Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sorry Nina - No SMS here. :(

My apologies to Nina at Nina's Cupcakes for not baking along with her this week. She picked Sugar Cookies for this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe. Her cookies look great (as does most everything she makes) and you should drop by her blog to see them and to get the recipe. I am trying to cut back on the amount of spending baking I have been doing, so I am trying to only bake twice a month with each of the two weekly groups I'm a member of. That, and the hubby is just not into sugar cookies. Stop by SMS and see what the other bakers thought of this week's choice.

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Paris-Bres

Hi! So glad you could make it! I have been planning this party for over a month now, ever since I chose this recipe for our February pick. It's my first time hosting. Please forgive me if I seem a little nervous.  Were's my manners?! Come on in, sit down. Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a fresh pot of brewing and the Chocolate Paris-Brest just waiting to be eaten. Pretty isn't it? What's a Chocolate Paris-Brest you ask?  Well, it is a wheel-shaped cake that was created to celebrate a bicycle race from Paris to the city of Brest. It is not usually chocolate, and it's normally filled with mousseline and butter-cream, rather than a pastry cream, but this one is from Chocolate Epiphany and it is how Francois chose to interpret it. It's on page 165 of his book.

 Would you like to know how to make one? I must warn you; be prepared to wash some dishes. This lovely cake requires making some chocolate pâte à choux, and some chocolate pastry cream. Oh, and, you need to make some chocolate drops to put the finishing touches on the cake. Putting it together is simple, once you have all the parts made. :)

 Chocolate Paris-Brest
Chocolate Pâte à Choux (page 247)
Sliced blanched almonds
Chocolate Pastry Cream (page 245)
Confectioners' sugar
Chocolate Drops (page 259)

I guess we will make the Chocolate drops first, then they can set up while we work on everything else. I am not going to go into all the details about tempering chocolate. I will assume you already know that. 

Chocolate Drops
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and prepare tempered chocolate of the type desired as directed on page 254. Place a drop of tempered chocolate on the parchment paper, and with the tip of a small offset spatula, drag its center out to create a teardrop shape. Don't drag too much, or the chocolate will be too thin and a hole might form in the drop. Use these to decorate the Chocolate Paris-Brest.

Pretty simple right? We will let those set up while we move on to the cake itself. Would you like another cup of coffee? 
Okay, let's start the cake part by placing a rack in the center of the oven and preheating it to 425 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to the dimensions of your baking sheet. With a dark pencil or pen, trace a 6-inch circle on the parchment. Place the paper on the baking sheet, circle facing down. You should be able to see it through the paper. 

Now, lets make the Pâte à Choux. You will use the ingredients below to make a chocolate version. Prepare as for Pâte à Choux, adding the cocoa powder when you add the flour.
7 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder

     Combine butter and salt with 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Add the flour (and cocoa powder), then reduce the heat to low, and vigorously mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together in a thick paste and no longer sticks to the sides of the pan, about 2 minutes.
     Remove the dough from the heat and place it in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed, incorporating the eggs one at a time. Do not add an egg until the previous one is completely incorporated. Mix until the dough forms a smooth mass. Add the baking powder.
     Fit a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner cut with a 1/2-inch star or round tip, and fill it with the warm dough. Pipe a continuous circle of dough just inside the circle you drew on the parchment paper. It should be about 1/2 inch thick. Pipe another circle just inside the first one, making sure that they touch. Pipe a third circle on top of the first two circles, over the line where they touch. Sprinkle the almonds over the circles, and bake for 8 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the dough turns golden brown, and has puffed, and looks dry and sturdy. Remove from the oven, and let cool on the baking sheet.

Still with me? Good. Now, lets make the Chocolate Pastry Cream while the cake cools. Prepare as for Pastry Cream, whisking the cocoa powder into the milk before you bring it to a boil. Add the chocolate when you whisk in the butter.
Chocolate Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tbls. cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
2 ounces 100% chocolate, chopped
1 Tbls. butter

     Line a shallow pan, such as a 9-inch cake pan or a small rimmed baking sheet, with plastic wrap.
     Pour the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat as soon as small bubbles form around the edges of the pan.
     Meanwhile, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, and whisk in the egg yolks. Continue whisking until the yolks turn a very pale yellow. Slowly pour a fourth of the milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Once the milk is well incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, and cook, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with the whisk to prevent lumps from forming, until it becomes very thick and bubbles start popping from the center of the pan for at least 20 seconds. You need to bring it to a boil so that the cornstarch gets activated.
     Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter (and chocolate) until it is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour the pastry cream into the prepared pan and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to use. 

