Sunday, December 29, 2013


Wow, have I been baking! Thanks to Pioneer Woman, I discovered this stupendous recipe for sugar cookies at Bake at 350 
Just thrilled that the dough doesn’t need to be chilled before rolling out. Yummy! Here they are in several formats!       
Fancy cookies! I couldn’t resist the circular cutters with space for the jam to show through. Here’s how I made the dough from Bake at 350 (what a fun blog name) by substituting whole wheat flour for part of the recipe:
Cream 1 cup sugar and 2 sticks of butter. Add 1 egg. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and ¾ teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon water. Add 2 teaspoons baking powder and 2 cups white flour plus 1 cup whole wheat flour. Roll out, cut the cookies, and bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until they are lightly browned.
Use any red jam (I also love peach jam with these cookies) on the bottom layer, then top with punched cookie. At first I was annoyed with myself for forgetting to dust confectioner's sugar on the tops before placing them on the jam, but was pleasantly surprised that the sugar just absorbed into the jam so it was fine to put the top onto the jam, then dust with sugar.
Assembly line! Chocolate chip cookies were per package directions, peanut butter cookies were fairly boring to photograph…here is the recipe for chocolate no-bake cookies
And here we go, out the door! Do you have any favorite holiday cookie recipes?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tarragon Rosemary Chicken Mushroom Soup

Do you ever feel suddenly inspired to cook a certain dish? Today on the way home from the library, I had a hankering for soup and concluded that it had to be a certain recipe that I hadn’t prepared in at least a year. Thankfully, I had all the ingredients on hand!
This recipe was obtained from a restaurant server who got it scribbled from the chef…the restaurant no longer serves the soup and I modified it- here’s my version:
Sautee chopped onions in butter, add mushrooms. Quantities to your choice- suggest a couple of tablespoons of butter, about 1/3 cup onions, 1 or more cups mushrooms. Set aside onion mixture. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter, and once it's melted, add one tablespoon whole wheat flour. Once flour is absorbed, add another tablespoon of flour. Allow flour to warm but stay nearby to avoid burning. Gradually add 1 1/3 cups chicken stock (I added about 1/3 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate flour). Once stock mixture has warmed up, add 1 cup skim milk*. Add ½ teaspoon tarragon, ¼ teaspoon rosemary, and salt/pepper to taste. Add about 4 ounces of cooked & shredded chicken. Add the sauteed onions and mushrooms. If you are slightly crazy like me, add 4 or so ounces of chopped cooked chestnuts.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever added boiled & cubed potatoes to this soup in the past, but I may try that next time. I can’t believe the original recipe called for garlic powder, which I don’t own. By the time I saw it listed on the card with the herbs, I’d already prepared the onions and mushrooms…note to self: add fresh garlic to the onions at the beginning! That said, this soup is so fragrant and rich, it is actually wonderful without any garlic.
* of course, the original recipe calls for cream!
I never provided an update on the watermelon saga in our garden (bites stolen by 4 legged critters)- here is the one successful melon that grew to softball size.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chocolate no-bake Cookies

I’ve had this recipe since high school, with no source information on the hand written recipe card. I modified the ingredients, but was still shocked that my fond memories of these cookies conveniently forgot the 2 cups of sugar called for! Now that I think about it, all my fond memories of dessert items include at least 2 cups of sugar…
Boil 1 stick of butter, 2 cups sugar, and ½ cup fat free evaporated milk. Remove from heat and add 5 ½ tablespoons powdered cocoa, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 3 cups oats, and optional one cup shredded coconut or ½ cup peanut butter. Drop onto waxed paper and allow to cool- I used a small mellonballer scoop and the yield was 50. In the olden days, we made them using soup spoons, thus a much smaller yield!
Wish you could smell the melted butter with cocoa being stirred in!
Do you know any other no-bake cookie recipes?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipe Lessons

Whew! It was worth it, but after learning some important lessons, I’m making notes for the future and hope that since I didn’t know this stuff before, maybe someone can learn from my mistakes. At least the cranberry sauce, a favored standby, turned out great. 
I tried a plain apple pie recipe, not the custard recipe I’ve been making for years, because I had run out of sour cream . The plain recipe called for a top crust, which I didn’t have, and instead of adding a crumble, I left the pie “topless”. It tasted great but didn’t look too hot (just cut up apples). Moral of this story: use top crust, crumble, or stick with the original custard recipe. No photos of ugly but tasty pie.
Brined turkey: thumbs down. I know this is a common tradition for many, but my family votes “no”. Also, using a nice baking dish cover in heavy stoneware accelerates completion time for a turkey. Two different birds were done well ahead of time according to a meat thermometer than the times called for on the wrapping. Stay alert! The turkey wrapper directions called for melted butter, sage, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. 
Creamed onions need a vast proportion of cream sauce to onions. My grandmother’s recipe listed the simple ingredients of onions, butter, flour, and milk, but did not indicate quantities. An on-line search quickly revealed many tablespoon/cup amounts for roux. When I poured the successful roux into the boiled and drained onions, it looked good from above. After baking, there was far too little sauce! The flavor was fine, but I’d recommend making a significant amount of roux and practically drowning the onions in it, if your family likes it the way mine does. I had drained the onions and dumped them into the baking dish, then poured the roux on top. Keep them separate, adding a layer of sauce, a small layer of onions, more sauce, etc. The flavor was fine, but it was dry. I didn’t weigh the onions I used, so I cannot recommend a specific weight to sauce ratio.
On the other hand, the scalloped potatoes were too soggy. My grandmother’s recipe listed the simple ingredients of sliced potato, butter, salt/pepper, and milk, but did not indicate quantities. I covered the potatoes with milk as directed, but apparently used a baking dish that was too deep, leaving the liquid to bubble nicely but not absorb into the many layers of sliced potato. The next day, it was better, but that was too late. Considered combining the onions and potato dish, but didn’t! My aunt recalled that a shallower baking dish had previously been used for the taters.
The chestnut stuffing turned out well, but I didn’t care for the celery flavor so I’ll omit that in the future. I used store bought corn bread stuffing mix, and sautéed a bit of chopped onion in butter, along with 7 ounces of chopped jarred chestnuts. Used chicken stock according to the package directions and baked to warm it up. Next time, more chestnuts!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Despite some bumps in the road, I am grateful for many blessings. Selecting just a few photos of thousands to show gratitude was a challenge, so I clicked on a few recent pics to share, knowing that there are so many more.
Every morning for the past two years, I sip my coffee from this mug (if the dishwasher* was run!). I’m so glad to have met Asya of at Squam, and thank for the inspiration to take photos of coffee mugs!

These photos were taken outside the serene Zen Center in Cambridge, MA. What an oasis of peace in the city.
Many of us think of the last week in November as Thanksgiving for food… since I don’t have a recipe for this photo to create an entire blog about, here is a stupendous bagel sandwich. Made at Feldmans in Burlington, VT, it has bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and probably some other things on an everything bagel (as always, no person or company is compensating me for favorable reviews).
* blessing!