Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More Lovin' from the Oven

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Since experiencing a resounding success with the oatmeal chocolate chip raisin cookies I made earlier this week, I've been having a ball baking this past week. My biggest problem is remembering to photograph my goodies before they are all consumed. This past Sunday I decided to whip up a batch of corn muffins just because I have a heart shaped pan that I wanted to use. Unfortunately I didn't have any cornmeal in the house so I used an old Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix box I had languishing in the back of a cabinet. Bad move. The muffins, as adorably shaped as they were, didn't have the right texture one would expect of a self-respecting corn muffin. Next time I'll quick being lazy and do the right thing by buying some fresh cornmeal and making the muffins from scratch.

My baking was not a total loss, however, because I also made a whole wheat bread which, as it turns out, tastes pretty good wrapped around some cold cuts. I also whipped up a batch of killer cheddar garlic buns that my family fought over. They taste like the ones you get at Red Lobster. No pictures though. I was too busy eating to get my camera.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Love Is A Warm Cookie

(Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Some years ago (in 1995 to be exact), I came across a story about a woman who inadvertently bought a Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe for $250 and was giving it away free on the internet to protest Neiman-Marcus' refusal to refund her money. I have absolutely no idea whether or not this story is true but I saved that recipe nevertheless. This week, after nearly 18 years, I decided to try out that recipe in order to put my new KitchenAid mixer to the test. I made a few minor changes like eliminating the nuts and the entire Hershey bar, as well as adding some raisins, but otherwise I followed the recipe. The one other modification I made was to reduce the quantities. The original recipe makes about 112 cookies which was waaaay too much for my family (or so I thought), so I quartered it and made about 3 dozen.

In retrospect, I should have halved the recipe, or maybe even gone whole hog and made the originally intended 112 cookies. I say this because my children and, quite surprisingly, my husband were eating them hand over fist. (Okay, I'll confess...I had quite a few myself.) They turned out really well. The first three dozen lasted less than 24 hours, much to the dismay of my husband who promptly declared I was to make more as soon as possible because they were delicious. Then, again quite surprisingly, he gave me a hug and a kiss. Hey, I'm no fool. If I'm gonna get paid off in hugs and kisses then I'm gonna bake. This morning I did just that and whipped up another forty cookies. The photo above was taken a couple of hours after they were baked and you can see that there are quite a few less than 40 cookies on that plate. As of this writing, about 14 hours later, there are only eight left and when I pass the cookie jar on my way to bed...let's just say I predict a sweet midnight snack in my immediate future.

If you're in the market for hugs and kisses, not to mention the undying affection of your children and their visiting friends, give these cookies a try. Below is the original recipe I found on the internet those many years ago. I can't vouch for whether they are actually attributed to Neiman-Marcus but I can vouch for their delicious-ness. Enjoy!

NEIMAN-MARCUS COOKIES (Recipe may be quartered or halved) 

2 cups (4 sticks) butter 
24 oz. chocolate chips 
4 cups flour 
2 cups brown sugar 
2 tsp. soda 
1 tsp. salt 
2 cups sugar 
1 8 oz. Hershey Bar grated (I eliminated this)
5 cups blended oatmeal 
4 eggs 
2 tsp. baking powder 
2 tsp. vanilla 

Optional: 3 cups chopped nuts (your choice) (I added raisins instead. Soak them for about 15 minutes or more and drain before adding to the dough.)

Measure oatmeal, and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar, and nuts. Roll into balls, and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet 

Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.  

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, January 11, 2013

How to Blow an Egg

 (Click on any photo to view a larger image.)

First things first...Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 2013 is the best year you've ever had and the least of the years to come.

Today I had the kind of morning that so easily demonstrates how everything is connected. It started out in the kitchen and ended up on my craft table. It began with me doing something I don't normally do...I made breakfast. Not only did I make breakfast, I made something I've never made from scratch...waffles. Big, fat, hot and fluffy waffles. The recipe called for four eggs and, for some unexplained reason, I had the overwhelming desire to blow the eggs. No, I'm not referring to some obscene act performed on dairy products. (Admit it, that's what you were thinking, wasn't it?)  I'm talking about removing the egg's contents by blowing it out of tiny holes, thereby leaving the shells intact. Sure, cracking them would have been so much more expedient but blowing them is so much more... work! Besides, it's the only way to get the main material for a making a decorated egg. After all, Easter is only a few months away.

To blow an egg you have to make two tiny pinholes on either end of tyhe egg. This can be accomplished with a thick, sharp needle or, in my case, a teasing needle I retrieved from my old college dissection kit. Place the point of the needle on one end of your egg and carefully wiggle it around while applying gentle yet steady pressure on it until it begins to break through the shell. Once pierced, insert the needle as far into the shell as possible then remove it. Repeat this on the other side. Once both sides are pierced, using a slender hors doeuvre skewer (NOT a shish kebab skewer -- too big), insert it into a pinhole and SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY turn it around as if it were a drill. Eventually the hole will widen slightly and allow the skewer to enter the shell. Use the skewer to pierce repeatedly inside the egg and break the yolk. Repeat with the other pin hole. Place your lips on one of the pinholes and blow hard to expel the liquid egg into a receptacle.

Now the inside of the shells must be rinsed to remove any residue or they will begin to smell bad. Take a small amount of water in your mouth, hold the egg above your face slightly and bring one of the pinholes down to your mouth, the other one facing upwards. Push the water from your mouth up into the shell and fill it about halfway. Cover the two holes with your fingers, shake vigorously then blow the water out. Voila! You now have a clean, empty egg shell and the beginnings of a great omelette. As I said before, I used those eggs for making waffles. Wonderfully fragrant, light and airy waffles that were warm and delicious. Mmmm, yum.

In the process of cleaning out a long forgotten box, I found an old decorated egg ornament I'd begun nearly 30 years ago that I never really completed. It's simple and rudimentary but it served its purpose and is currently taking up residence among the creative detritus on my crafting table. This will be the inspiration for the next generation of decorated eggs I create. First I have to get past Valentine's Day which is approaching faster than I want to admit. I've started creating some hearts for cards but that's as far as I've gotten. (Refer to the creative detritus on the table around the decorated egg.) And I have yet to finish putting away my Christmas ornaments. Ah, well. One baby step at a time.

When I finish decorating those blown eggs, I'll be sure to post them here for your review and comment. Hope you'll stick around until then. Thanks.

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva