Saturday, December 26, 2009

Do I really need ten fingers?

This was my gift to the children's teacher's this year. I made 6 loaves all together, two for us, one for a neighbor, and three for my children's teachers. It was really really good. I have to praise the Vermicelli recipe in my last post, from Simply Recipes, one of my favorite food blogs. It was really really special.

Adapted from

Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

6 to 6 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

2 packages active dry yeast

2 C. milk

1/2 C. sugar

1/2 C. butter

2 t. salt

2 eggs

1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 C. sugar

2 t. ground cinnamon
In large mixer bowl combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast. In saucepan heat milk, 1/2 cup sugar, butter and salt just till warm (115 – 120 degrees), stirring constantly to melt butter. Add to dry mixture in mixing bowl; add eggs and vanilla. Beat at low speed with electric mixer for a minute, scraping sides of bowl often. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead till smooth and elastic (5 -8 minutes). Shape into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface.

Cover; let rise in warm place till double (about 1 hour). Punch dough down; turn out on lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Roll each half into a 15×7-inch rectangle. Brush entire surface with water.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar with the ground cinnamon. Spread each rectangle with half the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Roll dough up as for jelly roll, beginning with narrow side. Seal long edge and ends by pinching together. Place, sealed side down, in 2 greased 9×5x3-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise in warm place till almost double (35 to 45 minutes). Bake at 375 degrees till done, 35 to 40 minutes. Cover with foil last 15 minutes of baking. Remove bread from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I had a fight with a utensil drawer which resulted in my almost loosing a finger to a steak knife. Luckily my Brother in Law is a dermatologist, and he glues it shut so I didn't have to go to the ER for stitches. Ouch. Otherwise, it was a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Dinner in Links

Our Christmas Dinner in links....

Beef Tenderloin (Just seasoned seared and cooked) with

Roasted asparagus (My usual recipe)

I also have brown sugar shortbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter blossoms. Oh and don't forget the gingerbread houses the kids made and wrapped up and saved to share with their cousins on Christmas night.

Next year I plan to develop my own recipes and plan it out here to share with all of you. In fact, stay tuned for my romantic New Years Eve dinner for two. I am thinking Seared Tuna, Jasmine rice, Peanut dipping sauce, Soy dipping sauce, Roasted brocolli, and something chocolate and decadent for dessert.... Did I mention that my kids are sleeping at my parent's house for New years? Yep. Merry Christmas to us!

Hope your holiday is wonderful, delicious, and joyful!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Coupon Crazy

I am obsessed. With saving money at the grocery store. I started a few months ago after N. went to school and I decided to start shopping myself again after years of using the Peapod delivery thing. I read some websites of those coupon clipping guru's and bought a coupon holder and the first trip I saved $50 on a $250 order. I was hooked. The obsession had begun.

Here are my tips:

1) Clip every coupon you think you would possibly ever use, pull them out of the dispensers at the store, take them from your Mom if she doesn't need them. Even if it is something you can't imagine wanting but if it were free you would take it. Clip Clip Clip.

2) Organize the coupons in one of those cute little folder things that fits in your purse. Cute is important. It makes the whole thing much more fun. Mine is by Mary Englebreit. I got it at Michael's... with a coupon. But I digress... I organize by aisle. Every few weeks I go though and discard expired ones. I also try to take note when one I really should use is about to expire so I don't miss my chance.

3) Read the store circular. I will not go store hopping. Maybe when I am retired and wearing orthopedic shoes I will have time for that, but for now, not so much. I go to Stop and Shop. That is the only circular I look at, with one exception (see tip #4). I use the circular to make my shopping list. I rarely buy anything that isn't on sale, never unless it is something I need that exact week. The longer you shop this way, the easier this gets because you will start to stock up on the things you use when they go on sale. My goal is to only shop the center aisles for sale items. It doesn't work as well for perishables since they are harder to stock up on.

4) Clip any "$5 or $10 off your entire order" coupons from competing stores. Most stores take them from competitors.

5) I make my list on a big sheet of paper, I start it a few days ahead of time so I am not rushing. I list anything at all that is on sale and I have a coupon for. Often those things can be almost free so if you might use it or a friend might use it, buy it. I also list anything in the circular I need and anything with coupons I need. I list my perishables. Lastly I list things that are not on sale, that I don't have coupons for, and that I need right away. I often star these so I can keep my eye out for brands that might be on sale that I wasn't aware of. I also star anything on my list that I am afraid I will miss (because I do that a lot and time is money, is it not?)

