Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snicker Doodle Crispy Snack and Caramel Bars

Sunday, I made Snicker Doodle Crispy Snack, a recipe from my mom and Caramel Bars, a recipe from Gretchen. And here is the recap…
I am tired, really tired today. It is snowing big flakes and will continue to all day. I am at the point where I am sick of cooking and sick of dishes. I am sick of grocery shopping and sick of going out in the snow. Maybe I can take a break this week? No…then I will have too many recipes for the end of the year. Fine, I will cook! I write down the ingredients I need (which gets smaller every week as my inventory increases), bundle up and head out. I decide to go to Whole Foods first and get as much as I can. It is out of the way and more expensive, but I feel so much better when I eat more natural things. Unfortunately, you can’t get instant Quaker oatmeal or 1 lb of caramels at Whole Foods, at least not that I could find. I don’t feel like wandering around to find anything and just commit to making a trip to Kings Soopers. I had no great adventure at either store today. I didn’t put food in any unsuspecting person’s cart, I didn’t have a panic attack, and I didn’t even get cheese samples. Just in and out as fast as I could.
I am home and I procrastinate for a while, organize my pictures, and watch some TV. Finally, I realize the food is not going to cook itself and I start with the Snicker Doodle Crispy Snack. The recipe calls for 4 cups of popcorn, which takes me a little longer than normal because I only have 100 calorie packs. I mix the popcorn with chocolate rice crispy cereal (I use organic EnviroKidz). I melt some butter, toss in some sugar and cinnamon, and put it in the microwave for while. Then I add some dried cranberries and presto! Done! This recipe is really easy and really good. It is crunchy, a little sweet and won’t totally break your diet. When my parents took Jeff and I to Las Vegas, my mom made this snack for me. I was gluten free still and she was worried that I would get hungry during the trip and wouldn’t have good choices around to snack on. Thanks Mom!
The next recipe was a little more challenging for me. I turn on CSI: Miami…not my favorite, but all I have to work with. The recipe calls for 1 lb of caramels…so that translates into sit down and unwrap 1 lb of caramels until your fingers bleed! Not really, but it took some time and a few samples. I melt the caramels with a little milk and work on the ‘bar’ part of the caramel bars. I open a container of instant oatmeal, which apparently is packed rather tightly. POW! An explosion of oatmeal covers me, the counter and the floor. I clean up right away so Max doesn’t eat any. This is a good time to mention…DON’T LET CATS EAT PEOPLE FOOD! I thought his cute little begging was enough to let a few things slide. Little did I know that onions cause anemia in cats. He appears to be okay, but I don’t want to risk anything else! Sorry Max, you are stuck with turkey flavored cubes in turkey flavored juice (NASTY)! So I clean up little pieces of oatmeal, trash them and continue to mix up the base. I don’t have a ‘1 cup’ measuring cup, so I use a ¼ cup measuring cup to add 1 ½ cups of brown sugar (was that enough math for you?) That should have equaled 6 scoops…by 5 or 6 though I got distracted and lost count. So if anyone tries these bars, they could be missing that little bit of brown sugar flare, or be too sugary….we may never know. Alright, next problem arises. ‘Place brown sugar mixture in a 9x13 pan’…I have a casserole dish (smaller) and a pie pan (round). Hmmm, perhaps I should have checked ahead of time? I put most of the mixture in the casserole dish and fill half the pie pan with the rest. This will work right? Not really…I sprinkle with chocolate chips and pour the caramel over. The caramel works great in the casserole dish, but spreads across my ‘unused’ portion of the pie dish. I just ignore that this might not work and bake them anyway. I pull out the pans after they are finished baking to my result: a beautiful looking casserole pan of bars and a lump of crap surrounded by burnt caramel. At least some of it worked! I try to cut out a caramel bar and it is just plain stuck! Was I supposed to grease the pan? Probably. Jeff comes home later and says that these are usually hard to get out. You really have to know what you are doing with a knife and I am too tired to even try. Jeff wrestles one free, however, and approves with a YUM.
My cooking was finished on my sleepy day and I watch the Canada-USA Hockey game. Maybe next week I will have more gusto to cook, more passion to bake, more energy to shop. But for today, I am glad to be done.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Diet Soup and Mybest Hot Fudge

Diet Soup and Mybest (a brand of vanilla) Hot Fudge…..? I am sure there is a contradiction in there somewhere. Diet soup totally cancels out ice cream and hot fudge though… right? That’s what I am telling myself. The diet soup comes from Mom and Mybest Hot Fudge comes from my Aunt Gwen. I missed cooking last Sunday; I know you were all sitting at you computer in tears when you realized I wasn’t going to post. So I decided to make a Wednesday out of it. I stopped at home after work and picked up Jeff to go with me, we had to also get kitty litter and that container will rip my arm off it is so heavy. Our first stop, before we even got a cart, was the cheese sample area. I had four samples of the Gruyere or maybe it was Gouda…some ‘g’ cheese, and got some dirty looks from the staff and other patrons. Apparently there is an unstated one cheese per customer rule. Oh well! I start at the veggies and watch a poor man carefully pick out the best carrots and proceed to drop one on the floor….too bad, it really was the best carrot.
