Monday, December 8, 2008

The Big One

There's been a death in the family. That's the reason I haven't been posting. I've missed my imaginary audience...or dare I hope there are a few of you out there? LOL (sound of crickets).

I'm still in mourning but I hope to back here soon, baking and posting again. It may take a little while because I'm competing for the time and attention now.

It was my three-year-old laptop that died. Yep. Bit the Big One. Took a dump. Sold the farm. Moved to the Big Bakery in The Sky. (I can't begin to compete with John Cleese et al on this topic, so I don't even intend to try.)

The Geek Squad at Best Buy gave me the terminal prognosis over the weekend, and I've been in shock ever since. My laptop is my life. I am one with my laptop. I spend several hours a day on that thing, and it betrays me like this! Where's the gratitude, man?

I am now forced to the humiliating situation of competing with my kids for the one and only desktop computer in the house. The one that is more familiar with Literati (my husband) and World of Warcraft (sons). I may play the Mom card to get comp. time: I'm the one who bought it, dammit--I should be able to use it occasionally!

Truth to tell, I am lost without my little lapful of technology. I don't mean to say an updated, newer computer wouldn't be nice--but I want my old familiar, comfy one back. The one that holds all my secrets, my bookmarks, my StumbleUpons, my files--MY FREAKING JOURNAL ENTRIES!! That's what I'm most pissed off about: I don't want to lose those journal entries!! My techno-freak stepson has reassured me that I might be able to coax enough life back into the old girl to transfer that stuff onto a flash drive, if I can work at lightning speed before it conks out again, perhaps for the final time. Now all I have to do is locate my flashdrive.

This could take a while.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Finally! A Recipe With No Sugar OR Chocolate

As promised, here is one of my go-to recipes for insanely busy nights when you're sick of takeaway pizza and the drive-thru menu at Wendy's.

And it's a hell of a lot more healthy as well.

I could probably even trust my teen-aged sons to make this one. Probably.

Red Bean and Cheese Burritos
(from The Perfect Pantry, inspired from Zatarain's website.)

(Add some leftover beef or chicken or even pork if you wish).

3 1/4 cups water
1 pkg. red beans and rice mix
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 cup salsa (hot or mild, your preference)
1 1/2 cups guacamole
8 flour tortillas


Place water and red beans and rice mix in a 2-qt. glass bowl. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the microwave. Cook for 8 minutes on full power, then 12 minutes on medium power, stirring occasionally. The water should be mostly, but not entirely, absorbed. If it's too watery, cook on full power, one minute at a time, as needed. Remove from the microwave and set aside for 5 minutes.

Stir half the cheese into the rice and beans.

Heat the tortillas on a plate in microwave for a few seconds. Place each tortilla on a plate; top with beans and rice mixture and shredded cheese, and add salsa and guacamole. Roll up and serve.

**I made the beans and rice mix on the stovetop, per instructions on the box, then proceeded with the recipe as seen here.

It's good, cheap, and easy!

This Cookie Is Money! (Too Much Guy Fieri)

I want to start this post by stating that I do know how to make things other than sweet desserts; "Really Ah do!" she drawled like Hepburn.

It doesn't seem like it so far, though, does it?

I'm on a sweet kick right now. Soon I'll be into Christmas baking, and then there's no turning back. So I promise I will lay some regular cooking on you soon, 'kay?

I tried out a simple recipe I found on The Perfect Pantry, who had been inspired by the Zatarain's web site to create it. Red Beans and Cheese Burritos. I'll post that next, although I have no pictures of it. Very quick and very easy, good for those weeknights when you get home and the last thing you want to face is the kitchen and hungry, gaping mouths whining, "What's for dinner?"

But for now, on to:

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies
I'm sorry but I don't remember where I got this recipe; please come forward if it's yours and I will gladly acknowledge you.)

