Friday, March 8, 2013

Banana Nut Bread Blondies with Brown Butter Vanilla Frosting

Howdy!  I would say I've been busy, but really, all I've been is sick.  I've called my doctor twice in the past week and a half and have learned that this seemingly never-ending virus is typical of what's going around right now.  Anyway, I am well on the mend now and expect to feel even more improved in the next couple of days.  

I have recently tried a new recipe.  I originally got it by doing a search on the internet, trying to come up with something different to do with my over-ripened bananas.  I found a recipe called "Banana Bread Brownies with Brown Butter Frosting" at this site.  I used their recipe, but called mine "Banana Nut Bread Blondies with Brown Butter Vanilla Frosting" because I didn't want anyone to anticipate there was chocolate involved and then be disappointed to find there is not.  It's all about setting expectations!

Anyway, here's a pic of the final item.  

These are sweet, moist and just downright, sinfully delicious.  I took them to Bender's school and they got high marks from his teachers.  I have decided the vanilla in the frosting really, really compliments the banana flavor very nicely.  

You can view the recipe and some of the other photos by clicking here.  

I also, for the first time ever, made bacon in the oven.  If you've never made bacon in the oven, I have to tell you how incredibly easy it is to make it this way and then clean up afterwards.  Incredibly easy.  Proof:

If you're interested in giving this a try, line a large pan with aluminum foil.  I did one layer length-wise and then a couple of sheets going the other direction.  Lay your bacon out on the foil.  Put into a COLD oven and then turn the oven to 400 degrees.  Set your timer for about 17 minutes.  It'll take about 17-22 minutes for the magic to happen.  There was no splatter.  I'm still in awe.  Too bad I'm going to try to become a vegetarian soon.  

Otherwise, all is quiet on the home front.  Little Dog, Bad Kitties and me... just doing what we do.  Just for fun, because I don't have anything else to talk about, here's some more silly pictures.  

First, here's Bender listening very intently while I talk to him before light's out.  He and I have some very therapeutic conversations sometimes.  He's a great listener.  

Oh, the joys of having a new bone.  When he gets a new bone, he takes it in his mouth and trots throughout the house - down the hall, through the living room, then the kitchen, then the hall again.  I can't tell if he's happy about having a new bone, or if it stresses him out because he fears the kitties are going to take it if he doesn't find a good hiding spot for it.  Maybe a little of both...

Bender and I went for a walk around a little strip mall the other day and there was this statue outside of one of the sporting goods stores.  Bender wanted NO PART of this one.  The brakes went out, a couple of low "woofs" were expressed, and stopping for me to even take this picture was nearly a deal-breaker.  There was another one of a deer, but he didn't mind that one.  Whatever, Pup.

And this one makes me laugh.  Bender looks like he's been caught doing a dirty deed.  I gave him an empty cottage cheese container to "clean and he takes it in the other room so that he doesn't have to worry about me taking the container away from him.  When he sees me coming, he immediately picks the container up and prepares to dash.  I don't know why this strikes me so funny, but it does.

Alrighty, then.  I think that's it for me for now.  It's way past my "recovering from the worst cold ever" bedtime.  And besides that, I need to be well-rested for my scheduled 1-hour relaxation massage tomorrow.  Oh yeah.  You heard me right.  And it's ok to be completely jealous.  :)

"We make a living by what we get... we make a life by what we give."
~Winston Churchill

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brownie Cheesecake Bites and... Wow, I've been busy!

It's been hectic here lately; there's just no other way to say it!  I spent a fair amount of my weekend getting caught up on chores and tasks that have been long neglected (much like my poor little blog!!).  Getting the oil changed in the car, giving the dog a bath (poor Bender!), buying dog food (poor Bender!), going to the bank...  You know - just stuff. 

Today I had a little more time, so I did a little bit of my favorite thing... baking!  I made the good ol' stand-by recipe (thank you, still, Kim!!) of Sopapilla Cheesecake as well as a new recipe of Brownie Cheesecake Bites.  All of it is going to Bender's teachers (we-heart-them!) and my co-workers. 

