Monday, December 22, 2008

Cashew Clusters

If you're looking for a special treat that is super easy to make and doesn't involve the oven or icing or colored sprinkles, this recipe is for you! This is a winner above many other yummy recipes since it is 1) chocolatey, 2) embarrassingly quick and easy, 3) different than all the other "cookie" exchange items, 4) substantially satisfying to eat!

This is a recipe my mom always made at Christmastime. My Grandma Hardie used to make these, and many of her five children latched onto the recipe and have continued to make these chocolatey morsels for many, many years. My family always used the roasted Spanish peanuts, but I prefer the cashews. My children and I now make these clusters at Christmastime and give them to friends and neighbors in small tins.


12 oz. white chocolate chips
2-12 oz. packages chocolate chips
2 lbs. whole cashews (or roasted Spanish peanuts)


Place chips in a double boiler over medium heat. Stir until chocolate until melted and smooth. Or microwave chocolate to melt by heating on high for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until chocolate can be stirred smooth.

NOTE: depending on the chocolate you use, you may need to temper the chocolate to prevent white streaks from forming after the clusters cool. I use regular bags of chips and I don't bother tempering. Just don't overheat the chocolate while melting.

Remove from heat and add the nuts. Spoon onto waxed or parchment paper to form small clusters. Cool a few hours. Place in a tin separating layers with waxed or parchment paper.

To serve, place one or two...or three of them on one of Grandma Hardie's little Christmas plates and enjoy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Caramel Morsel Bars (Mike's Favorite)

My grandma used to make these for a Christmas treat along with her many Christmas cookies. She made them especially for my brother, Mike, since they were his favorite. Grandma loved providing family favorites.* I was told she found this recipe in a magazine. After Mike died in 1987, we all realized that these bars were favorites of more of us than Mike alone. When my grandma passed away in 1989, I started making these as my own Christmas treat tradition!


14-oz. bag KRAFT Caramels
3 TBSP water
5 cups crisp rice cereal or toasted oat cereal (I use crisp rice)
1 cup peanuts, optional
One 6-oz. pkg. (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 6-oz. pkg. (1 cup) butterscotch chips


Melt caramels with water in saucepan (or double boiler) over low heat. Stir frequently until sauce is smooth. Pour over cereal and nuts; toss until well coated. With greased fingers, press mixture into greased 9” x 13” pan. Sprinkle morsels on top; place in 200 degree oven for 7 minutes, or until morsels softened. Spread softened morsels until blended to form a frosting. Cool, cut into bars.

* Grandma liked to make people feel special by going out of her way to provide their "favorites". Besides making these bars for Mike, she baked mint surprise cookies (I still need to locate that recipe)--my Uncle Steve's favorites. One year grandma couldn't find her usual chocolate mint wafers for these cookies. I ended up locating something similar at a bake shop in the Twin Cities on Thanksgiving break and bringing them back to DBQ so she could make them for him before Christmas. I also recall Grandma asking me to pick up a loaf of sour dough bread at a bakery on Bluff Street for Grandpa...just because she knew he really liked it. She didn't want me to mention to Grandpa how expensive it was because he, in all his frugality, would not have wanted her to buy it for him. These were Grandma's little touches to make people feel special...and I would have never known about them had I not been running errands for her while she was recovering from a heart attack.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Candy Cane Brownies

You can even use a mix for these little trees!

Today was one of those days when your little child scampers up to you and asks, "So, what treat am I bringing to my Christmas party today?" and hands me a note from his religious education teacher that he received LAST week...about the party TODAY!


As I recall, all the kids said that they didn't need to bring anything to their parties--only a couple of ornaments for the older kids to trade with their classmates. The children were finishing up making homemade cards for all their teachers when Jimmer sprang this one on me. So goes life.

No time for creative thought. My husband had taken the family vehicle to work since it was too rainy and cold to take his open Jeep, so I couldn't get to the store. Hmmm...not much in the pantry, though I had a box of unsweetened chocolate.