3 squares (1 oz each-I used Baker's-comes in a small box.) of unsweetened chocolate, chopped.
2 cups chocolate chips, divided
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour*
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt


In a small heavy saucepan, melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup of the chocolate chips, and butter with coffee granules; stir until smooth. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl, beat sugar and eggs for 3 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in the chocolate mixture.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add the chocolate mixture. Stir in remaining chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. **
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and tops are cracked. Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to continue cooling.
Yield: 3 dozen.

* If you're astounded or doubting the amount of flour in this recipe, relax. I couldn't believe it either so I double-checked the recipe and it really only uses that paltry 3/4 cup. It will look more like cake batter than cookie dough, but I found that when you chill the dough like I did (overnight) it will look and handle like cookie dough--I promise.

**I live and die by parchment paper. I usually use them twice over before discarding in order to feel a bit less guilty about using a product that is not exactly earth-friendly. I'll make up for it elsewhere, dear Mother Earth; I promise.

I absolutely adore these cookies. They're light, yet the interiors are dense with chocolate flavor, and the tops are all cracked and crinkly-looking, almost like the tops of brownies.

Monday, November 10, 2008

These Are Great Cookies, Y'All!

(Is everyone getting tired of the leaves in the background yet? I think I am, but I'm taking advantage of natural lighting, and that's what it happens to look like beyond my front porch. Soon enough it will be a blur of white...snow, that is, snow, which rhymes with blow, which is what the wind does at fierce speeds around these parts...but I'm rambling. Again.)

Today's recipe is courtesy of Paula Deen. Say what you will about the woman's butter fetish, or her dra-w-l, or that cackling laugh of hers, she can cook like nobody's business. And that ebullient spirit of hers-how can anyone watch a session of Paula in the kitchen and not come away with a renewed love of life? The woman oozes joy from every pore. A friend got me Paula's book for Christmas last year. What a story she has to tell. She has overcome such adversity, so many roadblocks, and it hasn't brought her down. She's a survivor and she has all my respect. Can't say fairer than that.

That being said, here are...

Chocolate Raspberry Cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 pkg (6 oz) raspberry creme filled dark chocolate baking pie
(recommended: Hershey's Premier Dark Chocolate Baking Pieces Filled With Raspberry Creme)
Raspberry Icing (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease baking sheets.

With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars together at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and b aking powder; gr
adually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in baking pieces. Drop cookies by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes.

Remove to wire racks to cool. Once cool, drizzle with Raspberry Icing.

Raspberry Icing:

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. seedless raspberry preserves

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients, stirring until smooth.

I love the way this pic shows the ooey, gooey chocolate piece, fresh and still warm. Yummmm

I used a small-sized ice cream scoop for these and it worked quite well.
These cookies are terrific iced or plain.
Do not overbake; let me repeat that: do not overbake. They will become chunks of concrete-don't ask me how I know.

The Ants Go Marching One By One....

This cookies contain one of my favorite ingredients-or maybe I should call them decorations. You know them by several names: chocolate jimmies, chocolate sprinkles, but in JaneWorld, they are called chocolate ants.
As you might have guessed, there is a story behind this. And here we go...

I had the great good fortune to grow up with a mother who was a full-time homemaker. My mother has the gift of making every holiday outstandingly special, and when I was growing up, one of our favorite traditions was baking an overwhelming number of Christmas cookies and giving out 'cookie plates' to our neighbors.

When I was very young, I was allowed to help decorate the rolled-out sugar cookies. I looked forward to that day every December, when Mom would bring out her vast cookie cutter collection and I would watch her rolling out dough, cutting magical shapes out of that dough.

The best part of all was when the cookies had cooled and the embellishing began. I probably wore more colored frosting than the cookies did, and my attempts at frosting them were far from eye-pleasing but they looked beautiful to me.

