I still don’t bake Christmas cookies


Not my cookies

Not my cookies

Okay, I’m THAT person. The one who does not bake Christmas cookies. It’s not that I don’t bake, because I do. It’s just that I’m not any good at baking cute, decorative cookies. My cookies are all gobs of dough flopped down on a cookie sheet. They taste great (if the rate at which they disappear is any indicator,) but they don’t look like anything special.

I used to at least make an attempt to bake Christmas cookies, by taking the ordinary cookies I usually make and adding red and green to them. You know – sprinkle red and green sugar on top of the Snickerdoodles and they instantly become  Christmas Snickerdoodles. Or put red and green M & Ms in the chocolate chip cookies instead of chocolate

Mine are more like this.

Mine are more like this.

chips, and voilà – Christmas cookies.  I figure red and green sugar and M & Ms were invented just for people like me – the Christmas baking impaired. But they never really looked all that great and nobody was fooled – they technically were not Christmas cookies.

So then I created a better plan to make people think that I baked Christmas cookies, which involves large quantities of  red jam and powdered sugar. You know, red for Christmas, and powdered sugar for snow of course. What’s not Christmasy about that?

Mine are NEVER like this.

Mine are NEVER like this.

Here was my plan. Two days before Christmas when I started to feel inadequate because there were no actual Christmas cookies in my house, my cookie plan escalates to Defcon 2. I’d make almond sandies, which of course are rolled in powdered snow, er sugar. Then a batch of jam thumbprints, with red jam, natch. Then the pièce de résistance – I would arrange this assortment on a CHRISTMAS PLATE, add some fudge, which everyone knows is a Christmas food, and there I’d have it – Christmas cookies. The white, the red, the festive plate, everyone was fooled into thinking I was a Christmas cookie baker after all.

What about your Christmas baking experiences? Are you one of those people who starts at Thanksgiving, baking ten different kinds of Christmas cookies, each one more complex than the previous? Or do you buy the big bag of red and green sprinkled cookies at Costco? Or are you THAT person – the one who makes the elaborate ginger bread village with mansions, shopping malls and Santa’s workshop?

Merry Christmas everyone!

© Huffygirl 2012

(Originally posted 12-23-2010)

It’s Pi Day!


Today’s the day that math nerds and pie lovers look forward to each year: 3-14, otherwise known as Pi Day. It’s the day when the nerdy smart kids in geometry class get to show off how they’ve memorized pi to the nth decimal place, and pie lovers have an excuse to bake and eat pies.

Best husband is the pie man in our house. Sure, I can make pies too, but why should I when I have the foremost living pie expert right here to do it for me? Besides, just last week I made the same recipe of blueberry pie, and mine turned out runny, compared to his pie creations. I may have even heard a complaint or two, yet, in no time at all the pie was gone, so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

Dave’s Blueberry Pie

Crust for a 9-inch double crust pie

3 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and drained (or fresh frozen blueberries)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup packed light brown sugar

5 tablespoons flour

Margarine or butter, about 1 tablespoon, to dot top of filling

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the crust and the margarine. Set aside. Make your favorite pie crust. Roll out half of the crust and place in a 9 inch pie pan. Add the filling. Dot filling with margarine. Roll out and place the top crust. Trim edges, fold top and bottom crust edges under and together,   and make slashes in the top of the crust to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 minutes. Crust should be lightly browned.

Enjoy your pie and have a great Pi Day!

© Huffygirl 2012

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Possibility answer


What is this? I didn’t get too many guesses, possibly because it was too easy, or too hard. Possibly because not that many people cared. Possibly because the bad economy precludes our enjoying fluffy photo guessing games. So many possibilities…

Blogging buddy Martin from Thoughts from Finchley, came up with the correct answer.

Yes, it’s yeast, full of possibilities.  A little yeast turns flour and other ingredients into bread, rolls, pizza dough – the list of possibilities is endless. Those ingredients, without the yeast, have fewer possibilities of turning into something delicious and nutritious.

Later today, I’ll try out a little yeast on my new bread machine, pictured in the background. The possibilities again are endless. I could end up with a delicious loaf of bread, or a shapeless lump of dough, and a chance to write about the hilarity that ensues from same, or something in between.

© Huffygirl 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies: The recipe is in my head!


The well-used recipe

I have a whole recipe box full of recipes for all kinds of cookies, but 99.9% of the time when I’m baking cookies, I choose my tried and true chocolate chip. I’ve made these cookies so much that I have the recipe memorized – no need to get out the battered and grubby-looking  recipe card, although I sometimes do just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. This recipe is adapted from the original Toll House Cookie recipe  (what do toll houses have to do with cookies anyway?) that appeared on the back of the Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chip package 37 years ago. One of my modifications was to add extra chocolate chips, because, let’s face it, that is the REAL reason why we eat chocolate chip cookies. This makes a large batch of cookies, unless you eat too many samples of the dough during baking. (Yes, I know the FDA, CDC, NAACP and FAA do not recommend eating raw cookie dough. But c’mon – is there anyone who doesn’t do this?)

