Friday, September 12, 2014

Warm Cookies, Molasses Milk & Changes

For the first time in 24 years I find my mornings peaceful and sad at the same time. Peaceful because I'm no longer getting up at 6am, rushing to make breakfast and lunch for my kids. Sad because this has been a treasured chore that I have always taken pride in.  Making sure my kiddos started their mornings off with something yummy and making their lunches was fun for me, especially since they always looked forward to lunch and it being their favorite subject at school.

Now that my youngest is driving herself to school and has insisted she is old enough to take this "burden" chore off my hands, I find myself quite melancholy.  You could call it the start of "empty nest" syndrome, but I don't remember going through this when my son left home. Perhaps because when he left I still had a little one at home to care for (they are 8 1/2 years apart).  Either way, I now need to find other things to do in the morning before work. One thing that I can still do and as my family claims they will never get tired of, is coming home to homemade cookies.

Today as I was thinking of what to bake, I was reminded of my childhood and how much I loved those warm cookies my Mom would make on occasion after school. Sometimes she would serve them with molasses milk. I know what your thinking... "Ewww!" But hey, when you grow up with something it becomes a memory of comfort later in life. So today, as I'm feeling kind of blue, I'm going to remind myself that even though this is just another change of season in life, it can still be made sweet by memories... and cookies and milk.  I'm jus' sayin'!

Brickle Drop Cookies (as found on the back of Heath Bits of Brickle Bits bag)

*I added 1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips to this recipe


1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1-1/3 cups (8 oz. pkg.) HEATH BITS 'O BRICKLE Toffee Bits


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until blended. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in toffee bits. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.
3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Molasses Milk

For every 8 oz of milk (My Mom used whole milk but I am using almond milk now), stir in 1-2 Tbsp of good molasses.

You have to stir quite vigorously to get the sticky molasses to incorporate but that's half the fun. This is equally delicious served warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cereal Milk Ice Cream It's Grrrrreat!

As a kid I remember only having sugar coated cereal not only for breakfast, but as a very special treat while watching Gilligan's Island - Wait, did I just age myself? I think my mom always felt that the sugar content of those cereals garnered as much, if not more, than a dessert, so that's how we treated them.  I would let the cereal soak for about 2 minutes and then I would gobble up the flakes while they were still crunchy just so I could get to the best part - that sweetened milk that pooled at the bottom of the bowl. Oh, it was glorious!

Slurping Drinking that wonderful sweet milk was such a treat and still to this day, I can close my eyes and taste it.

When Momofuku Milk Bar of New York City introduced their version of using cereal milk for ice creams and cookies and other yummy dishes, I was blown away by the genius behind the idea. Who doesn't love a bowl of cereal for dessert, or maybe breakfast, if you grew up with it? The problem was that their recipe had quite a few more steps than my patience would allow. So I decided to take my trusty and true, no cook, no egg ice cream recipe and tweak it using cereal. It came out pretty good. After I made it, I thought I would Instagram it to the new #austin360cooks to see if any other cereal milk ideas would pop up. Boy did they ever! Besides people asking for the recipe, I got some great tips from others using cereal milk. @jeffamador has been using cereal milk as a sweetener for his coffee and he also enjoys it in a White Russian where he sometimes adds a bit of amaretto. This got me thinking of all the flavor concoctions that could be made. These days cereal is a low priority in our house as the sugar and preservatives are high on my health radar, but for a special dessert to bring back those memories? Why not! After all, if tvland can bring back the reruns I grew up on than I think it's perfectly acceptable to bring back a favorite taste memory, I'm jus' sayin'!

Simple Cereal Milk Ice Cream

In a bowl Combine the following:

1 1/2 cups of whole milk
3 Cups of heavy cream
3 Cups of cereal (I used Frosted Flakes)
 Soak for 15-20 min.

