Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh Jerusalem!

If I'm not careful, I'm going to miss our bus this morning. We are headed to the BYU Jerusalem Center on the Mount of Olives for church. We have been swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, visiting an archaelogical dig, spending precious moments at holy sites, and in between it all we have been gabbing and chatting. I'm trying to hit all of my old hang out spots in Jerusalem and even visit a couple of my old friends. Yikes-bus leaves in 10 minutes but since I have the Internet I'll leave you with my pictures and very little explanation. You'll see my family, my sisters, and even some ice creams. The good news: Heidi got her luggage. Bella got her cast-not green, but pink in a last minute decision. I saw my old friend Omar from twenty years ago. Bathrooms were locked and we had to change in the bushes for our swim in the Sea. My sister Laurie forgot to pack her bra after the swim. You might think this is bad news, but since we all laughed so hard, I'm including it as good news.
The bad news: The Quiet Man caught this wasp in our hotel room. And for really bad news, one of my sisters fell in an ancient cave and sliced her ear requiring a trip to the emergency room and a little reconstructive surgery. She's doing great but I don't want to mention which sister until she has a chance to talk to her family. The Van Gogh jokes are already starting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shalom from Israel

Did I mention that I have been to Israel? Well, I have. I went with my father on a trip when I was nineteen. I think it was supposed to help me settle down and get serious about life. I'm not sure if it worked; sorry, Dad. But I loved Israel enough to go back as a student at the BYU Jerusalem center. (Thanks for that one also, Dad.) I am back in the Holy Land for a third time. I'm here with my brothers and sisters and our spouses, and of course dear old mom and dad. We arrived at the Sea of Galilee last night. It is the land of milk and honey. (And sesame bread, falafels, roasted peppers, and cucumbers.) I'm taking lots and lots of pictures, and not just of the food this time.
I want to post those pictures, I really do. But I've been navigating blogher in Hebrew and I think I might be at my patience limit. I'm still trying, so if I succeed that means I remember more of Hebrew class than I thought. I hope Dad will be proud.
Petra, Jordan is where we have been for the last two days. This is where we rode donkeys, camels, horses and buggies. And walked, and walked, and walked. I have blisters and sore calves to prove it. 1000 steps to monastery, plus 6 or so miles there and back. But who notices when you are with family. I can't stop laughing, which only proves that I can't get serious anywhere in the world. Sorry again Dad. I'm going to keep you posted, gentle readers. Tonight we are going on a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and dinner begins now. Be back tomorrow with any luck. Shalom!
PS The bad news: My sister Heidi has had no end of trouble. The tour company cancelled her flights and lost her luggage. She's going on four days with no stuff.
More bad news: My niece Bella broke her foot with the kind babysitter. Poor little sweetie-pie. West threw up in his sleep and poor Oma had to clean it up. Thank you, Oma.
Good News: We had a birthday party for Uncle Mark last night. Heidi's luggage should be here tonight. Bella is going to get a green cast tomorrow. West feels fine and Oma is the kindest nurse a person could ever want.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Italian Tomato and Basil Steaks in the Crockpot

I was bemoaning the lack of fall in the southwest, but now I am celebrating its abundance in the northeast. Sailor, West, and I landed in Rochester, New York early Wednesday morning. I am struck, dumb-founded, twitter-painted by all the beauty. You don't have to look hard or drive far away. It is in the backyard, across the street, growing just beyond the parking lot. Today we are heading out on a packet boat for an afternoon fall foliage tour of the Erie Canal. All of this beauty has a time limit. Frost said that nothing gold can stay. I know that one violent gust of wind will steal away all of my lovely leaf friends. I'm heading outside while I can. In the meantime, here's a savory fall recipe to share on the wake of Cookie Bookie. (If you missed any Cookie Bookie, scroll down and lick your lips.) I've got a luscious, tender beef recipe in a sumptuos tomato and basil gravy. Pour it over mashed potatoes, polenta, or buttered noodles. It will warm the soul after a chilly afternoon looking at the winsome wonders of my favorite season.
Money saving tips: Use a very economical cut of steak, since it's going to get tender in the crockpot. Don't waste your money on anything for the grill. Choose skillet or braising cuts of beet.
Italian Tomato and Basil Steaks in the Slowcooker
Estimated Cost: $5.00
1 lb. steaks-any economical cut since it will be made tender in the crockpot
1/2 medium onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried basil, or 1 tablespoon fresh
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup whipping cream mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Combine all ingredients in the slowcooker, EXCEPT cream and cornstarch. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until tender. Stir in cream and cornstarch and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve over pasta, mashed potatoes, or polenta.
Try the steaks over these buttered noodles. Toss a pound of campanelle with a couple tablespoons of browned butter, chopped basil, and salt and pepper.
Next Up:
Mini Freeform Meatloaves

