Saturday, March 31, 2012

Two Cakes, Two Celebrations

Thought I'd share the two cakes I made the last couple of days.  The first is a carrot cake I made for my boss, Mary Lou.  We had a small celebration in the office and found a little bit of time between two of her many meetings to sing "Happy Birthday" and wish Mary Lou well and a great year ahead.  She was very appreciative.  My co-worker Dean was Mary Lou's party planner, and came to me early on to see if I'd bake her a special cake, which I was happy to do.  Our office is great that way. Everyone is designated party planner for someone else, so no one person's birthday goes unacknowledged.  It's a special thing.

Here's Mary Lou's cake, which was a carrot spice cake with raisins and pineapple, and cream cheese frosting:

Mary Lou's Birthday Cake

The second cake I made was for my friend Anne's granddaughter, Breanna.  She's celebrating her 13th birthday with a slumber party and six of her close friends.  Anne sent me a photo of an "inspiration" cake that  Breanna liked, and I used it as just that, inspiration.  I always try to make someone else's design unique by incorporating my own touches, and I think it was successful.  This was a white/vanilla cake with butter cream frosting and cut-out fondant decorations.

Here's Breanna's cake:

Breanna's Birthday Cake

And, since I rarely give my oven a rest, right now I'm baking crumb cake muffins.  They've just come out of the oven, and they are pretty.

Today's crumb cake muffins -
hot out of the oven with a little sugar on top!

Photos:  my own

A Dollar and So Many Dreams!

Like so many others, I woke this morning to find that I did NOT win the Mega-millions lottery.  At least one lucky winner in Maryland has that life-changing joy today.  Just buying the ticket and imagining the good we'd all do with the money is a very positive thing.  In my office, a number of us went in together on a ticket.  Then we all started talking about what we'd do with the money once we'd won.  It is very interesting to hear peoples' dreams out loud, to hear from their hearts the good they'd do before they even enjoy any of that money for themselves.  My friend Katie said she'd set up college funds for all her friends' children.  I said I'd take care of my children and grandchildren, and my six siblings so that they'd be all set.  Others expanded that idea to include their close friends.  At first we each said we'd like at least a million dollars, but with plans to help others realized we'd need at least two million, and maybe a third million as a cushion!  At least.

This particular lottery story, because of the record size of the jackpot, has the news media buzzing, setting up camp this morning outside the Seven Eleven store in Maryland where the one known winning ticket was sold.  News outlets are interviewing people on the street, asking "What would you do with the money if you won?" and the responses have a fairly universal thread, including quitting the nine-to-five, paying off bills, helping family -- all the things that, in my mind, would need to be done to clear the way to actually realizing the freedom of this new-found wealth.  It's fun to think about.

Here are my dreams, and what I would do, should half a billion dollars ever fall in my lap:

  • Keep it a secret for a while
  • Hire a trusted financial consultant who's dealt with managing big winnings before, and establish a plan for the money I'll keep and money for specific philanthropy (Smile Train, cancer research, adoption programs, education for disadvantaged women, etc.)
  • Take a leave of absence from my job, but not quit right away
  • Fly to Long Beach to visit Meghan and Mark in their new bigger apartment by the beach!
  • Go to Canyon Ranch for one month (to start!)  to prepare myself physically and nutritionally for the new life ahead.
  • Pay off all my bills
  • Set up trust accounts for my children and grandchildren 
  • Set up college funds for Henry and Peter, and any future grandchildren
  • Set up accounts for each of my six siblings 
  • Set up accounts for my closest friends and relatives - specific people, designated ahead of time to avoid the "out of the woodwork" situation.  If you're not on the list, I'm sorry, but you know I wouldn't be on your list, either (!)

And then, when that's all taken care of...

  • Build my own little house, close to Katie's and Bill's, with at least three bedrooms for company, a commercial stove, a pool, and a big garden.
  • Hire an expert to expand my blog to a wider audience, and publish that first cookbook.
  • Establish an annual travel fund for my family and friends (because memories are priceless).
  • Purchase that beach house with a third floor loft/art/writing studio that overlooks the ocean (New England, I'm thinking, so friends and relatives can drive to visit), and paint again.  A lot.
  • Buy fresh flowers whenever.
  • Travel all the time, sometimes by myself, and write about it.