I just want to say a big thanks to my neighbor, Julia, who had candy canes that I could use to make these holiday brownies.


The easy way to make these brownies is to use a box mix, add 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract (very good, but optional if you don't have it on hand) to the batter and bake as directed in a 9 x 13-inch pan. Using a quart-sized zipper baggie, crush four larger-sized candy canes with a mallet.

When the brownies have about 5 minutes left to bake, take them out of the oven, distribute the crushed candy canes over the top of the brownies, press them gently into the top, and finish baking.

If you're like me and don't have a mix, then make a fudgey version of your favorite brownie. I cut the vanilla extract in half and add 1/2 tsp. of peppermint extract.

Today, instead of just adding the crushed candy canes on top, I sprinkled on some milk chocolate chips five minutes before the brownies were done. After they were done baking, I spread the chocolate over the brownies with a knife, then sprinkled the crushed candy canes over the chocolate.

Allow the brownies to cool completely, then cut them into triangular tree shapes for that little extra Christmassy somethin', flip them all onto a red plastic plate, top it with non-festive, plain old clear cellophane (that is molecularily opposed to bonding with red plastic plates), hand them to your six year old, let him know that you'd like him not to run with them and drop them all before he gets to his party, and send him on his way with his dad...who has now returned just bit late with the family vehicle to run all the children to their parties.

Now close the door, pour some spiked egg nog, and finish wrapping Christmas presents while all the kids are away for that one and only precious hour a week that they are out of the house without you at their side. Ahhhhhh!

If I had the time, the ingredients and the gumption, I may have tried making these yummy looking brownies. The recipe has a few extra steps I just didn't have time for today.

Note: If you looked really closely at the picture of the final brownies, you'd notice a very sparce sprinkling of green sugar. I didn't think it addded anything special, so I stopped and left it with barely noticable greenery.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cake Ball Christmas Tree

The inspiration for this Christmas tree treat totally came from Bakerella's directions on making cake balls. This Christmas tree is made from red velvet cake mix and cream cheese frosting, and covered in melted candy wafers. The cake balls were then arranged on a foil-covered Styrofoam cone "tree" with toothpicks. A nice centerpiece for a festive holiday party.

If you think this looks festively fun, you really should check out Bakerella's site. She has a perfectionist way of decorating all sorts of cake ball-type goodies and, of course, other scrumptious baked goods.

Using the same method of arranging the little cakes on the Styrofoam tree, I've also created a more decadent chocolate truffle tree. This will be a post for another time.
Basic directions are:

Bake a cake mix in a 9" x 13" pan. Let it cool, then crumble it up in a large bowl. Then take a standard off-the-shelf tub of frosting and mix it in (I used a fork to mix) until it all is crumbly-sticky. Grab a glob of the mix, roll it with your hands and plop it onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. I stuck mine in the freezer to firm up before coating.


Don't tell anyone, but I didn't use up the whole can of frosting. The cake held together sufficiently using only a little more than 3/4 of the frosting. I like a little less frosting.

Here's what your hands will look like after making the cake balls!

Follow the directions for the candy coating wafers (you can get in most grocery stores or in the cake decorating section of craft stores), dip the cake balls and get festive or creative or nutty with your designs!
For the green accent, I just melted some green wafers in a glass bowl in the microwave and plopped it into a quart-sized freezer zip bag. I snipped off a tiny bit of a corner then scribbled away on the cake balls. Yep, I just scribbled back and forth. I'm no perfectionist like Bakerella. If you look closely at the tree you can see little crumbs of cake, hanging strings of green scribble, blobs of coating here and there. Nope, no time for being a perfectionist!
I ended up making smaller (and more) balls out of the 9" x 13" cake to fill up the tree proportionately. I made about 70 balls and used 66 starting with 11 on the bottom and reducing by about one each layer. So, let me see...70-66=4 means I had four lucky children who got to pop unused cake balls!