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cookie Bookie VII: The Grand Finale

Oy vey. I'm a little verklempt to be writing the very last post of Cookie Bookie 2010. Three Octobers ago when I started this little blog of mine, I thought it would be fun to share my favorite fall cookies and some spooky reads. I had only a handful of readers, and they were mostly just relatives, trying to be supportive. By the next year, my reader family had multiplied. A few kind readers emailed to ask if I was planning to do Cookie Bookie again. And so the tradition was born, thanks to you all. This time around I've had a whole year to test cookies and read scary stories. I saved the sweetest and scariest for last....
I wouldn't recommend reading Stephen King's Misery when your husband is out of town. It will be a long night, full of nightmares and macabre hallucinations. Maybe you've already seen the movie Misery, but don't let that stop you from reading the frightening book. (Who could forget the hobbling scene with Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata playing in the background? Well, it doesn't happen in the book-it's worse.) If you thought it was scary in technicolor, you won't believe how chilling the story is on the black and white printed page. Misery tells the story of dangerously unbalanced Annie Wilkes, who rescues her favorite writer Paul Sheldon when his car slides off the road during a snow storm. She transports him to her isolated farmhouse in the Rocky Mountains and nurses his shattered legs. Doting Annie is Paul's self-proclaimed "number one fan!" Although Paul is grateful to Annie for saving his life and limbs, it becomes almost immediately apparent that Annie is distressingly, but sometines humorously, abnormal. (She loves to use creative curse words when she's annoyed, like "dirty birdy" and "Mr. Man" and "cock-a-doodie." Hmm. I could use a few of those gems daily.) One dark evening as she reads the latest installment of Paul's popular romance series, she flies into a dangerous rage because the main character , Misery, dies in childbirth. That evening, Paul realizes that Annie has no intention of releasing him from her home. She demands that Paul bring Misery back to literary life on a rapidly deteriorating antique typewriter. Adding greater insult to injury, she torches Paul's first completed attempt at a serious semi-biographical novel. Misery now becomes not only Paul Sheldon's psychological condition, but his magnum opus and probably his swan song; or will the writing of Misery become his literal and figurative salvation? Read it yourself, if you dare. A word of warning though, it is bone-chillingly terrifying. (Don't read it, Mom. You wouldn't like it. But go ahead and read it, Roy; you would.)
And here is my Cookie Bookie swan song. For this year, anyway. I saved my favorite treat for the last. These fantastic cookies are chock full of suprising textures and flavors. The dough is heavy on caramel tones with a splash of molasses and lots of dark brown sugar, all balanced with a generous bite of salt. Cornflakes add a hit of crunch while marshmallows (the staler the better for keeping their shape) provide a gooey, sweet counterpoint. Peanut butter M&Ms provide another dose of sweet and salty flavor. The cookies have to be fairly large to get the right combination of chewy-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside, bumpy-all-over textures, and also to keep the cornflakes, marshmallows and peanut butter M and Ms in place. Don't cheat and try to make them tiny. But, mmmmm. Mm-mm-mm. They are really, really good.
Caramel Cookies with Cornflakes, Marshmallows, and Peanut Butter M and Ms
(recipe by me-share it all you want)
Estimated Cost: $3.50 for a dozen
1/2 cup unsalted softened butter (if you use salted, cut the added salt by a generous pinch)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon molasses
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/3 cups all purpose flour (or use half whole wheat)
3/4 cup cornflakes, crushed (or use rice krispies)
3/4 cups stale or frozen mini marshmallows
3/4 cup peanut butter (or plain) M and Ms, divided use
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butters and sugars until fluffy. Add vanilla, molasses and the egg. Stir in soda, powder, and salt. Add flour, mixing until just blended. Stir in cornflakes, marshmallows and 1/2 cup M and Ms. Scoop cookies by generous 1/4 cup full portions into balls and place on two cookie sheets with two inches of space between cookies. You should have between 10 and 12 cookies. Bake for about ten minutes, or until tops are just beginning to carmelize. Poke remaining M and Ms atop the still warm cookies. These cookies are equally good warm and at room temperature. For the best texture, stick with room temp.
Thanks so much for reading my ramblings and recipes. And thanks especially for all of your kind comments for Sailor on yesterday's post.
Next Up:
Italian Tomato and Basil Steaks in the Slow Cooker

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cookie Bookie VI: Girl Detectives and Mysterious Ghosts

Welcome to the final days of Cookie Bookie.
It's my third year to dedicate an entire week to shivery stories and sugary sweets. Scroll down if you've missed any posts. Don't forget to follow along by clicking on the sidebar in the upper right corner. Today is extra special, since my 9 year old (going on 19) daughter Sailor is guest-posting.

