Chocolate almost always makes life better!

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Last weekend, my grocery delivery included a container of cocoa by mistake.  Since I already had plenty of cocoa in the cupboard, I decided to use the cocoa in several new recipes rather than just trying to find room for it in with my other baking supplies.  My favorite source for baking recipes is King Arthur Flour.  So, that is where I went for some inspiration.

The first recipe I tried was Cakey Brownies.  While tasty, I decided that I really prefer fudge brownies.  

The second recipe I tried was Almond Flour Brownies.  Being gluten-free, I wanted to see how these tasted.  I have to admit that I could not tell that they were any different from Fudge Brownie recipe that I have used numerous times in the past. 

The third recipe I tried was Chocolate Graham Crackers.  These were amazing!  I will certainly be making these again.  This recipe would be great for making homemade Oreo-type cookies or ice cream sandwiches.  

I also made some homemade Hot Chocolate Mix. While tasting okay, I really do prefer the different flavors of premade mix that I have left over from the holidays.  

Lastly, I made some Chocolate Waffles.  These were especially tasty with homemade strawberry jelly.  

Since I am trying to eat healthy, it’s a good thing I have two boys home to help eat these treats! img_2484

Lemonade and Brownies

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InstaCart is a really nice service when you are self-quarantined at home.  Yesterday I had some groceries delivered. 

One of the items I had ordered was powdered buttermilk, which I use in many of my baking recipes.  While I know how to make replacement for buttermilk, the powdered stuff is really handy.  When the order arrived today, I received powdered baking cocoa instead!

Well, remembering the old adage about lemons and lemonade, I decided to make the most of the situation.  So, I made brownies for my boys.   

Maybe tomorrow, I will also make some lemonade

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Free Hugs

It’s wond’rous what a hug can do.
A hug can cheer you when you’re blue.
A hug can say, “I love you so”
or, “Gee I hate to see you go.”

A hug can soothe a small child’s pain
and bring a rainbow after rain.
The hug! There’s just no doubt about it,
we can scarcely survive without it.

A hug delights and warms and charms,
it might be why God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for Fathers and Mothers,
sweet for Sisters, swell for Brothers.
Chances are some favorite Aunts
love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them. Puppies love them.
Heads of State are not above them.
A hug can break the language barrier
and make the dullest day seem merrier.

No need to fret about the store of ’em.
The more you give the more there are of ’em.
So stretch those arms without delay, and
Give Someone a Hug Today!
From – The Serious Teddy Bear

Happy National Hug Day!

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All Things Grinch

Last December during a longer lunch break, I walked by a uniform store. Glancing in the window of the store, a couple items caught my eye.  Displayed high on one of the walls, I saw long sleeved red scrub jackets.  On another display below the jackets were bright green scrub pants.  When I saw them, it made me think – Grinch.  When I went into the store, I discovered that the displays were not directly adjacent, it was just an illusion created by looking through the window.  That visual image, however, gave me a creative idea for work, so I purchased a red scrub jacket and a pair of green pants. I have worn both of these items at work, but not together.img_4295 Now that the Christmas season is here, it was time to put them together.

To create the costume, I designed an digital embroidery pattern (using Art and Stitch) based upon a Grinch face in a child’s coloring book.  The face was embroidered onto green fleece and sewn, like a visor, inside the front edge of a pre-made Santa hat.  To complete the costume, I even found matching green gloves and red Poinsettia shoe on Amazon.

Wearing the costume at work has proven to be a good behavior management strategy.  For the past week, I have had great patient and parent cooperation, even with patients who have not been good in the past!

img_4307A few days after I made my visor, I was shopping at Target.  When walking past the boy’s clothing section, I noticed some green gloves that were the exact shade of the fleece I had used.  Since I had excess fleece, I purchased two pair of gloves and made a couple Grinch hats.  To complete the winter wear sets, I embroidered a triple heart (because, according to the story, the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes), and made neck warmers.  I will be donating these two sets of “Grinch Gear” to the Hats and Mittens collection next year.

For holiday fun, I decided to make some Grinch treats to share at work and with my sons.  Here are a couple recipes:

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Grinch Shortbread Cookies (makes 36)
1 cup  butter, room temperature
1 cup granular sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup Gluten-free flour
1 cup  Almond Flour
green food coloring
Red Jolly Rancher candies

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add vanilla, egg and food coloring and mix until creamy.  Whisk together flours and salt.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into batter. Chill for at least one hour.  Roll out dough to 1/4″ on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out a larger heart with a small heart in the middle.  Place a Jolly Rancher in the middle heart hole.  Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before removing from parchment paper.

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Grinch Fur – aka Haystacks (makes 36)
12 ounces dark green Candy Melts
12 ounces vibrant green Candy Melts
1 1/2 cups peanuts
12 ounces Chow Mien Noodles
Candy Hearts

Directions:
Place Candy melts in an 10 cup microwave safe  glass bowl.  Microwave approximately 2 minutes.  Stir well until all pieces of candy are melted and blended together.  Stir in peanuts and Chow Mien Noodles.  Place by spoonfuls onto waxed paper and top each with a candy heart. Refrigerate until set.  Store in an airtight container.

Grinch Poppers (see my original post 12-22-18)

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Hats/Scarf Sets and Reindeer Brookies

Again this year, my dental office participated in the collection for the Hats & Mittens Organization. The boxes of donated items were picked up on Thursday.  About 150 items were donated at our three offices.