It would even look better if the balls had been smaller--even graded in size to have the larger ones (1-1/4 inch) at the bottom and smaller ones (1 inch) near the top. See how some of those top ones kind of stick out like a sore thumb?
It's just not festive to think about sore thumbs. So, smaller balls at the top equals no sore thumbs!


Your very own Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cake Ball Christmas Tree. But instead of saying that mouthful, just fill your mouth with these little crowd pleasers!

Again, for more inspiration check out Bakerella. She's full of cake ball ideas. Go wild and get creative!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mashed Potatoes--Creamy & Rich (make ahead)

My Aunt Joanne cooked many a meal for her brood of five children, extended family, and many friends. She knew how to please a crowd with her food...and endless supply of candy and soda pop! These potatoes are one of her crowd-pleasing recipes. After tasting these super creamy and rich mashed potatoes, you won't go back to the plain dab-of-butter-and-bit-of-milk mashed potatoes again.

What, you say, could make this recipe even better? These spuds can be made ahead of time, refrigerated, then baked on the day of your special meal. These are one of our Thanksgiving meal favorites.

5 lbs. potatoes, your favorite kind (our crew likes Yukon Gold)
1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. sour cream
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 TBSP Lowrys seasoned salt (using regular salt is okay too)

Dice potatoes to a uniform size--about 1-1/2 inches. You can peel the potatoes if you prefer, but if I'm using potatoes with a thin skin like Yukon Golds, our crew prefers them unpeeled. Cover with cold water; add 1 tsp. of salt to the water and bring to boil until fork tender. Drain all moisture out very thoroughly. With potatoes put back into the pot, add the cream cheese, sour cream and salt and allow them to warm together for a few minutes. Add the softened butter and mash potatoes by hand with a masher until you reach your desired consistency. If the potatoes aren’t smooth enough after using a masher, use your mixer briefly to whip them to your liking, being careful to avoid overmixing.

If making ahead: Store potatoes in a greased oven-proof covered casserole dish overnight. When ready to reheat, place foil covered casserole dish in the oven at 350 degrees (or whatever moderate temperature other food is being cooked) for at least 1-1/2 hours. You can reduce reheat time by setting out the potatoes for an hour or two before reheating them in the oven.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Ah yes, fall versions of our favorite classics. I'm not sure if I could go through the holidays on just cutely decorated sugar cookies--more specifically, without a hit of chocolate. With Christmas in the air, chocolate seems to fit in nicely with Cashew Clusters, the showy Truffle Tree (stay tuned for that one), and even Caramel Morsel Bars. For Thanskgiving, however, I've usually just offered Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie. There's also the traditional pumpkin and pecan pies. Hey, where's the chocolate?

When I was asked to bring something to the kids' fall violin performance for the reception afterwards, I was most certainly thinking chocolate. Hmmm, basic brownies just might not cut it, I figured. Yes, something chocolate with a fall twist.

Pumpkin cheesecake brownies would fit the bill.

The recipes online that I thought about trying only made a small batch. Also, I wanted the chocolate to stand out more than the pumpkin. If you only need an 8 x 8" pan, check out this recipe. (I still have yet to try it but will soon.) If you need to make a bigger batch (or use a boxed brownie mix), and want to keep it a bit chocolatier, read on.

For the chocolate brownie batter, I doubled my recipe for Double Chocolate Brownies (without the extra chocolate chips), but you can use a boxed version for this as well.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare brownie batter, boxed or homemade, or this--as long as it's for a 9 x 13 pan.

Pumpkin cheesecake topping:

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 TBSP flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
(Instead of using the cinnamon, cloves and ginger seperately, you could just add one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice if you wish.)

Cream together the cream cheese and sugar; mix in the pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend just until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour 2/3 of chocolate batter into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish. With large spoonfuls, drop cheesecake mixture over the top of the chocolate--leaving some of the chocolate still showing. Add the remaining chocolate batter in large dollops over the top--again so both the chocolate and cheesecake batters can be seen. Take a knife and run it back and forth lengthwise through the dish (touching the bottom) just a few times. If you'd like more blending, run the knife through a few more time in the other direction.