Alright. We have our Chocolate drops, our Chocolate Pâte à Choux and our Chocolate Pastry Cream. Let's put this cake together, shall we?

     Place the pâte à choux cake in front of you, and cut it horizontally with a serrated knife. The base part of the cake will be hollow. 
     Fit a pastry bag or a resealable plastic bag with the corner cut with a 1/2-inch star tip, and fill it with the pastry cream. Pipe the cream in the open cavity in the base of the cake, with a little back-and-forth movement of the hand to create a wavy effect. Let the cream go a little over the edge so that it can be seen when covered. Place the top part of the cake over the cream. Pipe rosettes of pastry cream, about 1 inch wide and 1/2 inch tall, at regular intervals over the top of the cake.
     Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar and place a chocolate drop in each rosette of pastry cream. Transfer to a serving platter, and serve.

And, that's it! Not the easiest cake in the world to put together, but then again, it's not the hardest!  Sure, it takes a little time, but, the taste? Ooo, la la!  What a reward! The cake itself has an intense chocolate flavor, without being sweet. It is crisp on the outside, and then airy and light on the inside.  The chocolate pastry cream...just give me a spoon next time! Creamy, smooth, chocolate-y and oh so rich. The perfect compliment to the cake. An occasional crunch from the almonds scattered on top finishes off the whole thing.  What a wonderfully decadent,  rich dessert, don't you agree?

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed your visit. I know I did. Perhaps we can do this again sometime. Till then.....Au Revoir!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How I honored my best friend on my 50th birthday (or You did what!?!?!)

 No recipe here today. It's pizza night here at my place. My hubby will go over to the hunt club around 5:30 and hang out with his Dad and brother till around 7ish. Then he will come home and cook himself a frozen pizza. He has been doing that for a couple of years now. Used to be his Mom and I would go to bingo on Thursday nights so I wasn't here to cook. The hubby loves a certain brand of  99 cent pizza ( I have tried and tried to get him to move up to homemade pizza, or at least a "better" frozen pizza, but he loves his red box brand pizzas) (I wonder about that boy sometimes!) and he is quite capable of opening the box, adding extra cheese to the top and baking it for himself. I have cut back on my bingo spending so I am home most Thursday nights, but, we have kept it "Frozen Pizza Night". I usually make myself a fresh pizza, using some Artisan bread dough I always have in the fridge, some green peppers, onions, a few sliced cherry tomatoes, some turkey pepperoni and mozzarella cheese. Gee, I guess there was a recipe here after all. :)

I posted last Tuesday about my dearest friend Linda, and how she had lost her battle with cancer 5 years earlier. I mentioned how we would sit up to all hours of the morning talking, right up to her death. At the time she was battling the cancer, Tim McGraw's song "Live like you were dying" was popular on the radio. One of our "late into the night" talks was about not taking life for granted and getting out there and "living" while you could. Doing things you have never done, or doing things that are outside of your comfort zone.

When my 50th birthday rolled around a few months after her death, I started thinking about doing something to honor her. Something that would have made her laugh and call me crazy. A line in the Tim McGraw song mentions skydiving. Prior to Linda's illness (is cancer an illness? I think it's an abomination myself) I NEVER would have considered skydiving. I'm not against being in a plane. But, jumping out of one was for crazy people. And, I was certainly not crazy!  :) You know where this is going, right? :D

I searched on-line and found a place not too far from where we live that had an excellent track record for skydiving. Hey, I wanted to do something crazy, but I didn't have a death wish. I mentioned what I had planned to my beautiful daughter and she asked if she could join me. I was glad to have her come along. Figured she would be good moral support. Tried to talk the hubby into jumping with us, but he said he'd watch from the ground.

Long story short, we got in a plane, got strapped to an instructor, and at 10,000 feet above the ground, the door to the airplane was thrown open and out the door we went, one team at a time. I went first and my daughter said it was the hardest thing for her to watch me "fall" out of the airplane. When the door opened and the roar of the air rushing by filled my ears and I got my first birdseye view of the ground from that far up, what I was getting ready to do didn't seem like such a good idea any longer. In fact, it seemed like a really, really bad idea. But, with the words "Ready, Set, Gooooooo" out the plane door we went, head over heals.

For the first several seconds, there is a sensation of falling. And, then, it's gone. Just like that. You are still falling (at some 120 mph) but you no longer feel like you are falling. The wind is roaring in your ears and pushing at your face and body, but you feel like you are floating. To borrow a line from Pink Floyd's "Learning to Fly"...There's no sensation to compare with this, Suspended animation, A state of bliss
It was an incredible feeling. I don't think I have ever felt more "alive" then I did at that moment.