Enjoy time with the people in my life.

Pretty simple.  At least I have a plan now, for when it could happen!  Like my mother used to say, "You have to be in it to win it!"

Image credit:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm Seeing Red...and Liking It!

Russ was here this weekend and gave me a terrific belated birthday gift - a Magic Bullet, which is exactly like the one I already own (!) so today, I made a trip to Kohl's to see if I could exchange it for the kitchen item I've really had my eyes on for a long time:  an enameled dutch oven!  With no receipt, they cheerfully took the "bullet" back and gave me a voucher for its value.  Immediately, I headed over to the housewares department, to the exact location where I've spent too much time in the past trying to justify (unsuccessfully) spending $129.00 for a beautiful, 7 quart, red dutch oven, a product of The Food Network.  I felt bad returning the gift he chose for me, but I know he'd rather I have something I really want.  The "bullet" wasn't the only gift Russ gave me.  He loves to joke about my love of ketchup, and often makes gentle fun of me, saying it's the "vegetable" on my plate.  He exaggerates (kind of) and the other gift from Russ was this thoughtful t-shirt:

So, yeah, I like ketchup. I can stop any time...

This desire for a true enameled cast-iron dutch oven has been percolating for about six years, ever since Katie was gifted her cobalt blue Le Creuset original by her mother-in-law, Penelope.  It was a wonderful gift, and is worth every penny of its brand-new price (over $400 way back when).  There's an outlet store in Maine that Penny stops at every time she travels that way, and her collection of L.C. cast-iron ware has grown exponentially with each trip. I don't know the capacity of Katie's cobalt blue, but it is huge, and has been the star of the dinner show many nights, instrumental to such meals as pot roast, chili, spaghetti sauce, soups and chowders, and on and on and on. Many a comforting meal has been ladled out of that substantial pot.

So, there I was at Kohl's, intent on finding the largest and reddest dutch oven in the store.  The largest is 7 quarts, and it was the only one in that size, and it was RED (to go with my black/white kitchen).  I was so excited!  After returning the magic bullet, the $129 price tag (on sale today for $79) meant I only had to add $23 and the dutch oven was mine!  I don't remember ever being so excited about a kitchen purchase in my life!  I guess it's because I paced myself and waited a long time...  It is so much more than a pot.  It is the promise of dinners shared, of comfort provided, of happy memories around a table.  I love it as much as I've loved any birthday gift, and I love Russ for being the catalyst for finally bringing it home (and for many other reasons).  This beautiful red dutch oven will be treasured for my lifetime, and I am sure long after I hang up  my apron.

Here are some photos from our home, today, in Middle Grove. (Bill's painting new boards for their picnic table - Henry picked out the color!)...

(click to enlarge)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lemon-Filled Scones

Hello ADK Baker followers!  Please forgive me ~ it's been almost a week since I've posted, which is attributed to the busiest week of the year at work in an Admissions office.  We still notify applicants the old-fashioned way, so yesterday we mailed over 6000 letters, which was very exciting, but also meant that the weeks leading up to such an important day were incredibly full with lots of activity.  But, the letters are on their way, and I am back in the baking/blogging saddle, once again.

Which brings me to scones...(can anyone ever get tired of scones?).  In my quest to develop new and interesting flavors for scones and muffins, I've begun "filling" my trusty scone dough with jams and jellies.  I was looking in the fridge at the collection of jams -- strawberry, raspberry, raspberry red currant, apricot --and realized I had one of the best candidates, staring me right in the face!  Lemon curd!  That beautiful, rich, thick essence of lemon is a perfect compliment to the buttery, flaky scone, so I gave it a try, and the results are outstanding!  The brand I have on  hand is Dickinson's, and the jar is beautiful (which is probably why I bought it!) but what's inside has a charm all its own.

Here's the recipe for a new and delicious scone!