Strain the cereal over a clean bowl to get only the sweetened cream. I used the back of a wooden spoon to really push all of the liquid through, so very little was left in the soggy cereal. Discard soggy cereal (unless that's your thing, in which case by all means feel free to chow down). At this point taste your liquid, mine tasted sweet enough so I did not add any more sugar or vanilla. It should taste just like the cereal milk you remember but a little thicker as there is so much cream added. That's it, pour it into your ice cream maker and follow its regular directions. I thought I would add a fun crunch by making corn flake candy, but that called for peanut butter and my husband is allergic so I went simple again and just tossed some cereal flakes on top. Perfect. If you try another flavor of cereal, please let me know how it comes out - or if you have a favorite old tv show you want to talk about I'm up for that too!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Little Bites Out Of The Big Apple!

This must be my year to travel. My handsome tequila guy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on June 17th and instead of taking a single long trip overseas, we decided to take several smaller trips this year. As most of you already know I'm married to the Tequila Tracker.  With that comes some fun perks. One of them is that I get to tag along with him on his tequila adventures.

When I heard he was going to New York City for a very special historical tequila event,  I'm pretty sure I had my bags packed and ready before he booked my ticket.  An interesting group, these tequila aficionados are. They are fun, informative, eclectic, and always warm and friendly. Though I usually tag along only to do my own thing while he stays for the informative parts, we always meet up in the evenings for the dinners.

This particular trip was special in that I got to visit with both local friends and out of town friends, all of which also came for the event.  I reunited with friends that I had met at past events.  I met a number of new people and also got to be part of a little tequila history.  While he spent Saturday at a luncheon tasting tequila, I ventured out to take a bite out of the Big Apple.

There's an old stereotype that everyone in New York City is always in a hurry and that they are rude and won't give you the time of day. I can honestly tell you that my experience was everything but that. Yes, New Yorkers are fast and busy getting to where they need to go. But every time I stopped someone to ask directions or just chat or smile, they reciprocated with a smile and a few kind words. Of course, I did not feel like I had enough time as we were there only for a short weekend, but I'm pretty certain we packed a lot in to those few days. 

Because we did so much, Rather than write my way through the trip, I thought it best to grab some photos and collage them by event, in chronological order. Please excuse the quality of photos as most of them were taken with my phone. There was serious walking, shopping, and eating to be had, so the extra burden of a big camera was not an option.

So many glorious moments happened this weekend in New York and spending it with the love of my life was pretty special for both of us.  With all we packed in, there was still so much we did not get to see or do.  But no worries! We are already talking about coming back for another bite of this apple... I'm Jus' Sayin'!

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Kid In A Candy Store

"Be absolutely persistent in all attitudes regarding quality. Buy only the best ingredients obtainable. Offer the most delicious and interesting assortments of candies possible. Provide the highest level of customer service in all aspects of business." ~ The See's Candies Philosophy

What a great philosophy.  One that could be adapted to my job and many others. As a kid growing up in Northern California, See's candy was our normalcy.  Those black, white and gold boxes showed up at almost every holiday and special occasion in our house. I equate these chocolates to my childhood. We did not dare purchase a Whitman's sampler box, as my Grandma always reminded me that they did not have the same quality as See's. I don't know if that is truth, but I always listened to Grandma and if she said Mary See was the best, then I believed her. Over the years I've had my favorites. Our family was a "Nut and Chew" family so creams rarely made their way to our home.  A see's tradition is to offer a free sample candy with every visit, so naturally, I looked forwrd to going there and I always choose something unique. Scotchmallows were my first introduction to their signature honey marshmallow. Marshmints with their green jelly were a St. Patty's Day tradition until they took them off the market in the 80's for lack of sales. Always being true to the consumer, Chuck Huggins (the CEO) received a letter in the late 80's from a devoted Marshmint fan, respectfully asking for them to come back. Not only did he bring them back, he included a little Marshmint Club member card when you purchased them. (I have somehow lost mine over the years).

