Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gingerbread Cookies

If you asked me what my favorite cookie is, Gingerbread would not be it.  When I think of Gingerbread cookies, I think of crispy and hard.  We had a cookie exchange at work where each day, one person would bring in a cookie or dessert to share. 

Gingerbread cookies were brought in this week and although, they are not my favorite, I took one and was completely surprised.  They were soft and chewy.  They were really delicious so I had seconds (something I rarely do when it comes to sweets).  Since this wasn't too sweet, it made me like them even more!

Yesterday, we had an ice day.  The streets were covered with up to 4 inches of ice.  People were ice skating on the side walk (I'm not exaggerating).  You'd have to see it to believe it.  Being stuck at home, I craved Gingerbread cookies and searched high and low for a recipe.  I did request my co-worker's cookie recipe, but he had to go on vacation the rest of the week so no recipe for me!  He did mention that it had condensed milk so searching I went for a recipe that had condensed milk. 

I did find a recipe for chewy Gingerbread cookies so I decided to give it a go.  I was missing a couple of ingredients so my neighbor came to the rescue!  What luck that she had a whole bottle of unsulphured molasses to give me :)


After baking with A. for nearly 3 hours, what's the verdict?  They were so good!  I modified this recipe. 

Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup unsulfured molasses

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets if not using a silplat liner.

In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix in the melted margarine, evaporated milk, molasses, vanilla, and lemon extracts. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. The dough should be stiff enough to handle without sticking to fingers. I divided up the dough and wrapped with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator.  This decreased the stickiness.  If necessary, increase flour by up to 1/2 cup to prevent sticking.

When the dough is smooth, roll it out to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface, and cut into cookies.

A. had so much fun!

 Place cookies on the prepared cookie sheets.  The silplat liner does wonders in preventing the cookies from sticking and I highly recommend it for this cookie.

 Bake for 7 to 8 minutes in the preheated oven. The cookies are done when the top springs back when touched. 

Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.


Thanks A. for your help!

Our Gingerbread Family

This is so good.  Since this recipe made 5 dozen cookies, I shared them with all my neighbors.  Great treat for such a cold day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Ask my husband what his favorite thing to eat in the world is and he will always say Summer Rolls.  Since it takes quite a bit of prep time to make, I will have to sadly admit that I don't make it very often at home.   I did surprise him last week when I decided to make it for lunch.

Everyone likes to put different things in their rolls, but here is what my family likes.


green leaf lettuce, washed and leaved
cucumbers, sliced length wise
onions, thinly sliced
bean sprouts, washed
large shrimp, peeled, deveined
crab meat, calamari, octopus (optional)
pork shoulder/butt, thinly sliced (butcher can do it for you)
rice vermicelli, prepped according to package and cooled
rice paper
nuoc cham sauce recipe found here (scroll down)

The ingredient list may sound scary, but you can put whatever you want in this recipe.  For the crab meat, calamari, and octopus, I just buy a seafood medley bag I find at my grocery store.  The rice paper looks like this:


You can find it at any Asian grocery store.  There are a dozen brands and I just go with the one that looks the thinnest.  Typically, growing up, I would cook this meal on the dinner table among family and friends.  We would sit and talk for hours as we cook, rolled, and ate.  Fast forward in time, 4 kids later and a dozen activities to get to, I've had to speed cook and get to the rolling and eating part.  Saute any uncooked meat or seafood with a little butter.  I also saute the onions.   A healthier route would be to boil the shrimp and meat, but I'd still saute the onions or eliminate them all together.


Therefore, I started out with this:

and ende up with this:

 Doesn't everything look tasty?  Now that are ingredients are ready, lets roll!

Take one rice paper and wet it completely.  Lay it on a plate and place your ingredients in the center.


I just pile it on.  Normally, it goes all in my mouth anyways so making it line up and look pretty is only for pictures :)


Fold the two sides of the rice paper towards the center.


Then fold the bottom paper up and roll the entire roll to the top.


Make sure to keep it taut. There you have it, a beautiful summer roll.

Dip it into the dipping sauce and enjoy.

This is SOoO good.  It's probably one of my favorite recipes as well.  I remember the kids coming home and saying the house smelled so good.  It may take some time to make these rolls, but let me tell you, its so worth it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Making a Better Guitar Case

Not surprisingly, E. has decided to join the guitar club.  At this rate, he'll be a one man band by the time he turns 10.  This year will be the fifth year he has been taking piano lessons and has become quite good.  Learning guitar should be a piece of cake since he knows how to play the violin.  Yes, my 9 year-old plays 3 instruments and it amazes me how dedicated he is to them.  