400-degrees Farenheit
Makes 1 dozen large scones (or 2 dozen mini)

2 cups flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons very cold butter, grated
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar, combined, let sit for 5 minutes)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
4 tablespoons lemon curd

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Grate very cold (ice cold - frozen is fine) butter into the same bowl, tossing grated butter with the flour mixture as you go (so it doesn't all stick together).  Put bowl in freezer for 10 minutes to make sure the butter stays cold and intact.   You don't want it to blend with the flour - the separate, cold butter pieces insure a flaky scone.

In separate bowl, combine beaten egg with buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon extracts.  Make a well in the flour mixture and pour egg/milk mixture into center.  With fork, toss the dry into the wet until it is all combined but not overly mixed.  Just make sure you have grabbed all the dry mixture and incorporated it into the wet.  Put the bowl back in the freezer for 10 minutes.

On well-floured surface, divide dough into 2 equal portions.  Knead each round about 6-8 times, to create multiple layers of dough, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking.  Form each portion into a round about 1/2-inch thick.  Spread each round with about 2 tablespoons lemon curd.  Gently roll each round into a log, jelly-roll style.  Tuck ends under and pat each round into a 6-inch circle.  Place rounds on parchment-lined cookie sheet and return to freezer for 10 minutes.

Remove from freezer and cut each round into 6 wedges.  I use a fluted vegetable cutter, but a sharp knife is fine.  Separate wedges on cookie sheet and brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water).

Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for about 20 minutes OR until the tops have begun to take on a golden brown color.

Remove from oven and drizzle with lemon glaze.

Lemon glaze:

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
drops of water, a little at a time

With a fork, mix confectioners sugar, extract, and water, a little at a time, until the consistency of white glue.  You don't want it watery but you don't want it so thick it won't drizzle.  You need a nice, opaque consistency that flows slowly off a fork. Be very careful adding water.  Even the tiniest too much, and your glaze turns to soup!

So that's the latest scone recipe.

Thought you might like to see some recent photos of life in Middle Grove, New York, especially after this past summer-like first week of spring!

First Week of Spring in Middle Grove, New York
(click to enlarge)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day 2012

There was no escaping the fact.  Today is St. Patrick's Day, and in "the 518" there was a sea of green wherever my car took me.  My first trip out this morning was to The Country Corner for breakfast with Claire, Sandi, and Liz.  We sat for a while over our eggs and toast and spent the kind of time we love to, and then it was over too soon.  I went on to deliver a bridal shower cake to my friend Puddy, for her daughter Lindsay who's having a tropical destination wedding soon.  The cake was of a tropical theme, the design based on a cake Lindsay had fallen in love with for her wedding, but decided against because the price was outrageous! Puddy sent me a link to the wedding venue's website, with a route to a photo of the desired cake, asked me to use that as inspiration for the bridal shower cake, and if I do say so myself, it came out great!  I dropped that off around 11 a.m., and drove home to Middle Grove, taking Rt. 29 right through downtown Saratoga, where there were so many people out-and-about you'd have thought it was mid-August!  The crowds in and outside of The Parting Glass on Lake Avenue were spilling out onto the street.  It was about sixty degrees and bright sunshine, so I can't blame people, at all, for wanting to be outside with their friends and lively music on this very Irish holiday!

Lindsay's tropical-themed bridal shower cake...

After breakfast out and the cake delivery, I got home in time to put the finishing touches on a St. Patrick's Day cake for my friends Pat and Beth, who were throwing a huge party.  Pat told me he was figuring on 50 guests, but by the time I stopped by with the cake, around 3 p.m., the count was up to 100.  Warm weather combined with a friendly holiday is an irresistible combination to get out and socialize!

St. Patrick's Day cake, with a little surprise green streak inside!

This afternoon found me hanging out at Katie's while she prepared the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner in her giant royal blue Le Creuset stock pot (coveted).  She had two corned beef briskets and also boiled cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.  I've never been that big a corned beef fan (hated it growing up) but this was completely different than anything I'd had as a kid.  My dad used to make it in a pressure cooker.  I think the taste of corned beef is too strong for young taste buds - I've grown to like it, and cabbage, as I've gotten older.  Anyway, it was a spectacular meal, and Katie topped it off with a little baking of her own - chocolate cupcakes with a Bailey's Irish Cream ganache and Bailey's buttercream.  I know -- I may have created a monster!  She's a good cook and a good baker.  God help all of us as we try to lose weight!  I've given myself the week off to accommodate birthday dinners and St. Patrick's Day.  After next Wednesday, I'm back to counting points and getting serious.  After all, I have two weddings and a vacation to fit into look forward to!