Mom had an extensive assortment of sprinkles and dragees to top the cookies with, and this brings me to---

The Chocolate Jimmies Fiasco

One year Mom allowed me to invite one of the neighbor kids over to join in on the cookie decorating. His name was Shawn, and we were both probably around first grade.
Shawn and I were in the middle of adorning cookies when he reached across the table for one of the plastic bottles, which was open at the top.
Did I mention that Shawn was big for his age? And clumsy? And one of those kids that calamities just seems to happen to?

Of course you can see where this is going. He somehow managed to dump an entire bottle of chocolate sprinkles all over the kitchen linoleum. And when I say 'all over', well...and they really did look like an army of ants convening in our kitchen. ("I'd like to call this meeting of the Ants local 231 to order...")

Every year thereafter we rehash that story as we decorate cookies. All my kids loved this tradition and licked many a gob of frosting off their fingers over the years.

My kids are now 26, 23, 20, and 18 but I still shanghai them into the kitchen when it's Christmas sugar cookie time. They still enjoy decorating the cookies, or maybe they're just humoring me, I'm not sure. But I love every minute.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies
(a Taste of Home recipe that I changed slightly)


1 1/4 cups butter, softened
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
(2 cups chocolate chips, which I omit)
1/4 cup chocolate sprinkles


In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, confectioners' sugar and cocoa until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Add flour; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips, if using. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight.

Roll into 1 inch balls; dip in chocolate sprinkles. Place, sprinkled side up, 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

I omit the chocolate chips because I think they get in the way of the truffle-like taste. I also think there are more than enough cookies out there that require chips; these cookies stand on their own very nicely.

This recipe doubles very well. In fact, I've never made a single batch. These are my husband's favorite cookies.

This was one of those recipes that was quick to throw together and made the house smell heavenly. All those apple pie-ish spices---m-m-m-mm.

Here's something I never thought I'd hear myself saying: these are sweet enough. I didn't even frost them! There, I said it. And I still can't believe that I had the opportunity to have appley-glaze on these puppies and I turned it down. Unthinkable!

But true. These guys don't need no stinkin' frosting. By all means, feel free to follow the recipe if you want. Without the frosting, it's much easier to justify eating them.
"They're really just like muffins--a breakfast food! I can have another; they're health food, what with the apples and all."

This is what the voices in my head say.

Caramel-Apple Mini Cakes

(taken from King Arthur Flour website)


2 Cups Flour, traditional or whole wheat
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice or 1 tsp. apple pie spice
3/4 Cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 Cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp. boiled cider or frozen apple juice concentrate
1/2 Cup applesauce**
3 Cups peeled, chopped apples (about 3 med. apples)
cook's note***


5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
3 Tbsp. milk
1 1/2 Cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the wells of 12 muffin cups*****

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices; set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, stopping once or twice to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, then mix in the dry ingredients, vanilla, boiled cider (or juice) and applesauce, stirring until evenly moistened. Fold in the apples and walnuts, if using.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 15 minutes before turning out of the pan; cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

Melt the butter, stir in the salt, brown sugar, and corn syrup and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts. Add the milk, bring to a rolling boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. Spread on the cakes while the frosting is still warm.

Yield: 12 (or much more) servings

**for the applesauce, I measured out one of those individual servings in the little plastic cups and it was exactly right, so if you have some of those on hand, you wouldn't need to open a big jar of applesauce.

cook's note***If you insist on riddling your baked goods with them, you can add 3/4 cup chopped walnuts to the batter before pouring into pans. The original recipe does call for them but I usually do a Reader's Digest condensed version, omitting the vile things.

*****I got a full two dozen mini cakes out of this batter. I'm not sure why, but I always get more cupcakes, muffins, etc. than the recipes predict. So be prepared for just about any amount--if you try this recipe, let me know how many you get!

Monday, November 3, 2008

In Which I Leave My Comfort Zone And Become Less Anal

If you remember from my last post, I have been in the habit of taking pics on my front porch to get better light than I have in my cave of a kitchen.

As a bonus, you also can enjoy the beautiful Michigan autumn leaves in the background.

