boys.  There are a lot of problems for Hoag to solve in her next book with these protagonists and she is always worth the wait.

    Wednesday, November 20, 2013

    Overnight Layered Salad

    We call this Seven Layer Salad.  I don't know why, because there are different numbers of layers depending on what I have or what I want to put in that day...or night.  It is better assembled the night before so the frozen peas can thaw.  Or you can thaw the peas over night and then make the salad.  But it is nice to have something done ahead of time.  Especially this time of year, when things get hectic.  There are many ways to do the variations that your family likes.  I used to serve this with muffins made from a mix when the kids were little and it was a great family favorite.


    Overnight Layered Salad

    1 medium head of lettuce, or a bit less, shredded
    2 cups of frozen peas.  More or less.  Most of these amounts are approximate
    1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
    4 or 5 green onions, thinly sliced.  Even the green part.
    3 or 4 ribs of celery, thinly sliced

    1/2 cup sour cream
    2/3 cup mayo

    You can do all mayo, but not all sour cream.  You will need about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups dressing.

    1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1 teaspoon sugar, or the equivalent in sugar substitute
    1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

    4 or 5 hard boiled eggs
    8 pieces of bacon, cooked crisp, drained and crumbled


    You will need a 2 quart casserole dish.  I use a clear dish to see all the layers.  First place the lettuce in the casserole dish.  You will need to add more items so don't fill the dish to the top with the lettuce.  Leave a few inches to add the rest of the salad.


    Then layer in all of the vegetables, one at a time.  If one of your choices doesn't cover a whole layer, add a bit more.  After everything is sliced and layered, make the dressing.  I use some sour cream to lighten the heavy mayonnaise taste.  You should use what you like.  Mix the sour cream and mayo in a medium bowl.  Add the grated Parmesan, sugar and garlic salt and stir until mixed.


    Spread the dressing in a thin, even layer on the salad, cover and refrigerate overnight. 


    The next day slice the hard boiled eggs and cook the bacon.  I like the (mostly) precooked bacon.  Then I just have to cook the slices for 2 minutes in the microwave and drain them on a paper towel.  Use the same paper towel to crunch up the bacon.  Then use the same paper towel to wipe the grease off the plate. 


    Layer the eggs and then sprinkle the bacon on top.  When Tara, who is a vegetarian, is eating with us I substitute Bacos.  They get soft and unappetizing over night in the refrigerator if you don't eat the whole salad in one evening, and we don't.  So sprinkle any soy bacon crumbles on individual servings and don't layer them on the salad.

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Autumn Beef and Cider Stew

    It has been cold and sort of drizzly.  That means soup or stew weather to me. I found this recipe in the Best of Holiday Shopping from the Roanoke Times.  I changed a few minor things.  It was kind of sweet, but then there are a lot of sweet ingredients.  It was good and even better served with a bit of fresh bread or rolls.


    Autumn Beef and Cider Stew

    1 1/2 to 2 pounds stew meat
    4 slices bacon, precooked.  If using uncooked, 2 slices
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    1 can (10 1/2 ounces condensed French onion soup  I used Campbell's
    1 cup apple cider
    1 to 1 1/2 pounds sweet potato, about 3 cups diced
    1/4 cup dried cranberries


    Cook the bacon in a stock pot on medium.  We pretty much always buy the pre-cooked bacon.  It doesn't make a lot of grease, which is one reason we really like it.  So I used 4 pieces in order to get enough bacon grease to cook the stew meat.  Take a very clean pair of scissors and cut up the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces.


    Remove the bacon slices and place them on a paper towel to drain.  Trim the yucky parts off the stew meat and cook them in two batches in the bacon grease.  Place the bacon and cooked meat into the stock pot and season with S&P.


    Add the condensed onion soup and the cup of apple cider to the stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 3/4 hours.


    After about 1 1/2 hours start peeling the sweet potatoes.  We used a medium large sweet potato.  It is hard to get just the right size hunk of sweet potato.  It should be about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of diced sweet potato.

    Add the diced sweet potatoes and the dried cranberries to the stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 20 to 30 minutes.  Check at 20 minutes to see if the meat and the sweet potatoes are tender.  If they, are you're done.  If not, cook for another 10 minutes.

    The recipe called for unsweetened cranberries.  I couldn't find any, so I used Craisins.    The sweet potatoes, cider and sweetened cranberries all contributed to a slightly sweet stew.  It was also a little thin, so I decided to thicken it a bit. The next bit is optional, but it thickened the stew nicely and so I recommend it.

    1/4 cup water
    1 Tablespoon cornstarch


    Put the water in a glass and add the cornstarch.  Stir with a fork until mixed and add to the stew.  Cook until it starts to thicken and enjoy your dinner.


    We served it with some Potato Rosemary Bread.  And I had some hard cider from Angry Orchard, my most recent, favorite, adult beverage.

    I returned from an errand in the kitchen and noticed two uninvited guests observing Lee's every bite. 


    Here is where I mention that some people, after the children have grown and moved away, develop an unnatural fondness for, and indulgence with, their pets.  We understand we are completely nuts when we allow them to sit and observe our meals.  And I must stress that they are not allowed on the table.  Just allowed to sit on the bench and observe the table.

    The dog, however, must remain on the floor.  We're not crazy, after all....

    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Creamy Chocolate Tartlets

    I found a recipe for chocolate tartlets.  Bite size treats are good for tea parties and I love tea parties!  I will also be serving treats to the B&B guests, so it is good to try recipes out in advance.  You can gloss over a mistake with a friend, but paying guests may be a bit more picky!  You saw through that, didn't you?  I wanted something chocolate.  So I made them.


    Creamy Chocolate Tartlets

    1 cup graham cracker crumbs  That is about 16 squares, crushed.
    9 Tablespoons butter, divided use.  That is 1 stick, plus 1 Tablespoon
    4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
    1 Tablespoon honey
    1/4 cup heavy cream
    1/3 cup white chocolate chips  I should have used some sort of melting or dipping chocolate, but it tasted great!


    Spray an assortment of tartlet shells with Pam. It will make about 10. Set aside


    If you didn't buy graham cracker crumbs, and I didn't, place the crackers in a gallon Ziploc bag.  Press out the air and seal.  Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers to crumbs.  I did half at a time.

    Melt all but 1 Tablespoon of the stick of butter, or 7 Tablespoons, in a sauce pan.  When melted add the crumbs and stir until they are moist.


    Place a Tablespoon or two in each tartlet pan and press to make a shell.  Make sure you have enough at the top so that it won't break off when removed from the pan later.  Chill for about 15 minutes.


    While they are chilling, break up the bittersweet chocolate and place it in a microwavable bowl. 

    You can use a double boiler, and it would be better if you did, because you can burn chocolate in the microwave.  But I don't have one.  So I used the microwave on 50 percent and just put it in for about 30 seconds at a time, until melted.

    Add the rest of the butter (2 Tablespoons) and the honey to the broken chocolate chunks and melt them.  Being careful not to burn it.  I have done that and it is very disappointing.  Unless you have extra chocolate sitting around, and who does that???


    Stir until it is smooth and add the heavy cream.  Stir again until the cream is all mixed in.


    Get the tartlet shells out of the refrigerator and fill with the chocolate.  Return them to the fridge and chill for about 3 hours.


    I had some white chocolate chips.  I melted them in the microwave and dropped about a teaspoon of melted white chocolate on top of each chocolate tartlet.  It did not look like the pretty white disk floating on the chocolate pool as the picture in the recipe showed!  Next time I will try some of the melting or dipping chocolate that you can get.  But I had the white chocolate chips and they tasted great!