My daughter loved it! My hubby said he could hear her, hooting and hollering on her way down to the ground. I loved it until we pulled the shute, and then the slow, circular,  gliding motion triggered my motion sickness and for the next several minutes, until we landed, I struggled to not get sick. I succeeded, but it was close!

Would I do it again? Probably not. "Been there, done that". It was amazing. Incredible. Breathtakingly exciting, aaaand,  I think I will pass on a repeat. But, while I was up there, I felt so close to Linda and I'm sure I could hear her laughing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Honey-Wheat Cookies

Wow, another Tuesday has rolled around! Seems like they come around quicker and quicker each week! This week it's all about cookies. Come to think of it, it was all about cookies last week too. But, this week, unlike the last several weeks (months?) there is no chocolate involved! Not that that makes me especially unhappy. I like chocolate, too much I think. But, it seems like there has been soooo much of it lately that a recipe that didn't call for some sort of chocolate was a welcome relief. (Wow, did I actually say that out loud?!?)

Anyway, this weeks recipe, Honey-Wheat Cookies,  was chosen by a long lost relative of mine, Michelle over at Flourchild. Well, we aren't' really relatives (or at least I don't think we are) but we do share the name Murphy. That is my maiden name and when I saw that Michelle was also a Murphy I promptly adopted her as a long lost relative. But, I am rambling again, and you came to see cookies, not listen to me prattle on about relatives and such. :}

I had never used my wheat germ to make cookies, or anything else for that matter. I sprinkle it in yogurt or on oatmeal or cold cereal. Other than that, the lonely jar just stays in the fridge, waiting to be used. This recipe was a chance to use it, and I was intrigued  by what it would be like in a cookie.

This recipe was so simple to put together. In no time I had it mixed up and chilling in the refrigerator. I did add a bit more lemon zest than the recipe called for. I added the zest of a whole lemon, and I think that might have been a bit more than the 2 teaspoons the recipe calls for. But, I wanted to highlight the lemon flavor. When I rubbed the zest into the sugar the aroma was wonderful and made me think of sunny days and springtime. Just the lift I needed with all the cold and snow we have had here in Virginia. Quite unusual actually for this part of the state. We don''t normally see much snow at all, let alone week after week of it. Oops. Rambling again.  Back to the cookies...

Simple to put together and simply delicious! I am not a tea drinker, but I had a couple (okay, several...alright, a lot!) of these with a cup of coffee and they were delicious. The lemon is the first thing I tasted, then the honey. The cookies are chewy, but there is also a slight crunch from the wheat germ, both inside the cookie and on the outside. My hubby said they were "alright", and helped himself to one of the chocolate chip pecan cookies I had in a jar on the counter. That was fine with me...just means I can actually have some of these. Wait, maybe that's not a good thing. Let me have another cookie and I will get back to you on that. :)

If you would like the recipe, go visit Michelle's blog. Her beautiful daughter helped her out this week. And, if you want to see what the rest of us TWDer's thought, go here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ranch Style Chicken - recipe from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks"

I had the day off today...actually I have every Monday off. Not many people want their houses cleaned on Mondays. Most of my customers prefer Thursdays or Fridays. Me? If I had someone to clean my house (I wish!), I would be quite happy to have it cleaned on Mondays. Then it would be clean for most of the week. But, I am getting off track. (I do that a lot.)(In fact, my daughter and I both do that a lot, and when we are together, keeping up with us is like listening to a ping pong, Mexican jumping beans! Yeah, that's more like how we jump from topic to topic) Where was I? Oh yeah...

So, anyway, I had today off. And, after I washed and dried a load of clothes, took the dog for a walk, worked on my taxes (got them done and e-filed!), made pie crust for an apple pie (which I will post about on March 21), cleaned up the kitchen and made a fresh pot of coffee, I started thinking about what to fix for dinner. I had already taken out a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, so I knew we were having chicken. But, what way? I decided to check out "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" recipes for chicken ideas.

I found 4 or 5 that sounded delicious. Chicken tenders, chicken baked using yogurt and panko crumbs, chicken spaghetti casserole (I will be trying that one soon!) and one called Ranch Style Chicken. It looked delicious. Not a low-calorie meal for sure. Bacon, cheese, chicken. Yup. Nothing low calorie here. :) But, it looked so good in the pictures she has posted that I was caught. hook. line. and sinker. It helped (or hurt, depending on your view) that I had all the ingredients I needed to make it on hand.

