Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cookies for Trader Joe's

You lucky people, you. In the next three blogs - this one included - I will post more than one cookie recipe. Up to three! Can we say "just in time for the holidays"? I will begin this cookie extravaganza with a fun project that was bestowed on me by Trader Joe's. (Store 670 to be exact.) The fine men in charge commissioned me to invent cookies especially for their store to pass out to their beloved customers and share the recipes with them as well. You folks will be the first to see the recipes! So, here you are! I give you Breakfast Cookies, Apple Granola Cookies, and Pumpkin Cookies! Each recipe has only 5 ingredients. Very easy and very delicious. They have been Trader Joe employee approved. These are all of the ingredients that you will need.
The Trader Joe Breakfast Cookie
You will need:
-a box of Triple Berry Bran Muffin Mix
-3/4 cup of Oh My! Omega Trek Mix
-two eggs
-one stick of butter
-1/4 cup of sugar

To make the cookies, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add the muffin mix and trek mix until just combined. Scoop out about a tablespoonful and place on a lightly greased baking sheet two inches apart. Slightly flatten the balls so that they are not so round. Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees F) for 10-12 minutes. Makes approximately 32 cookies.

The Trader Joe Apple Granola Cookie

You will need:
-a box of Spiced Apple Bread Mix
-1 1/4 cups of Country Pumpkin Spice Granola
-two eggs
-one stick of butter
-1/4 cup of sugar

To make the cookies, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add the apple bread mix and granola until just combined. Scoop out about a tablespoonful and place on a lightly greased baking sheet two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees F) for 9-11 minutes. Makes approximately 44 cookies.

The Trader Joe Pumpkin Cookie

You will need:
-a box of Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix
-3/4 cup Golden Berry Blend (dried fruit mix)
-two eggs
-one stick of butter
-1/4 cup of sugar

To make the cookies, cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add the pumpkin bread mix and dried berries until just combined. Scoop out about a tablespoonful and place on a lightly greased baking sheet two inches apart. Bake in a preheated oven (350 degrees F) for 9-11 minutes. Makes approximately 40 cookies.
Yay! I hope you enjoy making, baking, and eating them!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grown Up Mac N Cheese

Cold weather is here, and stomachs all over are crying out for comfort food. I challenge you to find something more comforting than mac & cheese. It's got everything your body needs to prepare for winter hibernation: cheese, pasta, cheese, butter, cheese, bread, milk, and...did I mention, cheese? Toss out that blue box. I give you REAL macaroni and cheese.
Here's the recipe I snipped and glued into my utterly unorganized recipe binder. I'm guessing that it's from an issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Don't quote me on that.
Cheese. A giant mound of it. Four different types, to be exact. The recipe called for over a pound and a half of cheese: 18 oz. of sharp cheddar and 8 oz. of Gruyere. I used the recommended 26 oz., but they were not just cheddar and Gruyere. I added some smoked Gouda and some Mexican string cheese. Oh, yes. It worked out nicely. I do recommend shredding your own cheese when making this. Pre-shredded cheeses just don't have the same texture. It's the truth, just ask me.

For a crumby topping, cube 5 or 6 slices of bread. I imagine day old bread would be better than fresh. You'll toss the cubes with melted butter. Mmmm. More cholesterol. More tasty.

To begin a REAL cheese sauce, we start by making a roux. Equal parts fat (butter) and flour. This is where the sauce gets saucy.

Nice soft sauces achieve a smooth texture with constant whisking. I totally marked up the bottom of my dutch oven with this metal whisk. Oopies!

Pour in the milk a little bit at a time. Whisk whisk whisk to prevent clumping. Clumpy sauce is a no good sauce.

Time for some spice! Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Don't you dare buy pre-ground nutmeg. Buy a whole nutmeg nut and grate it yourself. Not only is the flavor more intense and fresh, but it's fun to grate. Indeed.

Pretty, spotty spices. The roux is ready for the cheese.

More stirring until the cheese melts.

In goes the already cooked macaroni.

There is a sliiiiiiiight issue with this recipe, I found. Too much sauce and not enough macaroni. Look at them. They are drowning! I cooked up some more pasta (roughly 1/2 - 3/4 cup dry) and tossed in enough to make it look substantial. Worked like a charm.

