Thursday, October 31, 2013

Molasses Cookies (Soft)

     I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can't. These are actually called Sugared Molasses Crinkles and I found the recipe in Where Women Cook, Celebrate! The recipe was submitted by Ashley English, who is an author and a weekly blogger for Design*Sponge. I was looking for a non-chocolate, fall cookie for dinner guests and I loved the rich, brown color of these cookies.

Ingredients: (I doubled her recipe)

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking soda
2 tsp. salt (I used a little less)
1 T. cinnamon
1 T. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar (divided)
2 sticks butter at room temperature
4 eggs
2/3 cups molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

     I don't always sift my dry ingredients, but because of all the spices...I did so for this recipe. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper in a bowl and set aside.

With a mixer, beat the brown sugar and 1/2 cup
of the white sugar and the butter until combined.

Add the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape
the bowl after each egg.
Add the molasses
and completely incorporate.

On low speed, gradually add the flour
mixture until completely blended.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill one hour.

     Roll cookies into balls and roll in remaining 1 cup of sugar to cover. Place on cookie sheets (you can use parchment paper if you want to) and bake until centers are firm, 12-15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets and transfer to wire racks.

These made the house smell so
good and are a perfect fall or Christmas cookie.
     I have no idea what happened to this week. My birthday was Tuesday and between girlfriend visits and appointments, it has been days since I picked up more than my iPad to check my emails. I hope you all have a safe, dry Halloween. We have been raining all day, but it has finally stopped. I hope it holds off for the little ones.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Put Away The "Store Bought" BBQ Sauce, Pulled Pork

     We love a good pulled pork sandwich. I doubt that I ever make mine the same way twice. It is really hard to "mess up" pulled pork as long as you start with a good quality pork roast and let it cook until it is falling apart tender. I always try to make extra because this is something that freezes well.
     The last time I made pulled pork, I changed it up a little bit. I couldn't find a large boneless pork roast, so I bought three small ones.
Rub Ingredients:
4 T. paprika
3 T. sugar
2 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. of each)
Mix together and reserve 1 T. of the mixture. Pat the remaining rub onto the meat. You can do this step several hours ahead of time, but I never think that far in advance. I rubbed it into about 6 pounds of lean pork roast. I got out my grandmother's roaster and put a little oil in the bottom and slightly browned both sides of the meat on top of the stove to add flavor and get the rub to "stick". Add enough water to the pan to have it about 1-2 inches deep and put the roaster covered into the oven at 300 degrees for several hours. You want to slow cook this until it is falling apart tender.
In a saucepan, mix together the ingredients for the BBQ sauce.
BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
reserved 1 T. of rub mixture
2 T. maple syrup (I used real maple syrup)
1 cup of water
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours while the pork is cooking in the oven. Set aside.

When your pork is done, remove it from
the oven and using 2 forks, shred it.

Pour the BBQ sauce over the shredded pork and
put it back in the oven for another 30 minutes
(not necessary but makes it soak in better).

To serve: We love Pretzel Buns, but any crusty bun
will work. I topped ours with a scoop of coleslaw
 for added crunch. Coleslaw recipe.

     You could easily prepare the BBQ sauce ahead of time and cook your meat in the crockpot all day. Shred the meat and add the sauce for the last 30 minutes. Some people prefer their pork plain and the sauce served on the side, that works too!
I am joining Michael @ Rattlebridge Farm
for Foodie Friday

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Blast from the Past-Alabama

     Many, many years ago...a much younger "Mom" was strictly interested in Rock and Roll music. Country music, at the time meant Johnny Cash, George Jones and Loretta Lynn...all of which were way too country for "Mom's" 20-something ears to stand.
     Along came Randy Owen (above), Teddy Gentry, Mark Herndon and Jeff Cook with the band Alabama to change my mind. Songs Tennessee River, Feels So Right, Mountain Music, The Closer You Get and so many more country pop songs, made me for the first time take notice of the genre. I bought all of their albums, saw their concerts and even had a kiss on the cheek from Randy right before the picture above was taken (yes, that is a leather headband around my forehead, it was the 80's!). I was a fan...not of all country music, but certainly of Alabama. I wasn't the only one. Their list of awards is long and varied. For several years, they were the face of country music.
     In 2003-2004, the group went on their Farewell Tour and while they have reunited for special events since, the band that was a part of my music life for many years, had pretty much disappeared off of the radar.
     I was excited to see the release of their new album, Alabama & Friends, in August. It includes some of their old songs, sung by their friends as well as two new songs by the group themselves. As I played the music, I remembered why it was that they were my first, favorite country group. The new Alabama songs are fresh and timely, the older songs are wonderfully sung by current artists. I couldn't help but sing and smile my way through the entire thing. I am still a rock and roll girl, but Alabama opened my eyes to contemporary country music back in the 80's and I am still a fan today.  
     I wasn't given this album to review,
      nor was I compensated in any way.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Trick or Treat Cookies