Pretty easy to throw together. The marinade was simple to make and smelled delicious. My hubby was in the livingroom while I was fixing this and he yelled into the kitchen that whatever I was making sure smelled great, and how soon was dinner? I didn't have any potatoes to serve with the dish, so I made cheddar cheese polenta. Thought the polenta with cheddar would go well with the cheddar on the chicken. It was okay, but I think potatoes would have been better, especially baked potatoes. But, the polenta worked. I also served a nice tossed salad on the side. I can say the dish was every bit as delicious as the pictures portrayed it to be. And, it was every bit as delicious as it smelled while I was cooking it. By the time I brought the plates to the table, the dog and the cat were waiting for me, along with my hubby. The flavor of the chicken with the bacon and cheddar cheese was wonderful . You could detect the flavors of the honey and mustard from the marinade. And, tender? Lord the chicken was fork tender. Moist, flavorful, delicious!! My hubby loved it! Said "This is really good! When you going to make it again? Tomorrow??" :D I made three breasts and he is going to take the third one to work tomorrow for lunch, on a bun with mayo. And, I think if I did make the same dish tomorrow night, he would be happy as a pig in...well, you know. You gotta' try this one folks!

I am going to link this one to Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman. The next round up is March 8th and the category is "Main Dishes". Perfect!  

                                      Ranch Style Chicken
                                              from "The Pioneer Woman Cooks" blog

Ree's recipe serves 6. I kept the marinade recipe the same, but only used 3 chicken breasts for the hubby and me.

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
Crushed red pepper (optional to taste - I used garlic pepper instead)
6 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound thick cut bacon (I used 6 slices)
Bacon grease
Sharp cheddar cheese, to taste
Canola oil

To begin, make the marinade. In a large bowl mix together the mustard, honey, lemon juice, paprika and salt. Whisk until smooth. Sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne if you like things a little spicy. Set aside.
Next, rinse the chicken breasts and place between two sheets of waxed paper and pound to about 1/2" - 3/4" thick with a mallet. Add the chicken to the bowl with the marinade, cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours.
While the chicken marinates, fry up some bacon. When finished cooking, reserve 1/4 cup of the bacon grease and clean out the skillet.
When the chicken is done marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the chicken from the fridge and pour off the excess marinade. Heat half of the reserved bacon grease with an equal quantity of canola oil in the clean skillet over medium-high heat. When the grease is nice and hot, add two or three pieces of chicken to it.  Cook until brownish/blackish, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a large baking sheet. If cooking many peices of chicken, repeat skillet process and remove finished chicken to baking sheet. Place chicken in preheated oven and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
Lay a few pieces of bacon over each chicken breast. Sprinkle shredded sharp cheddar cheese over the top of the chicken as generously as you like. Return pan to oven for an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bacon is sizzling. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sorry, no SMS today.

I hate to disappoint Jessica, of My Baking Heart who chose this weeks SMS recipe, Strawberry Lemonade, but, I won't be making this one. First of all, I am trying to cut back on buying things I "need" for recipes I "have" to make. And, secondly, neither the hubby or I care for lemonade all that much, so it would have been silly to go buy lemons and strawberries and make this. I saw Jessica's post on this, and the drink looks wonderful in her cute glass. Be sure to stop by and get the recipe and while you are out, stop by SMS and see what everyone else thought of this one. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Operation Baking Gals - Round up for Team Country Cookies

Let me start by sending out a HUGE thank you to everyone who joined my team, baked cookies, and shipped them to Dan. As I mentioned in the article I wrote when I started Team Country Cookies for this round, I have been baking with OBG, or Baking Gals as we now seem to be called, since Round 2. I have missed only two rounds in the last 16. This group holds a special place in my heart. No, I don't have anyone from my family serving in the military, but I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and can only imagine what it must be like to have someone I love in harms way, far from home, making sacrifices that mostly go unnoticed. I think it takes a very special kind of person to give up home and family to serve our country in a strange land, and I hope that my boxes of goodies let these guys and gals know just how much I appreciate those sacrifices.

So, on to the round up! I had twenty members sign up to bake with Team Country Cookies. I have been able to account for all but 4 of my bakers. I will assume everyone shipped something to Dan during the dates of Feb 1 - 17. If you did ship something, and I don't have you in this round up,  send an email, with pictures if you took them, and I will edit this post at a later date to include you. :) I want everyone who took the time to help out to be recognized!