Since he has to bring his guitar to school, I wanted to find him a case that he can wear as a back pack, but I wanted one that was as sturdy as a hard case.  I'm not a fan of hard cases because they are quite heavy.  Since he plays with a 3/4 sized guitar, finding a nylon case that was sturdy in this size is a little more difficult.  Therefore, I decided to buy a nylon case I found online.  It seemed sturdy enough, but since it collapsed, it made putting the guitar back in the case a little more difficult.  I decided to reinforce the exterior of the case for both protection and at the same time, making it a lot easier for E. to store his guitar.

I decided to use card board and luan (thin wood).  I took a piece of cardboard, measured and cut it to fit the bottom and top of the case.

I made sure it was exactly the same size or it would be difficult to slide in.  I also cut pieces for the sides of the case that would go all around.


Next is the messy part.  I removed the stitching on the largest side of the bag.  Its always hard to destroy something that is perfectly new.


Then I slid the piece of cardboard right in.  I made sure to have the padded side towards the inside of the case to protect the guitar.


I then slid cardboard all around the sides of the case, bending to fit the case.  Towards the head of the case, I used pieces of luan (wood) to enforce the sides instead of card board.


I hand basted the top and sides together.  I know, it doesn't look that pretty yet, but just wait.


Last, I pinned the edging over the new stitched ends to cover it up.


Voila!  I have a new semi-hard case.  Its hard, but has a soft surface.


E. has no trouble putting his guitar back in the case.  He doesn't have to worry about pulling the sides up to zip it all around. Before reinforcing, it the sides would just collapse.  Now it stands straight.


He loves his new case as do I :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Candy Bar Bouquet

I like to give gifts to my kids' teachers on their birthday.  Generally, I have time to get to know the teacher so that I can pick a gift that they will like.  It just so happens that A.'s teacher's birthday was the first day of school.  I frantically had to figure out what his likes were.  Reading the list of things that were his favorites the only thing that came up was candy bars.  He didn't drink coffee so no starbucks, so I ran with the candy bar theme and decided to make a candy bar bouquet complete with a Kit Kat vase. 

First I went to my stash of styrofoam and I cut out a piece that was the length and width of a Kit Kat bar.  You can use floral styrofoam as well.  I just used what I had.  I taped the Kit Kat bar to each side of the styrofoam.

Voila! I get an instant vase!  It looks cute already, huh?

I used skewers and taped them underneath the candy bar wrapper flap so they wouldn't be seen.

Only the bottom of the skewer is shown.


Once all my candy bars were skewered, I stuck them into the styrofoam to make my bouquet.  Easy Peesy!


I thought it turned out pretty yummy myself.  One birthday down, a couple more to go!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Gift - First Day of School

Every year, I like to make a little gift to give the teachers the first time we meet them.  It just so happens to be apple oriented in some way.  I remember a friend of mine making chocolate covered oreos at her daughter's birthday one time and I loved that idea so much I knew I wanted to copy it in the future, but was always unable to find the cookie molds.  The ones that I normally spot have a theme or picture on it, and I wanted plain molds.

Fortunately, on the 11th hour, I found the mold at a local bake shop in town.  I decided to make these little apple pops made from chocolate covered oreos.  Aren't they cute?

First I filled the cookie mold half way up with red melted candy melts.


Next, I placed my oreos on top.  Do not use the double-stuffed oreos as they are too high for the mold.

Next pour more candy melt on top of the oreos and scrape the top with a knife so that it is level.

Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and then pop them out when they harden.  I love the way they look already.  It may look a little marbly in the picture, but that's just because of the condensation.  Once they dry up, the color is perfectly uniform! 


I placed it on a skewer and added a piece of a pretzel stick on top for the stem.  Green tootsie roll was used to make the leaf.  Instructions on how to make the leaf can be found here.  I used a little bit of the candy melt to adhere the leaf. 

I wrapped the apple with a small cellophane bag I bought at Michael's and tied it with a green ribbon. I found a little note template online that said, "Roses are red, and apples are too.  I can't wait to spend the school year with you."  Total project I thought was pretty easy and it turned out pretty adorable if I say so myself.

My kiddos handed out their apple bouquets on Meet and Greet the Teacher night.  The apples were a success.  E. said they were delicious to eat as well!  He got to eat the not so perfect ones ;) 

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