Jeff was following me with the cart as I dashed in and out of people. I picked out a container of beef bouillon and set it in the cart. Then an older gentleman says to me, ‘I think you put that in the wrong cart’. I snap out of my shopping fervor and look up to see I had just put the beef bouillon in the older gentlemen’s cart, thinking it was Jeff with our cart. Did I really just do that? Then I see Jeff trying to get through the aisle looking at me like, ‘I am not with that crazy woman.’ I apologize and take out my bouillon, laughing and turning bright red, muttering something about how they were both wearing gray. Jeff and I just stand there for a few minutes laughing and deciding if I had incurred some sort of brain damage today. We also grab some eggs; we are switching to Certified Humane instead of Cage-free. I read in an article that Certified Humane is the best that they have so far, which is still probably a far cry from how conditions should be. We finish our shopping and drive home. I am starving and cranky, so I wolf down an English muffin with butter on it…I had to!
I start cooking our dinner, which doesn’t involve the soup, but instead some chicken breast we needed to use up. Jeff usually cuts the chicken, because I have a horrible fear that if the chicken touches me I will die a horrible, painful death…but perhaps it would just be slimy. But Jeff is on a phone call and I am starving…so I start cutting. I use a fork to poke the chicken instead of having to touch it. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s only a chicken…oh sick, there is a vein. I take a few breaths, hold my lunch down and keep cutting. Jeff is off the phone just as I finish and he congratulates me on the chicken like I have just won the women’s downhill skiing in the Olympics. It’s pitiful I need that much praise for cutting a chicken…
So, for dinner I make rosemary chicken with whole wheat pasta and marinara. I ‘beef’ up the marinara with pieces of cucumber, orange pepper and onion. While I cook, Jeff helps me by chopping up the carrots for the soup. After dinner, I chop celery, onions and green beans; throw them in a pot with beef bouillon, water and tomato juice…and voilá, simmer for an hour. Yummy healthy soup.
While I wait for the soup to cook, I sit at the dining room table and do my hospice volunteer work. I am going to put together scrapbooks for the patients. I brought all the materials home in a big box that Max decided was the perfect place to sit and plot how to attack me. I finished my project for the night and once the soup was done I started the fudge. OH MY GOSH! This stuff is good! Poor Jeff was laying on the couch with a blanket over his head and a migraine. Fudge cures anything, so I thought it would help. This recipe is really easy! You just melt a stick of butter (yea butter!), add some sugar and cocoa powder, boil for a minute and then add vanilla. I did numerous ‘taste tests’ to ensure the best quality. I woke Jeff up with fudge on my finger and said ‘medicine!’ and put it in his mouth. He was so out of it, he mumbled yum and rolled back over. I poured the hot fudge over some ice cream (are you drooling yet?) and enjoyed my bowl while watching the Olympics. I have a bunch left over, so if you bring me wine I will share.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday - Cheese, Cottage and Chocolate

Super Bowl Sunday! The biggest, let’s sit around and eat until were sick, day of the year…oh yea and watch some football. I decided to make four recipes to bring to my parents house to share. In no particular order, they are; cheddar cheese fondue, green chili cheese rice dish, orange cottage cheese fruit salad and white chocolate peanut butter cookies. I ask Jeff very nicely if he will go with me to the grocery store, claiming I wouldn’t be able to carry the groceries in one trip (wasn’t I going to exercise this week?) and the dusting of snow would be absolutely impassable by my car (probably not even half and inch). The real reason: afraid I might pass out from stress at a very crowded grocery store, 11am on Super Bowl Sunday. Sometimes I wished I planned ahead more. Jeff agrees for fear I might not let him eat anything I make if he doesn’t and we are off.
The whole Starbucks stop is proving to be my favorite part of the trip. I get a white chocolate mocha instead of my usual tea. MMMM, so good on a snowy day. Jeff takes care of the cart for me (THANK YOU!) as the whole trying not to run into any small children with a cart only adds to my stress. I need a few items from the dreaded canned food aisle. The canned food aisle has chili, beans, tomatoes, veggies, fruits, soups….pretty much everything people are looking for on Super Bowl Sunday. It was packed! Jeff tries to get the cart through, but it is just too much, so he waits at the end of the aisle with the cart while I go in solo. ‘Excuse me, or sorry, sorry, pardon’…I am looking for the green chilies and almost get hit by a cart. I guy walks by saying ‘popular aisle’, and I make a face of exasperation. Jeff sees an older gentleman at the end of the aisle looking at beans; he is on the phone with his wife presumably. “I can’t find the navy beans; they have black beans and pinto beans and chili beans and kidney beans, and pork and beans…but no navy beans!” I can sympathize with this man.