Bake for about 5 minutes longer than the regular brownie recipe/mix calls for (that's about 35 minutes for the Double Chocolate Brownies). They're done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow brownies to cool before slicing.

Gobble 'em up!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fresh Cranberry Relish

The tastes of Thanksgiving are upon us. This is one little dish our whole family can't get enough of. Instead of thinking of it as an accompaniment for the turkey, we think of it as a side. Because it's fresh, all the vitamins are in tact and there for the taking. This side is the splash of bright life for which the rest of the hearty meal gobbles.

Before I go on, I must first make a confession. Yep.

Okay okay, I'll confess.

Yes, I used to be quite content with that jellied stuff in the shape of a can that went schluuuuuuppppe-whap! onto a plate where it was then (eek!) sliced--complete with the ridges of the can as its textural decoration.

I've made amends with that part of my life. I've tried many different cranberry sauces and relishes, and this one is just plain good and liked by all. It doesn't have those chewy rinds or nuts my kids don't like. It doesn't have alcohol or spices in it either. It's pure and simple.

Just take a bag of fresh cranberries.Now, rinse them and give 'em a whirl in your processor. (Tap them down 2-3 times so they end up a consistent small size.) Pour them into a large bowl.

Peel a couple of large oranges and separate the sections. Cut each section into 3-4 pieces, let them do the ring-around-the-processor, then add them to the cranberries. Sometimes the processor doesn't do well with a whole section.

Oh yes, I mustn't forget to mention that you really should taste your orange before you add it to cranberries. I once made the entire recipe without tasting, and the oranges had an unpleasant taste. It'll ruin your dish if you're not cautious about your ingredients. Same with apples--give 'em a taster first.

Core and peel the apples. Cut them into processor-friendly sizes and let them spin. You may need to scrape them down a couple of times to get a consistent size. Add them with the cranberries and oranges.

(Note: Adding the oranges first will prevent the apples from browning once they join the party.)

To the prepared fresh fruit add 2 cups of sugar and mix well.
Allow to sit out for an hour or so to allow the sugar to dissolve.
Voila! A fresh cranberry side to your Thanksgiving meal.

3 cups washed raw cranberries (a 12 oz. bag = 3 cups)
2 skinned and cored medium-sized apples, (or 1 mombo-sized Honey Crisp)
3 large seedless oranges (1 of them is for juice only)
1-1/2 cups sugar

Run fruit through a grinder or process in a food processor. Add sugar. Let sit at room temperature until sugar dissolves. Lasts for a week or so in the fridge.

Sometimes I make two batches and give one batch away to neighbors in pint-size jars. If I do this at Thanksgiving, then I don't feel as badly if I don't get around to making or distributing goodies at Christmastime. Man, does it get busy in December.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lemon Bars

These are Kathleen’s new favorite bars. As we were being spoiled in Chelan at Grandpa Terry and Grandma Doogie’s house with way too much good food, Kathleen kept eyeing these bars…and slowly (and slightly mysteriously) they disappeared throughout the course of a day! These are like a buttery-rich short bread made refreshing with the lemony citrus topping. I think the key to this recipe is the powdered sugar in the crust. It seems almost creamy.

Now, Kathleen has been on a mission to make these bars since we've been home! We’ve got the recipe…and we’re sharing the wealth! Here it is

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

With two knives, have one of your children cut in the following crust ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 stick softened butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
If you're using salt-free butter, also add 1/8 tsp. salt

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it's the size of small peas.

You can also put the ingredients in your processor and just give it a twirl. Or, if you'd like throw pastry caution to the wind, then just beat it up a bit with your electric mixer. I won't tell anybody. I just don't have my kids use these power tools on their own yet.

