Thursday, April 12, 2012

Swedish Gingersnaps


Swedish Gingersnaps

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in a friends and family cookbook that we put together about twenty years ago!  Jack and I were living in Chicago. My sister-in-law from Minneapolis and I collaborated on it long distance!  It was a blast...we should do another, one of these days.

So what did I change?  Well, the original recipe called for vegetable shortening and white sugar.  I changed it to unsalted butter and light brown sugar (but less of it) and salt.

These cookies aren't a crisp cookie.  They're firm but moist...a little chewy.  And buttery.

SWEDISH GINGERSNAPS

What you need:

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar (that's what I used but you could use dark brown, of course)
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

What you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.


In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Set aside.



Place the softened butter in a large bowl...








...and beat for 30 seconds or so.

Add the egg and molasses and mix well.




Add the brown sugar...




...and mix well.










Add the dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, spices)...





...and mix thoroughly.








Chill dough until easy to handle.  Form into balls and dip in sugar.   Place on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Today I baked them for 9 minutes.  Don't over bake.





They may need to sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.


Cool completely.


You are forgiven if you snitch a couple of warm cookies but if they fall apart, don't say I didn't warn you.

Lovely with a glass of cold milk (except if you're lactose intolerant, like me).   On the other hand, these cookies are surprisingly good with a glass of wine, as well.  Something bold and red.  Your choice.







Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Pie


My late Mother-in-law's recipe for Fresh Strawberry Pie has been a favorite in our house forever.  It's so simple to make.  It's light and luscious...a perfect spring or summer dessert with (or without) a dollop of whipped cream.

You'll need pastry for one crust pie.  You might have a favorite recipe or you could try one of my favorites.  I use one of two recipes, usually...both flaky and easy to make.  You'll find the recipes in this article I wrote for Squidoo.  One is Julee Rosso's (Great Good Food) recipe for Flaky Pie Crust and the other is from my trusty old  Betty Crocker Cookbook.  You can't go wrong with either recipe.


OR... if I am in a time crunch (or I'm feeling lazy) I have absolutely no qualms about buying Pillsbury's unroll-and-fill refrigerated pie crusts.  They're a fine alternative.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Bake the pie crust according to directions and allow to cool.

Wash 1-1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, slice them and fill the cooled pie crust.  You could get fancy and layer the sliced strawberries in a decorative manner but I generally just pile them in.

The glaze:

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry gelatin (such as Jello brand)
Pinch of salt
 1 cup cold water
Few drops of red food coloring

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and, stirring frequently, cook until the glaze becomes clear and starts to thicken.  Cool.

Pour the glaze over the strawberries in the pie crust and refrigerate until set.  Slice and serve.  This pie is best served the day it's made but if there are any leftovers, do keep it refrigerated.

There you have it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Raffa's Chopped Salad


There used to be a cozy little restaurant in Bel Air, California, that was within a block of where we stayed one year.  The food was excellent and the ambiance was relaxing.

My daughter Jen is a good friend of the former owner.  She lived nearby while she was living in Los Angeles.  When he decided to sell the restaurant she begged him to get the chef's recipe for this chopped salad.

The combination of ingredients is brilliant...the crunch of the celery and carrots, the peppery radicchio, that burst of flavor from the corn and the garbanzo beans.  Toss in some mixed greens and you've got yourself a satisfying meal!

I love a chopped salad.  You're gonna love this one.


Raffa's Chopped Salad

1/2 cup chopped radicchio
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
1/2 cup corn
2 Tablespoons chopped red onion
2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped mixed greens

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl.  Just before serving, drizzle with Raffa's Vinaigrette and toss together.   Or let everyone dress their own individual salads.


Raffa's Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 Tablespoon honey
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil



The original vinaigrette recipe was four times this amount.  Fine for a restaurant but waaaay to much for a family.  I just halved it and then halved it, again!

Serve this with some crusty bread and it's a very fine and filling vegetarian meal!










Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tea Bag Tote Tutorial

The idea for this project resulted from a girls' weekend that I took with three of my good friends.   We went to Winnipeg, Manitoba which is a five or six hour drive.  Had a blast!  We spent a day shopping in the historical area known as The Forks.

I found this sweet little tea bag tote in one of the shops.     The "Crafty Lady" in me thought this would be a perfect gift for my tea drinking friends and family.   I picked one up to use as a pattern.  I think it was five or six dollars.  Canadian.



Sneaky?  Yes, indeedy.  Smart idea?  Yep!

So I'm sharing this tutorial with anyone who thinks a Tea Bag Tote is a nifty craft.


Here's what it looks like open.  You tuck a tea bag in each of the four little pockets.  Or sugar or creamer packets (I do not like powdered creamer but if you like it, there's a spot for it here).

