Saturday, June 30, 2012

Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies

{for your little cookie monsters}

1  pound  Butter
2  pounds  Brown Sugar
4  Cups  White Sugar
12  Eggs
2  Tablespoons  Vanilla
8  teaspoons  Baking Soda
3 pounds Peanut Butter
18  Cups  Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1  pound  Chocolate Chips
1  pound  M&M Candies

Cream together the Butter, Brown Sugar and White Sugar until light and fluffly.  Stir in the Eggs, Vanilla, and Baking Soda.  Blend in the Peanut Butter.  Gently stir in the Oatmeal, Chocolate Chips, and M&Ms.  Bake at 350* until done, about 10 to 12 minutes.

I convect bake three baking sheets at 350*, removing the top tray at 10 minutes and baking the two remaining trays for an additional 2 minutes.  This recipe will yield approximately 11-1/2 dozen cookies using a 3-ounce cookie scoop.

And this is what 11-1/2 dozen cookies looks like:

Oh, wait.  There's more over here:

What is in your cookie jar?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Lunch Program >> Macaroni & Cheese

Summer Lunch Program

a semi-sporadic series
fun lunchtime recipes

Just In Time For Summer Vacation!

Macaroni & Cheese

Bring  2  Cups  Elbow Macaroni  to a boil in salted water, cook until al dente.

While the Macaroni is cooking, prepare a Cheese Sauce by melting
1/4  Cup  Butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
Stir in  1/4  Cup  Flour and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth, about one minute.
Slowly stir in 2  Cups  Milk, about a 1/4-cup at a time, stirring constantly until thickened and creamy.  Turn off heat, but leave the pan on the burner and stir in your favorite Cheese, up to two cups, until melted.  Cheddar is always a classic!  If you know that you're not going to eat this all in one sitting, try using 8 ounces of Velveeta as it stays creamy when reheated (and yes, I know that it is basically 'processed cheese-flavored plastic' as someone so delicately put it, but it does melt so nicely!).  Season with Seasoned Salt and Black Pepper.  Now is also the time to stir in your favorite seasonings.  I like Thyme; try other mix-ins like Bacon Bits, Chipotle Chili Powder, frozen Peas and Carrots--you're only limited by your imagination!

Drain your cooked Elbow Macaroni, return it to the cooking pan and stir in the Cheese Sauce, and enjoy yummy, creamy Macaroni & Cheese for lunch.  Serves 6.

Make this a main-dish meal by placing it in a greased 8x8 pan, topping with shredded Cheddar, and baking at 350* for about 30 minutes.  A layer of drained canned Tuna can be added to the middle of this to bulk it out a bit.

more, please

This is a recipe from my Mom.  She always made this and baked it with the Tuna for dinner.  We children, of course, always wanted more cheese--"No, more than that, Mommy, more!"--on top.  In school we were served this creamy-style with barbequed Hot Dogs on the Tuesday and Thursday hot lunches. 

And now I have a bit of a problem.

My children don't like it creamy-style.  They think Grandma's way--baked--is best.  And then they like the boxed kind.  My creamy-style comes in last.

Such is life with kids.  Sometimes they just wouldn't know a good thing if it bit them on their noses.  Sigh.

It's funny, though.  There are hardly ever left-overs, no matter how it is made.

Happy Summertime to you!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wilderness Explorers and their Dinner

After a long, hard day trekking through the Wilderness, these intrepid Explorers had still more work to do--they had to prepare their 'catch'.

For the Main Dish, I took thin-cut Chicken Breasts and sliced them into thin strips and marinated them in Orange, Lemon, and Lime Juices, a splash of Olive Oil, and dash of Garlic Salt.  The Explorers then roasted the meat on hot-dog sticks over a Campfire.  T also grilled some extra Chicken Breasts and Tenders for the Trail Masters --that would be the adults.  Cooking 'real meat' was a hit for the boys--some of them commented that they had never done this before.

