Monday, January 31, 2011

Hearty BBQ Sauce

The last time I ordered BBQ chicken in a restaurant, I was incredibly disappointed. By the time I peeled off the nasty slimy skin, with it- went the flavor. The sauce however, having licked it from my fingers, won my appeal.
I began to experiment with BBQ sauces that matched the hearty full flavor.
My kitchen looked similar to the bathroom counter in my childhood. As a young girl, I took down every bottle of anything in the cabinet and adding a bit of this and a squirt of that. The end product: a beauty potion of course.
When I went through my phase of experimenting BBQ sauces, I settled on the following potion that has oft been requested:

Hearty BBQ Sauce

1/2 cup Kraft spicy honey BBQ sauce
1/2 cup Bulls eye BBQ sauce
1T Worcestershire sauce
1T A-1 steak sauce
1/2 cup salsa.

Heat all ingredients until some of the liquid evaporates.
Pour generously over grilled chicken.

I'm still working on the perfect marinade for the chicken prior to grilling. Some experts recommend a brine. All marinades I've used from online sources are good. I like to add a 1/2 tsp of liquid smoke to the concoction.

This chicken is great as a main dish, or served on a lightly toasted onion roll for a hearty hot sandwich.

Here I am pushing the season again firing up the BBQ in January. But I didn't feel like soup tonight :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Bad Idea?

What constitutes a bad idea?
Its a very subjective question.
Is something a bad idea only after it fails?
Or is it a good idea that just needs more refining..
For example-
I joined a gym. Well, you know, I kinda had to - because my treadmill is broken. I thought for sure W would surprise me and get me a treadmill for Christmas, but he stayed with the original plan of not getting me anything because we need a new TV. (Everytime you push the button to increase volume, the channel changes.) So, I'm on the treadmill at the gym one afternoon. A guy, a few years older than me climbs on the machine next to me. I look at him, and then without being able to control the incling to not to, I double take back. The "outfit" he chose was a tight green polyester tank top with white piping paired with tight short black shorts. I assume the last time he worked out, he probably wore these same clothes- the early eighties. So who had a bad idea?
Me? Deciding to go to the gym at 2:00pm?
Him joining "MY" gym? -Clearly not-- as it was obvious he needed to be there too!
Perhaps just the what to wear idea he had?
So, if you've nothing else to do, think about that.

I'm sure we can all agree that this frosting looks like a bad idea--

or does it just need more refining?

Have a good day. I'm re-working some of my non-treat recipes and couple of more cupcake recipes!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Honey Wheat Rolls

I'm sick of being cold. As I sat at the end of the driveway this morning ill prepared for the chill of a cold car, I took little delight in the sunrise. The sun won't do what I want it to do today. I want to go for a run wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And then- go for a swim- and then- mow the lawn- and then- have a BBQ. No matter how diligent the sun is today, my dreams will be squelched. So what's a girl to do?
How about turn my energy and focus toward something I can do today that is essentially undesirable when it's 80 degrees outside?
Warm straight from the oven honey wheat rolls paired with a cup of steamy soup.
Honey Wheat Rolls
2 cups warm milk (microwave for 2 minutes)
2 T yeast
2 tsp. sugar
Mix these three ingredients together and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast mixture is foamy.
Add :
¼ melted butter
1 egg
2 tsp. Salt
¼ cup honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
Beat in Kitchenaid until smooth.
Add 2-3 more cups of bread flour.
Change the Kitchenaid attachment to the dough hook for 5 minutes. (Or knead on your well-floured work surface.
Rise until double.
Form into any shape of roll you’d like. I divide dough into two discs. I roll each one out into a 14 inch circle, then brush with soft or melted butter. Then take the pizza cutter and cut into 16 triangles. Beginning with the wide end, roll up the dough to form crescent shapes.
Rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Lightly brush with butter while still hot.

As the last batch of rolls bakes and the hearty smell fills the house, I can feel grateful. At least the sun is shining today!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies

Friday, my daughter came home from school wearing a tiara. She sat at the bar eating a peanut butter and pretzel snack like nothing was out of the ordinary-- even though she was wearing a tiara. Y walked in and asked, "Where did you get that crown?"
"P.E." J replied.
Y having had the same teacher in sixth grade knew exactly why she was wearing a tiara. I was still incredibly confused. J was playing somewhat coy regarding her sparkly head piece. I asked Y to please explain the “bling” adorning my daughters head. He simply said, "She's the Dancing Queen!"
My thoughts raced: “The Dancing Queen?!? How could this be possible? How could someone who shares my DNA succeed at dancing?” J filled in the gaps of information and even did a little demo of her dance. My brain was still in a fog trying to process everything I was hearing. As J danced in the kitchen, my mind flashed to her successes. Fear overcame me as I wondered in my fog whether there had been a switch at the hospital. I shook off the fog and decided to enjoy the moment: my daughter -a Dancing Queen.
J's favorite cookie is rarely made - because I love it way too much and can't seem to use much will power toward the soft centered, gently crisp on the edges, full flavor of a peanut butter cookie.
This past fall, after returning home from the arduous task of taking B to college (in Hawaii), I began to experiment with my peanut butter cookie recipe. W and I had frequented Ted’s Bakery on Oahu nearly every day of our trip. We tried many of their menu selections, and loved them all. My first order was always a peanut butter cookie to go. Sometimes that extra large cookie was gone before my omelet was made, and sometimes I’d be smart enough to order two right away. I’d try and tuck at least a portion of that delicious cookie away to enjoy at the beach later in the day.
None of my at home experiments are as good as Ted’s peanut butter cookie. But in my baking defense, it’s hard to compete with a cookie enjoyed under blue skies near rhythmic crashing waves. However, I think you'll be delighted with the results of this cookie:

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup shortening (Butter Flavored Crisco)
½ cup soft butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter, Crisco, and peanut butter with brown sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and fully incorporate. Roll into balls and roll in granulated sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 min.

Today, I wear the hat of “Proud mama bear.” And salute J- my Dancing Queen with her favorite cookie.
I’m feeling grateful for that, and a little jealous of my daughters groove:)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Darrell's Cookies

I'm tired. You know- the wet, cloudy and cold outside January tireds. I've got some big events coming up with my volunteer work. I'm feeling less and less energetic toward those projects, and more of a yearning for home.
Last night, I had a quick chat on the phone with two of my sisters who were together, coming back from dinner. Oh how I wished I were the third passenger in that car.
Many years ago, I visited my eldest sister at her home. Sunday after church, her husband took what seemed to be a comfortable place in the kitchen and filled the counter with sugars, flour, chocolates and other baking ingredients. I sat at the counter bar in amazement as this accomplished man of business whipped up a batch of cookies that produced one of the greatest tasting products in my memory.
This weekend, Y is headed with friends and members of his local church youth group to a winter retreat. There promises to be much sledding and fun. This morning as I strolled through my recipes trying to decide what to make for the car ride to the campground, I came across "Darrell's Cookies". Darrell is my sister's husband- the same sister whom I called last night who had just had dinner with yet another sister who was in town visiting.
My thoughts returned me to that memorable Sunday afternoon, and my current longing for home.
I asked my sister if Darrell shared his recipe. She said, "No!"
"Bummer” I thought, as I'm sure you'd like to have it too. Then she sent me the following link: where I found Darrell's secret recipe :)

"Darrell's" Cookies

1 cup butter, soft
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 cups flour
2.5 cups oatmeal (blended to powder form)
½ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Baking powder
12 oz. Chips
4 oz. Grated chocolate
¾ cups nuts (optional)

Cream butter with sugars. Stir in vanilla and eggs. Add dry ingredients and stir well. Add chocolate and nuts if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 min.

I took the early afternoon off; read the paper, and made some cookies that remind me of home. Now I need to buck up, get focused, help Y out the door, and gear up for the next few weeks that promise to be busy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apple Berry Salsa

“Pushing the limits”- definitely a good phrase to describe myself. A couple of days ago, I walked into my favorite neighborhood cafe. The host/waiter did a double take upon seeing me come in and said "Oh no!". I guess it's because I make several adjustments to the menu selection I order. I probably push the limits of allotted substitutions for one order.
On my fortieth birthday, I succumbed to the peer pressure at my "party" and dismounted from a rope swing high above the river. I had an eight inch bruise on my legs for weeks to prove it.
I definitely pushed all my physical and mental toughness limits that day.
Today I push the season of strawberries a bit. They are really still a few weeks away from being really nice, but when I saw them while shopping at Costco. I gave in to their red ripe looking tips. They are a little firm, but rather nice in this:

Apple Berry Salsa

2 medium apples, peeled, sliced, and chopped
½ lb. diced strawberries
2 kiwi, peeled and diced
1 small orange, zested, and juiced
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar (I omit this)
2 tablespoons apple jelly or apricot jam (I omit this)

Place prepared fruit in small bowl. Add orange zest, juice, brown sugar and jelly to fruit mixture. Mix gently. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

I serve this with cinnamon crisps. There are several brands out there you can purchase. My local Costco carries La Panzanella Sweet Crisps -(Croccantini- an Italian cracker).

I have made my own by spraying a flour tortilla with Pam cooking spray and sprinkling with cinnamon sugar. Then cut with a pizza cutter into desired sizes. Bake at 425 for 10+ minutes depending on desired crispness.

So if you feel like pushing the limits today, go ahead- purchase those somewhat over priced berries and make a healthy snack!