Please excuse the lighting on these shots...I was pinched for time and had to go with the flow...taking pictures while I was sewing.

But I digress...here's how to make these little totes:




First, choose a pretty fabric.  Small patterns are the best and you can find dozens of small pattern fabrics if you check out the quilting fabrics.

I found the exact buttons that were used on the tote that I bought!  But you can use any sort of button you'd like, of course.

You'll also need fabric for the lining.  It goes without saying that a light lining fabric will be what you want to use. :-)

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them if you need a closer look.



Cut one 6-3/4 inch x 13-1/4 inch rectangle from each of  the fabrics.








With right sides together, stitch a 1/4 inch seam all the way around the edge, leaving a 2-inch opening in about 1-1/4 inch from one end.


Turn right-side-out and press.



Cut a 6-inch piece of 1/4" ribbon.  Fold in half and insert 1/2 inch into opening so it's 1-1/4 inch from the edge.

Pin it in place.


Fold each side in about 3-inches.  There will be a small gap in the center.





Fold in half like so:


And fold in half, again.   Using the ribbon and a straight pin, mark the spot for the button.

It helps a little to place some tea bags inside before folding.  That way, there's a little bulk because when it's finished, the ribbon will be a little more snug when you hook it around the button.


Using a fabric marking pen, place an 'x' where the button should go.


Unfold the tote and note where the button will go.  It's hard to see in the picture, below, but there IS a pin with a blue head  to the right of the arrows.  (I should have used red, dang it.)


Now, you can sew the button on at this point.  If it's a ball shaped button, though, it'll be a little trickier finishing the next stitching steps.

With the sides folded in (see below), stitch around the entire piece as close to the edge as you can, catching the ribbon in as you go.


This is the point at which I find where the button should go and sew it on.  You need to be sure you just sew it to the outside and you can do that by reaching inside the fold and stitching it through to the outside.  Make several stitches to secure the button.

(If this makes no sense to you, please let me know.  I neglected to take a picture of that step.  Come to think of it, getting a shot with one hand holding the button and one hand taking stitches would have been impossible interesting.)

Next, find the center of the folded tote.  Set your machine to a zigzag stitch.  Experiment on a spare piece of folded fabric to find the stitch you like best.

Stitch across from one side to the other making sure to secure the stitches at each end.



Then stitch down the center between the two sides (again, secure the stitches at each end).



And now all you have to do is tuck in some tea bags, fold it up and button it!




You've got a clever way to tote your tea bags.  And it's a nice gift for a tea loving friend, too.

I'd love to know if you decide to try this project.




Sunday, March 25, 2012

Poppyseed Dressing



I'm more and more convinced that homemade salad dressings are far superior to store bought.  And lately I've been reading that there are some icky ingredients in the store bought dressings.  (You don't want to know and I wish I didn't.)

This is a recipe I've been making for years.  I adapted it from a cookbook that was published in 1982!  It's called The Pride of Peoria and it was published by the Junior League of Peoria, Illinois.  I just checked to see if it's still in publication...it is!   Wow!  I should probably check it out...you'd think it would have been updated by now but you never know.  The cover is exactly the same as my old copy although my copy has been well loved and it shows!

Anyway, here's the recipe.  My changes include adding the honey and the red wine vinegar.  I also cut back on the sugar.  Every time I serve this dressing I'm asked for the recipe.

POPPYSEED DRESSING

3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup of canola oil (I've used part walnut oil and part peanut oil, too)
5 tablespoons sugar
1 small onion, finely grated
1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons poppyseeds
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Blend well and keep refrigerated. Shake well before serving.



One note about this cookbook.  It's excellent.  There are two recipes for Carrot Cake that rival each other...one has pineapple in it; the other doesn't.   Also a wonderful recipe for Barbecue Brisket for Buffet that has become such a pot luck and open house favorite I almost know it by heart!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sock Bunny Babies & Easter Craft Links

Two Baby Bunnies
These sweet sock bunnies make perfect little gifts to tuck into Easter baskets.

I posted this last year but since it's such a fun project, I'm re-posting it, plus I'm adding four links to more clever ideas for Easter/spring crafting!  Be sure to check them out at the end of this post.

These baby bunnies are easy to make at the last minute.  Here's what you need for each sock bunny:
  • Infant sock
  • Fiberfill
  • Two 3 or 4 mm black beads
  • Pink embroidery floss - one strand only
  • White quilting thread
  • One 6" x 7" piece of soft flannel
  • 1/4" ribbon about 12" in length

Step 1:

Turn the sock inside out and fold the heel toward the open end of the sock.  Measure about 3/4" from the heel fold, mark the spot with a removable marking pen.  Then draw the ear lines about 2" long from the heel mark to the toe.