Hi, everybody. It's me, Sailor. I'm really excited to be a guest blogger today. Maybe I'm a little bit nervous, too. I hope you will like what I have to say. I am a big reader. Actually I am a little reader with a big appetite for books, and a big appetite for cookies too. Ha, ha. I read lots of scary stories and then I have trouble sleeping at night, but it never stops me. It's impossible to put down a good book, especially when there's a villain lurking in the shadows ready to pounce on you the moment you close your eyes. My favorite scary stories are the Nancy Drew Mysteries. Today I'll be sharing one of the best: The Ghost of Blackwood Hall. If you like Nancy Drew Mysteries, then you know that the stories follow a certain formula. Nancy finds a mystery to solve and meets the villain in the first couple of chapters, then she spends most of the book hunting him down. She makes a lot of mistakes, and I always feel like shouting, "Don't go in there, Nancy!" but she never pays any attention to her readers. Ha, ha. In this book, Nancy hears mysterious organ music and then sees a disappearing figure, a ghost in Blackwood Halls. Later she meets a woman who has seen the ghost of her dead husband. The ghost asked her to bury her jewels in the woods by a walnut tree. Later she decides to go back and get the jewels, and when she takes them to be cleaned she discovers that they are all fakes. Can a ghost be a jewel thief or is there a human being posing as a ghost? Read the story and find out for yourselves. (Doesn't this sound a little bit like it could be a Scooby Doo episode? Zoinks! Ha, ha.)
I have a cookie to go along with this bookie. I made the cookie all by myself (except for slicing and taking them out of the oven). My mom didn't even know I was baking until she smelled the good smell in the house. I made a peanut butter oatmeal bar, covered with thick dark chocolate to remind me of Blackwood Hall. Then I placed a marshmallow ghost on each square to remind me of the ghosts in the story. I think they are really yummy. You can put chopped peanuts instead of ghosts on top for grown-ups.
Well, that is all for my Cookie Bookie, except I have a question. I'm trying to decide if I should wear my last year's witch costume for Halloween, or this new Mary Poppins costume that my mom made. I really love my witch costume and it might not fit next year. What do you think?Would you please help me decide? Leave me a comment! Maybe I should be Nancy Drew next year. Thanks, love Sailor
The Ghost of Blackwood Hall Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
from 101 Gourmet Cookies
Estimated Cost: $3.00 for 20
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup chocolate chips
marshmallow ghosts or chopped peanuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter, sugars, vanilla, and peanut butter. Add egg and stir until well blended. Add baking soda, then flour and oatmeal. Pour batter into greased 9 by 13 inch pan. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from oven. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let stand for five minutes. Spread chocolate over bars. Let cool completely (yah, right!) and cut into squares. Cover with chopped peanuts of a marshmallow ghost.
Thanks, Sailor! A plus, kiddo.
Next Up:
The best Cookie Bookie for last: the scariest book I've ever read and my new favorite cookie. See you tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Ghosts of Cookie Bookie Past

Welcome to Cookie Bookie,
my annual blog event in which I share frightening books and fantastic treats.
Today's cookie bookie features beloved ghosts from the past, lest we forget. Let's look back at some of the favorite tricks and treats featured in Cookie Bookies of yesteryears. Isn't she a beauty? This cinnamon-scented soft pumpkin cookie with rich browned butter frosting makes a charming companion for William Kelly's Witness. (Here's the recipe.) Poolr little schizophrenic cookie features a blend of chocolate and vanilla doughs, studded with colorful Halloween M and Ms, for nibbling with Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Click here for the recipe.
Dark and spooky, this ganache-glazed cookie will keep you satisfied while reading Stephanie Meyer's guilty pleasure, Twilight. It's right here.
C'mon, you know the kids can't resist a good roll-out cookie. These gingerbread pumpkins are sturdy enough for chubby little hands yet yummy enough for kids from one to ninety-two. Thoroughly immerse yourself in the pleasures of the young at heart with Roald Dahl's The Witches. Head on over.
I keep these around when I want to please the masses on the cheap. They're soft and crinkly, chock-full of ginger and molasses flavor and that pleasing chewy texture. And speaking of pleasing the masses, did you know that Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most common favorite books? Presto-it's here.
Crack open a book and mix up a batch. Sit by the fire and enjoy the shivers while you're safe at home for Cookie Bookie.
Be back tomorrow with more Cookie Bookie
There's only two days left! Send over your friends. Don't forget to become a follower by clicking on the upper right hand link. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cookie Bookie IV for your Little Monsters