(This recipe originally came from Pampered Chef. I gave it to you as in their cookbook. I omit the brown sugar and jam. It is plenty sweet and I'm calling this a snack so I'll save those extra calories for dessert.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

My daughter came home from school last week, tossed down her bag and told me her friend was sick and not at school. J said she wanted to call her friend and tell her about “science”. (I have since learned that’s a code word.) Her conversation began while I was in the kitchen near her, and a science experiment was indeed discussed. Minutes later, my daughter had gone into the other room and told her friend, “Oh yeah- And- you missed the first day of dancing with boys in P.E.!!” Her tone seemed like such a task was irritating. But I knew all to well; it’s only irritating if you don’t get to dance with someone “good.” I remember my first school dance. I was in eighth grade. I was wearing a new gray and mauve jumpsuit. The intro to “Stairway to Heaven” began to play and I panicked. This was the most important song of the whole dance because it was the longest: six minutes, twenty-four seconds. My eyes nervously scanned the group as I tried to see if any boy was moving toward me. I checked the doors for the nearest exit. If an “undesirable” began closing in, I’d have to make a quick exit to the hall for a drink. I was delighted to be asked by Doug, and although perhaps there was still a bit of awkward conversation, and lack of coordination on my part, I was happy to be dancing with someone “good”. So, today we celebrate dancing with boys! Here’s the recipe for a cupcake suitable for celebrating:

Strawberry Cupcakes

1 strawberry cake mix
1 small package strawberry cream or vanilla instant pudding
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
½ cup water
1/3 cup oil
Mix all ingredients in Kitchenaid until blended. Increase speed and mix 2 minutes. Spoon batter into 24 cupcakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15+ minutes. Cool.

Strawberry Cream Frosting

8 oz. softened cream cheese
½ cup soft butter
2 small packages Strawberry Cream instant pudding mix
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Whip together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla, pudding mix, and powdered sugar. Beat on high for two minutes.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with a strawberry slice.

The truth is, according to my husband, who was the first one to tell me the truth- I dance like Elaine on Seinfeld. Nevertheless, I’m happy to raise a cupcake in the air, and toast- “To dancing with boys!”

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mandarin Green Salad

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“While my heart aches for the devastation the Haitians (January 12th was the earthquake that caused mass destruction and devastation in Haiti) are seeing, and living, I understand my role a little more. I understand my faith a little more. And truly, I understand the need to be grateful for the today that I –we have. I am grateful that B can still run, jump and play- at least for today!!”

So that brings me to my 2011 New Year’s Resolution- live life, and love with no reservations or regrets. Too often I think I focus too much on the future, and while every action has a consequence tomorrow, I want to enjoy today’s journey to its fullest. No doubt, my life will produce another round of heartache. Such is part of the refining process by which we will all be judged someday. However, I want to remember the feeling I had last January as I resolved to find gratitude in the blessings that today brings.

Happy New Year!!

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions centered on healthy eating? Unfortunately, with the treadmill broken, and me eating my way through my recipes, I do :) To be honest, I blame the lemon cake. It’s gotta be one of my favorites. Nevertheless, Salad needs to be less of a foreign concept for me. Here is one of my favorites:

Mandarin Green Salad

Step 1: 1/3 cup sliced almonds. Cook over low heat with 2 T sugar. Stir constantly over low heat, until sugar is dissolved. Lay on waxed paper. (I skip this step and purchase Almond Accents -Honey Roasted flavor.)

Step 2: Prepare 3 cups combined spinach leaves and/or romaine lettuce.

Step 3: Slice 1 cup celery, 1/4 of a red onion and drain 1 can mandarin oranges.

Step 4: Toss together, or layer as greens, celery, onions, oranges, and almonds.

Step 5: Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
2 T. sugar
2 T. red wine vinegar
Dash pepper
1 T. snipped parsley
½ tsp. Salt
Shake immediately and thoroughly until dissolved.
Just before serving, pour on dressing.

I skip the dressing altogether. With a little freshly ground sea salt and pepper, it bursts with flavor. Nothing kills healthy eating like dressing on a salad- check the back of the bottle for calories and fat! I'd rather save those calories for dessert!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“A week after returning home, I was trying to piece together this short yet intense life journey, and define what I had learned from it. All week, I had been very tired. I had geared up for tending to B laid up on the couch and a slew of appointments to follow. I was aware of the need to be mindful of Y and J and their day to day needs. I was ready for the challenge. When there was nothing, instead of new found energy, I felt exhausted- exhausted, but grateful. The epicenter of tragedy on January 12 was in actuality far away from my home and my child.” (To be continued)
B went to school the next day, not ever saying anything about his tumor. Word got out a little here and there as he spoke at church about his experiences months later. He spoke of certainty in understanding his role in God’s will. And he spoke much of the comfort he felt from God as he faced this short trial.
Comfort foods often remind us of home.
I grew up in a large family of eight. Every Saturday morning, three of us girls would fulfill our rotation to each make five loaves of bread. We began at an early age where three chairs accompanied us to the counter so we could reach our large stainless steel bowls and have plenty of height to muscle down the large mass of dough during the kneading cycle. There was no bread machine, Bosch mixer or Kitchenaid to relieve the process. Three of us five girls knew that you only occasionally hit a week off from your rotation. My brother was deemed too little, and Kimmy was the youngest and the cutest and seemed to talk her way out of it more often than not. After we mixed and kneaded the dough, we stepped down from our chairs and hustled off to do the rest of our Saturday chores while our dough rose.

