Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Japanese Curry - Sis 1

As I said yesterday, I have a lot of produce to use up, and no, it's not all lemons. Good thing, too, because I can only eat so much pie.

Our mom has been making this particular kind of curry since she returned from her LDS mission to Japan. I have made it several times when we've had company and I always get requests for the recipe. There's just one--okay two--problems. 1-There's no recipe and 2-I completely and totally cheat on this one. But I will give you the basic idea.

First, have a bunch of veggies you need to use up (you could buy them for this express purpose, too.) Second get a package of S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix. It's in the oriental section of stores that carry it. In my town, the only store that carries the mild, which is the version I buy, is Macey's, which is owned by Associated Foods.

My mom made it pretty much how it's shown on the front of the box, with meat, potatoes, carrots and onions. On the instructions, at least the instructions written in English, it only says to add meat and onions. I use any kind of vegetables I happen to have on hand.

Last night, I used cabbage, onions, carrots, yellow summer squash and cauliflower. I would like to have used more carrots, but that's how much I had. If I had had zucchini, broccoli, peppers or celery, I'd have used them.

Cut up your veggies in roughly bite size pieces. If you're using meat, cut it into chunks, too. Then saute everything in a couple of tablespoons of oil, starting with the things that take the most time to cook, and adding the things that require less cooking time as you go.

Once everything is mostly cooked, add your curry and water. I use a whole 3.5 oz package of curry with my 12-inch skillet completely full of vegetables. If you're not making that much, don't use as much curry. I also pour in water almost as high as the level of the vegetables.

Now cook it, stirring occasionally, until the curry is all mixed into the water and has formed a thick sauce.

You're done. Serve over rice.

Popcorn - Sis 3

Popcorn is a staple in my house.

I come by the affinity honestly. When we were children, we had an old electric air popper. It was bright 70s yellow and may even have been a wedding gift to my parents. It earned it's keep. Sis 2 was the queen of popcorn. She made sure we pulled out the popper at least every Sunday night.
(This is not our old popper, but it looks incredibly like ours!)

We used to fight over who got to measure the popcorn seeds into the little cup at the top of the popper. Rotating the cup on its pegs to drop the seeds into the heating cavity was a thrill not to be missed.

Once the "on" switch was flipped, magic began. We watched as the seeds swirled around faster and faster, until "POP", one little white kernel would appear. A few seconds later. POP. POP. POP, POP, POP! The kernels multiplied until they began to force their way up the throat of the popper and finally spew out the mouth. Then it was a rush to position the popcorn bowl just right to catch the flow.

We had a giant stainless steel popcorn bowl that moonlighted as a bread mixing bowl. It was big enough for 7 loaves of bread or two full batches of popcorn. For a family of 9, large quantities were essential.

As the popcorn spewed out, we carefully turned the bowl to ensure proper distribution and to prevent overflow. Invariably, after most of the popcorn had been expelled, a few last kernels would be left spinning powerlessly in the bottom of the popper. Without the propelling force of the mass, they were trapped. Not to worry. We made sure to shake out every last one.

Our popper had a metal tray that fit into the top, right above the mouth. This was supposedly for melting butter. The heat from the popping corn was supposed to be enough to melt the butter. It wasn't, or maybe we just used too much butter. In any case, we only used the tray as a plug to keep the popcorn from flying out the top. (Leaving the tray off was quite exciting, but rather frowned upon by the higher ups.)

Instead, we melted our butter--or margarine rather, since butter was too expensive a luxury--in the microwave. When the margarine was all golden and liquidy, one of us would pour while another spun the popcorn bowl. Next came salt. Lots of salt. A few good mixes from several pairs of bare hands and we were set!

Occasionally, we'd add taco seasoning instead of salt. When were lucky, Mom would let us make carmel to pour over. Usually, we stuck with plain margarine and salt. Whatever the flavor, popcorn never lasted long in our house. When finished, the bowl took the place of honor in the middle of the living room floor, with us kids surrounding it. We each filled a paper towel with booty and munched away, refilling as needed. Sometimes we played games as we ate. Sometimes we watched a movie. Usually, we just talked and joked and laughed.

Although I'm married now and live away from home, I still think a week is vastly improved by a bowl of popcorn. I've graduated to a stovetop "Twirly Pop" and ditched the margarine, but still like salt. Lots of salt.

Making the salt stick is an art. The secret is to sprinkle it on just as soon as you pour the popcorn into the bowl. If you catch it when it's still warm, the steam produced from popping is enough to adhere the salt, without you having to add more butter or oil. Just the teaspoon of oil required for popping is sufficient.

You know what? I think I'll make myself a bowl of popcorn.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Pie - Sis 1

When I left for my vacation 10 days ago, I had my kitchen well stocked with plenty of fruits and vegetables for my mother-in-law to use in cooking. When I returned, they were all still there, with the exception of the apples, bananas and oranges that the kids ate for snacks.