Like last year, I knit several items to donate.  New this year, several of the scarves that I included in the sets were woven. The hats and scarves were combined with purchased gloves to make winter sets.  Hopefully these sets will keep the children and teens who receive them nice and warm this winter.

Linen Stitch Scarf and Swirl Knit HatIMG_3272

Ombre Teal to Brown Knit Scarf and HatIMG_3269

Dotty Stitch Hat and CowlIMG_3265

Woven Scarf with Cable KnitIMG_3264

Woven Scarf with Swirl Knit HatIMG_3261

Woven Scarf / Ribbed Knit HatIMG_3236

Woven Scarf / Ribbed Knit HatIMG_3233

Woven Scarf / Ribbed Knit HatIMG_3230

Rib Knit Hat and Cashmere ScarfIMG_3228

Dotty Stitch Hat and Striped ScarfIMG_2971

Boa Yarn Knit Scarf and HatIMG_2944

As a special treat, I am including the recipe for the Reindeer Brookies I made today.  Kinda fun and very tasty!

Reindeer Brookies (makes 36, plus scraps from cutting triangles)
img_4285Cookie Base 
1/2 cup  butter, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granular sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
1 cup  chocolate chips (I used Andes Candies chips)

Brownie Layer 
1/2 cup  butter, melted
1 cup granular sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup Triple Cocoa Blend
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour

Chocolate Frosting and Decorations
1/4 cup  butter, softened
1/4 cup Triple Cocoa Blend
2  Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
Pretzels, broken
Mini M & Ms, red and brown
Sugar eyes

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.  Add vanilla and egg and mix until creamy.  Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into batter. Stir in chips. Spread dough into bottom of the pan.

Beat together butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla and egg and mix until creamy.  Whisk together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.  Gradually mix dry ingredients into batter. Spread batter evenly over the cookie dough.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely. Once cooled, cut into 3″ x 1 1/2″ triangles.

Beat together butter, cocoa, milk and vanilla until creamy.  Add powdered sugar slowly, beating slowly at first until incorporated, then beat at medium high speed until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Spread over cooled brookies. Place pretzel pieces to look like antlers.  Add sugar eyes and noses to complete the decorating of the reindeer.

Happy Independence Day!

In honor of Independence Day, I decided to post a few Patriotic Crafts.

Red, White and Blue Quilt donated to Quilts of Valor

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A quilt given to a foreign exchange student to remind him of his time spent in the USA:

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A woven scarf:

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And, some Raspberry & Blueberry Scones:

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Raspberry-Blueberry Scones
Makes 6 scones
1 cup  flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/4 cup granular sugar
1/4 cup butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tbs dehydrated blueberries
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
2 Tbs freeze dried raspberries, cut in half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder and sugar.  Cut in butter (a mini food processor works really well).  Add milk and vanilla.  The batter will be very crumbly but should hold together when pressed into a ball (add a small amount of milk if necessary).  Mix in berries and chips.  Divide into six scones.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  Drizzle with glaze (optional).

 

 

Holiday Baking 2018

Taking a few days off of work gave me some time to start my holiday baking.  With a son who is on a low sugar and low gluten diet (not for any medical reasons, it’s just healthier), I worked out a few new recipes.

Having read somewhere that Stevia can be substituted for half of the sugar when baking, I decided to try to make cookies with a lower sugar content.  Using the traditional Tollhouse Cookie recipe as the base, I made some mint flavored cookies. You really couldn’t tell that there was less sugar in them than the normal recipe.

Mint Chip CookiesIMG_2834
Makes 4 dozen
2  1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granular sugar
3/4 cup Stevia
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Green food coloring
1/2 cup  Mint Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Chips
1/2 teaspoon shortening

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat butter, sugars, vanilla and coloring until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until bottoms are light brown.  Cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Heat dark chocolate in microwave until starting to melt.  Fold in shortening and mix until creamy. Drizzle chocolate over cookies.

Yummy!!

IMG_2835Next, I decided to try making a new recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, but modified to use Gluten-free Flour (King Arthur Measure for Measure).  The first batch I made tasted great but was extremely crumbly.  For the second batch, I added an egg to the mix.  This gave the dough enough binder to hold the cookies together.

Cherry-Walnut Balls (modified)IMG_2832
Makes 4 dozen
1/4 cup coarsely chopped maraschino cherries
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup  Gluten Free Flour (KAF)
3/4 cup Chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Drain the maraschino cherries on paper towels.  Beat butter on high for 30 seconds.  Add sugars, egg and flavorings and beat until creamy. Gradually beat in flour.  Stir in nuts and cherries. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bottoms are light brown.  Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar to coat and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Lastly, I planned to make my personal favorite – Red Velvet Thumbprint Cookies. However, when I looked into my pantry, I realized that I had some lemon wafers that needed to be used up. So, I decided to try to alter the recipe and make a lemon-lime flavored version.

Lemon-Lime Thumbprint CookiesIMG_2833
Makes 5 dozen
1 cup butter
1 cups sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 teaspoon Green Food Coloring
1/2  teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lime juice powder (KAF)
2 1/2 cups flour
Lemon melting wafers (KAF)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Stir in egg, coloring and vanilla. Mix together dry ingredients and stir into butter-sugar mix. Shape into 1 inch balls, roll in sugar and place on baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately top with melting wafer. Cool slightly, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.