It was many years after leaving home and acquiring a Kitchenaid that I ever even thought about making bread again. Last year, this hearty, healthy honey wheat loaf adapted from Williams Sonoma became a favorite:

Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

Dissolve 2 packages (5 tsp.) active dry yeast, 2 cups warm milk and 1 tsp. sugar in mixer bowl. Let stand until foamy- about 5 minutes.
Stir in ¼ cup honey and 2 large eggs. Add 3 cups whole wheat flour, 2 tsp. sea salt, and 6 T soft butter. Stir until smooth.
Add the dough hook and 3 more cups of whole wheat flour. Knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic- about 6 minutes.
Remove the dough from the bowl.
Transfer into another bowl lightly sprayed with Pam. Loosely cover and let rise until double. (1+ hours)
Grease 2 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pans. Punch down dough, cut into half and shape 2 loaves. I was taught to loosely shape it into a rectangle with you hands. Keep the width no greater than the length of your loaf pan. Tightly roll the loaf without over stretching it. Tuck under ends and place in pan. Loosely cover again with a towel and let rise in a warm draft-free place until double. (45+minutes)
Bake in preheated oven to 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until hollow to the tap. Remove from pans, brush lightly with butter.

As a kid, my goal was to complete my other chores before the bread was done baking. I remember many a Saturday afternoons sitting on the floor of the large living room, listening to the Carpenters' (Mom’s cleaning music) record and relaxing as the smell of freshly baked bread filled the house.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hot Fudge Brownie

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“He explained that he must have fractured it playing football a few months prior, and gave him kudos for being so tough. Because he sought no medical attention, the body grew its own support system. Moments later we were excused. I stumbled out into the waiting room, a little shocked by our abrupt dismissal. The receptionist asked if we needed to schedule again.
“No- actually, we don’t.” I said.
Her eyes got a little red and her face broadened with a smile as she said- “I was really hoping for you guys.”
We exchanged parting pleasantries. I quickly looked around the room on our way out as I began to feel guilty that we were getting off so easy.
By the time we exited the building, I was already sending Y a text message: “Nothing is wrong with your brother. We will be home tonight!” B decided we shouldn’t waste our big city road trip. We spent the next few hours shopping and eating at Red Robin.
As I munched on a steamy french fry stolen from my husband’s plate because I ordered something healthy, I had to wonder. Was this doctor right? Could B really have fractured his femur and played through it? I guess if that’s true, he must be tough.” (To be continued)
Sometimes a plate of grilled chicken with steamed veggies just doesn’t fit with how I’m feeling. What I really needed that night was a Hot Fudge Brownie.

Hot Fudge Brownie

Make a nice thick brownie. I use a boxed mix. Make as directed, then add 3/4 cup chocolate chips, and a couple of handfuls of walnuts, if desired. Bake as directed. While still warm, cut and plate.
Add a generous scoop of ice cream
Top with hot off the stove Hot Fudge Sauce.

Hot Fudge Sauce
(Adapted from the Chocolate Glaze recipes)

Pantry version-
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz. chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat the condensed milk, and chips on low heat stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
Serve warm.

Refrigerator version-
1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cups chocolate chips
1 T butter
Heat cream, chocolate, and butter stirring until melted and smooth. Serve warm.

I am a bit of a food snob about certain things:
A brownie made from a mix- I deem acceptable.
Hershey’s syrup overtop my brownie and ice cream? An unacceptable waste of calories! :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zebra Bread

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“We were led to a small sterile room with one chair and short exam table. After a time, the doctor’s PA entered the room. After quick introductions, she pulled up B’s images on her computer. She commented on how she had never seen anything like that before. She asked B a few insignificant questions, and said the doctor would be in shortly. Before too long, the orthopedic oncologist entered this cramped exam room. Introductions circled around. I was distracted by his inside out looking scrub top tucked unevenly into his black tight jeans. I missed the fact that he called me “Mommy” despite me clearly stating my name. He too looked at the images of B’s leg via CT scan and MRI. He said twice, with greater certainty the second time, “This is not a malignant tumor. --Somebody just kicked your butt.” (To be continued)
It was as simple as that. The oncologist specializing in pediatric orthopedic related cancers looked at some black and white images and in one sentence redirected our thoughts, physical course and emotions. All the radiology reports indicated the images were in line with cancer, but to the specialized surgeon, it was black and white. Just like this Zebra Bread-

Zebra Bread (Cake)

Make a bowl of Yummy in My Tummy Chocolate Cake (omitting chocolate chips) and a bowl of equally dense White Cake.