Top off the dish with the last bit of cheese and the butter soaked bread cubes, and get ready to bake.

Tada! Enough delicious to feed many, many hungry people! The recipe makes a TON of very tasty REAL macaroni and cheese. A sure winner at any carry-in dinner. I promise. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sweetie [Potato] Pie

What to do on a day off? Days off are such a rare thing. A very precious thing. Is a day off REALLY a day off if you have a to-do list? Here's a glance at my to-do list for the day: make lots of cookie dough (Good deal. I love my job.), de-flea my indoor cat (oh, roommates with dogs...), schedule my *ahem* my annual doctor's appointment (the joys of being a woman), attack/scour/pillage the bathroom (It's current state is reminiscent of a fraternity latrine), purge the kitchen sink from the ever-growing pile of dirty dishes, call/email people I've been putting off, and bake a fun thing. Take a guess at what I did first. I'll give you a hint. One word. Pie. Why sweet potato pie? I had sweet potatoes and a cookbook that my Indian-giving mother wanted back, so sweet potato pie it was. (I kid, I kid.) The cookbook belonged to my grandmother. The copyright year was 1940. I love old books, especially old cookbooks.
The recipe makes a pretty good pie. I'm going to suggest that you not add all of the lemon juice. Three tablespoons is a bit much. Next time I make this, I'm only adding 1 tsp. of lemon juice, including 1 tsp. of vanilla extract, and I'll use brown sugar instead of white.

I NEVER make pie crusts. I don't really care for them. I usually just snatch up a box of refrigerated crusts, and I'm ready to go. BUT I was too lazy to run to the store, so I HAD to make my own. I'd seen pie crusts made in a food processor before, but never tried it. It. Is. So. Easy. Throw in 1 and 1/2 cups of flour, 4 Tbsp. cold butter, 5 Tbsp. cold shortening, 1/2 tsp. salt. Pulse until pea sized clumps form. Slowly add ice cold water by the tablespoons full. I added two tablespoons of water. I was ready to put in a third, but the dough looked just right. You can either roll out the dough or if you lack the counter space, like me, you can squash the dough into the pie plate. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Meanwhile, prepare the taters.

Peel, slice, boil or steam until fork tender, and puree in a food processor. You could mash 'em, but it takes a lot of muscle to get the desired silky texture.
And now for the rest of the ingredients: Cream the butter and sugar, separate the eggs, and juice a lemon. Add yolks, lemon juice, (and vanilla extract if you want.) salt, spices. (The recipe calls for a measly 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon. I doubled that and threw in a 1/4 tsp. of ground clove, and a generous dash of freshly grated nutmeg.) Pour in the sweet potato puree (about 2 1/4 cups) and a cup of "top" milk. I didn't have any "top" milk - which I'm assuming is the fattier part of fresh milk - so organic 1% was used.
Whip up the egg whites. I added 1/4 cup of sugar to help the eggs get fluffy, more quickly. The batter needed the extra sweetness anyways. Whip until stiff peaks are formed. Turn the whisk upside down - if the whites stand on their own, you're good to go. GENTLY fold the whites into the batter. Pour into the pie dough-lined pie plate. Bake, wait, and eat.
Not bad for a cookie baker. To add some after-the-fact sweetness, I drizzled on some maple syrup. If I had some whipping cream, I would have made some sweet whipped cream to top it with.
Now, I guess, I'll do those other things on my list. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall Feastivals! (I mean festivals...I don't go just for the food....)