I may be the only one around here that thinks they're beautiful, but then, I'm not the designated leaf-raker-upper. I'm pretty sure that if you ask my sons, (who are the designees appointed to get that gold carpet out to the curb before Leaf Pick Up Day) I'm pretty sure they would be hard-pressed to find beauty out there. Not even the grass shows through these pesky things, the leaves are that thick on the ground.

Here in the midst of The Mitten State, we're enjoying a very freakish Indian summer. We're back to temps in the upper 60's and 70's, which is certainly atypical for this time of year. This makes those of us born and raised here predict an unusually tough winter, to make up for such a balmy autumn.
The unofficial state motto is:
If you don't like the weather today, wait ten minutes; it'll change.
It may be the Lake Effect, but our weather is very changeable. (We blame everything unusual on being surrounded by The Great Lakes--saves time.
But enough of this. Back to food-related stuff.

Let me begin by saying that I am not what you or anyone else would deem an adventurous cook. The first time I make something, I religiously follow the recipe to the letter.

After I've made something once and seen the results, I feel freer to dink around with ingredients, amounts, substitutions.

But not very often.

Call me hide-bound, call me a stick in the mud, but I feel more secure knowing that I followed a recipe precisely; that way, if it crashes and burns, it's not my fault.

For this recipe, which I found at, and duly credit the Joy of, I went wild.

For me, that is.

I turned a deaf ear to the cr-a-a-ack of the branch as I inched my way out on that limb to actually--wait for it--

substituted some stuff for other stuff, which is how Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies became--

Peanut Butter and Jelly Shortbreads


1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 C. granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. fine yellow cornmeal
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 C. dried cherries
1/4 C. peanut butter chips


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Have ready a 6 inch tart pan.

In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth (about 2 min.)
Beat in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch and salt. Add this mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and beat just until incorporated.*

Fold in the dried cherries and peanut butter chips.

Press the shortbread dough evenly into the tart pan. Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork to prevent the shortbread from puffing up. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the shortbread shallowly (is that a word?) into 8 even pieces. Sprinkle a little white sugar on the top of the shortbread.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until the shortbread has nicely browned (biscuit color), about 60-70 minutes. Transfer shortbread to a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from tart pan. Place the shortbread on a cutting board and cut along previously scored lines. Cool completely on wire rack.

*The dough will be coarse and crumbly (not exactly my definition of 'incorporated') and seem quite dry until you press
it into the pan.

I liked the texture of this cookie: grainy but not dry. The peanut butter flavor really comes through, and the cherries are a nice touch, too.
You could also use dried blueberries or cranberries if you wanted.
The original recipe calls for white chocolate chunks, which you may want to try.
If you do, let me know how the cookies turn out.

Of course, I advocate using Michigan-grown cherries, the best in the country!

Autumn Leaves, Bare Feet, and Chocolate Cream Cheese Muffins

Okay, so I'm out on my porch taking pictures of my feet. Not really, but the explanation makes almost as much sense as that.

I read in a fellow blogger's post that natural light is best if you can time your shots to take advantage of it. By the time I get home from work, especially at this time of year, it's already too dark in the kitchen to take pics that look even remotely recognizable. I mean, these shots are not exactly high-tech, high quality anyway---so I've been taking the plated food out to my front porch where there's still enough indirect light to take pics.

And my feet got in the way.

Or maybe it was the maple leaves.

So here it is---
Chocolate Cream Cheese Muffins
(adapted from Bunny's Warm Oven, who adapted it from Recipezaar)


8 oz. cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 Cup sugar
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips*

1 1/2 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C. water **
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil***
1 tsp. vinegar ****
1 Tbsp. vanilla


Beat together cream cheese, egg and sugar until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour muffin pan.
Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add remaining ingredients. Mix until batter is of smooth consistency.

Spoon 1/4 C. batter into each muffin cup. Dab on rounded teaspoons of filling close to the edges of each muffin.

Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before removing from muffin pan.

*I've gotten inordinately fond of Nestle's chocolate chunks so that's what I used; also added somewhat more than the suggested 6 oz, I'm afraid.

**I used milk

*** I used canola oil.

****omitted the vinegar and didn't notice any lack of it in the taste of these little gems.

I found these to be delightful: moist and chewy, with those tasty little chocolate hunks mingling with the cream cheese flavor--a double dose of 'mmmmm'.
I will admit that despite my best attempts, they don't photograph well. There's a certain lack of aesthetic whateveryoucallit that doesn't translate well onto paper, er, monitor. That said, be assured that they taste way better than they look!

This recipe is a keeper.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Maple Tea Scones

I first got curious about scones when I tried one in Chicago. We were staying at the Palmer House Hilton and Sunday morning found us wandering the neighborhood for something that looked breakfast-y and open. (Call me naive, but I hadn't realized that many restaurants in downtown Chicago would be closed on Sundays).

We finally found a bakery and I grabbed an orange scone and ate it on the fly.

For a few steps, that is.

The little bit of saliva that naturally resides in your mouth was not equal to the task of moistening this hunk of arid dough.
I found a drink and tried manfully to wash the floury wad down without spraying my brand new husband with a flurry of very dry crumbs.

It was pretty embarrassing. Here I was, trying to impress said husband that I was cosmopolitan, familiar with foreign pastries like scones that neither of us had grown up with. But this--this--thing should have been enough to teach me to avoid scones like The Plague, if not for the wonderful chain, Panera Bread Co.

"But that's not real--it's mass-produced schlock!" You cry.

I know. I'm a baker, remember? But they do make a mean orange scone: moist, more cake-like in crumb, with a tasty orange glaze over it. I've put a few of those puppies away in the past few years, I admit.
My point, however, is that Panera has shown me that it is possible to create something much more palatable.

(Cut to a shot of a computer with a wild-eyed woman feverishly scanning recipes on the internet.)

I'm happy to say that I now have a cache of favored scone recipes that are my go-to's every time I find myself with leftover cream from making, oh, let's say, ganache from something horridly high in calories and v-e-r-y satisfying.

All of the recipes preserve a natural moistness and flavor. The one I share today is especially cake-like, delectably maple-ish, although I did whip up a maple syrup/confectioner's sugar glaze for it because you can't have too much of a good thing.

So, for today, I give you--

Maple Tea Scones

3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 C. unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp. good vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet or use parchment paper to line it.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter with a fork or pastry blender or use a heavy duty electric mixer until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a 1 cup measure, combine the milk, syrup and vanilla. Add to the dry mixture and stir until a sticky dough is formed, adding a few more tablespoons milk if the dough is too stiff.

Turn out the shaggy dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently about 6 times, just until the dough holds together. Divide into three equal portions and pat each into a 1-inch thick round about 6 inches in diameter. With a knife, cut each round into quarters, making 4 wedges. The scones can also be formed by cutting out with a 3-inch cookie cutter. Place the scones about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 16-20 minutes until crusty and golden brown. Serve immediately with jam or Devonshire cream. Or whip together a glaze of maple syrup, confectioner's sugar and a bit of milk and drizzle over scones.

These are incredibly good just after they're cooled, but they also keep very well for 2-3 days in an airtight container.*

*found this recipe at so thank Hannah when you see her!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Second Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Around

Today's recipe, boys and girls, is adapted from The New York Times, July 9, 2008.

This is--ta da...

Grand Marnier Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This is a good cookie recipe. It's not a great recipe, but it's a good one.
I wish I could remember where I found it. Friends, family, and ex-boyfriends all know that
my memory is by now like Swiss cheese: full of holes. I throw that out at the beginning of our relationship because it's only fair that you read this blog fully informed.

