Friday, September 24, 2010

"Babies are like fruit. They only spoil when you ignore them"

My sister called me a few minutes ago and told me I had to read the most recent post by the YarnHarlot. She was right and I think everyone who has kids or plans on having kids should read it too...

Therefore, please drop what you are doing and click here!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sandwich Cookies of Awesome

I made these cookies for a bridal shower I hosted yesterday and they were a huge hit. This is based on the Raspberry Sandwich Cookie recipe from The Ultimate Cookie Book, which I found in the bargain books section of Barnes and Noble many years ago. I don't have a picture of these because they were such a hit that they were all gone before I got one. Many of the guests took a couple home with them and I am hoping one of them will send me a picture to share. A kind guest sent me a picture of the last remaining cookies taken immediately before eating them, aren't they pretty? If you want to make your own here you go.

You need:
1 cup raw almonds (or roasted, unsalted should work too)
1 1/2c flour
3/4 c butter
1/2 sugar
lemon zest from one lemon (a good use for that microplane)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
raw sugar
strawberry lemonade jam (the original recipe calls for raspberry jam you mix with a little lemon juice if you don't have the strawberry lemonade jam)

Finely chop the almonds and 3 tablespoons of flour in a food processor. The finer you do this the smoother your dough will be and the easier it will be to cut out the cookies later. Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer and then add the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the almond mixture and the flour to make a dough. Wrap the dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill it for at least an hour (I refrigerated the dough for more like 10 hours because I was busy and it was still fine). Preheat the oven to 325F and line two cookie sheets with waxed paper or baking mats. Roll your dough out on a floured surface (I had to knead it a bit to before it would hold together well enough to roll) until it is 1/8" - 1/4" thick. (I did this with 1/4 of the dough at a time which I found made it easier to manage.) Cut out an even number of circles (or other basic shape) and use a smaller cookie cutter or a thimble/funnel/piping nozzle to cut the middles out of half of those. Sprinkle the tops of the "o" shaped cookies with raw sugar and bake 12-15 minutes until they are lightly browned. Let them stay on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes after you pull them out to firm up before moving them to a cooling rack. Once the cookies are totally cool pair up the tops and bottoms and lay them down on the rack open ready for jam, you'll want the side of the cookies that was down during baking to be the insides off the cookies. Put some jam (I think I used about 4oz) into a custard cup or a small heat-proof bowl and microwave it on high for about 30 seconds or until it is melted (watch it and if it starts bubbling stop it immediately). Spread a heaping teaspoon of jam onto the bottom of each sandwich, place the top half and give it a good wiggle to settle everything in. Once the jam cools again and sets you will have pretty cookies that are ready to serve. The only thing to remember is that the firmer the jam the less messy the cookies will be. I want to say this recipe made around 2 dozen cookies. I made them a day ahead and they stored well in an air-tight container overnight. However, once I put them out for people to try they didn't last very long. These are a tasty, fancy looking cookie that is great for parties or a special treat for your loved ones.

Strawberry Lemonade Jam (No Pectin)

This recipe was inspired by some strawberry lemonade concentrate I made last summer. After the first batch (or was it the second batch?) my husband was licking the pot and commented that the lemonade down at the bottom had gelled and wouldn't this make great jam? Since strawberries were still crazy cheap and plentiful at the time I bought more and we made another batch of lemonade, but this time after pulling out a quart of concentrate for our own enjoyment we kept boiling it down until it reached the jelly point (215-220F with the higher number getting you a firmer jam/jelly). We then poured the jam into jelly jars and processed them for 15 minutes (if you are near sea level process for 10 minutes, mine is adjusted for my altitude). The resulting jam was very firm, but quite tasty. I meant to post this recipe last summer when strawberries were crazy cheap, but I never got around to it. Honestly, I'd mostly forgotten about it until I used some of the jam for cookies yesterday (for a friend's bridal shower, more on that later) and they were such a hit that I was woken up this morning by a phone call asking for the recipe. I will post the cookie recipe separately, but since I feel that this jam is what made the cookies I wanted to post this recipe too. This description should be enough to get you started, but if you want a proper recipe here goes:

You need:
6c chopped strawberries (you don't need to get them finely chopped or anything, just like you would for eating on ice cream)
4 c lemon juice (every recipe I've seen says that you MUST use fresh squeezed, but I used bottled lemon juice and it turned out just fine)
6 c sugar
a candy thermometer
jam-making set-up (click here for basic jam making instructions)

Puree the strawberries in a food processor and then put them in a giant, non-reactive pot. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot so that bottom is definitely in the liquid, but nowhere near touching the bottom (touching the bottom has caused more than one broken thermometer in this household). Heat it over medium-high while stirring constantly. If you want strawberry lemonade concentrate turn off the heat and ladle some if the liquid into jars when you reach 190. (I highly recommend this because it is tasty lemonade.) Keep boiling until you reach the jelly point, 215F for a soft jelly or 220F for a firm jelly (for cookies the firmer jelly is good because it means that the jam stays on the cookies without falling off onto someone's pretty dress, but if you are mostly planning to eat it on toast go for the lower temperature.) Once you reach your desired temperature, take it off the heat, give it a good stir for a minute or so and then ladle it into your jars and process it (10 minutes at or near sea-level, adjust accordingly for elevation). Enjoy your jam in a PB&J or in cookies!

