Archive for November, 2011

It’s almost Christmas time, and I am elbow deep in chocolates and cookie dough! I thought I would share the fun with all of you, and do 12 days of Christmas cookie posts. If I start now, and give you a recipe everyday (yup- for 12 days), you can decide if something strikes your fancy and still have enough time to make them before Christmas…or on Christmas Eve (for all you last minute bakers!).
Some will be easy, some will take a little more effort, but I can guarantee that all of them will be yummy and a tasty addition to your cookie trays!

So, join me (please!) as we start with our 1st cookie tomorrow!

Nut balls

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Shut up and Run had a wonderful post today (she also provided the above picture). The message was one that I just felt I needed to pass along. Most of us have heard of Random Acts of Kindness…doing something nice and unexpected for someone, without needing or expecting thanks.

I think sometimes we (I) need reminded of this. This time of year we get so busy, that the little things fall to the side. A smile, saying Thank You, holding the door open for someone.

Here is the list that SUAR used, including some of the following ideas…

1.Write a note of appreciation to your mailperson (or give them cookies, like I do!)
2. Compliment a stranger sincerely
3. Write a thank you note to someone
4. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger
5.  Send a card to someone in the military overseas
6. Start up a conversation with a co-worker you don’t know
7. Drop off a toy or game at a hospital
8. Drop off a toy or game at a homeless shelter
9. At the post office, leave some extra stamps at the stamp machine
10. Open the phone book, pick a name, and send them something (movie tickets, thank you card, etc.) anonymously
11. Invite someone who is alone, over for dinner
12. Make a cd of your favorite songs and give to a friend
13. Put a quarter in a parking meter that has expired
14. Send someone an animated greeting card on the internet
15.  If you know someone who is having a hard time financially, pop a $5, $10, or $20 in an envelope, disguise your writing or type the envelope, and mail it to them.

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? Do you have a story to share that you have done something nice for someone, or that something nice was done to/for you- if so, please share.

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Have you ever made homemade applesauce? No? It’s easy, and Fall is the perfect time to make it. All the wonderful apples that are in season! If you have a farmer’s market or an apple orchard in your area, I highly recommend visiting them and picking up some apples.

That’s what I did the other day! I am lucky to have West Orchard’s in my area. The market has been open since the 60’s (!), and is now run by Todd and his wife Ame. It’s a great place to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Note: maybe I’m a little biased, as I worked there as a teenager, picking strawberries for the market.

Anyways, while I was in there getting apples for pies (Golden Delicious and Jonagold), I picked up a couple zucchini for my dinner, and I wandered over to the bags of “seconds” apples. Seconds are slightly bruised, but in no way inedible. Ame walked by and asked if I had any questions and I told her I wanted to make applesauce- what would she recommend. She told me the Melrose is a sweet apple that is great for eating as-is, but it also holds up well for baking (or applesauce). I took her advice and bought a bag (1/2 peck). I’m glad I asked! I peeled an apple (I can’t eat the peel- of any apple) and really enjoyed the taste. Sweet and juicy!

Making applesauce is very easy. I added sugar to mine (as Nick likes sweet applesauce), however, if you like the sweetness of whatever apples you are using, you can totally do without the sugar. For the liquid, I added apple cider, but you could just add water (or apple juice). One more note, I made mine in a large saucepan on the stove-top, but this would work really well in a slow cooker.

Homemade applesauce
Makes: 13 cups
Prep time: 30 minutes    Cooktime: 1 1/2 – 2 hours

5 pounds peeled, cored, and cubed apples
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups apple cider (can also use apple juice or water), divided
3 tablespoons cinnamon

In a large saucepan, combine apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Stir till the cinnamon and sugar coat most of the apples. Pour over 2 cups of apple cider. Place pan over medium heat and let cook till the apples get soft- about 1 1/2 hours…stirring every 10-15 minutes. Note: I held back 1/2 cup of the apple cider until the apples started breaking down and then added it in- you might not need the extra 1/2 cup depending on how much liquid your apples give off. Once your apples are soft, you can mash them with a potato masher or an immersion blender, to the consistency you like. Remove from heat and let cool. Portion into containers and enjoy!

Apples, sugar, and cinnamon

Almost there!

All done!

Made with love, not calories!

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Weekly Running Recap

 I love this picture- so get used to seeing it on my weekly running updates!

So, this week started off with a whimper. The best of intentions quickly go out the window when I am short on time. I had a lot of baking to do, plus I had a busy week at work (why are short work weeks always busier?). Sadly, no running happened Monday thru Wednesday. After sleeping in on Thursday (hey, I was up at 2am Wednesday morning- I needed to sleep in), I was able to get a run in. The rest of the week went ok. With Christmas coming, that means a lot more hours spent baking- I really need to make a better effort to exercise.