White Cake
1 white cake mix
1 box of white chocolate instant pudding
½ cup water
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Mix all ingredients together in your Kitchenaid. Beat on high for two minutes.

Grease bread pans. (Or cake pans- 2 9x13 or 4 9 inch round.) Alternate filling them with large spoonfuls of each chocolate and white cake batter. Use a knife to run a few strokes through the batter. Don’t over-swirl. Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes (30+ minutes for cake pans). Cool. Finish with a chocolate glaze.

I first made this after an afternoon of being stranded at the grocery store. My daughter had a doctor’s appointment and we were making a quick stop at Albertsons before dropping her back off at school. I only needed a few items, but since I am often carried off track by their sales, I opted for a shopping cart. Unfortunately, in my haste of filling my cart with a few sale items right by the entrance, I put my keys in the cart, instead of my purse. (I know- Who does that?) We gathered the rest of our items, and after checking out, decided between the two of us we could carry our grocery sacks instead of taking the cart out to the parking lot. No sooner had we taken a few steps outside, had I remembered my keys were not sharing the same space as us, and we were in a pickle. We reentered the store and quickly went to where we had returned our shopping cart. There was no sign of my keys in any cart. I checked in with customer service and struck out. I knew those keys must be “shopping” in the store with another customer. J and I awkwardly began walking up and down every aisle trying to look into the carts without being too obvious. It wasn’t a very busy day, but we didn’t have any luck stalking the shoppers. We decided to wait it out. I knew the shopper who used “my” cart after me would eventually check out and probably notice the set of keys. J and I parked ourselves and our groceries on a bench near the exit and immediately below the Starbucks baked goods. After each cart was returned, we would quickly search it. From time to time, I revisited customer service. After an extended period of time starring at the Starbucks zebra loaf, er- I mean waiting for my keys to show up, we called a friend who lived nearby to come pick us up. Despite the fact she was tending her friends’ twins, and baking cupcakes, she rescued us. Just as we were driving away, and I was being cutely chastised by two five year old twin boys regarding my inefficiencies, the customer service attendant came running out of the store waving my set of keys. J never made it back to school, but I made it home in plenty of time to try my hand at some zebra bread.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“Monday morning, our bags were packed and the younger kids were set to stay here. B, W and I began our easy road trip to Spokane. We were scheduled to see the doctor in the afternoon. He would at that time let us know Tuesday morning’s surgery schedule for the biopsy. The biopsy would need to be “open”, meaning a large incision in his leg to remove a piece of this bone tumor. We felt prepared for the course ahead- as much as possible.
We arrived early and transitioned from the aches of a long sit to a chair in the waiting room. I watched other patients come in and wondered what their stories were. I thought about the possible friendships that would be formed with other families with similar plights. B distracted himself with his cell phone, a new one he received for Christmas.
Before too long, B’s name was called.” (To be continued)

Unfortunately the surgery was risky; it required a large incision near vital blood carrying veins and a major artery. I remember I was grateful for the calm and resolution I felt. I had packed a large sack lunch of sorts and had plenty of snacks as well. I was unsure how long the appointment would be. We were unfamiliar with the town we were in, where the hotel was, or the options for restaurants. We also needed to wait to receive instruction on any special dietary concerns for B for pre-surgery.
I have always been one concerned about where my next meal will come from. (Almost freaky like.) When it comes to food, I don’t like uncertainty.
I left for college unable to cook anything. I played sports throughout high school, all four seasons. There wasn’t much time to learn how to cook. Unfortunately, there was no room in the dorms for a late sign up my freshman year. I lived off campus in an apartment with 5 other girls and grocery shopped for the first time in my life. I stuck with cold cereal, and frozen french fries my first semester. My roommates taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies. You can imagine how well that “diet” worked out for me.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I worked at a pizza-pasta restaurant that I tried my hand at cooking. We didn’t own a computer, I knew nothing of search engines or, so I did a lot of experimenting with flavors to try and imitate dishes served at the restaurant. My favorite thing to try and copy was the desserts. As a waitress, I sold a lot of pie- because I loved the pie! The chocolate pie was firmer than the pudding texture Mom made on special occasions. Long after my last tip was collected, I came across this recipe that took me back to the pies at the restaurant.