1 1/3 cups Crisco or other vegetable shortening, softened

1 cup white sugar

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons water

Cream together the above ingredients with a large mixing spoon. 

Then add:

4 large eggs

1 1/2 packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounce packages)

Mix well. If you like to have nuts in your cookies,  add those now as well.

Add the chocolate chips before adding the dry ingredients - much easier to mix in!

Add the following dry ingredients,  adding about half of the ingredients, stir, then add the rest:

4 1/2 cups white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons salt

After dough is thoroughly mixed, drop by tablespoon-full onto cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Use a tablespoon or a cookie dough scoop.

Bake 375 degrees Farenheit for 10 minutes and 10 seconds. Cookies will puff up and appear to be underdone when removed from the oven. Allow cookies to rest on the cookie sheet a few minutes to finish baking, and they will be soft, but completely done. Enjoy.

Yum!

 © Huffygirl 2011

The Mother of All Bread Machines


I’ve just packed up the mother of all bread machines and am sending her back – back from whence she came. Turns out the mother of all bread machines is more like the mother-in-law of all bread machines.

I’ve been on the quest for a perfect bread machine for some time and I thought this was going to be the one. Expensive. Highly touted. Carried exclusively by my favorite well-known upscale kitchen outfitter. Stainless steel exterior. Digital display. Lots of bells and whistles. And here’s the kicker: the mixing paddle is supposed to retract, leaving you with a small discrete slit in the bottom of the loaf, instead of hole like most bread machines too.

But, the mother of all did not deliver. Sure she was quiet – not cranking away like an outboard motor like my old machine did. Sure there was a cute digital display with all sorts of elaborate choices. But alas, the mixing paddle did not retract, leaving a gaping hole in the bottom of the loaf the size of Cleveland. And did I get any of those nice neat loaves of bread like they show in the pictures? NOOOO.

So excited to give the mother of all bread machines a whirl, I put her right to use, barely out of the box. First I tried a two-pound loaf, using my favorite, tried and true bread recipe. Instead of a nice loaf of bread, it came out a like a misshapen blob, looking more like the bread meteor of death. Well, that was a big recipe, and one not originally made for bread machines,  so I thought I’d give her another chance. 

Next I tried a one pound loaf, straight from the recipe book that came with the machine. This time the bread barely rose, causing my son to ask if it was  Passover already. And with the loaf of bread so short, the ginormous hole left by the paddle came right up through the top of the loaf.

 Always the optimist, I tried again. I used my favorite bread recipe which had worked fine in my previous bread machine. I poured in all the ingredients. I set the machine for “dough only.” The dough mixed. It rose nicely, but was thrown sloppily all over the pan, instead of formed into a loaf shape. No worry – I took it out, removed the errant paddle, shaped it into a loaf and put it back in the pan. Then, I used the rise and bake setting to finish the loaf. Finally – a perfectly shaped loaf of bread! But, I’m sending the machine back any way, because I already have a machine that does this:

© Huffygirl 2011

Passing on a family tradition: the family pasty recipe


Mom, the original pasty maker, with her first-born son.

Here’s my mother-in-law’s recipe for Cornish pasties, with my modifications. It works best to make pasties with a team: one person rolling out the dough, the other person filling the pasties.

 

 

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose  flour

1 teaspoon salt

a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) baking powder

2/3 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco or similar)

1/2 to 2/3 cup cold water

Place dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor with the standard chopping blade. Add shortening. Pulse food processor until shortening is mixed in, to the consistency of thick cornmeal. Do not over mix! Pour cold water through the chute while pulsing processor, until dough begins to form a ball. Remove dough, divide into two balls, wrap in wax paper and set aside.

Meat filling:

sirloin steak or round steak, about 1  1/2 to 2 #, cut into 1-2 inch cubes  (I use sirloin)

1 small onion, cubed

5-8 red-skin potatoes, washed or peeled,  and cubed

6-10 large carrots, scraped and cubed

1-2 sticks of regular margarine or butter

salt and pepper

In bowl of food processor with standard chopping blade, pulse the meat and onion until finely chopped. Set aside in large mixing bowl. Repeat with most of the carrots,  and most of the potatoes, adding to the meat mixture. Stir the meat mixture with a large spoon. Add more carrots or potatoes until the mixture looks like a good balance of meat to potatoes and carrots. 

On counter or table, set up the following  work areas:

Dough area: pastry cloth with rolling pin and rolling pin cover;  flour,  pie dough balls, sharp knife

 Filling area: wax paper or cutting board; fork, knife, margarine, salt and pepper, and small spatula

Two-three large cookie sheets covered with parchment paper

My first-born son at work in the dough prep area.