So, in no particular order...
Shelly and her son Nicholas baked Oatmeal Raisin cookies and also sent a trivia card game, the Super Bowl Sports Illustrated magazine, sunflower seeds, bags of roasted peanuts in the shell, cheese creackers, easy mac, trail mix, microwave popcorn, gum, Goldfish and beef jerky!

Diane baked and sent chocolate chip/Heath chip cookies and some Chex mix.

My daughter Beth joined me this round and baked Snickerdoodles and a Danish cookie that translates to Peppernuts. Kind of a crunchy spice cookie. Thanks honey!!

Linda, a friend I met through her blog,  Diva Weigh,  baked and shipped 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 5 dozen oatmeal cookies, 3 1/2 dozen peanut butter cookies and she included 4 boxes of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies. Linda is one of three blogging buddies who joined me to bake for Dan.

Joyce baked and sent about 6 dozen M&M cookies (like chocolate chips cookies but with M&M's instead), a fleece blanket, a Georgia t-shirt to give to someone who gets little or no mail, and coffee. Joyce, that was really sweet of you to think of someone else in the troop.

Janice baked and sent Cowboy cookies (Chocolate chip, oatmeal, coconut, walnuts, etc, Sounds delicious!) sugar cookies, brownies, sunflower seeds, wipes for cleaning up with, and a local newspaper from Southeast Alaska!

Tara baked and sent Chocolate Chip cookies, Brickle drop cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter blossom cookies. And, if that wasn't enough, she also made cinnamon streussel muffins and peanut butter fudge. Into that box, with all those other goodies,  she tossed a bag of hard candy and sunflower seeds!!

Susan sent Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk cookes and Ginger Spice cookies. She also made some Chocolate fudge and included granola bars, powdered drink mixes, hot chocolate mix, peanuts, granola, and a local paper from Edinboro, PA.

Tera was another busy baker. She sent Triple Chocolate Temptation cookies, chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips, double chocolate brownies with M&M's, Sweethearts Valentines conversation candy, several different kinds of gum, some personal care items (flossers, travel toothpaste, hand sanitizer), Charms Super Blowpops, Slim Jims, Pink lemondade single serve packets, a Thank-you card, and magazines! Wow!

Donna, who I believe is the mom of a soldier serving in our military, baked and shipped Snickerdoodles and Chocolate Chocolate chip cookies.

Jennifer sent a box filled with home baked cookies, 2 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, candies, gum and a bag of jerky.

Tina shipped off a box for Dan, but I'm not sure exactly what was in it, because she didn't put that in her email to me. :)  I am sure it was full of yummy things though!

Sarah shipped no bake cookies and chocolate chip cookie bars. Individually wrapped packages of beef jerky, peanuts, granola bars and tuna kits.

Gina and her daughters shipped Chocolate Chip cookies, granola bars, crackers, hard candies, puzzle books and magazines.

Julie (My friend from Little Bit of Everything, and the second of my blogging buddies) was another busy baker. She baked 6 dozen Chocolate chip cookies and 4 dozen Oatmeal raisin cookies. She also included some bags of hard candies. Thanks Julie!!

Nina, (her blog is Nina's cupcakes),  the third of my three blogging buddies who helped out this round, baked Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies and decorated sugar cookies!

Jenni and her Mom, Jan, were busy ladies! They baked and shipped Oatmeal raisin cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal chocolate chip with nuts, and then filled the "holes" in the box with valentines day suckers and spearmints! Here's Jan with the box ready to mail and a picture of some of their cookies...

And me? I shipped two boxes to Dan.  I baked 5 Dozen Dark Chocolate Chip cookies, 2 1/2 dozen Peanut butter cup peanut butter cookies, 2 1/2 dozen Reese's pieces peanut butter cookies, 3 dozen Peanut peanut butter cookies and 6 dozen oatmeal raisin cookies. I also enclosed a short letter and some pictures of my family, pets and some deer in our front yard.

Whew! And that my friends is a wrap-up of Round 16 with Team Country Cookies!  What a terrific round of baking!! I hope I hear from Dan (or his girlfriend Kelly) letting me know that he received all the goodies. As for all my team members? I cannot thank you enough for taking time out of your busy lives to make a difference in the life of a stranger. It's a wonderful thing you have done and you should be proud. Thanks again for making my first round as a team leader a big success!! 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie - Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I will admit up front that I am a Toll House cookie baker. Whenever I make chocolate chip cookies, I use the Toll House recipe and chips. That's what my hubby likes and I try very hard to make things he likes. Since I don't usually eat the cookies, what hubby wants is what hubby gets. Sometimes I even bake the pre-made cookies for him. Again, that's what he likes. He asks me to buy some of those bake and eat cookies. Poor man. :)

So, I was really excited to try Dorie's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Thought maybe I could expose my hubby to some "real" cookies. Show him how the rest of the world lives, so to speak. I had high hopes about using the recipe that Kait of Kait's Plate chose for this week's TWD. Stop by her blog to pick up the recipe and take a look around. Kait takes lots of great photos of all the things she bakes each week.