Sunday: Rest
Monday:  30 minute treadmill run
Tuesday: 30 minute treadmill incline walk
Wednesday:  30 minute treadmill sprint workout
Thursday: 20 minute run…outside!
Friday: 30 minute run…outside
Saturday: 1 hour 30 minute treadmill run/walk (4:1)

Race schedule 2012:
So, I have been talking about looking for a half marathon in late February or March. I found one in Kentucky. But, last year, they had 140 runners.  Nothing against smaller races-I just am not fast enough to feel comfortable in that small of a race. I’m going to keep looking.

Question(s) of the day: Race sizes- do you prefer a small or large participant field? And why?

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Nut Rolls

This is the time of year that we bring out certain recipes. Recipes that we only seem to make once a year. Why is that? Is it tradition? It’s not like we wouldn’t gladly eat these same things throughout the year.

Whatever the reason, I too have recipes that I only seem to bring out around the holidays. Nut rolls are one of them.

My mom loves nut rolls, and usually this is an item she purchases from a vendor at craft shows. One year, she either didn’t go to the craft show, or the vendor wasn’t there (I can’t remember), so she didn’t get any nut rolls. So I decided I would make them. There is yeast in the dough- and I like playing with yeast. There are nuts in the filling- and I like nuts (keep it clean people!). So I adapted this recipe and now every year, around Thanksgiving, you will find me making nut rolls!

Nut Rolls
Makes 4 rolls

4 3/4 cup flour, divided
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup milk
1 packet active dry yeast

1 pound walnuts
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

To make the dough: In a small bowl dissolve yeast with warm water. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a medium-sized saucepan, scald milk and remove from heat. Add butter and sugar, stir till butter is melted. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and salt. Add in the yeast. Add in 2 1/4 cups flour- but don’t stir yet. Pour in the milk mixture and then stir everything together. This is a very wet dough. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour to rise (I keep my house cool, so I place the bowl in a bathroom with a heater on).

While the dough is resting, in a food processor, place the walnuts and pulse to a fine consistency. Remove from food processor and place into a large mixing bowl. Add in eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir till combined.
In a small saucepan, scald milk. Remove from heat and add butter- stir until melted.  Once melted, add to walnut mixture and stir until everything is incorporated. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep your baking pans. *Note- I use (2) 13 x 9 pans, lined with foil (see picture below), and sprayed them with cooking spray.

Once dough has risen, stir in remaining 2 1/2 cups flour. On a flat work surface, dust liberally with flour and dump out your dough. Knead the dough for a few minutes- adding flour if necessary. Separate into 4 equal pieces. Set 3 pieces aside and with the remaining piece, roll out until 1/8 inch thick. Spread on 1/4 th of the walnut mixture- leaving about 1/4 inch all along the edges. Fold the sides in 1/2 inch, then starting with the edge closest to you, fold the dough up. Place the nut roll, seam side down, into the prepared pan, and repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. Brush the tops with 1 beaten egg and 1 teaspoon water. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool before cutting.

Dough mixture- before rising

Dough mixture- after rising

Starting to fold

Prepared pan

Rolls with an egg wash- ready for baking


Made with love, not calories!

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Ok, the Apple Cider Cinnamon Raisin bread made 2 loaves. There are just 2 of us in this house. That means we are going to have bread go bad if I don’t do something with it. A couple of things come to mind. French toast- this bread would be really yummy for that, but I’ll have to try that another time. Cause I’m thinking bread pudding. When is the right time to eat bread pudding? Dessert? Breakfast?

Oh well- I’ll leave that question up for debate!

Seen as how I am still on the apple cider kick (just bought another gallon yesterday!), I wanted to add a little more apple cider flavor to the bread pudding. So I added apple cider to the custard mixture. Along with the apple cider bread- this is a sweet treat without being too sweet.

Apple Cider Bread Pudding
Makes a 13×9 pan

1 loaf apple cider cinnamon raisin bread, cubed (or 8 cups stale bread)
1 cup raisins
4 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups half and half (or milk works just fine)
1 cup apple cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 13×9 pan (I line mine with aluminum foil, then grease the foil).
In a large bowl, mix together bread and raisins. Set aside.  In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add in the half and half and apple cider. Whisk till combined. Pour egg mixture over the bread and raisins. Stir well to get all the bread moist. Pour into the prepared pan and let rest for 15 minutes. Gently push bread down into the custard mixture. Bake 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

You can enjoy this as is, or top it with maple syrup or powdered sugar- if serving for breakfast. If serving for dessert, a dollop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would be great. I ate mine with leftover caramel sauce and a spoonful of Cool-Whip (cause I’m cool like that!).

Question of the day: Is bread pudding best eaten for breakfast or dessert?