My in-laws live in a very small town in rural Idaho--so small that there's a sign when you get off of the freeway that directs you to each resident's home. But they used to live in the second-largest city in Utah, and it seems they had been missing having opportunities to eat out. My kids enjoyed eating every dinner (and some lunches)at a restaurant, too.

But I have a whole bunch of produce that needs to be used pronto. When life gives me lemons, I make pie.

Fluffy Lemon Cream Cheese Pie


1 9-inch graham cracker crust (I cheated with a Keebler.)

Lemon Curd:
6 egg yolks
1/4 plus 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup butter, cut into peices

The Other Stuff:
6 oz. cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
lemon zest for garnish

Whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and stir in salt and butter until the butter is melted. Let cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and granulated sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Add lemon curd and whipping cream. Whip together on high speed until mixture is fluffy and soft peaks form.

Pour mixture into pie crust and top with lemon zest. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Great Friends - Sis 2

I have this great friend who likes to bake and sew, just like I do. So we have a lot of fun getting together and working on different projects. I met my friend at church, we were asked to be in charge of activity days or achievement days for the 8 and 9 year old girls in our ward. We had fun doing that, but we also became friends, and thankfully our kids liked to play together too. So we would find a project we wanted to do and get the kids to play, so we could do our sewing or baking. I recently moved (well, it still seems recent to me, but I guess it has been 9 months now) and live a few suburbian cities away, so it is harder to get together than it used to be. But when we can find the time we still like to get together and work on some project. The latest project we sewed was this super cute bag. My friend already had the pattern for it, so we just had to find materials. We decided I would take the pattern and cut out my fabric first and then she would take the pattern and cut her fabric, and then we would get together to sew. Well, life got busy for both of us, and so that took us quite a while. My friend and I decided to get together for lunch to celebrate our birthdays (mine is one day and hers is the day after) and then we would sew after lunch. We didn't end up getting much done that day because it got pretty crazy at my house. We finally decided that we would finish the bags on our own. So, unfortunately I didn't get to sew with my friend as much as we had planned. But, I'm lucky to have a friend who has great patterns and lets me borrow them, and also who comes up with such great ideas and projects for us to sew together. She really is the brains behind all of our projects. AND the bag turned out really cute. I thought it was pretty easy to sew; though, it might not be so easy for a beginning seamstress. Plus, it is really useful and fun. Find a pattern you like and make a bag today!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jerusalem Artichokes - Sis 1

According to Wikipedia, Jerusalem Artichokes got their name from both the italian word for sunflower, "girasole", which got changed into "Jerusalem" by we lame-tongued english speakers and their artichoke-like flavor. They are neither an artichoke nor from Jerusalem, but, as the italian word suggests, the tuberous root of a species of sunflower native to eastern North America.

They provide an amazing amount of nutrition, but contain little starch, so they don't trigger the same insulin response as a potato does, which is what they commonly replace in diabetic diets.

I have always been slightly curious about Jerusalem Artichokes, but never enough to buy them at the grocery store. I participate on occasion in a produce co-op, however, and got a few of them in my basket the last time.

I looked up several recipes online to find out what to do with them, but in the end, I decided that if I want to know what they really taste like, I needed to cook them with little other flavoring.

So I scrubbed them, chopped them up, melted some butter in my frying pan and cooked them with a little salt and pepper.

My oldest daughter had seconds. The second daughter only ate them because we have an "eat what's for dinner or don't eat" rule. The third daughter said that she liked them enthusiastically, but didn't take seconds. And Bear ate all of his. My husband hasn't yet tried them, since he just got home from work. I'm actually looking forward to his reaction, since he doesn't know that they're not potatoes, yet.

I think that they taste less like an artichoke than a very mild parsnip. As you can see, when cooked this way, they look very similar to potatoes, but they don't have the satisfying rich, starchy taste (ya think?). They taste lighter and greener. I would definitely eat them again, but I still like my comfort food.

Divine Cinnamon Rolls - Sis 1

I taught Young Women Manual 1, lesson 8, "Attitudes About Our Divine Roles" yesterday. I found the idea to make divine cinnamon rolls for the lesson here.

I began the lesson by asking what each girl's dream job was. Then I asked them if that particular job could ever be difficult. If they couldn't see how, I helped them. I also asked if their dream jobs could ever be boring. Again, I helped them see situations in each job that could be boring. Then I asked them, "If being a (veterinarian) could be difficult and boring, why would you want to do that?" After they answered, I continued with the lesson pretty much as outlined in the manual.

Between the sections about being a wife and being a mother, I paused and served the cinnamon rolls, calling them "divine rolls", of course. Then I drew a spiral on the chalk board and asked, "What's the best part of a cinnamon roll." They all answered that it was the middle. I labeled the outermost ring of the spiral physical. The next layer was mental; the next was emotional; and the innermost circle was labeled spiritual. I told the girls that when the world thinks of being a mother, they think mostly of the physical needs a mother has to take care of, ie., laundry, bus driving, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, etc. Those things don't have to be drudgery. Based on the right attitude, they can be fun and fulfilling, however, as you get nearer and nearer to the center, or heart of the divine role of motherhood, you find more and more fulfillment and joy.