Back to my review. I gathered all my baking supplies to make these cookies. Butter,eggs, flour, vanilla,  sugars, I even dug out the good chocolate, 72% cocoa dark chocolate. 2 bars that I chopped into big chunks and added to the batter. I also added some chopped pecans. Scooped out balls of the dough onto my cookie sheets and popped one into the oven, then sat back waiting for deliciousness.

Well, what came out of the oven the first time were flat, dark, almost burnt cookies. Disappointed I turned down the oven temperature a few degrees and baked the cookies a minute or two less. Second batch, still flat, but not quite as dark. Third batch baked a few minutes less, and, still flat. I baked 6 trays I think and every batch was flat, flat, flat! I thought the cookies tasted great! The dark chocolate was perfect with the sweetness of the dough. The pecans added nice texture and nuttiness. The cookies were crisp when you first bit them and then chewy as you, well, chewed them. But, they looked terrible. Not sure what I did wrong. I don't usually end up with flat cookies. My hubby? Took one look and asked "What are those supposed to be?" I got him to try one, and that was the only one he ate. "Don't do a thing for me", is what he said as he left the kitchen, leaving a half eaten cookie behind.  So, while I liked the flavor, the hubby didn't. And, since it's for him I usually bake cookies, I guess I will stick to the recipe on the yellow bag of chocolate chips. Maybe if I could figure out what I did wrong and get them to bake up fluffy (???) he might reconsider. But, I guess I will just stick to his favorite and pass on these.

But, don't let my disappointment with these cookies sway you. Go to TWD and see what all the other bakers thought. I saw some beautiful cookies using the same recipe.

Before I leave, I wanted to acknowledge today's date and its significance for me. I am writing this because it's been on my mind all day, and for me, it's best if I put what's in my heart and mind on paper, so I can move on, let it go. The following is not funny or upbeat and I only tell you, my readers, so that you may choose to skip this part if you'd like.

On this date, 5 years ago, my dearest friend and soul mate (as we used to call each other) passed away from cancer. Linda was 44 years old when she died. We had been friends for 27 years. We met when I was a waitress in a little diner next door to where she worked. She would come in for breakfast (bacon and toast) each morning and over time we became friends. It was an unlikely friendship. I was 5 years older, married with a child. She was a young, career minded single woman. I was a tomboy and she was a "girly" girl. When we would go out together, I would be ready in minutes and would stand watching as Linda primped and fluffed and readied herself for going out. It was something we laughed about often. Our friendship survived not only time, but distance when my husband at the time took a job that moved us from upstate NY to Richmond, VA. Linda and I would talk on the phone for hours at a time. At least once a year I would travel to Rochester and spend a week with her. We would sit up till the wee hours of the morning, drinking coffee and talking about anything and everything. We wrote long letters (pages and pages!) to each other on a weekly basis. I still have boxes of letters she wrote to me over the years. We had no secrets from each other and didn't cut the other one any slack or pull punches when necessary. When Linda had her first, of many surgeries to try and stop the cancer, I was always there in the waiting room. She fought a hard battle for 2 years. When her doctor sent her home in September of 2004 and told her there was nothing else to do, she still didn't give up. I drove up to Rochester every weekend to be by her side, leaving on Fridays and returning home on Mondays. When it started to snow and the roads became treacherous, her husband flew me to Rochester every weekend so I could be with her. Just like in the old days, we would stay up all night talking. We talked about death and dying. We talked about missed opportunities. We talked about all the fun we used to have. We talked about making the most of what you are given. Even though we both knew she was dying, we still found time to laugh together.  I took care of her, cooked for her, bathed her, helped her in anyway I could.  I left Linda on Monday the 14th of February. Kissed her good-bye and told her I would be back on Friday, like I had been doing every weekend for the previous 4 1/2 months. Her husband called me Tuesday evening and said to come back to Rochester. I left on a plane at 6AM Wednesday morning. While on a layover in DC, at 7:30AM,  I got the call from her husband that she had passed away. There has been a hole in my heart since then. I still think of her, every day, even after 5 years. I miss you Linda...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sweet Melissa Sunday - Easy Chocolate Mousse and (at the end) the TAQ award.