The young Frontiersmen also toasted breadsticks on willow canes for their bread.  I found a fun recipe in the Sweet Paul magazine online, but took the easy way out for this crew and bought the refrigerated canned breadsticks.

We also served Corn Casserole, Smokey Beans, and Watermelon.  Here is the recipe for the Smokey Beans.  It was a new recipe for our family and a real hit with the Boys.  I baked it in the oven, but I think it would be even more yummy to do in a cast-iron pot over a campfire.

Smokey Beans

1  lb  Bacon, diced
1  medium  Sweet Onion, chopped
2  28-ounce cans  Baked Beans, undrained
2  16-ounce cans  Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
2  15.5-ounce cans  Butter Beans, drained and rinsed
1  lb  Beef Little Smokies, cut into thirds
1  Cup  Brown Sugar
1/2  Cup  Ketchup
1/2  Cup  Apple Cider Vinegar
1  teaspoon  Garlic Powder
1  teaspoon  Dry Mustard

In a large Dutch Oven, cook the Bacon until crisp.  Drain, reserving 3 Tablespoons drippings.  Set Bacon aside on paper towel.  In the drippings, saute Onions until tender.  In a large bowl, combine the Brown Sugar, Ketchup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Garlic Powder and Dry Mustard.  Stir in the Beans, Little Smokies, Bacon, and Onions and mix well.  Pour into a large, well-greased 4-quart baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 350* for 45-55 minutes or until heated through.  Serves 30.

From Serving One Another, page 266

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler

Hands-On Time:  20 minutes
Total Time:  50 minutes
Serves:  12

8  Cups  Blueberries
2/3  Cup  plus  1/4  Cup  Sugar
1-1/2 Cups  plus  2  Tablespoons  Flour
2  teaspoons  Baking Powder
1/4  teaspoon  Salt
1  teaspoon  Lemon Zest
6  Tablespoons  Cold Butter, cut into pieces
7 ounces  Heavy Cream (3/4 Cup plus  2 Tablespoons)

Heat oven to 375*.  In a 9 x 13 pan, toss the Blueberries, 2/3-Cup Sugar, and 2 Tablespoons Flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the Baking Powder, Salt, Lemon Zest, remaining 1/4-Cup Sugar, and remaining 1-1/2 Cups Flour.  Add the Butter and blend with your fingers, two knives, or a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form.  Add the 7 ounces Heavy Cream and mix until a rough dough forms. 

Drop mounds of dough over the Blueberry mixture--a cookie scoop works great.  Bake until the berries are bubbling and the top is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.  Serve with additional Cream for drizzling if desired.

I have adapted this recipe from one I found in Real Simple magazine a few years back.  It is super easy and can be made with frozen berries, too--just thaw them half-way before baking--too much and they'll be too juicy, use them frozen and the 'cobbles' will be done and burnt by the time the berries are fully cooked.  You can cut the Blueberry mixture in half and bake it in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and still use the same amount of 'cobble' mixture if you like more crust--T likes a lot of berries and not much 'dough'.  Leftovers, if there are any, are always good for breakfast.

If you want to use non-fat or 1% milk instead of the Heavy Cream, increase the Baking Powder to 3-1/2 teaspoons.  This will help keep the cobbler fluffy and not flat and soggy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

of Blueberries, Blueberry Bluff, and Grandmothers

This is going to be a rather rambling post but I promise it will end sweetly.

Last week my Sister Kristi and I roused our families early, left our homes around 7:15 and drove out to pick blueberries at Blueberry Bluff.  Our goal was 100 pounds of Blueberries.  After three hours we had picked 10 buckets for a whopping 105 pounds!  I can't say enough good about the quality and the quantity of the Blueberries--they were luscious!  Big, fat, juicy...

Of course, not ALL the berries are as big as those in my hand and A's hand--most were like those in J's hand.  And these were Far Superior to the u-pick farm we were at the end of May--that time it took an hour to pick just 7 pounds.