Then, of course, I had to hurry through the rest of the lesson.

So here it is, the recipe for Divine Rolls:

Divine Cinnamon Rolls


3/4 cup mashed winter squash, drained if juicy (canned pumpkin would work)
3 Tablespoons powdered milk
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup very soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 Tablespoons milk

6 oz. softened cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons orange juice concentrate

Mix all ingredients for the rolls in a mixer bowl. Knead about 6 minutes, adding flour if necessary. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Lightly grease a large flat surface and turn dough out onto it. Form a rectangle with the long side closest to you. Lightly grease a rolling pin and roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness, keeping the same rectangle shape (just larger).

Gently spread the butter all over the top of the dough rectangle, leaving just a small portion of the edge closest to you uncovered. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon thoroughly and sprinkle evenly over the buttered portion of the dough.

Starting at the furthest edge, roll the dough into a long cylinder, ending with the edge nearest you down. Cut a piece of thread, about 7 inches long and, holding the thread tightly against the greased surface, slide it under the end of the cylinder of dough. Stop about 1 3/4 inches from the end of the cylinder and pull the ends of the thread up, crossing them above the top of the cylinder of dough. Pull the two ends of the thread tightly across each other until they make a clean cut through the roll of dough. (I'm sorry my picture is fuzzy.)

Place the slice of roll in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Repeat until the pan is full. You may need to start another pan of rolls to use up all of the dough.

Now you must make a choice. Do you want to bake them today or tomorrow? If today, cover and let rise until they nearly reach the top of the pan. If tomorrow, spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and cover the pan, greased side down. Place in refrigerator immediately. When you are ready to bake them tomorrow, you'll need to take them out of the fridge about 1/2 hour before you plan to bake them. Placing a pan of boiling water in the cold oven next to the pan of rolls will help to proof them.

If your rolls are in the oven proofing, remove them. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Bake cinnamon rolls about 26 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Mix the glaze ingredients in a small bowl while the rolls are baking. Immediately after removing the rolls from the oven, spread the glaze evenly over the tops of the rolls.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth. Add the orange juice concentrate and mix thoroughly. Spread evenly over cinnamon rolls while still warm. Serve warm. If you don't use them all while they're still hot, you can reheat them for a few seconds in the microwave.

Note: The winter squash makes your rolls yellow or orange looking, but not one of my young women asked about the color and they all loved them. (They just didn't know they were getting some vitamin A and fiber. My kids don't know, either. Hee hee!)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bahamian Conch - Sis 1

My husband and I just got back from a 6-day vacation to Freeport, the Bahamas. We spent several hours of one day walking up and down beaches, looking for cool shells for our kids. Toward the very end of the day, my husband found a conch (said conk) shell that was whole, but in bad condition. We were pretty excited, since we had found a plethora of conch shells in various levels of badly broken. Not long after that, I found a very small, but whole and in good shape one. Elated, we decided to head back to our hotel.

The next morning, I took a bike (included with our room) and rode to a public beach. I hid the bike in some bushes and walked down the beach, trying to figure out what had dug the holes and made the tracks that we had discovered the night before. (I found out later that they were sand crabs, but I was never successful in scaring one out of its hole.) After a while, I gave up and went back for my bike, but I had hidden it too well. I started searching for it in all of the bushes in the general vicinity, and to my surprise, found a conch shell.

It has definitely seen better days, and I spent the better part of 2 hours scrubbing it today. It was covered with a layer of what looked suspiciously like the wrappers from sushi, so I'm guessing it was kelp. Apparently, a small army of large red ants had also taken up residence. I'm glad I tied it in a grocery bag for the trip home.

Conch is a very popular food in the Bahamas. It's a sea snail, and, next to escargots, it's the most commonly eaten snail in the world. (Which, to me, doesn't say much, since I don't know too many people who eat escargots.)

At our hotel, we were served conch fritters, breaded conch, and conch chowder. The fritters are dough with cut up conch and peppers, dropped in hot oil and fried. Breaded conch is a lot like breaded shrimp, but somewhat frilly and without a tail to be removed. I expected the chowder to be similar to clam chowder, but it was nothing like that. Conch chowder is a tomato-based soup that has chopped potatoes and carrots and a good dash of hot pepper sauce, a long with slices of conch. I must say that I like conch much better than clams. They aren't rubbery at all and have a milder flavor.