With sharp knife, cut each pie crust ball into 6-8 pieces, depending on how big you want the pasties to be. Roll out each piece into a circle; fold in half and pass to the  filling area. Do not knead or over-handle dough, or it will become tough and dry.

At filling area, unfold dough. Fill one side of the dough with the meat filling; cut one pat of margarine and place on top of filling; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold dough over to form a half-moon shaped pie. Fold up crust edge against the pasty.  (You can trim excess dough with a pizza cutter if there is too much, but I don’t). Poke 6 times with fork; use spatula to transfer to cookie sheet.

Pasty dough with filling.

Bake pasties at 350 degrees farenheit, for about 60 minutes. Crust should be lightly browned. Makes 12-15 pasties. Enjoy!

The finished product. Yum!

© Huffygirl 2011

Passing on a family tradition: Making pasties


Okay, first, it’s pah-stee, not pAy-stee. I’m talking about food. Pasties, or Cornish pasties, are self-contained meat pies. Legend has it that the pasty was brought to this country by immigrants from Cornwall, England, who came here to work  in the mining industry, in the upper peninsula of Michigan and upper Minnesota. The miner’s wives made this tasty delicacy with a mix of meat, potatoes, onions, and rutabaga, wrapped in pie crust. The miners would tuck a towel-wrapped pasty into their pockets and take them to work, where they would stay delightfully warm until lunch time. Right.

I can’t speak for Minnesotans, but anyone raised in Michigan, or anyone who has traveled to the upper peninsula, should know what a pasty is. Michiganders know that the best pasties are found the farther north you go of the Mackinac bridge. In fact we all heard the expression growing up “you can’t get good pasties this side of the bridge.” Today you CAN buy pasties south of the bridge, usually at local diner-type restaurants, but I contend the best ones are still north of the bridge (Houghton maybe) although we have found good pasties in St. Ignace, just across the bridge, at a mom and pop store that sells pasties, fudge, magazines and bait.

My husband’s family got their pasty traditions from the family roots in Duluth, Minnesota. Shortly before we were married, my future mother-in-law schooled my husband and me in the art of making pasties, thinking she couldn’t let her first-born son starve to death with a wife who didn’t know how to make a pasty. There was no recipe – just Mom’s tutelage in making and rolling out the dough, spending what seemed like hours dicing up meat, potatoes and carrots (no rutabaga in this family’s pasties), filling the crust, trimming and baking.

Since that day many years ago I’ve added my own refinements – I no longer trim the dough into a neat half-circle as my mother-in-law did – it just wastes dough and time and adds nothing to the finished product. I now use one pat of margarine instead of two (cholesterol conscious I guess) and cut the prep time at least by half by chopping all the ingredients and making the dough in the food processor. Things aren’t diced as evenly and prettily, but hey, I’ve got better things to do than standing in the kitchen dicing half the day. And it still tastes great.

Recently, best husband and I passed on the tradition by teaching our first-born son how to make pasties. Besides explaining the basics, we passed on all the little tips that we’ve gleaned from making pasties over the years. I feel better knowing that someday when I die, I will have at least passed on the secret nuances of pasty-making that one will never learn  from reading  a recipe, hopefully to be passed on again and again, so the family pasty tradition will remain alive.

Recipe to follow.

Two generations of pasty makers: husband and first-born son.

© Huffygirl 2011

Yummy bran muffins


Yummy bran muffins

I bet you never thought yummy and bran belong in the same sentence. What   makes the difference in these muffins is the yummy secret ingredients that  offset the blandness of the bran. Before you go down the Metamucil pathway to get your fiber, try these muffins. Bran can be a pretty potent fiber, so start out by limiting yourself to one a day.

The original recipe came from the side of the Kellogg’s Bran Buds Cereal box, many, many years ago. I’ve made a few changes and have switched to using All-Bran Cereal, because Bran Buds is either no longer made, or not available in my area.

Yummy Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups Kellogg’s All Bran Cereal

1 1/4 cups skim milk, soy milk or rice milk (I used rice milk)

1 egg

1/3 cup olive oil or canola oil

Not quite yummy-looking yet!

Pour bran cereal into a medium mixing bowl. Add egg, milk and oil, stir. Allow to sit for 2-5 minutes, until bran cereal is softened and mushy-looking. (It looks bad at this point, but it will get better.)

Stir in 1/2 cup white sugar, and

1/2 to 1 cup of  yummy secret ingredients:  chocolate chips, chopped dried cherries or apricots, chopped nuts, raisins, currents, sunflower seeds, blueberries, diced apples or bananas, or any  combination of above.

Add:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix ingredients until all are moistened. Dough will be quite thick.

Line a regular-size muffin pan with muffin papers, and fill muffin cups 3/4 to 7/8 full. Bake 400 degrees Fahrenheit, about 22 minutes. Cool on baking rack. Makes 12 regular size muffins.

Yummy bran muffins ready to eat

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© Huffygirl