Ahhh, Valentine's Day. Love is in the air. The stores are filled with hearts and flowers. It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, wait, that's Christmas! Anyway,  even my hubby, who is normally not a very romantic kind of guy got into the swing of things this morning. He woke me and said "Come on, I'm taking you out to breakfast". And, he took me to the most romantic breakfast a girl could ask for, wait for it, Hardee's! :D That's my guy. Gotta' love him. And, I have for for the past 23 years, almost 20 of them that we have been married. But, I am getting all teary eyed now and I need to concentrate on my post. Which isn't about how romantic my hubby is, but about this week's SMS which is Easy Chocolate Mousse.  Spike of Spike Bakes chose the recipe for SMS this week, and you can find it, along with pictures of her results over at her blog. Thanks Spike for a great pick!

This was just as the recipe stated...easy. My only complaint, if it's even a complaint, is that my chocolate didn't completely blend with the egg white/sugar mix and I have tiny pieces of chocolate throughout the mousse. I personally don't mind it...I like finding the little morsels. I had thought about adding mini chocolate chips or chopped toasted almonds, but decided to leave well enough alone and serve it just as it was.

What a wonderful dessert. Light yet rich, creamy, chocolate-y. I dusted mine with a hint of dark cocoa powder, just to give it a little something. I was going to save out a tiny bit of the whipped cream for on top, but forgot. :( That's okay. It's perfect just the way it is.  Head over to SMS to see what everyone else thought of this one.

Now, I want to give a big thanks to Chaya of Sweet and Savory for the second award I won last week. Last Thursday night I came home after a long day (cleaned one church, three houses, had a doctor's appointment and met my kids for dinner all before getting home at 8:00 at night) and found a comment from Chaya directing me to come get an award that she left me, one I didn't even have to lie for! :) It's the TAQ award and it's for photography! She loves the photo on my header of the path between the trees. That's actually my driveway. I had one up I took in the fall, but have changed it to a snowy one. I am not sure which one Chaya liked, but it's an honor to be recognized for my photography. I consider myself a bit of a photographer. I have won several ribbons at the country fair, and one year took the grand champion ribbon with a b&w photo of my son taken when he was about 4 or 5 years old. So, to have someone in the blogging world pass me a photography award...well, it's pretty special to me.

I am supposed to pick 6 people to pass this award onto, as well as post some pictures I have taken. I have posted 4 that I personally think are  good. I know photography is objective so some may not think these are anything special, but they are to me.

As for picking the 6 bloggers whose photography I admire, two women came to mind right off the bat...
Mimi of Mimi's Kitchen. She takes the most amazing pictures of everything she bakes. I love seeing what she's done each week.
Holly of Phe/MOM/enon is another blogger whose food pictures look so beautiful you feel as though you could just reach out and touch them. Fabulous.
Susan of She's becoming Doughmesstic is another fabulous photographer. Her artistic eye is just amazing.

Karen of Karen's Cookies,cakes and more. Each Sunday I am always amazed at the photos she posts of her latest recipes.
Tracey of Tracy's Culinary Adventure's also has a great eye when it comes to photography.
And, lastly, Steph of a Whisk and a spoon. Great lighting, sharp, delicious looking photos!
As with the last award I passed on, I am sure that there are many, many others out there deserving of the TAQ award. But, these are the bloggers who first came to mind. To those of you I nominated to receive this award, please post a picture or pictures that you particularly like. And, of course, pass the award on to 6 others. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My first blogger award!!!! Oh, and a picture of Chicken Meatloaf Muffins.

(Heart pounding. Hands shaking. Waiting for the applause to die down. Deep breath. Here we go...) Thank you. Thank you very much. First of all, I would like to thank the Voting Committee, headed by Linda of Diva Weigh. It is a wonderful feeling to be recognized for years of hard work and sacrifice. Well, it's actually only been for a couple of months of easy blogging, but hey, who's counting? Next I'd like to thank my Mother, who passed her genes to me, giving me my amazing good looks. And, to my loving husband who has put up with me stood by me all these years. I am thrilled beyond all my wildest dreams and graciously accept this prestigious award.

In accepting this award I agree to accept the mantle of responsibility that comes with it. I promise to set a good example, live cleanly and...wait a minute! What kind of award did I win!?!?!? Maaaaan! I thought
this was serious! Oh well, it is an award, and funny, and I am tickled that I was chosen to receive it.