Last Sunday, Father's Day, we has my family in for Father's Day (of course) and June birthdays.  My Grandparents were here, too.  While the men were outside BBQ-ing the hamburgers, my Grandma J mentioned that she had been wanting to make a Blueberry Pie the prior week and remembered that last summer she had given me her cookbook with the recipe in it but that was ok, she remembered the recipe just fine.  She did want to double-check with her cookbook to be sure--and no, she hadn't forgotten anything.  That is the sign of a truly good cook!  Grandma didn't want her cookbook back so I asked her to go through it and mark some of her favorites.  (You can read about her cookbook here).

Beside the recipe for Blueberry Pie she wrote "My favorite"

 I made this pie tonight and I believe this old recipe is my new favorite, too!  Enjoy!


Blueberry Pie

If you are using frozen Blueberries, do not thaw completely.  Place them in a single-layer on a rimmed cookie sheet and set them in a warm place while you make your pie crust--I set mine out on the picnic table.  They should be softened but not soggy or runny when you go to use them.

Preheat oven to 425*.

Make pastry for a double-crust pie.  You can find my Pie Crust recipe here.
Prepare a 9-inch pie plate with a bottom crust.

Mix together:
3/4  Cup  Sugar
5  Tablespoons  Flour
1/2  teaspoon  Cinnamon
1  teaspoon Lemon Zest
1  Tablespoon  Lemon Juice
4 to 5  Cups  Blueberries   
and pour into the pastry-lined pan

Dot with 1-1/2  Tablespoons Butter
and cover with top crust, fluting edges to seal. 
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until crust is nicely browned and juice begins to bubble though slits it crust.  Serve slightly warm, not hot.  Serves 8.

This white bowl is a favorite of mine from my Grandma R.--she made it!

Some more of my favorites--measuring spoons from my Mother last Christmas!
I just love pretty, functional tools!

If you don't have one of these little gadgets--you need one!
I think this Zester spends more time in the dishwasher than it does in the drawer.
Yes, I use it that much!

Ready for the oven
{Those are supposed to be Blueberries on top}

This recipe was from a circa 1940s Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Monday, June 18, 2012

...seeking several Intrepid young men...

  If you've wondered why this blog has been silent for a few weeks, this is why:

The D. Crockett & Dan'l Boone
Wilderness Eploration Co., Ltd.

Is seeking several Intrepid young Men to join an
Expedition set Forth in Honor of the births of
Joel D. and Dale R. Miller
This Quest into the Vast Undiscovered Portions of our Great
Nation will depart Promptly at 2 o'clock on the Afternoon of
Saturday the 9th of June, 2012 from the Miller Residence.

Constant Danger, Low Wages.
Honour and Fame Certain in case of Success.

Please respond to Trail Masters Joel or Dale Miller
by Tuesday, the 5th of June to Secure your
Passage with this Valiant Endeavor.

The Families of these Brave Explorers may Celebrate their
Safe Return with a Mug of Hot Chocolate at
half past Seven o'clock on the Evening of June 9th.

Signed, T. Miller
15th May 2012

The boys turned 10 last week.  It's hard to believe how those 5-pound-1-ounce scrawny little babies have grown up so quickly into these brawny boys!

{I think we'd better watch out!}

This blog post, as well as the next several posts, will be about the food we served and the games we played. 

T had a lot of fun guiding the boys through several teamwork games--can't survive in the Wilderness without teamwork--and I had fun coming up with (semi-) authentic 1800's Wilderness foods.

But what is a party without a cake?

From my children's (and husband's) viewpoint, the cake is the most important part of a birthday Celebration.  For me it is not as important, but as a way of honoring them and their special days, I try to have a fun cake. 