Dump the crust mixture into an 8" x 8" baking dish.Don't forget to clean up your mess!
Pat down the crust mixture firmly and evenly. (Kathleen had to get up on the counter top to make sure it was even.)
Pop the crust into the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, let your kiddo make a mess of her face while eating all the crust bits off her hand. Letting her do this helped pass the time that the crust was baking. Kids don't like to wait very long!

Now, mix the lemony filling by beating the eggs, then adding the sugar,
(Never mind that Kathleen added the sugar before the eggs then had to pour it back out.) Carry on...add lemon juice (heck, throw in a tablespoon of the rind if you're using fresh lemons), and a pinch of salt.

Fold in the flour and baking powder, then pour the filling into the baking dish over the shortbread crust.

Bake for 18 minutes until the "middle doesn't jiggle" and the top is slightly browned.Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. (Again, this is where kids don't like to wait. So, please begin your lessons on the virtue of patience, read an Aesop's Fable about the downfalls of instant gratification (there's gotta be one), or let them pre-run off their lemon bar calories by sending them outside to play.

To serve: Cut into squares or triangles (unless cutting things into triangles means the kiss of death like it does in Joe's family. They never cut their sandwiches into triangles. I figured, with the engineers and mathematicians in their family they would have cut their sandwiches, bars and cakes into every conceivable geometric shape...but NO. Remember, it was the kiss of death. Their own words, not mine.) Personally, I like triangles. Am I getting off the subject?

After you ponder your perceived kisses of death, generously sprinkle confectioner's sugar all over the top, then serve. Pure loveliness!

Tip: Depending on how many bars you want to make, either make this single recipe or double the ingredients and use a 9" x 13" baking dish.

Okay, okay, I've fooled you all. This hasn't been Doogie's recipe. Below is the recipe she gave us. I just had to write down everything else so I'd remember how to make them. I need support that way. Otherwise, I often doubt myself.

The actual words on Doogie's recipe card:

1 cup flour
½ cup butter
¼ cup powdered sugar
Press into bottom at 8” x 8” pan and bake 15-20 minutes.

2 well-beaten eggs
1 cup sugar
3 TBSP lemon juice (Using the bottled stuff is just fine. Doogie gave me permission to say that.)
Dash salt

Fold in 2 TBSP flour and ½ tsp. baking powder. Pour this mixture over crust and bake 15-20 minutes. Cool slowly.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Birthday cake by Dad

Yep, Joe made this one since there was no time on Halloween (the day before Jimmer's birthday) and no time in the morning on his birthday for me to make one. I'm the kids' violin coach and had to take them to lessons.

Jimmer requested a camper cake--reminiscent of our recent Canadian Rockies trip in a 31-foot RV.

I was confident that Joe's structural engineering talents would shine and that he'd be able to pull it off. I just gave him materials suggestions. He didn't even have to use steel or concrete for this structure, although a couple of toothpicks were used for reinforcement. Some extra special touches--green sprinkles for grass, a couple of chimps (Jimmer's faves) and other fun animals, trees, and even (ahem) a dump station. He made me proud--not because of the dump station but because he didn't even use a measuring device OR a level...not even blue prints! (Doing things "Willy-Nilly" like that usually goes against every grain in an engineer's being.)

I'm thinking he did such a fine job, we may just share this job of requested birthday cake creations.

Jimmer really liked his camper cake.

Checking out the front of the camper.
Checking out the ladder in back.
"Aw, Dad, is that the sewer water hose?"

Yep, sure is. (Leave it to Dad to include a dumping station.)

Make a wish...

Camper Cake
Building Supplies:

3 frozen pound cakes, thawed
2 containers white frosting
fruit roll-ups, he used red
mini donuts (not necessary)
Life Savers
licorice whips
couple of toothpicks
plastic animals of choice
green sprinkles

Blue Print/directions:

None available
(Engineer's tip: Just wing it!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Veggie Skeleton

You know your kids are going to have way too much candy on Halloween, so here's a healthy snack idea for a change. Added bonus: Because kids like the idea of eating this helpless guy's "bones" (ewww!?), they just may eat more veggies than usual. A healthy snack with entertainment value. A keeper!