Despite the look on Pete's face, there's no Irish Cream
in that cupcake!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wow, nice birthday...

It's the Ides of March.  That means I'm fifty-eight today.  I am.  Twenty-nice twice!   Wow, it seems impossible, but at the same time I realize there's been a whole lot packed into these almost-six decades!  I'm a little reflective tonight, remembering birthdays past, and so happy to have spent time or talked with all five of my children today.  Katie put together a fantastic dinner of filet mignon, shrimp, baked potatoes, and green beans -- all my favorites.  Jeff made a salad with a home-made creamy dill dressing (great!), and the crowning glory was the birthday cake Henry and Katie made today.  Pete helped, too.  He sat in a booster seat while they decorated the cake and he gave his enthusiastic approval for the frosting!

It was a great day, all-around.  Friends at work surprised me with a little celebration right after lunch (Carvel ice cream cake, yea!).  Russ sent a less-than-appropriate card to my office address which I embarrassingly opened in front of my co-workers! It wasn't dirty or obscene, but one of those cards you snicker at in the card store but are too embarrassed to actually buy - well, he wasn't, obviously!  I talked to most of my six siblings today, and was overwhelmed by birthday greetings on facebook.  It's just amazing.  Most people asked something like " who's making YOUR cake?"  Well, Henry and Katie did, and did such a great job.  I was over the moon happy with every little thing.  My most spectacular gift was Henry's big surprise, the one he could barely contain for the past week:  three squirt guns which he's decided should, for some reason, stay at his house until the warm weather when we'll use them outside! One for me, one for Henry, and one for Pete.   He and Pete also gave me a beautiful card of their choosing - it had a dinosaur on it and a "5" - just missing the "8" but that's OK!  My son-in-law Bill gave me a card addressed to "Monster-in-law!"  We all know he doesn't mean it (?)....

Henry with the gift he chose for ME!

Tonight finds me baking again, for two parties on Saturday.  The first is a bridal shower for my friend Puddy's daughter, Lindsay, and the second is for a friend's St. Patrick's Day party.  I have two cakes in the oven now, and one to go in as soon as they come out.  The St. Patrick's Day cake is white cake marbled with dark chocolate and Kelly green batter.  Thought I'd mix things up a bit so when they cut into the cake, they'll be surprised!

I'd love to go to bed, but the baker in me has too much to do before I can turn off the lights...

Thanks so much to all my friends and family who helped to make the switch from 57 to 58 not only bearable, but a very happy day as well.  I send you all my love and gratitude.



A little celebration and a lot of joy....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mint Cookie Brownies for St. Patrick's Day!

My friend Colleen Barber of "What's Baking in the Barbershop?!" posted a photo on her facebook page of Cookies and Cream brownies that look incredible, and I can't wait to bake them.  She's posting the recipe tomorrow, so look for it, and in the meantime check out all her recipes - they're terrific!  I can't wait to make her brownies.  In the meantime, I was thinking that I have the fixings for a cookie/brownie combo that would be great for St. Patrick's Day (thank you, Colleen, for the inspiration!).

I bought a lot of Girl Scout cookies this year, more than I remembered ordering!  I always give my brother Steven a couple of boxes of Thin Mints for his birthday, his favorite.  I have extra, and if I have extra, I eat them, which is not the best case scenario as I count points in an effort to lose pounds (the motivation came over me long after I ordered the cookies!).  So, I thought I'd make some Thin Mint Brownies as an early St. Patrick's Day treat by taking a basic brownie recipe (not a mix, but a mix would be fine) and adding chopped up cookies and chunks of dark chocolate.  I adapted a  very highly-rated recipe from for the foundation, doubled, and folded in  chocolate and cookie pieces.  The brownies are baking now, and I have some photos to share.  Reviews will have to wait until my co-workers let me know how they turned out!  There's a reason why people associate St. Patrick's Day with chocolate and mint, and though I'm not sure what that reason is, I'm happy to go along with the idea!

350 degrees F
13x9 pan, bottom only sprayed with cooking spray

2 bars butter, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Pour melted butter into large mixing bowl.  Stir in sugar and mix well.  Add eggs and beat well with wooden spoon.  Add vanilla extract.

Add, all at once:
1 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

With rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold dry ingredients into wet and stir until all the dry is incorporated, careful not to overwork the batter.  Fold in:

6 oz. chocolate, chopped (I used Dark Mint Premium Candy Wafers, the kind you find at a crafts store)
1 sleeve Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, chopped into pieces

Thoroughly combine batter with chocolate and cookies, and spread in prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack.

Pete and Hank, hanging out on a rainy March day...

Click to enlarge...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Raspberry Red Currant Scones

It's a scone kind of day.  This morning I made raspberry red currant scones, with a very special jam, a Saratoga County Fair prize-winner from my friend and jam maker Catherine Golden.  I usually always use real berries in my scones, but as I looked at the pretty quilted jar of jam I thought, that'd be great IN a scone, not just on it!  So, I made my basic scone dough and spread the jam on top, rolled it up jelly-roll style, formed it into a circle, and cut it into wedges. The results are the beautiful scones you seen in the photo accompanying this post. Now I'm thinking of all the very tasty and unique jams out there, and how my scone world is about to experience fairly expanded horizons!

400 degrees F
Parchment-lined cookie sheet

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk soured with 1 tablespoon vinegar - let it sit for five minutes)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
4 tablespoons raspberry red currant jam (or any jam you want to use)
egg wash

In large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in cold butter with pastry blender or two knives until the butter pieces are the size of peas.  Put the bowl in the fridge or freezer for five or ten minutes (keeps the butter from softening).

Take bowl out of fridge.

In small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and extracts.  Stir all at once into the flour mixture, and combine until all the dry ingredients are picked up.  Return to fridge or freeze for another 10 minutes.

On floured surface, drop batter and toss to cover all sides with flour.  Add more flour if needed.  Knead five or six times and divide in two.  Take each half and shape into a flat round, about 1/2-inch thick.  Spread 2 tablespoons of jam on each round.  Carefully roll up each round jelly-roll style, using flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the surface.  Take the log of dough and gently tuck ends under.  Gently shape into a new round.  Do this for both halves.  Each new round should be roughly six-inches wide and 1-inch thick.

On cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, place each round.  Put in freezer for 10 minutes, then cut each round into six wedges.  Separate wedges on cookie sheet and brush with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water).  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until nicely golden on top.

Remove from oven, and immediately drizzle with a glaze made of 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract, and a few drops of water.  Mix with fork, adding just enough drops of water as needed, until the glaze takes on the consistency of white glue (like Elmers).  You don't want it so thin it disappears, but you don't want it so thick it won't drizzle from a fork.  Drizzle scones with glaze.  Let cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 1 dozen scones (or 24 mini)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

When a Man Loves A Carrot Cake

The other day I got a call from my friend Pat, who said "I want to order a birthday cake."  I said, "OK, who's it for?"  "It's for me!  I love your carrot cake, and I want to order my own birthday cake."

First of all, I think it's the coolest thing when someone goes ahead and orders their own birthday cake.  No waiting around wondering, hoping someone will provide the cake on your big day.  You know you'll have your birthday cake, and eat it too, because you've taken care of it!  It's proactive and shows self-respect and confidence.  I love that!

I dropped Pat's cake off at 7:45 this morning.  He was all ready to go.  He's meeting his wife and daughters up at Gore Mountain for a little ski get-away, and he told his wife Beth, "Don't worry about my birthday cake.  I took care of it!"

Because I AM the cake baker, I usually don't bake my own birthday cakes.  My big day is next week, the "Ides of March" will be upon us and my odometer will turn over from 57 to 58.  Henry's been trying to tell me something all week.  I walk in their house and he says "Grandma, I have a surprise..." and goes running to reveal it, only to have his mother remind him, "Not yet, Henry!"  Then he just has the hugest grin on his face and looks at me like he can't wait to share the surprise.  So far, he's kept the lid on it.  Let's hope he can hold out for the next five days!

