Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy! Happy! Birthday to N and O!

It's a birthday!  It's a birthday!  It's actually two birthdays!

The first birthday, which is actually the last birthday is of this little guy - a new O-man!  So I guess we will call him OJ-man on this here blog.  Look at how beautiful and alert.  8lbs. 7oz. of healthy little man!!!  Can't wait to hold him sometime soon!!
Welcome OJ-man!  Happy!  Happy!  Birthday!
(you already sound like  secret agent man with that name!)

Our other birthday, which actually came a few years before the OJ-man is Grandma N.  Happy!  Happy!  Birthday to N!

Since I know Grandma N a bit better than OJ-man, I will devote the rest of this post to...

The Top 5 things I Love About Grandma N…

# 5 – She is the grandmother of my children.  That should be enough right there, right? 

# 4 – She is one of the most generous people I know.  N has given abundantly to all of us through the years.

# 3 – She doesn’t let her increasing blindness stop her.  The Villa where she lives will tell you that she is one of the busiest people there – always on the GO!

# 2 – Her acceptance of G.  These days our family has quite the conglomeration of last names.  We almost run the gamut of A to Z, such that unless you know us, you wouldn’t know that we go together.  There is an old verse telling the widow to spread her tent flaps wide for she would be welcoming many into her family and home.  Grandma N does that.  Not all people have that gift.  Grandma N does.

And the # 1 Thing I Love About Grandma N…

#1 – She has grown through the adversities of the last few years.  Some people let adversity harden them, make them bitter.  She has grown in faith and love.  She has learned to accept and be content despite the rather drastic changes that she would not have foreseen a mere 10 years ago.

Top 5 Things I Would Give Grandma N if Time, Money and Resources Were No Object…

# 5 – A lifetime supply of Divinity.  Not the theological degree, but the old-fashioned egg whites and sugar syrup candy like my mother used to make.  I was never a fan, but Grandma N loves it!

# 4 – Glitter tops!  Cause she wore a glitter top to S&K’s wedding and S&A’s wedding, and she swears she was shedding glitter everywhere!  (Given her increasing blindness we're not fully sure how she could "see" that she was shedding glitter, but that is all the more why we loved it and know she needs more glitter tops!)

# 3 – Weekly dance sessions.  Grandma N may have been a good Southern Baptist lady her whole life, but if you put her around some jitter-buggy music, she feels the rhythm and likes to boogie!

# 2 – Another trip to Hawaii.  Of all the trips she has taken, she seems to have loved her trips to Hawaii the most.  And if I could make # 1 come true, it would be all the better!

And the # 1 Thing I Would Give Grandma N for her Birthday if Time, Money and Resources Were No Object…

#1 – The return of her eyesight and the MD to stop for good.  For all of the distortion to end and all of the shots in her eyes to end.  That would be just about the happiest birthday present I can think of for her.

Such an exciting day!!  Happy!  Happy!  Birthdays!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Baking Friday - Cookie # 10

After 10 months of posting here, I think I have found posting about cookies to be the hardest.  Not because cookies are hard, but because cookies can be so commonplace.  Everyone makes cookies - good cookies, tasty cookies, cute cookies - so what can I offer to the conversation?  Especially on a monthly basis?  I don't feel like I have done a good job of covering cookies, so I thought that a good old-fashioned Deb Disclaimer was in order.

The other challenges I have is that I don't feel like I have an abundance of favorite cookie recipes to pull from - and perhaps I should have broadened the category to include candies - except that you don't bake candies...ah the dilemmas of life!  So yea, I realize that I am also making a mountain out of not even a mole hill...all stuff I've learned about this here blog life over the last year.  (I've already been thinking about a 2014 summary post of what I've learned - good and bad - from this personal Baking Friday challenge.)  Beyond all of that, inspiration can be hard to come by at times, even with the idea of holidays.  But I saw these recently, so this picture...
  ...became the inspiration for this platter of Fall inspired cookies!
Can you tell what is on this platter?  Let's begin in the center and work our way out to the edge.

In the center, bowl...we have Pumpkin Biscotti, following this recipe from KAF, and inspired by the pumpkin cheesecake cookie from our pic above.  And while I normally love the recipes from KAF, this is not a keeper in its present form.  It HAD to be dunked for the first few days.  After about 4 days stored in plastic bags/containers, they were finally OK to eat without dunking, but before that, they were TOOOOOO hard and crunchy for my tastes, so I am not featuring this recipe this week.  Once I get it a point where I like it, I will share my updated version for you to try sometime.  They were also a mess to decorate... what you see in the bowl above were the best of the "best".
Moving on...