The Brownie Cheesecake Bites started with me doing a search for something new to try using cream cheese.  Decisions, decisions.  I've made brownies swirled with cream cheese, but when I saw these, I felt compelled into action.

The original recipe is from the Eagle Brand Milk site, but it uses a brownie mix and a completely different cream cheese mixture, so what I've done is actually very different.  But my inspiration came from them, nonetheless. 

Without further ado, here is a picture of the delectables:

Wow...  that picture came out really big. 

Anyway, they are rich and delicious and hit the mark for anyone craving chocolate and cheesecake both! 

Additionally, I must mention that on the Just a Pinch site that I love, I won another blue ribbon!  Whoot!  It's for another brownie recipe.  It's REALLY good.  They're called Peanut Butter Crunch Brownies and they have a great combination of chocolate, peanut butter and crispy crunchiness. 

Here's a picture of that one.  Really, these are quite good, and if I'm honest, they're probably better than the ones I made today.  I mean, who doesn't just love chocolate and peanut butter???? 

I don't have a better picture readily available, but you'll have to trust me on this one... t.a.s.t.y. 

As for other recent events, I attended my first ever opera last weekend.  I went and saw Tosca, which was performed in Italian with "subtitles" that were shown in a screen above the stage.  It was great and I would definitely go to another opera based on this experience. 

As for the little dog, he's been his usual level of naughty.  He was less than thrilled with the whole bath thing yesterday.  I took him to a place called Muddy Paws, which is a do-it-yourself dog wash.  The have tubs that can be raised so you don't kill your back bending over (same with the drying tables) and they provide everything you need - shampoo, towels, brushes, etc.  I learned a VERY handy trick for keeping Bender from shaking water off during his bath.  Allow me to share for anyone who has to bathe a dog and knows what it feels like to get drenched when they do the shake.  It's simple.  When you feel them start to shake their head, immediately put your hand firmly on the back of their neck and hold it.  It seems that if they can't shake their head and neck, the rest of the body doesn't follow.  You have to catch it early enough though, or it won't work! 

Anyway, despite it all, Bender is never above striking a few cute poses. 

Here is a dog ready for me to turn the lights out at bedtime.

Here is a dog bored with working from home.  So bored that he doesn't move even when I get up and move around.

Here is a dog that would completely freak out if he turned around and realized that the cat was all but laying on top of him.  He is scared of Pepper.  Pepper is the boss of the house and Bender is fully aware of the potential peril that comes with crossing this bossy cat. 

And, lastly, here is Pepper, listening to the classical music I had playing from my iPad while getting ready for work.  He was diggin' it. 

Shasta is a little more shy, so no new pics of her this time.

Now you know what I know!! 

Take care out there!

"We make a living by what we get... we make a life by what we give."
...Winston Churchill

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy Kirby Minter Day!!!! Whoot Whoot!

Today is a special day, no doubt.  It's Kirby Minter Day, and I'm excited about it.  So excited that I'm celebrating in a special way.

Most of you reading this know who Kirby Minter is; for those of you who don't, he's my Grandpa.  AKA PaPa.  AKA Big PaPa.  My other PaPa, Robert Coleman, was AKA Little PaPa.  While Little PaPa wasn't teeny tiny or anything, Big PaPa was true to his differentiating name, standing 6'6" with a big ol' personality to match.

Both of my PaPa's have passed away, but that doesn't mean that I don't think about them, aren't reminded of them, and am not proud of each of their own special accomplishments. 

Today, I'll be talking about Big PaPa mostly, because it is January 4th, and it's Kirby Minter Day. 

So, to all of you out there,
Happy Kirby Minter Day!

To help me out, I'm going to provide a few links from the world wide web that will provide some information on him.  Here ya go:

USA Basketball's Second World Championship - 1954
The Durant Daily Democrat - PaPa's Obituary

As you can see (if you looked at the links), PaPa had quite the career in his early years playing some mad hoops. When he was inducted into the Durant High's Athletic Hall of Fame, they provided a wonderful reception and presentation.  I received a CD that included a copy of the presentation and I borrowed a few pictures from that.  Other pictures I've stolen (honorably) from family members so that I can share a few with you here:

And here's one of me, PaPa and MaMa at the induction in Durant.  This happened in 2008 - my hair is no longer blond, thank goodness!!

Despite Papa's amazing achievements being a basketball player, I think his greatest achievements included being a husband, father, grandfather and friend.  Was he perfect?  No.  Was he a saint?  No.  (That one even gave me a little giggle!)  But he was kind and would do almost anything to help anyone who needed it. 

Anyway, I decided this year that I should do something to honor PaPa.  My only regret is not doing it sooner, while he was still alive.  But there's nothing I can do about that now.  So today I met with a nice guy at the local YMCA and we talked about ways that I could maybe provide some equipment (i.e. basketballs) or even sponsor basketball league scholarships or scholarships for basketball camp.  He gave me several options and a lot to consider.  Granted, the actual act won't be occurring on Kirby Minter Day...this year.  But I'm trying to figure out something I can do that is sustainable for years to come. 

Currently, my plan is to donate basketballs because of the timing of things.  They already have their leagues set up for the winter games, so a scholarship wouldn't be as helpful (although it could be for the summer games), and it would take some time to get situated. 

So, basketballs it is, for Year 1.  And, after sharing some information about PaPa and talking about doing this with the YMCA guy, he also said that the league games start next week and he would like to invite me to attend the first game and talk about my donation and about my PaPa.  To the audience.  Outloud.  OMG.  Is it too late to start Toastmasters?  But how cool is that?? 

So there will definitely be more to add to this story; stay tuned! 

(If you're interested in contributing to my effort, let me know or click on the donate button below to make a contribution through PayPal.  100% of what is donated will be used for the equipment and scholarships at the YMCA as outlined above. No pressure to anyone, though.  I'm doing this regardless.) 


"We make a living by what we get...
We make a life by what we give."  
~ Winston Churchill

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Homemade Food Gifts and a Box of Sunshine

The other day when I got home from work, I had a box propped in between my front door and the storm door waiting for me.  Little did I know what awaited! 

SUNSHINE!   See...

Inside were all things yellow.  And funny.  And fun.  Socks, dog treats, cat treats, sticky notes, a Wonder Woman car, gum, candy, whoopee cushion, air freshener, and least we not forget to mention... some yellow unmentionables of the g-string type!  And a princess wand and a bowl of mac and cheese (anyone who knows me knows that the mac and cheese is soooo up my alley!)!  And that's not even everything.  Lots of good stuff!

So a big ol' super sunshiny thank to you to Amy and Ms. Marossie for that special and fun gift that definitely brought a bit of Oklahoma sunshine to my gray and rainy Pacific Northwest winter!  That was awesome.

So, I've been busy making so many different things, I'm not even sure where to start!  I made some Potato and Corn Chowder recently.  It's delicious.  It's really just potato soup with some corn dropped into it for a little different texture and sweetness.  If you're really feeling it, you can sprinkle crisped bacon pieces and shredded cheese on top before consumption for those that like to take things over the top.  Which is probably most of us, right? 

Last night and this morning, I've been busily making some gift baskets for two friends.  I made some Cranberry-Cashew Bark last night.  First I melted 8 oz of dark chocolate and then in a separate bowl I melted 8 oz of white chocolate.  I lined a cookie sheet with wax paper and poured and spread out the white chocolate; then immediately topped it with the dark.  Waste no time here because once the chocolate starts to cool, it's hard to make the toppings stick.  Sprinkle with about 1 cup of dried cranberries and then 1 cup of salted cashew halves/pieces; press the toppings down into the chocolate slightly.  Let it cool for about 2 hours and then cut into pieces.  Store in an airtight container. 