If you're curious, this site shows how to remove and clean a conch.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake - Sis 2

How about some Hot Fudge Sundae Cake? Would you like some? So would I. Our mom has been making this cake since I can remember. It is very yummy and easy to make. It is a little bit like a chocolate lava cake, but easier I think, because it is in baked in one big pan and not in individual ramekins.
Here is the recipe.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake
By: Abbey Hatley

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa (I like 3 tablespoons just because I like it even more chocolatey)
2 teaspoons baking powder ( I use 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, because with 2 teaspoons I can taste the baking powder)
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray. Mix together dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Then, stir in the milk and melted butter. Spread the batter in your pan.
In another mixing bowl, mix:
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
Make sure the brown sugar and cocoa are well combined and then sprinkle this miture on top of the batter in your baking pan.
Then slowly pour 1 2/3 cups hot water over the top of both layers in your baking pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is cake like and a little crusty. The bottom will still be runny, chocolatey syrup. Let it sit for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven so it doesn't burn your mouth. Then dish into bowls with ice cream on top. Delicious!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quilting to Pass the Time - Sis 3

My husband is a CPA and external auditor. Thus, from November to March, I am an accounting widow. Monday through Friday, he leaves the house at 7:30 a.m. and returns at 10 p.m., with just enough energy to turn on his laptop for another hour of work. His down time is watching 10 minutes of Sports Center while brushing his teeth before bed.

Weekends are better. My CPA only has to work 6-8 hours on Saturdays and put in a few hours from home on Sundays. As a bonus, we usually make it through church without any phone calls from the audit team.

I'm pretty independent, but even for me, a two-hour-a-week relationship leaves a bit of a gap. Last "busy season," I decided to fill the gap with a bit of creativity.

My mother taught me to sew when I was very young. With her help, we kids made everything from doll clothes to prom dresses. Quilts were frequent and favorite projects. Our living room would be swallowed for a week at a time with a quilt stretched out on the wooden frames. When we could escape the actual sewing, we loved to camp out under the colorful canopy and watch movies. About the only time my mother ever watched movies was while quilting or canning. We grew up with a love of canned peaches, John Wayne, pieced patterns, and Cary Grant.

So, when faced with an empty house and time on my hands, I turned to quilting. I found a great pattern online at luxury my mother never had. I modified the pattern a little to suit my creativity and then took advantage of a great sale on cotton print. Armed with a couple of good ol' black and white movies, I was in business.

Piecing the top went smoothly enough. The tricky part came when it was time to quilt. I'm woefully frameless. Unfortunately, our California apartment has no room for storage, so buying frames wasn't practical. Instead, I resorted to safety pins.

I moved the couch, then stretched the quilt back across the room. With heavy-duty straight pins, I secured it to the floor. Next, I layered on the batting and finally the pieced top, which I pinned to the floor as well. Once everything was nice and taut, I pinned the layers together using large safety pins. Presto!

Although the safety pins didn't keep the layers quite as straight and bunch free as frames would have done, I did like the freedom they allowed. I could stitch for an hour or two in the evenings, then fold the quilt up and put it away until the next opportunity. Of course, that did mean I missed out on the movie-perfect-tent...

This week, I finished my quilt! I'm quite happy with the results.

Now, with another busy season in full swing, what's next?

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's a Love/ Hate Relationship - Sis 2

Why is it that I have such a hard time convincing myself to exercise. (And, I think, probably about a million other people have the same problem.) I feel soo much better after I exercise every day. But, still, when the alarm clock goes off the next morning I would much rather stay in bed than get up and exercise. I know there are so many health benefits to exercising, I can't name them all, I have no desire to name them all. I do know exercise can help a person lose weight. It can also raise seratonin levels, which in turn helps a person feel happy and less stressed. Exercise can even stop a person from catching a cold, or any other virus floating around. So, why is it that some of us find it so hard to exercise. Maybe, because it is work. Exercise is not always easy. And, to see results from exercise it has to be done on a regular basis. But the good thing is when you do start to see results it is motivation to exercise more, because you finally see the good that all that work is doing for you.
I have been participating in a points contest since the beginning of the year. There are few things that you have to do every day to earn points, and then at the end of the contest the person with the most points wins. If we exercise for 1/2 hour we get 3 points, if we exercise for 1/2 hour more we get 5 more points. If we don't eat any sweets during the day we get 2 points. If we eat 3 vegetables and 2 fruits we get 5 points. I have been doing pretty good on the contest. There have been a few days that I have eaten sweets and a few days that I have eaten after 7pm, so I have lost points for those things. But, I have exercised an hour a day 6 days a week (we get Sundays off) since the beginning of the year. And, I am starting to see results. It's definitely a Love/Hate relationship, but I'm loving it a little more. Along with all the other health benefits from exercising, it's one more reason I will get up and do my hour of exercise tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whipped Cream - Sis 1

After I had been dating my (now) husband for about a month, he dropped a bombshell on me. He did not like whipped cream. I couldn't believe it! Who doesn't like whipped cream? I really thought this might be a deal-breaker. Better to find out early in a relationship, right?

Then, I found out that he loves whipped cream, he had just never had the real thing. (Whew!) For some reason, all of his life up until that point, he had been under the erroneous impression that the whipped topping you get in a tub from the grocer's freezer section is actually whipped cream. I don't know how anyone could be so cunning and devilish as to let their kids believe such an incidious lie. (I do get along rather well with my mother-in-law, and if not for this and a few minor things, she'd be nearly perfect.)