See's is a tradition, if you grew up with them then you likely also introduced your children to them at some point. My son used to love the scotch kisses (still does), and we loved that we could just go in and buy him a small box of those. Unfortunately, my daughter did not have much of an opportunity to fall in love with See's because we moved to Texas when she was two. She knows how good they taste (online purchases) but has not had the opportunity to experience the feeling of walking into a shop (that will change shortly).

You never realize what you miss until it's gone. I remember the first Christmas here in Texas I started missing my traditional nuts and chews, or the beloved molasses chips and sweet gourmet lolipops. I was quick to find them online and order them but it still lacked the tradition of walking in to that crystal clean white and black store-with the sales staff smiling at you and welcoming you with a free sample.
Jumping forward to now,  I saw an invite for a soft opening for the new Sees candy shop opening in North Austin on my Austin Bloggers page. I had not previously heard this news and was so excited! I jumped on that free ticket (and glad I did because they went fast). The event was sponsored by Orange Wall Collective and all the district managers and See's PR people were there to welcome us and give us a fun filled sweet night. Of course, now that I'm practicing a low glycemic lifestyle, I had to take into consideration that my body could only handle a few free samples. But needless to say on this special occasion, I decided to leave that lifestyle at the door and let my taste buds go so that I could go back to a sweeter time in life when customer service meant a warm smile and a free sample of delicious, quality made candy! I'm jus' sayin'!

*Disclaimer - For the record, I mean no disrespect to Austin's own candy store Lammes. They also make delicious candy and I am pretty certain that if you asked an Austinite that had to move to a new state they would miss Lammes just like I missed See's. It's all about tradition and what you are raised on.
I'm serious about the smiles in this place.
This uniform never gets old nor does the smile.
The uniform has not changed much from 1930's Still crisp and clean.
Candy Maps as a reference provided at candy counter.
Everyone has their favorite - this is one of my Tequila Guy's.
My Son's Favorite.
Plenty of Easter options.
Know a co-worker in need of a pick me up?
My Mom's Favorites.
One of my Favorites.
Can't decide - they've got that covered too.
Fun highlight of the night - we had to work on a candy line and it's much harder than it looks!. We were in some serious competition to get our box filled first. We tied with the other team.
Believe it or not, there is a method to the perfect candy placement in those boxes.

Fun night with fellow Austin Bloggers.
And the SWAG! Enough candy to last me for quite a while, but don't worry See's, I will be back soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's a Mad World...

“Have I gone mad? I'm afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
~Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland

If you have ever read Alice in Wonderland (the book, not the movie) then you are aware of the extremely brilliant chaos around the Mad Hatter's tea party. There is something to be said about his quotes and how mad they truly are.

I recently had the pleasure to work with a team on a project of madness to help produce a "pinterest worthy" baby shower for my wonderful sweet niece. My task was to create the menu and cook it while my Sis-in-Love (Sue) was asked to do all of the items required by pinterest my niece to create a magical scene from the ceiling to the floor. As you can see in the pictures below, it came out pretty cool and it was certainly not a job for one person to tackle.

My first task was to create a menu of small bites for a tea party, but making them hearty enough for the men that would be attending since it was a coed shower. Keeping within the "mad" theme, I added bacon to several items and put some whimsy into others. All in all, I think we covered the first task.

My second task was to create cupcake toppers out of fondant to mimic the Alice in Wonderland characters. I first went online to try to purchase them.  The price was way too steep for my budget and after all, I thought to myself, it is part of my job as a recipe developer and food stylist to know how to make and do these things. So off I went to YouTube to research fondant and Alice characters. I settled on easy enough shapes that I could cut and paste together on round white disks of marshmallow fondant. What I did not figure in was the time it would take to make 30 of these toppers. After one day on my own, I asked my friend Lisa and my Mom to come over and help and I'm so thankful for that help as it allowed each of us to add our own artistic touch and style on each one that we made.