I always think about what peoples' favorites are when it comes to their birthday cakes.  It's usually a very specific, if not personal, preference.  Any Eddy relative usually requires chocolate in some form.  My neice Lauren usually likes strawberries and cream.  My nephew-in-law (is that a bonafide status?) Bob loves lemon anything, as does my best bud Sue.  The O'Farrell side of my family often likes the classic yellow birthday cake with white frosting (which I love too).  And then there's my friend Pat, who got just what he wanted, his own carrot cake, for his birthday today.

I've posted about my carrot cake recipe before.  It's a bit of a short-cut, for which I'm forgiven because it is just so good.  It's lighter (less oil) than many from-scratch recipes, and the addition of crushed pineapple and pineapple juice, along with raisins and walnuts, makes it a taste and texture extravaganza.  Add the cream cheese frosting (posted with the linked recipe), and, all I can say is, MORE PLEASE!

Happy birthday to you, Pat.  I hope you order your own cake from me for many years to come!  And I'll close with a collage of "my boys" on this beautiful Saturday morning...

Saturday morning with my boys!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins

My huge canister of Quaker Oats is working overtime these days.  Tonight I'm baking oatmeal muffins, a first effort.  This recipe is adapted from one I found online at  People who reviewed the online recipe commented that it was much like one they'd used for years from Quaker Oats, one their parents or grandparents used to make.

I love the legacy that food and recipes provide for future generations.  Did you ever have a nostalgic conversation about food and memories?  It's amazing how enthusiastic people become when they discuss meals they enjoyed growing up, and time spent in the kitchen learning to cook or bake.  I love that.

Back to muffins:  many of the reviews mentioned the light, moist texture of these muffins.  They're made from the most basic ingredients -- buttermilk, brown sugar, oats -- and go together very easily.  I'm looking through my oven's window now, and see them rising gently.  The acidic nature of buttermilk combined with baking powder and baking soda guarantee a nice rise and a light, airy muffin.  I added cinnamon so there's a slight vanilla/cinnamon aroma that I'm just beginning to notice.  Some of the people who used this recipe added grated apple, which sounds lovely.  For this first-time testing, I'm going basic and if they are a hit (which I'm sure they will be) I'll make additions the next time.  You could add grated apple, mashed banana, or even chopped raisins.

Here's the recipe, and photos to follow:

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins

1.5 cups buttermilk (can be made with 1.5 cups milk and 2 tbsp. vinegar - let it sit for 5 minutes)
1.5 cups Quick cooking Oats (I used Old Fashioned and they seemed fine)
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In large mixer bowl, combine the buttermilk, oats, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Mix very well.  Let sit for 15 minutes for the oats to soften.

In separate bowl, stir together very well:

1.5 cups flour
1.5 cups packed brown sugar (yes, that's right)
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl, and mix well.

Fill paper-lined baking cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 18 minutes or until tops are dry and bounce back when lightly pressed.

You can eat them warm or let them cool completely.  Warm is good, take my word for it!  They are delicious!  (They don't need a thing, but if it's a cold morning, warm one of these up and smear a little butter!)

And, here they are:

Stripped of its paper jacket...

Oh my goodness....

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Brown-Bagging and Quaker's Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

As I was navigating around the grocery store tonight after work (in a post-work walking fog), I thought about what would go well in my brown-bag lunch.  Every Monday I start out with the intention of brown-bagging all week, and by Wednesday or so, for whatever reason, I leave the house with no lunch in hand.  Well, with a daughter's wedding coming up in the fall, and other family weddings and vacations to look forward to, I have to budget my pennies wisely in order to afford all the happy celebrations of 2012.  If I buy my lunch at work, it's always $7.00 or so for something simple and a drink - a bowl of chili,or salad from the salad bar,or soup and a half-sandwich.  Multiply that by 5 work days and you can see that lunch alone can come close to $150/month.  Between now and my daughter's October wedding, that's a lot of money that could be better spent on happy wedding memories.  So, I have resolved to bring my lunch as often as possible, and to avoid the Wednesday through Friday purchased lunch habit.