Head--lettuce leaves, sliced olives, veggie dip in a small bowl
Body--celery, baby carrots, bell pepper, mushrooms, cherry or grape tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers

Arrange the veggies on a platter in the shape of a skeleton, top with an appropriate sized bowl of veggie dip for the head. (I'm sure your presentation will look better than mine. Note to self: skip the waxed paper next time. I'm not really sure WHY I used it in the first place.)

Take a picture of your final Veggie Man, print it up, then let your kids recreate him with the left-over veggies the next day.

I found this vegetable skeleton idea on the internet last year, but I'll be darned if I can find it now to give appropriate credit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

If the weather here won't cooperate and act like it's fall, I'll just go ahead, get out the pumpkin, and start cooking like it's fall.

I begged this recipe off Joe's sister. Loving her little brother very much and being the kind sister-in-law she is, she gave it to me...and hand wrote the recipe onto a very appropriate orange recipe card. Ellen, have I ever told you how much time it has saved me looking for this recipe? The orange card pops out right away. (She's an accountant. She thinks of things like this to make life easier. I'm not an accountant.)

Here we go...

Pie crust 3 ways:

1. Traditional - Make a 9-inch pie shell (or use a frozen deep-dish pie shell). Prick & bake until very lightly browned (425 oven). Cool.

2. Ginger snap crust -- similar to graham cracker crust

25 cookies (or enough to make 1-1/3 cup crumbs), crushed with a rolling pin in a quart-sized freezer zip bag or swirled in a processor. Leave out about 1 tablespoon of cookie crumbs to sprinkle on top of pie.
1/4 cup melted butter

Mix finely ground cookies in a bowl with melted butter, press firmly into a pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. You can also add a tablespoon of sugar to the crust ingredients, if you wish.

3. Ginger cookie crust (our most preferred) :

Make the cookie recipe from the Krusteax Gingerbread/cookie mix. Use 3/4 mix and press into a tart pan. (Make cookies with the rest of the dough...or do as I do and drop little balls of dough into your children's mouths much like a mother bird would feed her little chicks. No raw eggs :: no worries.) Bake as directed (10 minutes). Let cool before layering ice cream and pumpkin topping.

Now for the topping goodness...

In medium bowl put:
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. salt

In another bowl:
1 cup whipping cream. Beat until stiff. Here's what you'll have so far.

Fold into pumpkin mix until no white streaks are left.

This is not how you want it to look. Remember, streak rhymes with eek!

Ah, this is more like it--no streaks.

Scoop 1 pint softened vanilla ice cream into shell making sure there are no big air pockets between the crust and ice cream. (You'll need all the room you can get for the topping.)

Pour pumpkin mixture over it to make a full pie. Don't forget to save a good spatula full for yourself. A cook can't serve it unless it's tasted.

Sprinkle top with 1 tablespoon of ginger snap crumbs.

Freeze uncovered on a level spot in freezer for 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and keep in freezer until ready to serve.

Now, go answer your door and have your little girl's friend see that you still have some pumpkin topping on your face. Give her half the pie and send her home to share it with her family. Then maybe she will forget about your face being covered with pumpkin and won't tell anyone.

When ready to serve, let the pie sit out and soften for about 10 minutes (depending on how cold your freezer is) so it can be cut smoothly.

Forcefully stabbing through the pie and having it shoot across the table onto the floor on Thanksgiving Day would probably cause people to frown at you.

Frowning isn't very festive.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Roasted Split Chicken

I'm not a big fan of eating meat off the bone. Call me crazy. Okay, exception is Gramma Doogie's Back Ribs. I'll post that recipe in the near future. As far as eating off the bone though, maybe it's all the little tendons and ligaments or something. Ribs just have the one substantial bone that doesn't leave any stringy things behind. I like that. Alright, this is about chicken, right? Yes. Thank you.

