Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Love Is

Love is:
*Staying up late to make cookies for her birthday, when you should be packing because you're moving.  In a week.
*Buying her jelly shoes, even though you hate them.
*Letting her crawl into your bed in the wee hours of the morning (because you like it, too).
*Looking like a fool running through the parking lot, because she asked you to.
*Finding the amusement in raspberries blown on your tummy - "it's the best, Mommy, because it jiggles".
*Making her laugh when you both feel like crying.
*Teaching her the hard things.
*Letting her like you a little less, because she'll respect you more.  (Keep teaching the hard things.)
*Sharing your favorite treats.  Your favorite.  Until they're gone.
*Being silly, just because.
*Remembering to say "I love you", and letting her know it will never change.
*What helps me get up in the morning, and keeps me going until that night (which is, technically, the next morning).
*Trusting (I'm working on that one).
*Perfect, even in all the personal imperfections.

Thank you, to all of you who love me.  You make my life perfect [even amid all of my imperfections].  I love you.

Did I mention that food is one of my love languages?

These cookie sandwiches remind me of the double doozies I used to beg for at the mall - from Great American Cookies (although I though it was called the American Cookie Company).

Chloe's Birthday Sandwich Cookies

Make a batch of Walnut Cookies, but leave out all mix-ins.
After rolling into balls, dip one side into sprinkles of your choice, then flatten slightly with the bottom of a cup.
When you bake, make sure there is no browning around the edges; just cook until set.
Let cool completely.  Put some frosting in between, squeeze together, and serve!

Wilton Frosting

Mix until creamy:
  • 1 ¼ cups shortening
  • ¼ cup softened butter

  • 3 teaspoons vanilla

Gradually add:
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • ½ cup milk (more or less as needed for desired consistency)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just When You Think You've Had Enough

I'm pretty excited for Easter.  It's a wonderful, purposeful celebration of love, sacrifice, and life.
And the food.  Let's not try to lie here, friends.  I am religious.  I am spiritual.  I do celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

But the food!

What is it about Easter that recommends peanut butter dipped in chocolate?  Marshmallow everything, and sweet breads?  I don't know, but I like it.

As a little girl, we would always go to the Italian Aunties' for Easter. They would give us enormous Easter baskets, filled to the brim with all the sorts of candy my mother would never let us take home.  So it became an Easter tradition: my sister and I would eat the entire contents of our lovingly gifted baskets in one weekend, usually in one day.  And before we drove home - three long, sickening hours - we would wait to see who got sick first.  Whoever did was the lucky winner.  "Lucky?"  Oh, yes.  Whomever didn't make it to the [one] bathroom in the house had to go to the outhouse by the garden to be sick.  I remember distinctly one year, sitting on the mottled carpet steps, my head leaning against the cool papered wall, willing myself to hold on just a little ... while ... longer.  I was sure my sister was almost finished in there - she had to be! - and I could avoid the trip to the outhouse.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to fill a basket with candy and give it to someone who would make themself sick, year after year??  We turned out to be intelligent women, after all.  [I put games and coloring books in my girls' baskets.]

At home, we had two traditional Easter treats.  Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (think Reese's, but better), and Easter Bread.  As an adult, I've stuck to my childhood promise that I would make them more than once a year. Tomorrow morning, we're choosing our colors for the dyed eggs and will take Little Chick reading breaks while we wait for the colors to ripen.  I'll post pictures as we come along...

Easter Bread

Dye about 6 raw eggs in various bright colors.  Set aside.*

In mixer bowl with bread hook place:
  •  ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add warmed:
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Add and mix for 2 minutes:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast

Add and combine:
  • 2 eggs

Add and mix/knead for 10 minutes:
  • 2 cups flour

Just before finished, add a handful each of:
  • Walnuts
  • Golden raisins

Cover and rise for 1 hour.

Divide in half and roll into two 24” ropes.  Twist together and form a ring.  *Place raw dyed eggs to create “nests” where the two ropes cross.