{I'm always glad that I only do two a year--one for the boys and then one for the girls, as their birthdays are just three weeks apart. And no, I'll never be as good at this as T's mom was, nor will I enjoy it as she did, but I do try...}

This year the boys chose a Chocolate cake (I always use a mix).  I usually let them decide what shape/type of cake they want, but this year, because of the theme of their party, I got (?) to pick.

{There were 10 growth-rings on the tree stump}

Because we needed some gluten-free cake for their cousin, we had cupcakes, too.  I used a Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix.

Here are my notes on how I did the cake:

I had the boys bake four boxes of cake mix in round pans for a total of eight layers.  (It was a good thing we made that many because Little Sister sat on some...)  I ended up using only five layers in the actual cake.  We baked the cake over the course of a week and froze the layers.  I then built the cake using frozen--not thawed--cake and four recipes of my favorite chocolate frosting (recipe follows).  I covered the exterior of the cake with two boxes of purchased fondant.  I bought the pre-colored fondant because I didn't feel comfortable trying to make the colors of each box match perfectly.  I topped the cake with a circle of fondant and then wrapped the sides of the cake with a rectangle of  fondant, curling it over the top of the cake to make the top of the stump.  I then used portions of another cake layer--the one that got sat on!--to form the roots, attaching them with sandwich skewers and covering them with fondant.  Some of the remaining fondant I formed into twigs and branches and attached with toothpicks.  Using another toothpick, I scored the wood grain onto the outside of the stump.  The grass around the tree was made using a grass icing tip and green-tinted frosting.

The lettering is more fondant--I bought a box of white and colored it in red, yellow, and blue with gel food coloring and then stamped out the targets and letters using cookie cutters.

The arrows for the cupcake targets are made from dry spaghetti and bits of red fondant. I moistened the fondant bits with a damp paper towel to get them to adhere to the spaghetti.

I did run into a few problems:
I decorated the cake on Thursday using frozen cake.  As the cake thawed, it's weight started to make the frosting/filling sag at the bottom.  Because it was a tree, it didn't matter.  If it had been a wedding cake that would be a whole 'nother story.  I just popped it into the fridge so it would firm back up and it was fine for the party on Saturday.  Next time I'll just store it in the fridge right from the get-go.

I started out storing the cupcakes in a sealed plastic container.  The moisture from the frozen cupcakes made a few of the arrow feathers start to separate from the spaghetti.  Removing the lid from the container solved the problem.  And no, the cupcakes weren't dry because the cake was completely 'sealed' from air by the frosting. 

Hopefully this will help you out.

Here's the Frosting/Filling Recipe.  It is from the Southern Living Cookbook and is my all-time-favorite frosting.  It is what I use for all the children's shaped cakes.  I especially like how I am able to smooth it onto a frozen cake (it firms up to almost solid).  Then, using a metal spatula dipped in HOT water, I can smooth out imperfections and get a top that is as smooth as fondant.  Just use a paper towel to blot up any small water droplets.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2  Cups  Butter, softened
4  Cups  Sifted Powdered Sugar
2  Tablespoons  Milk
1  teaspoon  Vanilla Extract

Cream  Butter at medium speed of an electric mixer; gradually add Powdered Sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add Milk; beat until spreading consistency.  Stir in Vanilla.  Yield: 3 Cups

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:  add 1/4-Cup Cocoa with the Powdered Sugar
Mocha Buttercream Frosting:  Dissolve 2 Tablespoons instant Coffee powder in the Milk.  Add as directed for the milk.
Spiced Buttercream Frosting:  Substitute 2  Tablespoons Orange Juice for the Milk, and stir in 1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground Cloves in place of Vanilla extract.  {I haven't made this variation, but the Chocolate and Mocha--oh my!  I could eat them with a spoon--no cake needed!}

{You can see the bit of slump in the bottom of the cake--store yours in the fridge!}

Here is a link to Kara's Party Ideas, where I got a lot of my cake and cupcake ideas.

Just as a warning, however:  Do Not, and I repeat, DO NOT look at these ideas with your children. 