Chocolate Cream Pie
1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz. softened cream cheese
½ cup sugar
¼ cup soft butter
12 oz. Cool Whip
1 packaged Oreo crust.

Melt chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Beat together cream cheese, sugar, and butter until creamy. Blend in chocolate.
Fold in Cool Whip. Fill Oreo crust with chocolate cream mixture. Refrigerate until firm. Serve chilled. Garnish with Chocolate Glaze.

The cream of this recipe can be used interchangeable in many recipes and compared with lighter versions such as here and here.

Funny-- that as I sat in the waiting room, on a critical trip to the doctor I was momentarily consumed with the fear of where my next meal was coming from :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“Saturday night, I found some time and space alone outside for awhile. I surveyed the beautifully bright stars and began to speak with God. I told Him I would do my best to be strong. I asked Him if He was going to take B early from our family. I told Him I would understand why He would want him. I know B would be a valiant worker on the other side of things in continuing God’s work. I told Him that I would love to have B’s stay with us extended, but would understand why He may have a different course laid out for him. I felt peace and love-- for the short term- and the long term.” (To be continued)

Understanding God’s work and our role in it is an intriguing thought and at times a seemingly long suffering task. I can identify times where I was faithful in serving as God needed me too, and many times where I was somewhat sluggish in my opportunities.
In chatting with my sister about this recently, I recognized that in sluggish times, most of the time what was expected of me or the opportunity before me wasn’t really that hard. And yet, my attitude would be far from where it was a year ago on that cold January night. Often times, when my slothfulness results in subpar service, I ease my guilt by heading to my kitchen. Somehow, if I can’t completely step up, I feel a little less guilty if I bake something for someone. Sometimes the treat is meant to say-
“I’m sorry.”
“I’ll try harder next time.” or
“Thinking of you.”
I used to always make chocolate chip cookies- for anyone or any occasion. Some days, I put forth a little more effort bake something especially for the recipient. I am not a big fan of blueberries, but a year ago, I learned that my across the street neighbor is. I practiced and experimented with a few recipes and recently baked him a batch of blueberry muffins.

Blueberry Muffins
½ cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup milk
2 cups blueberries

Cream butter with sugar. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add all of the dry ingredients. Slowly add milk as you mix in the dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries. Sprinkle with Butter Streusel and bake at 350 degrees 15-18 minutes, or until done.

Butter Streusel
½ cup sugar
¼ cup flour
¼ cup cold butter
½ tsp. cinnamon
Cut all ingredients together until crumbly.

I rescently heard, "If you want to discover yourself, loose yourself in the service of others." There is an extra good feeling when I put forth the extra effort and serve with a little deeper meaning, a lighter heart, and an eye single to the Lord’s will. Much more often, I’d like to be able to say "I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord, I’ll do what you want me to do.”

Friday, January 7, 2011


(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
After he came home from his workout, I had him watch the play. “Yep.” He said with surety. “I remember grabbing a heating pad at halftime- to keep those muscles from tightening up.”
So-I was holding on to the slight chance that the five inch tumor in my son’s leg was the result of a fractured femur, and not a cancerous mass. Over the next few days, I thought less about his possible injury and more about the likelihood that it was cancer. I thought about the impact this may have on Y and J. As I drove home from some errands that afternoon, I attempted to drown out my thoughts with some loud music. Unfortunately, I started thinking louder ;)” (To be continued)

One of my thoughts centered around my conflicted ideas of whom to communicate with. B had only told a few close friends. We hadn’t told J much of anything, but as B missed more and more school with the heavy schedule of tests, I reached out to the high school principal and one of his assistants. The assistant principal resolved all my concerns with B’s attendance and keeping this confidential. The principal, I knew would directly look out for Y.
Y has always peacefully walked in his brother’s shadow. His brother has always loved and respected him and so it’s been a safe place to walk. Y’s not one to be out spoken. Effort is required to unlock him- at least more so than with B. My concern was that he would become lost in the physical, mental, and emotional efforts toward his brother. I needed someone who would have Y’s back, and would look out for him.
A few months ago, Y had done a small favor for a friend of mine. Unexpectedly one evening as Y was pounding out the last of his homework problems, the doorbell rang. My friend delivered a plate of Y’s favorite cookies- still warm from the oven.


1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup softened butter
½ cup Butter-flavored Crisco
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt

Cream sugar with butter and Crisco. Stir in eggs, then dry ingredients. Roll in cinnamon sugar mixture (2 Tablespoons sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon). Bake at 375 degrees 7-10 minutes.