This morning, I made some Caramel Bourbon Vanilla Sauce (original recipe from Martha Stewart's website).  It was actually pretty easy and it turned out to be a cute little gift, too.  I bought some jars with little flippy-do type lids on them to pour the sauce into. 
Basically, you take 2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of water and combine that in a large heavy sauce pan over medium heat.  The original instructions say not to stir it, but just swirl the pan around every once in a while, cooking until the sauce becomes an amber color.  Here's some pictures of the progression:

It takes about 20 minutes to get the nice amber color you need.  Reduce the heat to low and slowly add 1 cup of heavy cream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Turn off heat and add 2 tsp high quality vanilla, 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, 2 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp bourbon (I used Maker's Mark).  Stir well to combine. 
Cover and store refrigerated for up to 1 week.  When you are ready to use it, bring it to room temperature first or warm over low heat. 
The tip with this:  While the sugar mixture is browning, get everything else ready because once you add the cream, it seems like everything else moves kinda quickly (hence no actions shots of the final mixing!  And when you're adding the cream, add it as a slow drizzle and stir constantly.  It WILL bubble a lot, a lot, a lot, and that's what it is supposed to do.  Just keep stirring.).  I put the butter, vanilla and bourbon all in a little bowl together. 
I then poured the sauce into a pyrex cup for easy pouring and then poured it into my special containers.

Aren't they cute? 
The last and final thing I made were some Blueberry Scones with a Lemon Glaze.  The recipe came straight from Alton Brown's "Good Eats" show.  I sat and wrote it out as he was making biscuits.  I love him. Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.
Anyway, here's what I did: 
Combine in a bowl:
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
Cut into the flour mixture 4 Tbsp cold butter and 2 Tbsp shortening until mixture is crumbly in texture.  Then add 3/4 cup of cream and 1 beaten egg, stirring to combine.  Toss in 2/3 cup of blueberries (or whatever fruit you want). 
Sprinkle flour onto a surface and turn dough out onto the floured surface.  Create a round disk and flatten out slightly with hands to about 3/4" thickness or so.  Using a cutter, cut out scones and put slightly apart onto cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with additional sugar.  Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes until slightly browned on top. 
Once the scones have mostly cooled, drizzle a glaze made up of about 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1 tsp lemon juice and a little tiny itsy bit of water.

Now, as a final product for my gifts, here's what I have:
And what post would be complete without pictures of my naughty animals? 
Bender thought the scones smelled good. 

And this is what a guilty kitty looks like.  I recently got new furniture and he was scratching it.  I said his name, Pepper, in what some might would refer to as my "outside voice" as I was rapidly walking his direction.  He darted off into the bathroom and this is where I found him.  Made me laugh.. 

And, at the risk of spoiling my surprise since the gift recipients may see this, I'll post it anyway.
I hope everyone has a great Christmas!

"With the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible."- Julia Child

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Carrot Cake Cheesecake Decadence

It seems to me that Fall is here in full swing and the crispness of the air is a clear indicator that Winter is soon to follow.  The long Thanksgiving weekend was nice and relaxing here on the home-front.  I wouldn't mind one of these types of breaks every couple of months - it has been perfect. 

I spent some of my weekend reading.  I've been reading Roots for what seems like an eternity now.  There is a part of me that is eager to get to the end and learn what the outcome will be for all of these lives I feel entangled with, but I also hate it when a good book comes to an end. 

This past holiday has been a thoughtful one, between remembering those that I've lost while appreciating how rich I am with people that are in my life. 

I got quite a bit accomplished over the long weekend, although it would have likely been more productive with just a little more sun to dry things out.  I have moss growing on my driveway.  Already. 

I did a variety of chores, like *finally* ordering a garage door opener remote, buying a new couch and loveseat (delivery on Thursday - can't wait!!), washing bed comforters, making a run to the post office for mailing out a few things, getting caught up on emails, and making plans for what types of cookies to make around Christmas time.  I also changed the air filter in the heat pump, worked on fine-tuning my financial budget that I recently put in place, paid bills, took the dog for several walks and watched a few movies.  A bunch of little things, but it made me feel productive. 