Made with love, not calories!

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On the treadmill again!

I’m running again! It’s been awhile and it feels good to be back at it.

On October 5th, my doctor put a stop to my running. That was a bummer, as I was scheduled to run my 5th half-marathon (of the year), the following weekend. For 4 weeks I did nothing. I ate bad-for-me food (think HoHo’s) and did not exercise. I think I was feeling sorry for myself. Crabby pants and bad attitude.

Then, with a few magic words “Everything looks ok”, the sunshine came out and the bad attitude took a hike.

So, I have decided I am going to post weekly updates/recaps (whatever you I want to call them). When you read these, please keep in mind the following things: 1) I am slow…and I’m ok with that. 2) I am in no way an expert on fitness. I have no training. My knowledge is only from what I have read and things that have or have not worked for me. 3) If you are thinking of starting a fitness regimen, please consult your doctor (I know you have heard this before).

That said…here’s what this week looked like:

Sunday…1 hour treadmill run/walk
Monday… 30 minute treadmill incline walk
Wednesday… 30 minute treadmill run
Thursday…30 minute treadmill sprint workout
Saturday…1 hour 30 minute treadmill run/walk
Sunday (planned)…rest

I have noticed that after not running for a few weeks, while my body feels good (no soreness the next day), I struggle with my breathing. So for the first couple weeks, I will stick to a run/walk plan. Ease my way back into it.

Races for 2012:

So far, I am signed up for the Cleveland Rite-Aid half marathon in May. I ran the race this year for the 1st time, and PR’d at 2:29:18! I’m hoping to beat that time.
I am also signed up to run the Rock-N-Roll half marathon in Chicago in July.

I’m still toying with wanting to run a half in February or March. I’ve been eyeballing a half in Kentucky in March.   We’ll see.

Question: Look at the post title. Substitute one word and what song do you have?

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What is it with me? I really seem to like wordy titles! Oh, I guess I could have called this Apple Cider Bread, but to leave out the cinnamon and raisins? That would be miss-leading you. And I don’t want to do that. I have been on an apple cider kick these last few weeks. I think every week we have been buying a gallon, and I believe I drink most of it. And, I keep coming up with recipe ideas. Failed recipe ideas- I might add. I’ve used apple cider in 3 different recipes. One- I got everything I wanted from the recipe- but the taste (what fun is a recipe if you can’t taste the main ingredient?). Boo. Oh well- I’ve put that idea on the back burner. The other recipe- well, I wanted to keep it pure apple cider, but…it also is going on the back burner.

So maybe what they say- third time’s a charm- really is true. This recipe came out wonderful. The apple cider gives a nice sweetness to the bread, and you can’t go wrong when you add cinnamon-sugar and raisins before you roll the dough (or in my case- 1 loaf has raisins, 1 loaf has chocolate chips!).

Apple Cider Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes 2 loaves

2 packets of active dry yeast (1/4 oz packets)
2 1/4 cups apple cider, divided, warmed to 110- 115 degrees
8 tablespoons butter, divided, melted
7 cups bread flour (can substitute all-purpose flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a stand mixer (with a dough hook), sprinkle yeast over 1/2 cup cider. Whisk to combine and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy.  Add 4 tablespoons melted butter and remaining apple cider. Add in salt and slowly add in 3 cups of flour. Note: if you want raisins throughout the dough, and in your raisins now. If you want the raisins in the cinnamon swirl, set the raisins aside!
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, till the dough forms a ball (will be sticky). Lightly dust your counter with flour (or flat work surface) and dump out the dough. Knead for 5 minutes.
Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and put your dough ball in. Cover with plastic wrap (not tightly) or a tea towel and let rise for 1 hour. Note: my house is cold, so I put the bowl in a bathroom with a heater on low to medium.
After 1 hour, punch down dough and divide in half. Grease 2 loaf pans (I line mine with foil and grease with cooking spray).
Make your cinnamon/sugar mixture…in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Mix well.

Roll out your dough to roughly an 8×10 rectangle (I didn’t get out the ruler, so I know mine wasn’t exact).  Saving 1 tablespoon of your melted butter for the tops of the loaves, brush the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter on your rectangles. Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar mixture, and also sprinkle on the raisins (if you didn’t add them to the dough earlier) (or add chocolate chips!). Roll your rolling pin over the raisins lightly- this will push them gently into the dough so they don’t all fall out while you roll up the dough!
Starting with the short end, roll dough. Pinch ends and place seam side down in your prepared loaf pans. Brush the tops with the remaining butter and let rise 1 more hour.