When I was a kid, I had quite a liking for whipped topping. Maybe that was because it was such a rare item in our household. But, as I have always enjoyed figuring out how to make things on my own, I convinced our mom to let me try making it. I looked at the ingredient list, which was probably about 30 ingredients, but the four that were recognizable were: water, oil (can't remember if it was veggie or soy), high-fructose corn syrup and vanilla flavoring.

I've never seen high-fructose corn syrup on a retail shelf, so I had to settle for regular-fructose corn syrup. I mixed it and the other three ingredients in a bowl. Hmmm...Not much like whipped topping. Mom suggested that I freeze it somewhat and then whip it. That worked. I had no idea how much of what to put in, but the proportions that I used came out surprisingly like whipped topping. And not much like whipped cream.

After such a successful experiment, one might think I'd be making whipped topping often from then on. Not so. I think that's about the time I became disillusioned with the stuff. I guess that knowing my dessert was topped with water, oil, and corn syrup just ruined it for me.

Now, back to the cream. My husband is not nearly picky enough. He actually likes spray cream. In fact, he will buy it and spray it straight into his mouth. Ewwwww! Have you ever noticed that when you spray it on something and let it sit for more than half of a minute, it turns into a watery mess? Not appetizing. The cans assure me that they contain real cream, but I don't know what black magic they do to make something as wonderful as cream turn into that. And I don't want to know. I'm not fond of happy gas, either.

In my opinion, whipped cream, when used as a topping, should be whipped enough to add volume, but not too stiff. It should be able to run into the nooks and crannies of whatever it is garnishing. I buy mine in the cardboard cartons that open like a school-lunch milk. I like the screw-top lids, but they're not often available. So, to keep my cream fresh and from tasting like the onions that are frequently in my fridge, I staple the carton shut after using it. It's very easy to remove the staple on the next occasion that calls for cream.

Use whipped topping if you must, but as for me and my house, we'll serve real cream. And whatever you do, don't perpetuate the notion that whipped topping is cream. It's just not fair.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

And Then Sweeten the Deal - Sis 1

After you've made a cute picture card of your kids, as in this post, turn it into an mp3 player. This is a modified idea from Family Fun Magazine.

Wrap a box of conversation hearts in foil.

Tape your picture to the front.

"Glue" on licorice and gummy candy "earbuds" with gingerbread house cement icing.

Give 'Em What They Really Want - Sis 1

You know what your parents really want for Valentine's Day. They want pictures of their grandkids. So give it to them.

For the life of me, I can't find the one I sent out last year, but my mom still has it hanging on her bulletin board, so I'll try to get her to send me a picture of it.

Healthful Valentine's Treats - Sis 1

I know it's completely crazy, but there are some people out there who are on a diet. Even worse, there are others who just don't like sweets. So, if you have any of THAT kind of people on your Valentine's list, here's an idea of what you can give them. And, they're mailable, so you can give them to long-distance sugar-hating valentines!

I put the nuts label on a package of nuts, the apple label on a squeezy pack of applesauce, the berry label on a squeezy applesauce and berry pack, and the banana label on a bag of banana chips. You could use all dried fruit, if you wanted.

If you don't need to mail these, use fresh fruit. All the better.

Here are my labels. You can click on it and "save as" and then print them yourself, if you'd like.

Pick a Bug Brownies - Sis 1

One day, while sitting at work at Tamara Pluth Design, about 13 years ago, my boss's mother (I believe her name was Betty Taylor) came in and gave me a brownie. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I had never had or even heard of grasshopper brownies before, but I was instantly in love. I got the recipe as soon as she could get home to copy it down for me. I don't know where she got it from.

Since then, whenever I've made them, almost everyone asks me for the recipe, so here it is, except that the actual brownie recipe is mine. I decided I like it better, but with her mint frosting and chocolate glaze.

Grasshopper Brownies



1 cup magarine or butter
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Mint Frosting:

1 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
Several drops each mint extract and
Green food coloring

Chocolate Glaze:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T. Crisco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Mix butter or margarine and cocoa powder in a large saucepan. Heat until the butter or margarine is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar completely before adding eggs, unless you like chocolate scrambled eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients and spread evenly in a 9 x 13 pan. Bake about 24 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the frosting, you must use butter. Margarine or crisco will not work well. Make sure your butter is very soft. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until the frosting becomes frosting. It will work. Don't add liquids other than the food coloring and mint extract. The softer your butter is, the faster this will come together. Also, if you have cookie paddle(s), they will work better than a whisk-type mixer. Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled brownies. Dipping your knife in HOT water and shaking it off will help you to spread the frosting more easily.

Place the chocolate chips and Crisco in a small saucepan. Do not use butter or margarine. Only shortening will work well for this step. Melt on low heat, stirring until smooth. Spread over the mint frosting and allow to cool. If you're in a hurry, throw it in the refrigerator for a while.

If you're not in the mood for mint chocolate, you can use my special variation. I don't know why mint and chocolate are called grasshopper. I think it has something to do with alcohol, but I don't drink. I just decided that cherry and chocolate will be called ladybug. So there.