Friday, September 10, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

And a runner-up...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maple, Date, Walnut Granola

DH and I love granola. We'll eat it with yogurt and fruit, with milk or even plain as a snack. It may not be low in fat, but it is healthy and filling and a little bit of fat is really important. The only problem with granola is that it tends to be really expensive. I've been hearing for years about how you can make your own granola, but all the recipes I have seen included a ton of ingredients I didn't have and seemed to involve a lot of steps and mess. It just never seemed worth it. Then I came across this. It described a simple, basic granola that you made in a skillet. I was hungry and really wanted a snack, but didn't know what to make when I found the recipe. I did a more basic version using flax seeds (which was what we had on hand) and honey that was somewhere between that recipe and the original. (I used 2T. butter, 2T local honey, 1c. rolled oats, 1/4c. flax seed and a dash of cinnamon if you are interested.) It was amazing, and what's more it only took 5-10 minutes. It was so good I started to experiment with what I had in the pantry and came up with a new recipe. It only took a few minutes and was super tasty. If you want to try it, here is the recipe. It is easy, tasty, cheap and healthy. What's not to love?

Maple, Date, Walnut Granola
1 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 c chopped walnuts
1 tbs. butter (though walnut or canola oil would work too)
2 tbs. maple syrup
1/4 c finely chopped dates
dash cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
pinch of salt

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and mix in the maple syrup. As soon as those are well mixed add the walnuts and saute them briefly (1-2 minutes). Add the rolled oats and stir to mix well. Sprinkle on the spices and stir so they are mixed evenly. Remove from heat, mix in the dates and then spread it on a cookie sheet to cool.

I like to give it 10 minutes to cool, but if you are in a real hurry you could pour cold milk on it and eat it sooner. The big thing is to make sure you don't burn your mouth on the hot sugar. This is one of my favorite treats, I hope you will try it too. You can also use honey, agave syrup, molasses or a mix of water and brown sugar as the sweetener and use any combination of seeds, nuts, spices and dried fruit that appeals to you. Enjoy!

ETA: This is now linked to Pennywise Platter. Check out the link for other tasty, frugal, healthy recipes and ideas.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vacationing, Part 2

In the last post I said I would tell you more about the wedding. Unfortunately, all I can say is that it was really nice, quite pretty and a load of fun. We were didn't get any pictures of the ceremony and only a few at any other point. Other people have a ton of great pictures, but DH was so busy trying to photograph the double rainbow that appeared over the happy couple after the ceremony that we didn't really get any ourselves. Here are the rainbows (sans happy couple), pretty neat, huh?
The only other high point we got on film was when A. got to dance with the bride. Too bad we missed the rest, guess that means we were having too good a time.

The next day we took it pretty easy and hung out relaxing all morning. A. practiced her walking with some help from her grandma.

Then they sat down to play. We had brought toys, but A. preferred wooden spoons and mixing bowls.
She also liked the dog toys. Shiloh wasn't sure exactly what to think of that...

But he decided that she was pretty cool and hung out with her anyway.
A. also decided to show us useful a mixing bowl can be. Not only can it be used to hold things...
It also makes a great helmet!
The next day it was time to go. Everyone helped with the packing, we wouldn't want to forget anything. :)
After a lot of fun and some great times with family it was time to go home. My MIL dropped us off at the airport and we hurried to the gate only to find that it was super crowded and our plane was delayed a bit. (We flew Southwest so "delayed" meant 15 minutes behind schedule.) Luckily, the SLC airport has a great play space for kids after the security checkpoint. We were able to backtrack and let A. play until half an hour before our flight and then go get in line to get on the plane.
After what seemed like a long flight (but actually wasn't) due to a hyper baby and a full plane we landed and my dad picked us up from the airport. We then collected our pets from my parent's house, ate a quick dinner and headed home. Late that night we fell into our own beds happy to have gone and happy to be home again. The next morning it was time for the week to start again...

I don't know which I like better about vacations, getting away and doing neat things or coming back home. What about you? Which do you prefer?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vacationing, Part 1

It has been over a week and a half since I last blogged. Sorry guys, I have no excuse except that I was on vacation and have been playing catch-up ever since I got back. We went up for a family wedding, but fit in a few adventures as well. We had a great time so I thought I'd share some of our travel pictures.

On the first full day of our trip we took the train from downtown Salt Lake City to Ogden. This is a commuter train so the fares were really reasonable and my MIL knew of a great ice cream shop near the train station. We took the bus from the train station and were rewarded with delicious burgers and ice cream for lunch. The neatest part was sitting around after lunch chatting with the owner and watching her make ice cream with an old John Deere tractor.
After lunch we decided to walk back to the train station and discovered that Ogden has some really neat statues. The had painted horses and a few of these cute little bronze statues. DH took this picture of one of our favorites.
As we were walking down the street we then came across a yarn shop. They had a great selection (which made me happy) and A/C which made everyone else happy. DH, my MIL and A. were kind enough to put up with me browsing for half an hour and I came away with some lovely lace weight yarn and the book Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. We then walked to the train station and A. fell asleep on the way.
I managed to shift her so that she got a good nap on the train and then she woke up an hour or so later to enjoy the rest of the ride home.
That afternoon we took a (very) little hike near my MIL's condo.
The next day we went to the aquarium. A. loved seeing all the animals. here she is looking at the jelly fish exhibit.
DH also managed to get some good pictures of the sharks.
And one of us sitting in their little "photo op" display of a canoe going down the Amazon...
We continued wandering around and saw everything from penguins to turtles. Here is a picture of us looking at the caimen.
Later that day we went to the wedding, but that is a topic for the next post...