     I mentioned in my last post that I try to put things I eat through the "worth it" test. Is it worth the fat, calories and extra exercise necessary if I indulge. Well, these cookies are absolutely WORTH IT! They are a little scary looking (after all-they are for Halloween) but they taste so good!

3 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla (I only use real vanilla)
scant tsp. of salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
4 cups of chopped Snickers , Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and M & M's (I used peanut)
1 cup broken pretzels
orange food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar.
Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
Mix salt and baking soda with flour and slowly
mix into butter mixture. Beat until dough forms.

Split the dough in half and place in separate bowls.

Stir cocoa powder into one half of the dough.
You can see a few "white spots" in mine, it
doesn't hurt anything.

Add orange food coloring to the other half of
the dough. This step is not necessary if you
want a black/white cookie. If that is the case, use
 the "white" dough as is without adding any food coloring.

Into each bowl of colored dough, fold
in 1 1/2 cups of the mixed candy (not the pretzels).

Roll the chocolate dough and the orange
dough into balls. Cut the balls in half and press
a half of each color together to
form a cookie. Place on cookie
sheet and slightly flatten.

     Press remaining 1 cup of mixed candy and the broken pretzels into the flattened cookie tops. Bake approx. 12 minutes, until slightly brown around the edges. Allow to cool on cookie sheet a few minutes and remove to wire racks to finish cooling. These cookies break easily when warm. Allow them to cool enough before removing. I left my pretzel pieces fairly large because I wanted "scary looking" cookies for Halloween. You could certainly have a prettier cookie if the pretzel pieces were smaller. The melted snicker bars (yum) may ooze out a bit while baking. With the edge of a knife or spatula, push the melted snicker back to the edge of the cookie while very warm. 

I am joining Michael @ Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bits and Pieces-Halloween Edition

     Halloween is my favorite time of the year to host parties. Having a birthday very close to Halloween, I grew up having parties this time of year and old habits are hard to break. I have gotten so lazy about committing to company, but I was so glad that I decided to have a few friends over Saturday night for a casual evening. I didn't do a tablescape, I simply covered the table with black fabric, put my current centerpiece back on it and lit a couple candles. The dishes were stacked, the food was self-serve and simple, it was a no-stress evening for everyone. You don't always have to prepare a sit down feast for your guests. I made a pot of chili, the grilled cheese/tomato soup casserole I recently posted and two kinds of cookies (recipes soon). One friend brought a pie and another brought apple slices and dip. I had s'mores to make over the fire pit, but we were all too full to eat them! I had a great time and it reminded me just how much I really do love to entertain.
     While I'm showing you the little touches of Halloween that I added to my fall decorations, I want to show you my dining room table. We bought the table at a furniture store tent sale and have used it the past two years with a few scratches on it. It seemed to be getting more and more scratches and chips and my husband just refinished it. I think he did a beautiful job. We put a glossy, waterproof coating on it so I can just wipe it off.

This year I didn't really take down my fall things,
I just added a few Halloween items here and there.