In our next ring, we have these heavenly Double Dark Mocha Drops that I featured back in January of this year.  I kept trying to find a chocolate cookie recipe similar to the chocolate brownie cookie in our pic, but I kept thinking about these same Double Dark Mocha Drops, so I just decided those are the ones I was going to add to the platter.  And I'm glad I did!  They are simply that good, folks.  As one taster put it, they are "sublime!"
But since I featured them back in January, I'm not going to talk about these again today. (And yes, I am aware that it is no longer Friday...ahem...)

So that brings us to our last ring above which are Caramel Dutch Apple Pie Bars, a recipe that is one I made up and what I am talking about for the rest of this post!  But before I begin, I want to back up just a bit and say that this platter of goodies was not shared with my normal, tried and true, ever-so-faithful taste testers.  No, I'm afraid not.  For I spent last week in another building with different work associates.  So I took a chance that these taste testers would be up for the challenge!  What do ya think?  Are they begrudgingly up for the challenge?  I believe this would be called a group high five, smiling beautiful ladies way of being up for the challenge!
Now, my friend, J, on the right, tasted one of these Dutch Apple Pie Bars and said "Perfection!"  And while I love her to death and her mother taught her right to say nice things, I have to disagree.  They were good, but not quite "perfection" when I served them on Thursday.  And here's why.

As my daughter, S, (whose mother didn't do a great job of always telling her to say nice things!) and my husband, G, pointed out in different ways, the top was too dry.  S said it like this: "The icing isn't sticking."  G told me this story: "As I was going to take a bite, I must have exhaled right beforehand, because suddenly the swirly icing drizzle wasn't there any more!  It had flipped over and got buried in the streusel!"  Now some might argue that my husband has a fierce exhale for all of that to happen, but the story bears out what I knew already.  The streusel topping was too dry.  It needed one change - MORE BUTTER.  Because...butter fixes LOTS of things!

Seriously, one of the reasons that I hadn't posted this yet was because I wanted to put this together again to confirm that my butter theory was right.  So hang on just a moment for that evidence while I share with you a couple of other reasons this is getting posted late.

  1. I got out of work late Friday night, but we got the 2015 Production Budget capacity level loaded. (Aren't you glad you read that reason?  Are you asleep yet?)
  2. We had a date night and went to see "The 100 Foot Journey" at the local Dollar Show.  If you have not seen it, I recommend it if you like food and families and "war" and journeys at all!  G didn't think that he would like it, but I knew he would, and he did.  (Unlike the man of the couple in the row in front of us.  I believe that he left and came back about 14 times during the movie!)
  3. We had a date day yesterday and drove up the River Road to look at the fall colors and hike about 3 somewhat hilly miles at Pere Marquette State Park.  It was beautiful!

So there.  I am posting late, and while I apologize for not keeping well to my Friday Baking posts on Friday, I don't regret the date night and day one bit!  Signed, G's Wife.

Ready for the recipe and pics of what I did?  Ok, let's go!

It began with this crock pot recipe for "fried" apples.  While the recipe says to cook the apples for 6 hours, I stopped after 3.5 hours so it could be used as an apple pie filling.  But this is a GREAT way to make apple pie filling!  Easy, foolproof and full of apple pie yummy goodness!  KEEPER!!!  My friend, M, from our TN office share this with me!  Thank you, M!

3 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 t. cinnamon (at least)
Dash of nutmeg (I grate fresh)
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground allspice
< 1/8 t. ground cloves (just because I like cloves under control!)
Dash of salt
1/2 t. vanilla powder (optional, but a great addition!)
3 T. cornstarch
1 cup sugar (or combo of sugar and brown sugar to equal 1 cup)
2 T. butter

You simply put everything in the crock pot...
...cover, and let it cook on low for anywhere from 3.5 to 6 hours, depending upon your desired end result.  I gave it a stir at about 2 hours, but otherwise, I let the crock pot work magic on the apples!

Once that is cooked, you can serve it warm over ice cream, or let it cool and use it later for pie or as a filling in rolls or these cookies!  (It freezes well, too!)