Post Edit: I'm taking a day of rest-so I'll be back Monday. See you then. Welcome back to Cookie Bookie, the week long celebration of the sweet and the spooky. Follow along today and everyday by clicking the link in the upper left hand corner. Scroll down if you've missed Christie and chocolate, Austen and maple, or Noyes and candy corn. But why should grown-ups have all the fun? Today's Cookie Bookie is dedicated to the wee little ones. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite Halloween picture books and an adorable, easy to make cookie. Let's get started with The Little Red Hen-oops, I mean The Little Green Witch by Barbieri McGrath. What should a pint-sized witch do when her lazy companions refuse to help her make pumpkin pie? She'll take a cue from the little red hen, eat it all up herself and cast a suprise spell of revenge on her feckless friends. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams, is the tale of a lone woman pursued on a path in the dark of night . Gather up some random articles of clothing and turn this book into a reader's theatre. When you're done reading, you'll have a dandy scarecrow and only the mildest case of the shivers. The darling illustrations in Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara make it an inviting read, but it's the clever use for unwanted ghosts that make the book worth reading again and again. A new book, Matthew McElligott's Even Monsters Need Haircuts will delight the whole family with a clever peek into the minutia of Monster Life. Even ghouls have to wait in long lines (yawn!) to get their locks trimmed. One of my favorite spooky reads comes from Dr. Seuss. What Was I scared of? tells the story of two dissimilar beings scaring the daylights out of each other. One of them just happens to be a spooky pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them. I followed the lead of my college buddy, Johanna Wagner, who memorized the entire book to recite to her siblings. I shared it with my little sisters Mary Kate and Catherine and then with my baby-faced nephews Jacob and Jordan. They're all grown-ups now (waah!), every last one of them, so I tell it to my charges and they're starting to memorize it too.
AND-I hope to be reading a Halloween book sometime soon from my supremely talented niece, Kit Chase. She just signed a lucrative book deal with Penguin Books, so maybe next year, I'll be able to feature one of her stories on Cookie Bookie. For now, if you want a shot at winning this oh-so-cute print, head over to her blog and leave a comment.
Let's get started with our cookie today. These are an answer to a busy mother's prayer. I love making frosted sugar cookies with the charges, but let's face it: they take forever! The kids love it and want to make them for every holiday, right down to Arbor Day and Grandparent's Day. But I get tired of the mixing, the rolling, the cutting, the baking, the frosting, and don't even get me started on the dishes. Ay, mamacita. I spotted a tinted dough snowman recipe in a Taste of Home cookbook, and I doubted it would really work. It was worth a try, but I had my reservations. To my suprise, the cookies were fantastic. The dough has only five ingredients and mixes up in minutes. There are no eggs in the dough, so the tots can nibble as they go. Tinting the dough was simple enough with standard liquid food coloring. The charges had a blast shaping the dough into pumpkin shapes and beyond. Sailor made sweet little well-behaved pumpkins and West made feisty rabble rousers. Hey-I was having fun, too with a minimal amount of work. I was still nervous that the cookies would spread too much in the oven, or lose their bright colors with baking, but no! They were still bright, compact, and firm. And buttery-yummy, too. I have a feeling we'll be making these often. They're so fast that you'll have plenty of time to do the things you love, like read another spooky Halloween story with your little ones.
Pumpkin Butter Cookies
adapted from Taste of Home
Estimated Cost: $3.00 for about 3 dozen
1 cup butter, softened (not melted!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 and 1/4 cups all purpose four
orange and green food coloring
sprinkles of miniature chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add milk and vanilla and mix well. Add flour. Separate dough into desired portions and tint with food coloring. Shape into balls and flatten for pumpkins, or use your imagination to create other shapes and figures. Bake at 325 for 13-16 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets, or until cookies are set. Let cool for two minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Tip: Use toothpicks to etch lines in the raw dough. Retrace the lines immediately when the cookies come out of the oven.
Be Back Tomorrow (um, make that Monday) with More Cookie Bookie