I really do want to thank Linda of Diva Weigh for choosing me from all the bloggers she knows to receive this award. Linda has a great blog. She is funny, can cook, exercises a lot more regularly than I do, and takes great pictures of the wonderful recipes she cooks. Please drop by her blog and take a look around.

There are some stings attached to this award. Eight of them actually...
1. Thank the person who gave this to you.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

3. Link to the person who nominated you.

4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.

5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.

6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.

7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.

8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

So, let's see, I have done #1, #2, and #3. Now for the good part. 6 outrageous lies and one outrageous truth. Hmmmm.... My Mom raised me not to lie, but I guess this one time it will be alright. Just don't tell my Mom, 'kay?
1. I race ostriches in my spare time. They are really fast in case you didn't know.
2. I have spare time. Tons of it. I sit around eating bonbons and watching soap operas all day. "Days" is my favorite one.
3. I won a Grammy for singing in my shower. George Michael wrote the song, but we kept that part quiet.
This is tough! I would  never have believed it was so hard to think of a few outrageous lies! :D
4. Angelina (of Bradgelina) calls me for advice about her relationship with Brad. Daily.
5. At night, when there is a full moon, I change into a super hero who flies around decorating cakes by blinking my eyes. Really.
6. I once spent a month in a think tank, under water, under the North Pole, in my underwear. (I'm sure that's an image you didn't need! Shudder... think tanks!)
7. I once jumped out of a perfectly good airplane with a perfect stranger strapped to my back, while my daughter watched.

Wow! That was tough! I feel like I was just put through the wringer! Think Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. Is it safe? Now, for the really tough part. Naming 7 "Creative Writers". Let's see.......

1. Michelle of Flourchild
2. Clivia of Bubie's Little Baker
3. Julia of Little Bit of Everything
4. Leslie of Lethally Delicious
5. Mimi of Mimi's Kitchen
6. Romaine of Salad in a Jar
7. Moogie of Moogie & Pap

That was hard too. I love reading so many of your blogs and so many of you are funny and creative and more than deserve this award, but those are the first seven that came to mind. Now, my adoring fans, I must leave you for some much needed rest and relaxation. Oh, but before I go, several days ago, maybe last week, I made some Chicken Meatloaf Muffins. At the time, I didn't take a picture. I made the same dish tonight, and did take pictures. Of course, I think the ones I didn't take pictures of were prettier than these, but, it will give you the gist of how they are supposed to look. Enjoy. :)

Tuesdays with Dorie - Rick Katz's brownies for Julia

Another Tuesday and another terrific (chocolate!!) recipe from Dorie's book, "Baking". This week's yummy selection is Tanya's choice. Tanya's blog, Chocolatechic is where you can find the recipe. Tanya is a woman of few words, but, they are always worth reading. :) Please be sure to drop by her blog and check it out.

I whipped these brownies up yesterday afternoon. I almost messed up. I had the book open on the counter and as I looked at the recipe to double check where I was and what was next, I realized I was reading the wrong recipe. I almost made Bittersweet Brownies instead of Rick Katz's brownies for Julia! :D Never a dull moment around here folks!

The brownies were pretty simple to put together. Melt some butter with chopped chocolate, unsweetened and bittersweet. Stir in some sugar. Beat some sugar with eggs. Use half in the melted chocolate. Whip the other half. Add that to the melted chocolate/egg mixture, sprinkle with flour, blend that in,pour into pan, bake. See, simple. I decided to bake my brownies in a special brownie pan a good friend bought for me last year. In my house, the hubby and I fight over the corners when we have brownies. I like the crusty edges, and so does he. If I don't watch him, he will eat all the corners and I won't get any! Elaine, my friend, bought me a pan that bakes 12 individual brownies!! Each brownie is all edges!! I love it. And, I don't have to cut brownies each time I want one. They are already "cut" for me! Life is good!

I was multi-tasking while the brownies were baking, and almost ruined the whole batch. I was in the other room, writing up the post about Braised Short Ribs when the buzzer went off letting me know the brownies were done. Well, I didn't hear it. After several minutes (5 or 10??? I don't know!) my hubby said, "hey, I think your stuff is done in the oven". I raced into the kitchen and yanked the pan out of the oven. And, actually, I think it was good I "forgot" them. Several of the posts I read about these said they were "gooey" inside. Mine were moist (believe it or not!) but not gooey. And rich. And full of chocolate flavor. These are some seriously good brownies! Seriously! But, hey, don't just take my word for it. Check out what the other bakers thought of this one. Oh, and Tanya, Thank You!!!