Caramel Dutch Apple Pie Bars
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pecans or almonds
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
6 T. butter, melted

1/3 of Crock Pot Fried Apples recipe above
1/2 cup Caramel Bits (by Kraft)
1 T. butter, melted

1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats (optional, but my mother added oats to apple crisp topping, so I like it!)
1 t. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter melted (use less at your own risk of jumping icing!)
Sparkling sugar for garnish

Powdered sugar glaze - thicker than normal so that it will pipe swirls if you like
Caramel bits, melted, or Caramel sundae topping

I began with the crust by simply mixing all of the ingredients in the food processor and then dumping into a foil-lined, sprayed 13x9 pan before pressing out even.  I baked it at 350 for 12 minutes.
I then spread the apple pie filling to cover and sprinkled caramel bits over the top and drizzled with the melted butter.  Promising!
For the streusel I simply mixed all of the ingredients in my food processor until thoroughly combined and nicely moist!  Mixing by hand would work easily, too.  I spread that over the caramel filling...

...and baked at 350 for about 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly!
Once they cooled I drizzled caramel over the top...

...and then decorated with swirls of the glaze!
The first batch had this same swirl look, but hopefully you can tell from this pic that it was definitely on the drier side.
Or maybe you can't tell from the pic, but trust me, they were!

I cut these into bars to get about 42 bars (7 columns x 6 rows), but I think that I actually prefer them in even smaller bite sizes, depending upon the occasion.  In other words, one batch could serve from 10 - 84 people!  Or...maybe not 84, but I think you get the idea!
I hope you'll give these a try sometime and let me know what you think!  I would describe these as just about everything you love about a Dutch apple pie in a bite size, handheld form!

We have our final 5th Friday Baking feature next week, another cookie, but since this is a cookie that has to be fully assembled at least 24 hours in advance, I hope to get the cookie done Tuesday night, and the post done Wednesday night, so that I only have to add in the comments Thursday night and POST ON TIME for this one!

At least that is my goal!  Thanks for stopping by again!!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baking Friday - Bread # 10

What would Halloween be if it didn't include Chocolate and Bobbin' for Apples?
Chocolate croissants and bobbin' for applesauce muffins that is!

I've share the basic croissant recipe back in July for our red, white & blue danishes; that link is here.  I will show you pics of turning these into chocolate croissants, but the recipe I will share is for the applesauce muffins, because those are a new recipe.  It's not a hard recipe, but the results are pretty good for a muffin - soft, moist, almost cake-like muffin.  Not that I'm saying an applesauce muffin will hold a candle to a chocolate croissant, because let's face it - chocolate croissant.  I mean really!
Does it get more French and tender and flaky and chocolate than a chocolate croissant?  No muffin could ever hold its own against that sort of competition, but a sweet friend had asked for chocolate croissants, so even though the croissant dough isn't a new recipe to share here, how could I say no?  It is the same dough that I used to make these on Friday stollen that I took into work...
...and this blueberry one that I left for G.  Talk about a versatile dough filled with possibilities!
So here is how I shaped the chocolate croissants and then I will share the applesauce muffins with a maple butter and cinnamon topping at the end.  Both recipes taste like fall and Halloween, just in very different ways!  (And in most cases, you wouldn't serve these side by side like I did, so you wouldn't get the natural comparison.)

Have I included enough unofficial Deb Disclaimers yet?  I hope so...

I split the batch of croissant dough in half and rolled each half into a rectangle about 12" X 14".
Then I cut them into squares about 3" X 4".  I mean rectangles about 3" X 4", because if I called them squares I would have to surrender my math and geometry geek card.
Now a traditional chocolate croissant will be made with a chocolate pain bar,  However my local gourmet kitchen supply store didn't sell any.  In fact the owner said that I was the first person she knew about who had ever asked for them.  (Seems impossible to me, but ok!)  So I made my own chocolate bars by melting semi-sweet chocolate with a small touch of milk chocolate.  I spread it into a pie plate or any fairly flat surface until it was about 1/4" thick and let it harden.  Then I cut it into "bars".  However as you can see, my bars were far from perfect.  Oh well!  I was going to use them anyway!
Since I was also curious about trying something a little different, I spread the first half of dough with some Nutella before adding the chocolate bar.  And because I wanted these even chocolatier, I added some mini chocolate chips, too!  Cause why not?
And I have to say that I will totally do the Nutella version again!  Totally!  But there is nothing wrong with these made with only a chocolate bar and mini chocolate chips.  But come on...Nutella people!
I simply rolled these up and laid them on a parchment-line cookie sheet to rise for about 2 hours.
I brushed them with an egg wash before setting them in a preheated 350 degree oven.  See how much they have risen?!  They get fat and puffy and a bit looser after they have risen.
And then after about 35 minutes in the oven, they get even flakier and golden brown.  Yum!
I'm hungry!  Why don't I have any more of these right now?  Oh yea...cause I done shared 'em all...I like to share...I like to share...I like to share...except sometimes I wish I hadn't shared!  Not really, but my stomach isn't really agreeing with my brain and heart at the moment.  Please be patient with me..