Sometimes the things I make or bake communicate for me. Y feels a little extra grateful when I say “I love you” by making one of his favorites.
I’m sure you see how grateful I am that others appreciate him too, or look out for him when my focus is demanded in a different direction.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chicken Pasta

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“As I stared at the computer screen, B hollered in at me from his plate of pre-workout pasta at the kitchen counter. “Mom.”
“It was the first home game of the season…just before halftime… I was running a crossing route over the middle…I had double coverage… I didn’t catch it…check out that one.” With that announcement, he followed it with a final bite of pasta, and a “see ya” as he headed off to the gym.
I dug up the tape W made of that game. His camera is less grainy and usually had a little zoom to B. I found the play. I watched it over and over in forward, slow motion and reverse. It looked similar to all the others. He ran a crossing route across the middle. He had double coverage. The pass required a large vertical leap. He couldn’t snag the pass, but was greeted by two defenders. One of which seemed to have his knee collide with B’s left femur. He landed on the ground. He shook it off as he ambled back to the huddle. The last play before the half, he sprinted in seemingly effortless form on a under thrown post pattern. Then off to the locker room with the team at half time.” (To be continued)

I spent a lot of time that afternoon watching that one play, again and again. I was grateful I had made a large vat of the family’s favorite pasta the previous day because the dinner hour quickly came, and I was still watching game tape.

I suppose it appropriate to share our family’s favorite pasta dish. B likes it done low-fat, Y needs it full fat, so often, there are two bowls sitting side-by side on the counter, meeting everyone’s needs.

Chicken Pasta

2 T. butter, melted (can be omitted)
Add :
1 T Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1 cup chicken broth or water
1 can golden cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup. (98% fat free can be substituted)
8 oz. cream cheese (fat free works great)
1 pound cooked chicken pieces

Whisk together and heat butter, Italian seasoning, chicken broth, canned soup, and cream cheese until smooth. Add cooked chicken pieces. Continue heating until bubbly. Serve over cooked pasta (B prefers whole grain penne).

Before B headed back to college, our family gathered together over a bowl of chicken pasta. It’s one of the few signature dishes that is enjoyed by all five of us.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oatmeal Cookie- Warm Spiced Apple Sundae

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“I spent hours day after day during the first week of January watching every down of every game to see if any of the hits could seemingly produce the impact that would have been required to fracture his femur. B would come home from school and look at the plays I had highlighted over the days videos. It seemed more often than not he had two defenders on him when he caught the ball, and always had to make leaping heroics to secure a catch. After the second full afternoon of watching game tape and B saying “no” to all hits that I had him review, I was frustrated. I know the frustration was not out of lack of success in finding the hit. It was the frustration I felt when it seemed evident that somehow I’d have to adjust from being a mom in the bleachers to a mom in the doctor’s waiting room. My comfortable role of making brownies had changed to my role of readying B for his biopsy surgery scheduled for Tuesday, January 12. I stayed in at the computer, watching more football, wishing things were different, not just now, but then. Sadly- there were only a few games to review tape of. I delighted in spending that time just watching him. Whether it was just running a route, or blocking for a gain on the ground, I was reminded of how tall, strong and quick he had become over the previous years. I was reminded of how fleeting some moments in life are.” (To be continued)

I remember watching those football tapes like it was yesterday. I always thought B would be the one who surprised his teammates, coaches, and the town’s folk of his abilities. He’s a quiet kid. Not one to draw attention to himself. No one expected much from him because he was essentially unknown. That’s not how things turned out. His football season ended before it much began, and we were left with a far different course to follow. Reflectively, it was a good course, but it took a lot of faith. I was grateful B had an extra large dose of faith. At times, I think we were all able to lean on him.
It was a comfort to see B at peace. and speaking of comfort, this dessert hits the spot. When I bake, sometimes its fun, to reach out and experiment trying to replicate something I’ve tasted. But my kids prefer the classics they grew up with. Part of what makes them their favorites are the memories that coincide, or just the security in stability. I like to take a classic and change it enough to present it in a new way. For example, a classic oatmeal cookie paired with warm cinnamon apples, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup shortening (Butter flavored Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
Stir in:
2 eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla
Add at once and stir:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Soda
2 cups quick oats
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ tsp. Nutmeg
Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Warm Cinnamon Apples

5 cups sliced apples
1 T lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Toss sliced apples with the rest of the ingredients. Heat them in a skillet just until tender-crisp.
Serve with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. I like Mrs. Richardson’s Butterscotch Caramel jarred sauce.