The majority of the ideas are so cute and so fun and so over-the-top that your children will be begging for this party or that party for the next, oh, about bazillion years.

Just warnin' ya!

{Have a Happy Birthday!}

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Lunch Program >> Nebraska Beef Buns

Summer Lunch Program

a semi-sporadic series
fun lunchtime recipes

Just In Time For Summer Vacation!

Nebraska Beef Buns
or, Bierocks

1/2  Cup  Whole Milk
1/2  Cup  Water
6  Tablespoons  Butter
1/4  Cup  Sugar
3-1/2 to 3-3/4  Cups  Flour
1  Tablespoon Instant or Rapid-Rise Yeast
1/2  teaspoon  Salt
1  large  Egg, lightly beaten -and-
1  large  Egg, beaten with 1  Tablespoon  Water

4  teaspoons  Oil
2  pounds  90%-lean  Ground Beef
Black Pepper
1  Onion, chopped fine
1/2  small head  Green Cabbage, cored and chopped fine, about 4 Cups
1  Cup  low-sodium  Chicken Broth
2  Cups  shredded Co-Jack Cheese

For the Dough:
Combine the Milk, Water, Butter, and Sugar in a 2-cup microwaveable liquid measuring cup.  Microwave until temperature registers 110*, 1 to 2 minutes.  Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix 3-1/2 cups Flour, Yeast, and Salt on low until combined.  With mixer running, slowly add Milk mixture and single beaten Egg until incorporated and dough comes together, about 3 minutes.  Increase speed to medium-low (#2 for Kitchen Aid) and continue to mix until dough is smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 8 minutes.  If, after 4 minutes, dough looks wet, add remaining 1/4-cup Flour, one Tablespoon at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 50-60 minutes.

For the Filling:
Heat 2 teaspoons Oil in Dutch Oven over medium-high heat.  Add Beef, 1 teaspoon Salt, and 1 teaspoon Black Pepper and cook, breaking up into small pieces, until liquid evaporates and meat begins to sizzle, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain meat in colander and set aside.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons Oil to the same Dutch Oven and heat over medium-high.  Add Onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until just until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the drained Beef, chopped Cabbage, and Chicken Broth.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until Cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes.  Uncover and continue to cook until liquid evaporates and mixture begins to sizzle, 5 to 7 minutes.  (When I made this, I never could get all the liquid to evaporate.  I ended up just draining it off at this point.)  Season with Salt and Black Pepper to taste.  Transfer to bowl and let cool 15 minutes.  Stir in Cheese and let cool to room temperature.

To Assemble and Bake:
Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat to 375*.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (and if you don't have parchment paper, just grease the pans well--DON'T use waxed paper; it sticks to the bottom of the Buns!).  Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and divide into 12 equal (2-3/4 ounce) portions.  Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll out into a 5-1/2-inch round.  Transfer 1/2-cup lightly-packed filling to center, pressing to compact to filling.  Stretch edges of the dough to just cover the filling; pinch together to seal.  Arrange 6 Beef Buns, seams side down, on each prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

Discard plastic wrap, brush the Beef Buns with the Egg/Water mixture, and bake until golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking.  Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 12 Beef Buns.

I made this one Saturday for our dinner the next day--I placed the Buns directly on the oven rack and baked at 350* for about 10 minutes to reheat and crisp them.  They were yummy!  The following week I doubled the recipe to put some in the freezer for weekday lunches.  When I doubled the recipe I ended up needing more dough so I mixed up another batch.  I needed only half of this second batch, so I shaped the extra dough into dinner rolls.  Yay for bonus batches!

{If anyone knows how to pronounce these, could you let me know?
Is is Bee-rocks?  By-rocks?  Beer-ocks?
All I know is that they're good!}

This is what happens if you roll the Dough too thin--
the Bierocks Burst whilst Baking.

From Cook's Country magazine, June/July 2012.