Ladybug Brownies:

Follow all instructions for Grasshopper brownies, except on the frosting, you will change the "several drops each of mint extract and green food color" to "several drops each balsamic vinegar, cherry flavoring and red food color".

Anybody know of an orange and black bug? I like the same recipe with several drops each balsamic vinegar, orange extract and orange food color.

You could also do Bumblebee brownies with lemon, but I haven't tried it.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Nothing a Chocolate Chip Cookie Can't Fix -Sister 4

If you're like me, you've tried all the diets, tons of exercise plans and still aren't exactly satisfied with you weight. As a result, your self-confidence has suffered.
If only confidence were based on the number of diets attempted. There's the coffee and grapefruit diet, the protein diet, the fruit diet, the vegetable diet, the only-green-things diet, the only-whole-food diet, the only-handmade-food diet, and even the cookie diet.
I've actually never tried the cookie diet, simply because it sounds too good to be true. The idea behind it is that you eat so many cookies, you'll get sick of them and then just stop eating. Stupid idea really, considering how many different kinds of cookies there are in the world. With all the choices, I wouldn't get sick of cookies in time to loose any weight before I had to get gastric bypass surgery.
Honestly, the only plan that really succeeds when it comes to weight loss is cutting back on what you eat and getting more exercise. (I know, you're all astounded. I've just told you the secret to the universe and everything you've ever known is completely turned upside down.) Except, that doesn't always work either.
In my latest escapade to achieve the perfect weight, I've been counting my calories with the help of my smart phone and a free app, "Lose It." Lose It is actually a pretty amazing app. It scans bar codes, has a huge database of food and exercise options, and is very easy to use. To use it, you start by entering your current weight and telling it your goal weight. Then it tells you how many calories you can eat a day and when you can expect to reach your goal. Any exercise you add gives you a bonus on the amount of calories you can consume.
I thought for sure, this time, my efforts would work. And I'm convinced they would work, if I could also convince myself that I can live on 700 calories a day. Okay, I'm not being completely truthful with that number, but the magic number Lose It gave me really wasn't much higher. Despite the ridiculously low number, I was determined to make it work.
I started logging my food intake and exercise. I started taking the stairs at work and skipping the three o'clock sugar break. I stopped drinking soda altogether. I even bought a new digital scale so I could see the progress in ounces—even if it was only ounces. Weeks went by and I really didn't get anywhere.
So, in a moment of weakness, I caved. I exceeded my calorie intake by a thousand for one day, ate a chocolate chip cookie, drank a soda, and ate some chocolate. Know what happened? The next morning, the number on the scale was down. Fluke right?
That's what I thought. But I was too dissuaded to count calories the next day too. I ate what I wanted, and low and behold, the number on the scale was down again. What is going on? I'm eating candy, I'm drinking soda, I'm not counting anything and the number on the scale gets smaller. It's not right. It's not fair. So for the last week, I have skipped counting calories and steps, I have drunk a lot of soda, I have eaten cookies, and candy and everyday I've floated within six ounces of where I was.
So, the next time you're feeling like you need to loose a pound or two, remember, it's nothing a chocolate chip cookie can't fix.

Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Mint Sugar Cookies - Sis 2

It's a tradition! Every year for Valentine's Day I make my husband some heart shaped sugar cookies. While we were dating he told me he loved sugar cookies, so I bought him one of those Granny B's sugar cookies with the pink frosting. But every year since we've been married I have made him sugar cookies as part of my way to show him I love him for Valentine's Day. (I don't know if he understands that cooking yummy things for him is one way I try to show him I love him.)

This year I was looking through my "Taste of Home" magazine and saw some chocolate mint cookies dipped in mint chocolate. I thought they looked pretty good. But, I also thought, I have to make sugar cookies and the recipe I use makes a huge batch so maybe I should just make some of them chocolate; and so that is what I did.
I made my favorite kind of sugar cookie dough, and then took half out and added some cocoa powder and peppermint extract. How's that for scientific??
My favorite recipe for Sugar Cookies happens to come from the Lion House Desserts Cookbook.

Cutout Sugar Cookies
pg 103 Lion House Desserts Cookbook

2 cups granulated Sugar
1 cup shortening ( I always use butter)
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract (this time I omitted the lemon, since I would be doing the chocolate later.)
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
In a large bowl cream sugar, shortening and eggs. Add milk and vanilla; mix at low speed. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, soda and baking powder. Add to the sugar mixture until well incorporated.
This is where I changed it up. I took half of the cookie dough out of the bowl and wrapped it in some saran wrap and put it in the fridge. To the other half of the dough that was still in the bowl I added 1/4 cup of baking cocoa and 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract. I then put that dough in the fridge also. I always leave my dough in the fridge until the next day. When you are ready to bake the cookies preheat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 in. thick; cut out in desired shapes. Bake for 6 minutes, or until when you lightly touch the top it doesn't make a dent. Be careful not to overcook them. I iced the regular sugar cookies with a can of store bought icing, and then sprinkled them with fun stuff. The chocolate sugar cookies I dipped in melted Andes mint pieces and then sprinkled with fun sprinkles.
To melt the Andes mint pieces put them in a microwave safe bowl and put it in for 30 seconds on power 5. Then I stir it up and work in increments of 15 seconds keeping the power setting on 3 or 4. You don't want to burn your chocolate.
They are cute, and so delicious.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Car Seat Canopy - Sis 2