B would enjoy this dessert. Y and J would snatch a few cookies and be delighted the same. I’m blessed with three great kids. Each very different: strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, etc. But what I see is that when we work together as a family, toward a common goal- we balance each other- especially noted during times of trial.
These times we have as a family are fleeting. I'm grtaeful for the advice given to me to enjoy them. I try to do just that!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Coconut Pecan Fudge Layer Cake

(Continued journal entry from a year ago- January 2010)
“We were referred to an orthopedic oncologist in Spokane who ordered MRIs and CT scans to be completed prior to our office visit. By simply the power of suggestion I was able to secure a copy of all of the radiologist reports. Obviously, there was a chance this was cancer. I wanted to google all of the terms and possibilities so I felt somewhat educated when we met with the doctor. Basically, it was two possibilities: osteo sarcoma, or a healing fracture. I wondered what the possibility was of his leg having been injured to that degree (a fracture) and warrant no complaining. I had recalled him saying, at some point, he got hit in the thigh and expected a banner bruise big enough to brag about. He hadn’t even remembered that. He reminded me that playing football meant something hurt every day.” (To be continued)
B never really complained much about pain. Sometimes he would be stiff after sitting. My favorite place for him to sit was up to the counter. Cooking, baking, and any other tasking in the kitchen seemed effortless and enjoyable as he would sit and chat about the comings and goings, highlights and lowlights of his day. B has never complained about food either (well except for the lack thereof at college). He eats mostly healthy selections, but saves simple carb indulgences for the dessert variety.
I finally remade my cake. It’s a bit of a labor of love. I felt it appropriate as a farewell send-off as B headed back to college. I shared it with my husband’s extended family. The reviews received high marks.

Coconut, Pecan, Fudge Layer Cake

Pecan Coconut Filling
1 cup(s)
1 can(s) (12-ounce) evaporated milk
1/2 cup(s) unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla
2 1/3 cup(s) (one 7-ounce package) flaked coconut
1 1/2 cup(s) chopped pecans

• In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, egg yolks, and vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
• Stir in coconut and pecans. Transfer to a bowl and, stirring occasionally, allow to cool to room temperature before frosting the cake.

Coconut Cream Filling
1/2 stick butter
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese
3/4c. milk
2 sm. Coconut cream instant pudding boxes
1 (12 oz.) Cool Whip
• Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Mix pudding together with the milk, mix it with the cream cheese mixture. Fold in Cool Whip.

Chocolate Glaze
• Melt together. Cool somewhat.

Make Yummy in My Tummy Chocolate Cake omitting chocolate chips in two round pans, cool, slice each round in half.
Assemble cake alternating cake layers beginning at the bottom:
Cake, coconut pecan filling, cake, coconut cream filling, cake, coconut pecan filling, cake, coconut cream filling. Frost the sides with your favorite chocolate frosting (I’m not afraid to use canned here. Cover the top with chocolate glaze. Add palmfuls of chopped pecan pressed to the sides of the frosted walls of the cake. Chill thoroughly. Serve chilled.

B is on his way, and I’m left with an empty seat at the counter, and a big piece of cake. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

Monday, January 3, 2011


This time of year, I am typically very reflective. The kids are all back to school; I am left with the quiet of the house. Today, my thoughts keep turning to where I was a year ago. I often wonder if I’ve learned everything I was supposed to from the experience. Truly, a lot of baking was my therapy and distraction a year ago. This is my journal entry from January 2010:
“On New Year’s Eve, Bren had a final check on his shoulder following his eventual season ending injury in week 4 of his senior high school football season. He had a somewhat serious brachial plexus injury (nerves in his neck). B had been wondering whether trying to walk on as a wide receiver somewhere next year (fall 2010) was even going to be a possibility. He received great news that the nerves carrying vital messages from his brain to his arm and shoulder seemed to all be firing. He was told that he still needed to continue to rebuild strength, but through diligence, he would return to full use and ability. Thus he is tentatively cleared to play football next fall. However, his hip had been bugging him whenever he played basketball hard for 45 or more minutes- constant running. Since he decided not to play high school basketball this year, the pain was not daily- more like weekly, or so. His orthopedic x-rayed his hip. At the bottom of the screen, there was a questionable mass near the center of his femur. They x-rayed the femur and saw a large tumor. “(To be continued. . .)
A tumor is an abnormal growth. So, on a night of much worldwide celebration, we were somber with the news acquired through an x-ray. However, we were grateful to have our good friends visiting. We were able to focus less on the day’s news and more on a simple game of cards.
This New Year’s I made my family one of Y’s favorite treats. I was first introduced to them by my husband’s aunt at a simple a summer BBQ, and was reacquainted when my sister-in-law brought us a plate as she had requested the recipe at the BBQ. They are quick and simple, and rich with chocolate indulgence as I have bumped up the amounts from the original recipe.

6 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup+ semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup+ butterscotch chips
Over medium heat, dissolve sugar into corn syrup. Remove from heat as it begins to boil. Stir in peanut butter. Add rice krispies and stir. Press into greased 9x13 or 10x15 pan. Melt chips on low stirring constantly. Spread over rice krispy base. Let stand until set. (I often fast forward this part by putting them in the freezer.)
The boys were playing volleyball and games with friends celebrating 2011. I enjoyed a quiet evening at home, watching a basketball game I had taped, grateful for an uneventful New Year’s Eve.