Ok, so on to the bobbin' for apples applesauce muffins with a maple butter emulsion and cinnamon sugar topping!  (If you give something a super long name and description, does that give them more cred to stand up to a chocolate croissant?)

These are easy schmeezy to put together - creaming butter and oil with the sugars, adding eggs and then the dry ingredients and applesauce alternately like you've read a thousand times when making a cake.  Here's the list of ingredients to make about 18 regular size muffins.  I made a double recipe, which made 24 regular size muffins plus 30 mini-muffins.

1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup applesauce
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup of grated apple
1 T. lemon juice
2 T. apple cider or  milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
Cinnamon sugar

I mixed all of the dry ingredients together on a sheet of waxed paper ready to add in thirds with the wet.  I peeled, cored and grated the apple and then tossed with the lemon juice.  Grating the apple is about the hardest part of making these!

I creamed the butter, oil and sugars together and then added the eggs, beating all very well.  Then I mixed in the dry ingredients with the applesauce and apple cider alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.  Then I scooped the mixture into my sprayed muffin tins or the sprayed paper-lined muffin tins.  Since I had some Halloween cupcake liners, I used those for my regular size muffins but not the mini-muffins.

I baked these at 350 until done - about 12 - 15 minutes on the mini-muffins and about 18 - 20 minutes on the regular size.
A toothpick or cake tester will come out clean when these are done.
Now, these are perfectly tasty to serve as they are, but if you're feeling like you want a bit more embellishment, I would recommend going ahead with the Topping part, too! I wanted a bit of butter, but I also wanted some maple flavoring, so I mixed the two together.
Except obviously they weren't mixing.  So I put them into my blender to emulsify and voila!
All I did was dip the tops of the muffins in this maply buttery goodness and then in the cinnamon sugar to finish these off!
Pile them on some lovely Fall napkins, and you have some treats ready for "bobbin'" for a Halloween breakfast!  Kid friendly and the mini ones are just right for popping in your mouth as you head out for trick or treating!
Happy Halloween!  We have our cookie next week, our 5th Friday cookie the week after that, and then we are heading down the home stretch of this here 2014 Baking Friday adventure of ours!  Hope you have enjoyed, maybe learned a tip or trick or two, but mainly been inspired to bake something!

Thank you for helping me learn this blogging thing!  Seeya next time!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fall 2014 Happenings

Just taking a moment to go ahead and share a few family things that have happened lately.  And in no particular order.

Grandsons have made us smile... dreamin'...

...about rocks high in the sky....

...or rockin' and jammin' out...

....or proudly carryin' green pumpkins over rocks to Mimi.  A big important job, dontcha know.

We've watched as grandsons concentrate on learning the most important features of things in the toy aisle...and you can really only study something if you're laying down right in front of it, right?

We've also watched while a grandchild we can't wait to meet has been rocked.

And showered. With little truths.

Or truths according to some.

They also got showered with not so little things....things that share big love and tell great stories. #Godgivesgoodgifts type stories. 

Here is another story for a grandson we can't wait to meet.  A touching story.  A story of giving long after someone is around to do the giving in person.
This blanket was the last one crocheted by a grandmother who made many baby blankets in her life for babies known and unknown to her.  I never knew this woman but I know enough to know she had a big heart full of love.  And that's about all I ever need to know about her.

We also picked apples and got a wagon ride pulled by a "big green tractor".  A very interesting tractor to a certain little boy who may take after his dad just a bit...and needed a front row seat to watch the tires go.
Good family stories and pics.  Good Fall 2014 so far...and there's still more grandbabies to be met!!