It's really not much different than various and sundry other recipes I've tried over the course of my baking life, except for the Grand Marnier.
I was so hoping that the addition of this gorgeous liquid would elevate this recipe
to the level of unusual and unique, bringing me accolades and ticker tape parade status.

But no.

Truth to tell, I (with my highly trained and discerning taste buds) couldn't even detect the Marnier in it. And that lovely stuff is too expensive to use in anything where it doesn't shine through.

That said, here is the recipe. Let me know what you think of it. Can you taste this?

Grand Marnier Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 C. minus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1 2/3C. bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 C. light brown sugar

1 C. plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Zest of one orange
2 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. Grand Marnier orange liqueur
1 1/4 lbs. bittersweet chocolate, 60% cocao content, chopped into chunks. **


Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars, and zest togeether until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir inthe vanilla and Grand Marnier. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5-10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them into the dough. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 12-36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerate for up to 72 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non -stick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop six 3 1/2 oz mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls: about a 1/3 of a cup***) onto each baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before serving. Yield: over 2 dozen, depending on size of dough mounds.

** Of course, I used more than the stated 1 1/4# of chocolate (it's a sickness, I tell you.)

*** I used a standard-sized ice cream scoop to make the dough mounds and it worked well.

One day very, very soon, I will deliver what I (and the unwashed hordes that I call 'family') consider The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.

You don't expect me to give away all my best secrets right away, do you? Then you'd have no incentive to keep coming back! Ta!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hello again.

I'm back rather quickly, but I have a reasonable if pathetic reason: since I finally found the key to my universe last night around 11:00pm (said key being the simplest way to get pictures onto my posts) I really need to repeat the process quickly, before my Swiss cheese brain has time to forget it.

So here it is: one of my favorite recipes for chocolate chip scones. Most of my scone recipes call for heavy cream, but this one uses buttermillk, which I never have on hand. However, I substitute regular milk with 2 teasp. of vinegar added to make it go sour. This works like a charm every time.
Being the chocolate fiend that I am, if I omit the fruit pieces, I usually double the amount of chocolate chips to compensate. I have also used mini chocolate chips but found them too small for the big chocolate taste I was looking for. Nestle's chocolate chip chunks work even better.
It's a sickness. I should be pitied, not scorned.

Chocolate Chip Scones

2 C. flour
1/4 C. white sugar
1 1/4 teasp. baking powder
1/4 teasp. baking soda
1/4 teasp. salt
1/2 C. unsalted butter, cold and cut into slivers
1/2 C. milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 C. dried cherries or cranberries (opt)
1 teasp. vanilla
2/3 C. buttermilk

Egg mixture for brushing tops of scones before baking:

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon milk

Cinnamon Sugar: (opt., I don't usually use this because I prefer the chocolate to be the primary taste focus)

2 T. sugar
1/4 teasp. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and place rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, bakng powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into slivers and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Stir in the chocolate chips and dried cherries (if using). In a small measuring cup whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla and then add to the flour mixture. Stir just until the dough comes together (add a bit more buttermilk if necessary). Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer to a ligihtly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 4 pie-shaped wedges. Place the scones on the baking sheet. Make an egg wash of 1 beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk and brush over the tops of the scones. To make the cinnamon sugar, mix sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle the tops of the scones with a little of the

Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Makes 8 scones.

(adapted from a recipe from The Joy of

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Daring and Delicious Experiment

I'm back.

And this time, I've got pictures! That is, if I can get all my ducks in a row, photograph-wise. I've spent several hours today perusing the software manual of my camera and what the heck! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I'm going to give it a go, throw it against the wall and see if it sticks, kick the tires and take it out for a spin, stick a fork in it and see if it's done, etc.

If I can't get the pictures to show up in the blog, well, I'll be the one curled up in the corner rocking back and forth as I bang my head on the wall.