While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Right before you put the loaves in the oven, turn the temperature down to 400 degrees. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaves and bake another 15-25 minutes. The loaves are done when the tops are golden brown and when you tap on the top of the loaf- it sounds hollow. (total bake time is around 35-45 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool (at least a half hour). Note: If you slice into it right now, all that cinnamon sugar goodness is going to ooze out…so you need to wait! Enjoy!

Yup- those are chocolate chips!

Rolled and waiting to rise.

1 hour later

What’s your favorite- raisins or chocolate chips- added into bread?

Made with love, not calories!

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Sometimes a flavor combination has me searching the internet for a recipe. And sometimes that search leads me to something wonderful. Other times, I find lots of recipes, but they just aren’t what I’m really in the mood for.

That was the case with this cookie. I wanted something that had caramel and pecans, and I wanted it made into a shortbread cookie. I couldn’t find anything to my liking. Layers of shortbread and caramel, or caramel drizzled over cookies, or sandwiched between 2 cookies. All fine. Not what I was looking for. So- I stopped looking. And made my own recipe. I had made cookies before, where I used sweetened condensed milk in place of sugar. I thought- why not make a caramel sauce and do the same thing? It worked, and gives the cookie a nice subtle caramel flavor. Don’t feel like making the caramel sauce? (I don’t know why you would say this- it’s so easy to make!) Use a jar of caramel ice cream topping. The shortbread has just the right texture for me- it doesn’t crumble when you bite it, and the toasted pecans add richness.

Caramel Pecan Shortbread Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup caramel sauce, cooled (recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium size mixing bowl, cream together the butter and caramel sauce. *Note: I used a spoon to do this, and there were some small pieces of butter that didn’t get incorporated into the caramel- that is ok. Add in the salt and flour- mix well. Stir in the pecans.

Using a medium-sized ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Flatten the cookie slightly. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until cookies are set and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets onto cooling racks and cool completely. Enjoy!

Caramel Sauce:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Over medium heat, dissolve sugar- stirring gently. Once sugar is dissolved, increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. You are looking for this mixture to turn amber-colored. Note: You normally see the color happen in the center of the pan. Once you notice this, start to slowly swirl your pan over the heat. This will allow for a gentle mixing of the sugar- without you using a utensil (which would introduce cold sugar crystals back into the mixture).
Once the mixture has tuned amber, remove from heat and slowly add in the heavy cream. This will bubble, so use caution (it also causes the sugar to seize- this is ok). Once all the cream has been added, return to the heat and stir till sugar has melted into the cream and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool (sauce will thicken as it cools).

Toasted pecans:
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread your chopped pecans onto a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Place in the oven and stir every 2 minutes until toasted (this should only take 5-6 minutes). Note: You can also do this on the stove top in a medium-sized saute pan- over medium heat.

Caramel sauce- adding the cream

Return to the heat and let the lump of sugar melt

Caramel sauce- yum!

Dough- ready to be baked

Do you like caramel and pecans?  What would you do with homemade caramel sauce?

R.I.P. Chris C. (1951-2012). 

Made with love, not calories!

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I love brownies. Well, I love brownies with ice cream! Fudgey, chocolatey, warm, soft, rich. Yum!

Normally when I bake brownies, it’s a whole pan (13×9). That is too much for 2 people to eat. Really- it’s too much. Oh, Nick would eat one piece, then I would eat the rest…breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. But then you would find me laying on the bathroom floor in misery. So I don’t do that (anymore!).

So when I had the craving for brownies the other night, I knew I didn’t dare make a normal sized recipe. I needed to go smaller- much smaller. This recipe is enough for 2 brownies (or 3- my pans were small and heart-shaped!)…or 1 generous brownie (if you don’t want to share, and you are willing to risk being found on the bathroom floor later.  P.S.- whoever finds you WILL laugh at you). The brownies have a nice chocolate flavor- the special dark cocoa adds depth, and the chocolate chips add a nice richness. And eating them warm means warm and gooey chocolate chips :)

And yes- I shared!

Brownie and ice cream. Yum!

Chocolate Chip Brownies For Two
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 3  minutes       Bake time: 10-12 minutes (depending on the size pan)

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons special dark cocoa powder
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease pan(s). I used little heart-shaped pans, but ramekins, a loaf pan, or even muffin tins would work.
In a medium mixing bowl, place butter and sugar. Microwave 20 seconds or until the butter has melted. Whisk the butter and sugar. Add in the cocoa powder and whisk until combined. Add in the egg and vanilla. Whisk in the salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir in the chocolate chips. Distribute evenly into your prepared pans. Bake for 10-12 minutes- depending the size of your pan (be careful not to over-bake).
Remove from oven, and if you want to eat them warm, let them rest for 10 minutes before diving in!

Ready for the oven...

...ready for some ice cream!

How do you like your brownies, fudgey or cakey?

Made with love, not calories!

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