6) Take advantage of any store promotions. Stop and Shop had a deal where if you earned a certain number of points you got a coupon for up to 20% off an order. I collected my coupon as soon as I was eligible and set it aside for my big Christmas shopping trip (more on this in a moment). In the meantime I qualified for another 10% the week the program ended and collected that and used it on a regular shopping trip.

7) Stock up on items you know you will use that do not go bad, when they are on sale. I buy four boxes of wheat thins at a time when they go on sale and I have a coupon. I know we will eat them. I store them in the garage. The trick is to remember what you have down there. I think one day I will make an inventory list, but so far I just remember.

So, here is how it works out. Usually I save about $50-$75 off of a $300 order bringing it down to around $225 or $250. Today though, I made Paul dig us out of a blizzard, left the kids home with my mother in law, and made Paul come with me to the store. We used two carts, stocked up big time on needed things like detergent and bottled water, and got almost everything I need for Christmas dinner. I did not get all the perishable stuff but I got everything else.

The total was $605.87. I saved a total of $214.70. I paid $394.56.

For the win!!! It is not always that dramatic, but it adds up. And it makes me really really happy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Silent Night

Last night my daughter was up at 2am and did not go back to sleep. So tonight, they were in bed by 7:15. I am baking some lemon shortbread, making some tea, and heading upstairs to enjoy it in peace.

Hope you are all having a lovely evening.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Slowing down

It's a busy time of year. My son's birthday is Wednesday, Hanukkah is upon us, Christmas is coming, and so on and so forth. I have been reading a lot about Slow Parenting, Free Range Parenting, and thinking a lot about getting back to basics. In cooking, that translates to focusing on how I can make it easy to cook healthful, whole food, tasty meals and treats. Doing so in a way that makes it likely for me to do it often.

I always bake a lot around Christmas. Cookies and pies and breads galore. But this year I have been baking every week. The kids have been eating homemade, non processed home baked cookies every day at school in their Bento lunches. So I am not really feeling the need to go nuts. I suppose I could take this opportunity to bake fussier cookies that look beautiful on the table. I don't have time to do this usually. But frankly, who has time to do it now? So instead, I will stick to three cookies (I think)... my famous Big Chocolate Chip cookies (I made double the dough when I baked for the Daisy troupe last week, so it is in the fridge and ready to go), peanut butter blossoms with dark chocolate kisses (because Paul loves them and I love him.) and a simple rustic butter cookie. I asked some friends how they thought I should get my desired rectangle shape, and I got many ideas. Many included using my spritz cookie thing which is gathering dust at the moment, some involved rolling and cutting them into cookie cutter shapes, I went simple. I pushed the dough flat with my hands and cut the shapes with a knife. They came out good and rustic looking and simple. So as much as I love decorating cookies with my kids, this year we are sticking with easy.

Recipes to come, when I have some time to focus on them. For now, I am roasting a chicken for dinner, cleaning the house for the after school religion class my friend teaches here in my dining room, and rushing off to pick up N. at pre school.

Did I mention that I saved $78 at the super market today in coupons? Want to know my method?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow!

Ok, so we were supposed to get our first snow today. Hasn't come yet. But I had a plan and I was sticking to it.

Snowmen Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons Sugar (To be honest, I left it out by mistake and no one noticed... hmmm...)
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chocolate chips and a few orange sprinkles
½ t vanilla

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla, and oil; add to dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour the batter onto a lightly greased hot griddle.

I use Crisco, it's my secret pancake weapon, it makes the edges crispy.

I used my tablespoon to drop it on the griddle into three overlapping "snowballs".

I think if I were to do it again I would wait until the flip to add the chips and the sprinkle nose because it was hard to keep them on when I flipped. I ended up replacing a few. Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is golden brown.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I have the best helper in the kitchen. My son, N. loves to cook, clean, bake and give mommy kisses.

The other day we made snickerdoodles. These are a wonderful cookie for kids, not too messy, easy to pack for lunches, yummy, and a really easy one for them to help bake.

Here is how we did it...

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Cream together butter, shortening,sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. I measure, and crack the eggs, Nathan dumps stuff in and controls the mixer.

Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls. I use a small cookie scoop and then roll in my hands for a bit.

Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon in a small ziplock bag. N. likes to shake the bag up to mix it. Then N. drops the cookies into the bag one at a time and shakes it up. He doesn't even close the bag, he just holds it closed and shakes it gently. N. is pretty neat, your mileage may vary. ;)

Place 2 inches apart on silpat or parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. The get those telltale cracks on the top when they are done. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Cool and eat.