     We are actually having a chilly week. I even turned on the fireplace this morning after taking Zoe out in the rain. We were cold. I haven't turned on the heat, or needed to...but the air finally went off yesterday, although I am certain I will have it back on again. This is the kind of day that I'd like to bake (and then eat it all).
     I've been asked to keep updating the progress in our family healthy eating/living plan. My daughter recently ran her first 5k since high school (10 years). She is wearing a size 6 and feels great. She would like to lose another 10 pounds or so, but her attitude is that it will happen when it happens. Keeping her calories around 1200 a day and exercising most days is still the norm for her. She said that she started crying about half way through the race because it dawned on her how far she had come in 10 months. I'm very proud of her. She also just started another new project at Disney, which meant that her trip home that was cancelled because of work in August and moved to November, has also been cancelled. I will go 8 months without seeing her, the longest we have ever gone. Her job is so exciting, but very hard on her mother!!
     I have dropped my exercising from 6 days a week to 4 or 5, I am still eating healthy 90% of the time and we both still live by the "is it worth it" rule for eating fattening foods. Some things are worth it! Some simply aren't. I am right where I want to be and maintaining it so far, but I know that I can never get lazy about it or I will gain it all back very quickly. We just live it now, we don't really think about it much like we did in the beginning.
     Speaking of foods that are "worth it"...coming soon, Trick or Treat Cookies.
I am joining Marty @ A Stroll Thru Life
for Wow Us Wednesdays

Monday, October 7, 2013

Fall Porch

     Fall roared in to Central Illinois over the weekend dropping more than 2 inches of rain in about an hour and taking the temperature from almost 90, down to the 50's! We were out running errands on Saturday and we got drenched. We really needed the rain, and the blue jean weather feels so good. It isn't here to stay, but I am enjoying a few days without air-conditioning or heat!

     The front porch has been decked out for fall for a little while now. I actually added Halloween touches after taking these pictures.

My porch is so small that I am very limited in
what I can do. I envy those of you with big front
porches. Maybe in the next house!


     We found our pumpkins and mums at a farm on the way home from French Lick. The prices were great and the variety of pumpkin choices was so much fun. We had to have white ones, and heirloom pumpkins to stack and bumpy ones...I literally had to stop myself. Our most expensive pumpkin was the bottom of the pumpkin stack, $5!
     I spotted this little toad on a hibiscus leaf several days ago. I have never seen a frog/toad in my yard before! I just let him sit and enjoy the sunshine. The leaves in my neighborhood are still green. I love it when the leaves are glowing red, yellow and orange...soon!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup...Casserole??

     Often when my husband is home for lunch, we see Mr. Food segments at the end of our news program. A few days ago we happened to catch a segment called Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Bake. Because we were kids in the 60's, tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich was a staple in both of our homes. We watched the preparation of this dish with a mixture of interest and horror. It sounded awful, but when all was said and looked pretty good. So, I decided to give it a try.
     The only change I made to the Mr. Food recipe was using 1 T. of butter instead of 3 to lighten the dish. I also used a mixture of shredded cheeses because that is what I had at home.
3 T. softened butter  (I used 1 T. and melted it)
1 pound French bread sliced into 22 slices 
2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided 
(I used cheddar and 4 cheese blend)
1 can Campbell's Cream of Tomato soup
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
     Spread or brush butter on one side of the 22 bread slices and place on baking sheet. Bake 5 to 7 minutes, turn over and bake another 5 minutes. You want both sides to be slightly toasted and crispy to the touch.

Split your cheese into 1 1/2 cups and 1 cup.

Mix the soup with the milk until blended.

Remove the toasted bread from the oven
and place 11 slices into a 9x13 casserole dish.
It didn't say to grease the dish,
I wish I had sprayed it with PAM

Sprinkle the 1 1/2 cups of
cheese on top of the bread.

Top with remaining 11 slices of bread.

Pour soup mixture over the top

Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees

Remove from oven and top with remaining
1 cup of cheese

Return to oven for 10 minutes.
     The was really good. My husband loved it, he even had a second helping which is very rare for him. My son came the next day and ate the leftovers warmed in the microwave and loved it too. He asked for the recipe! He liked that it was not only easy, but cheap to prepare. I thought it was really good. I think it would be a great companion to serve with chili or soup. It warmed up well the second day but the piece leftover the 3rd day was drying out according to my husband. I do think this is best served right from the oven. The bottom remained crisp and the top wasn't too soggy and only had a slight tomato taste. If I wasn't trying to be a "healthy" eater, I would use the full amount of butter and even more cheese between the slices of bread. This is hardly a gourmet meal, but quick, easy, inexpensive and tastes a bit like our childhoods. Sometimes that is all you need!