One of my best friends just recently had a baby. So I decided I wanted to make her a car seat canopy. I made a canopy for myself when I had my last baby, and I loved it. It makes the car seat nice and cozy so the baby can sleep where ever you go, and it also sheilds the baby from strangers touching or bothering them. I mean, every mother loves to hear that their baby is so beautiful and precious, but no mother wants strangers coming up and touching their baby. Especially, during cold and flu season. These Canopies are very easy to make also. I found the tutorial for this canopy here Try it out. Lot's of fun and so CUTE!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vanity - Sis 3

Tuesdays are junk mail day. That's the day our mail box gets crammed full of grocery ads, super saver coupons, mailers and what not. I rarely buy frozen pizza; I have no need for cat food; and I've thankfully never needed a terminator. So usually, I indiscriminately throw all the ads straight from the mailbox into the trash. Last week, I didn't.

A coupon for beauty cream caught my eye.

My last birthday put me perilously close to the big 3-0. I remember when my best friend turned 15, she spent a good part of the day lamenting that she was halfway to 30--an age almost too old to comprehend. If she was worried about 30 all those years ago, shouldn't I now have a healthy sense of doom for the impending event? With the onset of wrinkles looming large, I couldn't pass up a $3 coupon for the latest in advanced skin smoothing technology.

On my next trip to the store, coupon in hand, I searched out the new miracle treatment. Being somewhat cheap, I was nearly dissuaded by the $20 something price tag for a .6 oz tube. Really?! I stood there reading the label for a good ten minutes. The drug company touted 10 years of research and promises of rejuvenated, stress-free skin in a matter of weeks. Dark circles, fine lines, crow's feet would all disappear. Finally, I reasoned, I did have my $3 coupon and if the stuff cost that much, it must be good. The marketing department, at least, knew what they were doing; hopefully the chemists were as smart.

I took the bait and put the wonder cream in my cart--only to take it out again moments later. $20+ for .6 oz? My consciences couldn't do it. But, the dark circles are getting worse... With that, I grabbed the tube and hurried out of the aisle before my thrift could catch up.

At the checkout stand, I carefully placed my budget-saving coupon on top of the package so as to be as conspicuous as possible. The cashier took it, placing it strategically on her keyboard as she rang up my purchases. She pushed total. I slid my card. She gave me the receipt. Then...

"Oh, I forgot to scan the coupon."

Before I could say anything, she left in search of her manager. By the time the cashier returned, manager in tow, a long line had formed at the register, head by an obviously impatient gentleman with two kids and a basketful of groceries. The manager explained that she would have to return the original purchase and re-ring it up, to which news the gentleman behind me heaved a rather pointed sigh.

"Don't worry about it," I tried to smile as I took my bags.

The cashier thoughtfully handed me back the coupon, "You can use it next time."

Hmm, not likely. One full-price tube of wonder cream ought to last me quite a long time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Designer Cookie Cutters - Sis 1

If you ever want to make cookie cut-outs and don't have the shape you need, just make your own cookie-cutters.

You'll need:

Galvanized Steel Hanger Strap (You can get 10 feet for about $2.50 at Home Depot, in the plumbing section.)
Tin Snips (Really heavy-duty scissors might work.)
A Twist Tie
A Food Can

For more complicated shapes you're better off using the hanger strap. You can make a lot of cookie cutters out of 10 feet, and I use hanger strap for other things, as well, so it's really a good investment if you like to jerry-rig things like I do.

Draw out your shape on a piece of paper. As you can see I drew a helmet that was too big first, and decided I'd have to make a lot of dough if I were going to use that size of cookie cutter, so I re-drew it smaller.

Using the tin snips, cut a piece of strap about the length you'll need to go all around your shape. It's better to cut it too long than too short. You could measure the length you'll need with a piece of string, but where's the fun in that? Place one end of your strap at a corner, if there is one in your shape. Now start bending your strap to fit the drawing on your paper. It bends quite easily, so you can do most of this with your hands, but you may need to smooth curves or make tighter corners with the pliers.

Once you have the shape right, cut off the excess strap and thread the twist tie into the two closest holes to the ends of the strap. Twist until tight, making sure to meet the two ends up at the right angle. If there are no corners in your shape, overlap the strap a bit before you cut off the excess, then use your twist tie to connect the ends parallel to each other. Cut off the extra twist tie. Wash your new cookie cutter in with soap and hot water.