The grocery store is actually quite full of men today, all of them as confused as I am. I stop at the bread section and glaze over…too many choices. As I look, another man stands next to me and glazes…followed by another man. We all three stare for a few minutes until the first guy throws up his hands in frustration and grabs a random bag (I really hope it’s the right one) and I find what I need. When Jeff and I get to the dairy section, disaster strikes; my chest tightens, I began short shallow breathing and feel dizzy. It was finally too much stress and I start a possible panic attack. We pull over (yes pull over, it is seriously like driving in L.A. right now with carts instead of cars). I try to calm myself as Jeff says “look around, look at all the nice big open spaces, there is a ton of space” (I disagree) eventually things return to normal and we trek on.
The only remain task is to find those green chilies, my first attempt at the canned food aisle turned into a ‘we will just come back when there are less people’. But you know, that really didn’t happen. I am preparing myself to enter aisle four (it’s ok…only harmless people) when Jeff jumps in and saves the day, “I will go in, you stay by the cart”. He comes triumphantly back with two cans of green chilies, hot and mild, as he wasn’t sure what I wanted. We decide to get them both because neither of us wants to go back in there. Time to check out. I guy trying to get into our line takes a fast tight turn and loses some pop off of his cart, then he tells us the physics of how to not make pop explode (tap on the sides, not the top). He then tells us about how grocery stores in California used to not have air conditions and it was 110 degrees and how this isn’t that bad today, and he sprayed his mother with a hose once in the produce section, and had to clean beans off of a ceiling once and no he doesn’t have a wife and why was I asking if he had a wife (I wasn’t asking). Okay, I would really just love to check out now…this guy is chatty. Jeff goes to put the cart away and takes it all the way to the back of the hall for carts. Once he gets there, he realizes a guy had been following him to use the cart (that’s right, they ran out), Jeff says, “sorry I didn’t realize you needed it, or I would have stopped long ago” and the guy replies, “it looked like you were on a mission, I wasn’t going to stop you”. And with that the mission was accomplished and we left.
Jeff carries all the groceries up (I could get used to this) and I start cooking. TV today: puppy bowl and CSI, that’s right, blood, guts and small animals. I start with the orange cottage cheese salad as it is supposed to chill for several hours or overnight. Two hours is long enough, right? This recipe is REALLY easy. It’s kind of a dump into bowl, mix and chill kind of thing. I start cooking the rice for the green chili rice and then start on the white chocolate cookies. These ended up being a total disaster. I started by carefully spreading the peanut butter between Ritz crackers. I then melt the white chocolate bark in the microwave in a glass bowl. As it turns out, if you have glass in the microwave for extended periods of time it gets hot; and then if you try to grab this glass bowl with your bare hands it burns. Nothing serious, just a hurt hand and a bruised ego. I then start in on the scotch (which almost fell on my head as I tried to get it from the top cabinet).
So back to the cookies, I am supposed to dip the cookies into the white chocolate, which is too thick and gets all over my hands and I place them on an ungreased baking sheet (I was suppose to use a drying rack, but I didn’t have one). Ungreased baking sheet +sticky chocolate=what the heck was I thinking? As suspected, when I tried to pull the cookies off they broke into pieces. My brilliant idea? Put them in the oven for a while until I can pull them off. So the top rack may have been just a tad too close to the heat bar…they melt all over the place, including the peanut butter that is supposed to stay inside the cookie. I push them back together (they look half decent) and transfer them to a greased baking sheet. Last step; drizzle milk chocolate over them. So what happens when you put a glass bowl in the microwave for long periods of time and then try to grab it? I am sure you remember the answer from earlier, but some lessons take a long time to learn for me. Once again, I lose patients and the chocolate is too thick. I try to drizzle, which turns into heaping globs of chocolate. These may be the ugliest cookies of all time, but they are done and that is all the matters at this point.
The rice dish has no serious problems; the recipe has a pound of cheese and lots of sour cream (heaven!). Everything is done except for the fondue which I will make at my parents house. Somehow Jeff and I managed to carry all three dishes, ingredients for the fourth, Wii games and controllers and Max in his crate all in one trip. We arrive and start the snackin! Once halftime hits I make the Cheddar Cheese. This is the 3rd super bowl attempt at it…and a 3rd failure. The first year…too much salt (actually the recipe doesn’t even call for salt). Year two, not enough flour; year three, not enough flour (some lessons take longer to learn!). I had poured way too much beer into start and realized I was gonna need more cheese. I started to shred but I was taking way too long! I asked my mom for help and she shredded while I stirred. The extra cheese added was not tossed with flour, and that was the problem. When you neglect the flour, it turns into a thick clump of cheese sounded by cheese water, but it was still edible and tasted good. Jeff like everything (or so he says) and so did my mom. Dad only liked the cookies (he doesn’t like rice, cottage cheese, beer or cheese). Shannon liked everything except for the cottage cheese and thanked me for cooking (so nice Shannon!). My friend Kevin was complimentary of the cheese, rice and cookies; but perhaps wasn’t so fond of the orange cottage cheese dish. I liked everything; my favorite was the cheesy rice! The game was good, a lot of action towards the end. I love the screaming chicken commercials. After the game, Mom Jeff and I played sword fighting and golf on the Wii. Another super bowl finished…another week of Tums and salad is about to start (or so I say…)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Here is the extensive chopping results. Max happy after the bacon. The potato chowder and the key lime pie.