I also bought an entire box of the wrong kind of garbage bags.  They fit, but they don't have the ties on the top.  So are they usable?  Yes.  Do I like it?  No.  And of course, I bought a big box. 

Recently, I baked some brownies to take to work.  I used a new recipe that called for Dutched cocoa.  I felt a little silly, but I am certain I could tell a significant difference in how these tasted.  So, what I'm going to do is a taste-test.  You know... like the Pepsi challenge.  I'll have people blind taste and tell me if they can tell a difference and if so, which do they like the best.  So stay tuned for that one! 

Tonight I wanted to try something new, so I made a Carrot Cake Cheesecake.  I wish I knew where the recipe came from originally.  I wrote it down on a piece of paper who-knows-how-long-ago and didn't note where I got it.  I have not cut or tasted it yet, but here is the unfrosted picture.

The recipe uses carrots, pineapple, coconut and nuts.  Mixed with the deliciousness of cheesecakey goodness, how can it go wrong?   It can't. 

This cake is quick to mix up and bake, but if you're needing something you can serve fast, you'll want to wait on this recipe.  It requires a fair amount of cool down and refrigerating time.  I am sure it will be well worth the wait, though!

Here's the frosted product.  I was only supposed to frost the top, but got all carried away and frosted the entire thing.  I need to work on improving my instruction following skills.

Ok, so it's not a very good picture.  It looked better when it was smaller on my phone.  :)   It looks much prettier pre-frosting.

I'll insert a picture at the bottom or this blog entry of a piece once I slice into it tomorrow.  I hope it tastes as good as it looked and smelled!!

Over and out for now!

"With the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible."- Julia Child

Ok... so here is the picture I promised once I cut into the cake:



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Blackberry-Peach Coffee Cake and Zombie Apocolypse Prepared Dog

I decided to try a new recipe today.  I had thawed out some of the fabulous blackberries I bought a couple of months ago from the farmers market.  I adjusted a recipe from a new cookbook to accommodate the ingredients I had on hand.  The recipe can be found here, and this is what it looks like:

It involves a nice spice batter with layers of blackberries...
and then a final layer of peaches and blackberries...
before topping with a gooey streusel...
and then sending this delicious coffee cake off to the oven. 

Now, next time I make this cake, the one thing I will change is that I will COVER the top with peach slices and just use the blackberries inside the batter.  Every bite that had a peach in it was so good that it made me want more peach bits!  So next time, it'll have exactly that!! 

On another note, in the last couple of months, my dog, Bender, has developed a new habit.  For those of you that don't already know, he hurt his back several months ago and since then, when we are in the car, he rides in his kennel.  He seems to feel quite comfortable riding like this and most of the time during rides of any length, he lays down and naps.

Now, even though he's confined to his kennel in the car, he still manages to score lots of treats - from the girls at the coffee shop, the ladies at the bank, the guys that pump gas into the car (remember, in Oregon it's illegal to pump your own gas), and from the folks at the pet store.  When these cookies are given to me, without looking, I bend my arm backwards and slide it to Bender through his kennel wires. 

The other day, when I picked him up from school, I noticed that once in the kennel, he went straight to the back corner, and by the time I closed him in and got in my seat, he was crunching happily on a cookie.  I thought that was pretty clever of him to have saved a cookie for a later time, so when I was cleaning out the car the other day, I thought I'd put another cookie in that corner and see if he noticed it. 

Well, imagine my surprise to find this:

He had a full-fledged stash!!!  My dog is a hoarder!  Anyway, after laughing at the mix of treats that are in various degrees of  consumption, I just covered them back up with the blanket.  And what is really funny is now that I'm paying attention, he gets in the car several times a week and I can see him check on his stash by digging up the blanket in that corner and then covering it back up before settling in.  And just this weekend, we went to the bank.  Guess where that cookie ended up?  Yep, you guessed it.

I used to know someone that always said that fate smiles on the prepared person.  I suppose it also smiles on the prepared pup.  Only the nose knows.

"With the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter cookies, treats, and self-discipline, anything is possible."- Julia Child Bender