Food Talk

This is one of my favorite recipes from the family archives. I come from a long line of incredible bakers and cooks, as many of you do, and I treasure the recipes I've cajoled out of my relatives over the years. Except for most of my mother's, that is, since she's one of those cooks that, when asked for a recipe, laughs and says, "Oh, I just threw this together. There really is no recipe." It's the answer that always makes me grind my teeth and growl. Then I tell her the next time she makes the coveted cake, cookie, etc. she'd better write down the ingredients and amounts so I don't tear out my hair. And she laughs again, but she complies, and that's the great thing.

This recipe, however, came from my second cousin in Illinois, so it's aptly named---

Lou Ann's Apple Cake


1 1/2 C. vegetable or canola oil ***
2 C. sugar
2 teasp. vanilla
2 eggs
3 C. diced apples
3 C. sifted flour
1 teasp. cinnamon
1 teasp. baking soda
1 teasp. salt


Pour oil and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat well.
Add the vanilla and eggs and beat well again.
Add the apples. Do not beat again after adding them.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, flour, baking soda, and salt; whisk together and stir into apple/oil/sugar mixture. It will be very thick. Pour or scoop it into a greased 9x13 " pan (you can sprinkle additional sugar on the top of the batter if you like) and bake for 1 hour.

***I know, I know, I had a mild heart attack when I saw the amount of oil used, too. But if ever a cake was justified by such a godawful amount of something so bad for you, this cake is it. I've always thought that someday I'd like to try substituting applesauce or something else in place of at least part of that oil, but have yet to try it. Probably because I would feel obliged to eat it even if the results were sub-par.

This cake works very well as a coffee cake, eaten at breakfast. Or at least that's how I rationalize it in JaneWorld.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hold On, I'm Coming!

I've got it!

I've got a shiny new Canon digital camera. This baby does things I didn't know a camera could do. I can't believe all the editing you can do to your pictures either. I think I may have taken a bite slightly larger than my mouth this time, but I'm determined to figure this stuff out. I've taken a few pictures already, being the kind that learns best by dicking around until I figure something out, but I promised myself that this time I will read the manual.

It may take a few days to figure out how to take good pictures, and then how to post them, but I'll get there, never fear.

Hold on, I'm coming! (am I the only one hearing Sam and Dave singing?)


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Here I go, typing up my first post and feeling not unlike a fool. I've been testing recipes, combing hundreds of food blogs to analyse what's out there and what I can learn, painstakingly designed this blog, and yet I find myself at a standstill.

I have no digital camera.

I've been researching them, and will make the big purchase this weekend, but until then I have no way to illustrate, well, anything. Kind of silly when you think about it. Who would follow a recipe without pictures, with no way to see what the finished product is supposed to look like? Absurd, I say, but this is what I propose to do:

I'm gonna publish the recipe anyway. I'm starting with my mother's famous banana bread. Simply put, it is divine. Not so aesthetically pleasing (think of your last loaf) so it won't suffer from lack of a look-see. Maybe someday I'll rerun the recipe and post pictures but until then, here it is, quick-bread fans!

Mary Lou's Banana Bread


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I use butter-flavored Crisco)
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
2/3 cup sour milk**
3 crushed bananas

Combine the first three ingredients in big mixing bowl with speed set on low until mixed well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix again. Divide batter into two greased bread or loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-45 minutes. Test with toothpick for doneness.

**If you have no sour milk, you can make some by adding 2 teaspoons of vinegar into 2/3 cup of regular milk; stir and let set for a minute or two, then use.

This is the recipe I cut my baking teeth on. My mother's copy of this recipe contains nuts (chopped walnuts, I think) but since I hate walnuts, I have never included them. If your tastes run in that direction, please feel free to add them. I have used 3-4 bananas, depending on size, but the older the better, flavor-wise.

I hope you try this recipe soon. It's simple, it's fast, and a big crowd-pleaser at my husband's office! This banana bread is only one of a multitude of wonderful recipes I've gotten from my mother, and it's my pleasure to share it with you!