Anyway, rather than buy granola bars or chips or some other processed lunch add-on for my little brown bag, I decided to go home and make a batch of Quakers Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies -- fresh, wholesome, and full of good things.  I wrote about them way back in 2009, but I'm sure that, if you read that post, you've long forgotten and are open to my bringing these delicious cookies back for a repeat performance.  The recipe is on the inside of the Oatmeal cansiter's lid.  As cookie recipes go, this one is simple.  You cream butter with two sugars, vanilla, and egg.  To that you add the requisite flour, baking soda, salt, and (in this recipe) cinnamon.  The final two ingredients are the stars of the show: old fashioned oatmeal (the real deal) and raisins.  One mixer, one bowl, and you can have cookies in about half an hour.  Not bad when you're looking for instant gratification with not-so-instant oatmeal!

I actually have a little story true confession about these cookies.  In 1980, just after my daughter Meghan was born, I made a batch of these cookies.  It was January, the dead of winter, and I was at home with a newborn and her two siblings, aged two and three and a half.  When Meghan was napping, Joe, Katie and I baked oatmeal cookies.  They were so delicious.  My husband called during the day and I told him we were baking and he was looking forward to enjoying the cookies when he got home.  Except...we (an adult woman and two tiny children) polished them off before Sesame Street was over! I know, it's hard to believe (maybe not!).  We had some sort of winter gorge-fest on bendy, chewy oatmeal cookies.  I blame it on lack of sunlight, or cabin fever, or some other odd winter phenomenon. To keep our little secret, I had to make an entire new batch of cookies before my husband came home from work.  Our secret was safe, but I can't make these cookies without thinking of that day, and smiling a little bit! (Oh, and we never did that again!).

Quaker Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Oven 350 degrees F
Parchment-lined cookie sheet

1 bar plus 6 tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (I used two!)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups Quaker Old-Fashioned Oats
1 cup raisins (I used a little less)

In large mixer bowl, cream butter with sugars and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Mix well.  Add oats and raisins. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheet (not in recipe, but I always use parchment paper).  I use a cookie scoop to get evenly sized cookies, but it's not  necessary.  If you have one, they're great.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  My cookies were bigger (because of the scoop) so I let mine go for 11 minutes.  Let cool on cookie sheet for a minute or two and then complete cooling on wire rack.  See if you can make them last, at least until after dinner!

Friday, March 2, 2012

In Like a Lion...

Well, it's Friday night, and yesterday March arrived kicking and screaming with the first substantial snow storm of the winter.  Leap Day, February 29th, escorted the storm from one month to the next, and we awoke on the morning of March 1st to the winter wonderland we'd been anticipating since early December.

It's been a strange winter with such low snow accumulations as to nudge at the record, though I don't think we actually broke it.  I see winter differently this  year, and I am not sure whether it's simply the lack of snow, but rather the Jeep that has stood at the ready to challenge whatever winter had in store.  Early in December, when we were at Bob's Trees in nearby Galway (NY) buying Christmas trees on a green and sunny day, Katie said to me "It won't snow now because you have the Jeep."  If I still had my little Mazda 3, maybe there'd have been a couple of blizzards by now! (How ego-centric does that sound?!)

Any other year, by this time, the sight of one snow flurry would be enough to have me searching on-line for cheap flights to Florida.  Well, I can't do that this year because I work in Admissions and no one who works in Admissions can take off during our busiest season. My escape from the northeast will have to wait until the summer, when it's warm and beautiful here, and that's when I leave (?)...  So, it's good that a flurry, or even a whole dumping of snow, does not antagonize me in the least.  Not this year, anyway.  Most winters, I can get very grumpy when there's no warmth or sunshine in sight!

Who'd ever think that six or ten inches of snow this late in the winter would be almost welcome.  It makes this unusual winter seem less freakish.  It restores a natural balance in some sense.  It's here for a short time, certainly, and right now, before it hangs around too long, it's fresh, and white, and bright, and makes the world look sparkling clean.  And it's pretty.