It was nice to have the fondant toppers made, dried and packed to take on the plane, but my job was easy compared to the countless hours Sue put in. From 9am Friday morning when she picked my daughter and I up at the airport until Sunday at 6pm, she did not sleep once. As an ER nurse, she may be used to those hours, but even if that's the case, I was still blown away by her energy. She led our collective team down a rabbit hole of crafts and turns and stores and ideas that only a Mad Hatter could dream up. So with the help of brothers, sisters, nieces, great nieces, nephews, future grandparents, daughters, and a handful of good friends, this party's atmosphere was formed and created within 48 hours. I often wonder how those people on pinterest create the functions that they do. Or how they pull off those amazing event themes they post. I am here to tell you that there is no way they do it by themselves.  I can honestly tell you it takes a Mad Mad team to pull off a Mad Hatter Tea Party without having to hear "Off with her Head"... I'm jus sayin!

The Main Dining room for the Tea!

The Amazing Centerpieces (such attention to detail & everything handmade)
Of course, no baby shower these days is complete without a "diaper cake". How clever is this topsy turvy cake made collectively by Mackenzie, Melissa & Kevin (I especially like the tea pouring half-hazzardly out of the pot into the cup.
Did I mention that every tea pot and tea cup and paper item was hand made and folded using a cricut?
We had guest participation too. How creative are you at painting a saying on a onesie?
Speaking of creative - my brother custom designed this croquet set. Now you know what I mean when I say my daughter got her artistic genes from him. This is so cool and the kids (and adults) had a great time playing. 
Yes my beautiful daughter stayed up to 3am designing and painting this photo booth. (I personally think she has her Uncle's artistic genes)

There was a sugar sweet candy bar that Sue's friend Delaney put together. As you can see, this is not her first time putting one of these objects of confections together. She has a great eye for detail.

One thing my niece had insisted on was pom poms and she wanted them hanging everywhere. Pom poms she made and they were beautiful hanging from the ceiling in her signature colors.
Behind the scenes making of the diaper cake. That's my sweet niece Melissa and she spent alot of time on finishing that cake.
This is my sweet little MackaRone (aka Mackenzie, aka soon-to-be big sister). I let her place all of the fondant toppers on the cupcakes. She has so much attention to detail with tasks that are given to her. Do I see Chef in her future????
Time to eat!
The buffet table almost filled
Bacon Wrapped Pretzel Rods.
Preheat oven to 350'
Line a cookie sheet with foil and then parchment paper.
Wrap one slice of bacon around a pretzel rod. Place in a row with as many as you prefer on a cookie sheet so that they are not touching. Sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and chili powder. Bake 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked. Remove to a plate to dry. Rods will be soft and wiggly at first due to the heat and bacon drippings. When they cool the will become hard again to place in an upright vase to serve. ~Hint~ Make extras as they go fast.

Meatball Cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350'
Use foil/parchment lined cupcake liners.
Make your favorite meatloaf recipe. Using an ice cream scooper, scoop one ball into each liner in a muffin pan. Make a mixture of ketchup, brown sugar, and chili powder. Spoon a tablespoon on top of each meatball. Bake for 25 minutes in oven. Remove and when cool to touch, pick up each muffin and try to drain some of the fat out. This can be a little tedious but less fat means less splatters on the eaters. Make your favorite mashed potato recipe. Pipe it on the top of the meatball (frosting) and sprinkle with bacon bits (and shredded cheese if you prefer). Top with a cherry tomato if you like.  Refrigerate until serving where you can warm them in the oven at 200' for 15 min.

I had leftover mashed potatoes so I piped small rosettes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and sprinkled with cheese and paprika. Baked until set, about 15 minutes in a 350' oven. They went fast with all those helpers.
A quick recipe I found here - I substituted large slices of pepperoni with these cute little minis. I doubled the batch as well.
My sweet niece and nephew - Can't wait to welcome baby Jayden!
Are you ready for Dessert?
We had red velvet and chocolate cupcakes. Topped with brilliant colored buttercream. And each had a topper on them and my signature "orange" pansy. We also purchased plenty of delicious tea cookies and I made a dozen chocolate dipped strawberries as a last minute request.

I used this recipe for the marshmallow fondant and this tutorial for help.

My Sister in Love Suzie