If your desired shape is very simple and based on a circle, just remove both ends of a food can and bend it to the proper shape. If you can't remove both ends, it's okay, but it will be easier to remove stuck cookie dough if you cut off both ends. Wash your new cookie cutter. I don't feel the need to keep tin can cookie-cutters around. They're so simple that you can make a new one next time.

I used this recipe for my Super-bowl cookies, but I added an extra yolk to the dough to help keep them from falling apart so easily.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Removing Nail Polish from Carpet - Sis 1

Bear never fails to take advantage of open doors.

I keep my nail polish in a closet with a child-proofed door knob. My son, Bear, has not yet learned how to open child-proof door knobs. But, on occasion, someone else in the family opens this door and leaves it that way. That happened today.

I already know how Bear opens nail polish bottles, as I've seen him do it before. He grabs the lid in one hand, the bottle in the other, and pulls. There's that super-human strength. With all that force being exerted, when the lid comes off, the polish splatters everywhere. Which also happened today, but this time it was on the carpet in the hall, along with Bear's pants, arms and hands.

I was lucky enough to catch him very soon after he had finished splashing the polish on the carpet. I have also had to deal with this mess a time or two in the past and know how to clean it. So, here's how:

Immediately pour a generous amount of rubbing alcohol over every bit of polish-splattered carpet. Now, it's a good idea to go put on some rubber gloves, if you don't like your hands turning white and being so dry that they crack ( I skipped that part). Come back and quickly dab out as much polish as possible with a white paper towel. You will need lots of these. Bring the whole roll. Now rub the carpet with the paper towels, adding more rubbing alcohol as needed until all of the nail polish is gone.

There will probably still be staining from the dye in the polish though. Now pour a generous amount of hydrogen peroxide onto the affected carpet. Rub that thoroughly with clean paper towels until the color is gone. You may not be able to get ALL of the color out, but it will definitely be lighter.

I used my blow dryer to dry the carpet so you could see the results in the pictures. Wet carpet looks worse than dry.

The pants weren't worth saving.

Unfortunately, Bear was also busy while I was cleaning up the polish. I have found all but 7 of the keys now.

Cheese and Sausage Puffs - Sis 1

These are a yummy appetizer to take to the football party.



1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated pepper-jack cheese


1 lb. sausage
1 can peppers (I used mild, but if there had not been kids in attendance, I'd have used jalapenos.)
2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. In a small saucepan, stir butter, water, salt and sugar over medium-high heat until it boils. Turn off heat and add flour, stirring quickly. A dough will form, pulling away from the sides of the pan. Stir until a thin crust forms on the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the dough into a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each egg is added. Beat in all of the pepper-jack cheese.

Drop by heaping tablespoons (I use my cookie scoop) onto greased cookie sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches around each scoop. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly poke a hole straight down through the middle of each puff with a clean toothpick. Return the puffs to the oven and bake about 3 more minutes, or until the puffs are golden-brown. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly and cut each puff in half, leaving just a small bit holding the two halves together.

Brown the sausage in a big skillet. Drain the grease and add the peppers and cream cheese. Stir until well mixed.

Spoon the hot sausage mixture into the puffs and serve warm.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Puppet - Sis 1

They say that Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning. H certainly wouldn't have where I live. Although winter is my least favorite season, I will gladly take 6 "more" weeks of it this year. We haven't really had winter yet.

To celebrate Groundhog's day, we made puppets.

You'll need:

Construction paper
Hot glue gun
glue sticks or other glue suitable for children
1 can for each puppet
1 small piece of closely matching felt or other stiff fabric1 sock for each puppet (I used women's tan ankle socks. They were perfect, but don't get too concerned about this. Crafts should not cost a ton of money. Use what you have or can find very cheaply.)
1 small piece of red card stock or cereal box (you can paint it red or glue red cons
truction paper to one side of it.)
eyes (I used a hole punch and a piece of craft foam. Googly eyes would be great.)

First find a can that has a removable top and bottom (as opposed to the kind with a curved bottom), preferably one that contains something you would like to eat for dinner tonight. This can should be fairly wide, since you'll be sticking your han
d through it. I used a 15.25 oz pineapple can. Remove top and bottom, along with the label.

Measure a piece of construction paper and cut a strip as tall as
your can and a little more than as long as your can's diameter. Glue it around the can and decorate it. This is the part
that small children will be able to do best, so let them have at it. The goal is for the can to look like the ground, or the hole your groundhog will be popping out of.

Cut an egg shape out of your red card stock and ears and arms out of the felt. Fold the egg shape horizontally, with the narrow end down. Using hot glue, glue the egg-shaped paper to the bottom side of the sock, about where the underside of your toes would be, if you were wearing it. Glue the ears to the seam that would be across the top of your toes. Glue the eyes somewhere between the mouth and the ears and the arms down a little and to either side of the mouth.

Slip the groundhog (sock) inside the can, with the head pointing out the top of the can.
stretch the cuff of the sock over and around the outside of the bottom of the can. Lift a section of the cuff at a time and hot glue it to the can.

Have a puppet show about being afraid of shadows.