Since I've noticed that my kids are eating a lot more than they used to, and because this is all coinciding with grocery (and everything else) prices that are going up noticeably, I've come back to reality. How silly to avoid cooking and eating meat with the skeletal structure still in tact. Hey, I just bought a whole chicken (in pieces) that was discounted for quick sale for $2. So, now it's roasting away in my oven.

It's also good for my kids to see an intact chicken once in a while, so they don't get any crazy ideas like there is such a thing as a "Boneless Chicken Ranch."(I've always loved this Far Side.)

One more thing before we start roasting...
Let us all just say, "No!" to poached chicken breasts, okay? Please? There's something about the water just sucking the life, taste, moisture, character, dignity... No, wait. Just say you won't boil chicken! No matter what you make with it, you can do yourself less harm (as well as less flossing and fewer TMJ treatments) by roasting it. An' yer taster 'll thank ye too. =)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (will lower temp later)
Whole chicken--either split or all the parts and pieces
Jelly roll pan or baking sheet with an edge
Roasting rack (I use my cookie cooling rack)
2-3 TBSP olive oil
~1-1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
~1/2 tsp. pepper
~2 tsp. dried thyme or rosemary
(You can use any number of herbs that you like. Start experimenting! Rub your herb of choice together between your fingers as you sprinkle it on the chicken. It seems to wake up the aroma and flavor!)

Put the roasting rack in the baking sheet. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the roasting rack so that there are no chicken parts hanging over the edge of the baking sheet (let's not force the need to clean the oven). Drizzle olive oil over the chicken, then sprinkle on the salt, pepper and herbs.

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes on 450 degrees, then turn the oven down to 375 degrees (or else it'll go spitter-spatter all over your oven 'til Kingdom come) for another 30 minutes, or until chicken is done--juices run clear and meat is not pink. Remove chicken from the oven, cover with foil for 10 minutes, then slice, shred, dice--you choose. (I remove the skin first. Remember, I'm still a wimp and don't eat all the body parts.)

I pulled mine apart in big chunks this time.I usually shred it with a couple of forks, but I also like to let it cool and dice it...or just pull it off the bone and leave it for others to do as they wish. I'm flexible--sometimes. You know what? It's your chicken. Do what you need to do!

When you lower the oven temp to 375, this is a great time to throw in some veggies to roast (diced sweet potatoes, new potatoes, zucchini, onions...toss with olive oil, salt & pepper). Then it'll all be done and hot at the same time.

That is, unless you're just using the chicken to make Tortilla Soup, or Italian Chicken Salad, or for Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas, or...oh, stop me now. Forget the veggies, maybe you should just throw in another chicken.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Great Uncle Dorance's Cookies

I'm told these cookies were requested by so many people throughout my great uncle's life, that he was known for these little gems. For the sake of keeping this much-requested heirloom recipe in circulation and in the family, I'm making sure to add it to my collection. Dorance was in his 90s when he died a few years ago. He was still making these cookies up 'til the end. I've given them to my neighbors and their kids, and they all gave them a big thumbs up...and then asked for more! We have several neighbors (as well as myself) who aren't big on coconut and nuts in their cookies, but after making this recipe I absolutely wouldn't leave them out. These cookies are tender and delectable. It's no wonder they made my great uncle pretty popular at the potlucks. But hey, if any 90-year old man makes me cookies, I'm gonna love 'em!

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Cream together:
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Mix in:
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cup flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup coconut
1 cup nuts, chopped (I use pecans)
1 cup raisins

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes
Makes 36 or so cookies

My grandpa (my dad's dad) comes from a family of 10 children, including two sets of twins (which may be where I inherited the propensity for twins). Here they all are with their parents. My grandpa is in the middle row on the far left, and Dorance is in the middle row on the far right.