Cover and rise 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 3500.

Bake for 30 minutes, placing foil on top to avoid over-browning.
When partially cooled, drizzle generously with vanilla glaze (recipe follows pictures).
Decorate with colored sprinkles. 

Resist the urge to add too many nuts and raisins, which you should
knead in by hand.  (Too many will make your ropes rough and fragile.)
Dough will not be sticky, but lovely and smooth like this.

Finished with the first rise.

Punch down - knead 2-3 times.  Divide dough in two.

Make two 24" ropes.  Start with both hands flat in the middle and
roll to the outside edges until desired length is reached.

Cross one over the top.

Cross the new top piece over the bottom.
Continue to the end of your ropes.

Circle the braided ropes around and tuck in your ends.
Place on a baking sheet.

Insert colored eggs into the crosses to make "nests".  (Number
of eggs can vary - depends on how many twists are in your bread.)

Notice the difference: pre-rise #2... rise #2.

Alternately, you can make 4-6 individual
breads with a single egg in the middle.
Vanilla Glaze
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Add and mix until smooth:
  • +/- 3 tablespoons milk (to desired consistency, and I usually use heavy cream to start, and use milk  to thin)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Great plain, or with butter, or extra glaze, or both....

Monday, April 2, 2012

That's Right, and I'd Do It Again!

You know, those things you do, that you never want to admit to, well, anyone?

I'm coming clean.  Last week, in preparation for an apartment showing, I called my babysitter to come over while I was home so I could clean my room.  And my closet.  For shame.

The good news?  They rented the apartment and we're moving.  The better news?  My room sparkles; I don't feel guilty when I go to bed that my room is a disaster.  It was the best $20 I've spent in a long time.

So go ahead, do something today that you normally wouldn't.  Because - who knows? - maybe it'll turn out to be the best thing you've done for yourself in a while.  Try this, for starters (the final birthday cake recipe!):

Hershey Drug Store Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350o
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups flour 
  • ¾ cup cocoa 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda 
  • The cake has a beautiful texture.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Add and mix 2 minutes:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
Add and mix:
  • 1 cup boiling water
Pour into 2 greased and floured cake pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes; cool 10 minutes in pans.  Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ - ¾ pound powdered sugar  
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup milk, +/- (smooth, easy stir consistency)
  • 12-16 ounces peanut butter 
  • Maybe more milk
Make just before frosting cake.  
*I initially neglected to say that this cake is best served chilled, on the second or even third day.  
I usually take the frosting down
the sides for complete coverage.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pardon the interruption

So I know I still have one cake recipe left.  I know.  I'm making it right now.  No, not for me.  Of course, not for me.  Well, maybe some of it is for me.

Anyway, this is not about that.  This is about the pizza dough recipe that a few of you have requested in the past few days.  And seeing as I just pulled it out of the oven nice and crispy with pesto, tomatoes, pepperoni, and peppers, I figured I could take the time to share.  (Not actually share, mind you - get your paws off my pizza! - but the how to.)  I'm teaching you how to fish here, people.

This dough is so versatile - thick pizza, thin pizza, breadsticks, dessert.  My favorite part is that it will last two days in the fridge.  Don't have time to make it during the day?  Fine.  Take a few minutes before you go to bed, then pop it in the frigo.  Do your own thing and have a ball.  Let me know what you come up with!

Pizza Dough


  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
When frothy, add and knead:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I like the flavor extra virgin olive oil lends, but you can use vegetable, canola, etc.)
When dough is springy to the touch, cover lightly and let rise one hour.  
Punch down.  Use immediately, or place in fridge up to 2 days.

For pizza, generously oil (again, I prefer olive oil) a baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with garlic salt.  Spread out pizza dough gently, add toppings, and bake at 400* for about 15 minutes (for thin crust, longer for thicker crust pizzas).  

Alternately, you can spread the dough with melted butter and sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar and whip up some [cream cheese] frosting to dip them in.  Mmmm.