Step 2:

Machine stitch on the lines then cut between the stitching to form the ears. Turn right side out.














Step 3

Make a pleat in each ear and tie with white thread placing the knot at the back of the ear.

Stuff the head with a small ball of fiberfill and tie the neck in the same manner.

Step 4:

Stuff the body with additional fiberfill.  You can either machine stitch straight across the opening (which I did on one bunny but didn't take a photograph) or you can tie the opening with thread as shown here.



Step 5:

Thread a long needle with the white thread.

Knot the end of the thread.  Measure about 1/2 inch down from the inside of one ear and insert the needle.  Pull it through to about the same position on the other side.

Tug the thread just a little bit to form the bunny's nose as shown in the photo.  Pass the needle back to the other side of the nose and thread one of the small black beads onto the needle.  Pull the needle through to the other side (making one of the bunny eyes) and thread on the second small bead.   Again, pull the needle through the other way.  Secure with a small knot.

Step 6:

Thread a needle with one strand of pink embroidery floss and pull it double but don't knot the thread.  Beginning from the back of the neck, pull the needle through to the front of the bunny's nose making sure the ends of the thread just disappear into the back of the bunny's head.   Embroider the nose as shown using a SATIN STITCH, then use a STEM STITCH to complete the mouth.  Take a tiny stitch when you've finished the mouth and pass the thread back through the head to the back of the neck.  Clip the thread so it disappears into the back of the bunny's head.

Step 7:

To make the bunny's whiskers, thread a needle with the white quilting thread and knot the ends about 1/2 inch in.  Insert the needle in the whisker area pulling straight across.  Secure with a knot and cut whiskers about 1/2 inch.  You can trim the whiskers whatever length you like.

Step 8:

Cut a piece of soft flannel to measure 6" x 7".  Lay the 7" side wrong side up and fold down 1-1/2" to to form a facing and stitch.




Then fold it in half, right sides together and stitch down the 6" side.

Turn the fabric so the seam will be on the back and stitch across the bottom of the sack, as shown.  Turn right side out.

Tuck the baby bunny into the sack and tie the ribbon around the top as shown.

How cute is this?








You'll love these other Crafty ideas!


Easy Paper Mache Crafts
There are lots of links to paper mache craft projects on this Squidoo lens!


Duck Crafts
If you'd rather make a duck as a rabbit, check out all the links to "ducky" projects on this Squidoo lens, too!


Easter Egg Tree Tutorial
From Sweet Floweret.   So many sweet projects, here!


Felt Easter Cookies
From The Moody Fashionista.  These would be darling tucked into an Easter basket.




Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guinness & Green Onion Biscuits & St. Patrick's Day Recipe Links


I'm Irish.  I was born there to an Irish mother and an American father.  So posting a recipe for St. Patrick's Day should be a no-brainer.  But I struggled with what to post...and leaving it until the last minute didn't help.  

It had to be something easy and I had to have the ingredients on hand because I had no time for shopping.  Well, biscuits are easy and I had a couple of bottles of Extra Stout Guinness in the fridge plus a couple of green onions so beer biscuits it would be!   

These are light and flaky even though they're kinda rough looking...it's the dark brew that gives them that look, of course.

There is just a hint of the Guinness and the green onion does not overwhelm.  They won't overtake any other flavors or aromas in your menu.  So that's good.  

A couple of these with some creamy scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage would be a very fine St. Patrick's Day breakfast, don't you think?

Guinness and Green Onion Biscuits

2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
4 Tablespoons chopped green onion/scallions (or chives)
3/4 cup Guinness Extra Stout

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender.  Add the green onion.  Add the beer and mix to a soft dough.


Knead the dough 8 or 10 times on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a 3-inch round biscuit/cookie cutter.

Place on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.










Cool slightly but best served warm with a dab of butter.

The flavors intensify as the biscuits cool.  I think leftover biscuits would be excellent sliced, buttered and grilled, cut side down.




Note: In a futile attempt to be clever, I first cut the dough with a shamrock shaped cookie cutter.  They looked adorable unbaked but weird baked.  I think they were too small.  So no pictures of those biscuits!    Oh well...



And now a few links to St. Paddy's Day recipes from some food bloggers who are known for their expertise in all things foodie.  You will not go wrong following these links and you're sure to find just the thing you're looking for.  Yes, there are more bread recipes...bread is the staff of life, y'know!

Bacon Cheddar Scallion Scones from Joanne at Fifteen Spatulas

Irish Brown Bread from A Kitchen Addiction

and sweets for the sweet...

Bailey's Brownie Cheesecake Truffles from Sarah of Baking Serendipity

Double Decker Rainbow Cookies from Bridget at Bake at 350

and more scrumptious links...

Friday Pin-Ups: Luck of the Irish from Isabelle at Crumb