Hands down, October is my favorite month of the year. It even trumps my birth month, June. I'm not sure why. It must be the crisp air, Halloween, harvest time, the changing/falling leaves that crunch under foot, fond childhood memories, and festivals. Last year, I made a point to go to as many fall festivals as possible. I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. This year, spare time is not as abundant. I was able to make it to two awesome events: the 1812 Festival, commemorating the Battle of the Mississinewa and the Feast of the Hunter's Moon, re-creation of the annual fall gathering of the French and Native Americans which took place Fort Ouiatenon. Left to right: Eating at the 1812 fest. *Chicken Dumplings (Why do little old church ladies feel the need to color their dumplings bright yellow?) and "War Balls" a.k.a. donut holes. *My dad eating chicken and noodles. This is his picture face. He thinks that he is smiling. You're not, Dad, quite the opposite. *Under a pound of butter and a cup of brown sugar and cinnamon was a steaming, baked sweet potato. It was gooooooooooood. *A brat, drowning in onions and peppers. *Fry bread, which happened to be quite disappointing. It's ok, the sweet potato made up for it.
Besides food, there's a lot to see at such festivals. Here are some of the characters we ran across: my brother in a funny hat, a walking stick (What a cool bug! I'd forgotten about them. If you haven't seen one of these in person, you're missing out.), lady playing a stringed instrument (To play, she hit each string with a spoon-shaped stick.), and a violinist who brought tears to on-listeners. Characters continued: A battle scene (An announcer was pointing out what each uniform meant - the type of soldier, which battles they were part of, etc.), a print maker and his old timey printing press, boaters on the Mississinewa River. Last but not least, an adorable reenactment baby! Augie (Augustus) was his name; his REAL name. What an animated sprite!

Food from the Feast of the Hunter's Moon: Scottish Forfar Bridies, Sweet Potato Muffin, Ginger Bread, and (hold your breath, bunny lovers) Rabbit Stew.

Here are some characters from the Feast.

Apple Dolls!!!!

Ahhh, I'm contented. Enough autumn festival is under my belt for this year. I'm off to enjoy the rest of this colorful month. On to pumpkin carving and pumpkin baking!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fall INDIEana Handicraft - Karli's Goodies

I had such a great time at the fall INDIEana Handicraft Exchange and picked up such cool handmade goods that I felt a need to share them and the wonderful artisans who created them.

I picked up a satin flower brooch, hair clip and headband from the lovely Aubrey of Backwoods Belle. This was her very first craft fair and she already looks like a pro.
The blue wristlet is from Busty's Fun Bags. I think I am going to give it to my fashionista sister for Christmas.
I got a IHE logo t-shirt to show my support.
I also got a t-shirt from The Mustard Room with two rabbits in turtlenecks and moustaches. Totally awesome!
Sunday Afternoon Housewife made me two custom bunny scrabble tile necklaces to choose from and I had to have them both because they each looked like one of my rabbits.
My husband chose an awesome robot painting from Michael Altman as a gift for his one brother, and a pillow from Vintage Songbird for his other brother.
Finally, I won the too-cute scarflette from Aggressively Awesome Stitches in the IHE raffle.

My husband won this amazing gift pack from Nourishing Notes in the raffle.

It came with 8 hand letterpressed cards & envelopes, 2 hand-printed tea towels, and a cute note from the artists. The cards have witty saying on the front with cute foodie illustrations and recipes on the back. Visit Nourishing Notes' shop to get some of your own. Your friends and loved ones will thank you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

As Sarah mentioned in the previous post this past weekend was the annual fall INDIEana Handicraft Exchange. We had such a great time! To celebrate the arrival of autumn I made pumpkin spice whoopie especially for this occasion. We do not sell whoopie pies in our shop, because they do not keep and we are unable to ship them. I look forward to events like this where I can stretch my baking chops and break out my icing bag. If you were fortunate enough to snag a pumpkin spice whoopie pie at the fair and want to make more, or didn't have the opportunity to grab one before they sold out today is your lucky day. Here is the recipe I used to make the whoopie pies:

Makes 12 large whoopie pies (I doubled the recipe which is why there is a lot of batter in the photos)


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1) Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.

2)In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined.

Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

3) Using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.

Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pan.

4) Assemble the whoopie pies: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer filling to a disposable pastry bag and snip the end. You can also use a 1 gallon ziplock bag and cut off one corner. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large spiral of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.

5) Make the filling: Sift confectioner' sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. (Filling can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)

6) Eat & enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

INDIEana Handicraft Exchange - Fall Edition

Can I tell you that I'm totally exhausted? Because I am exhausted. It was a whirl wind of baking this week. We were even baking and elbows deep in powdered sugar hours before the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange on Friday. We had record sales that night. It was a great feeling. We even sold out AGAIN an hour before closing on Saturday. It's really encouraging that our cookies are gobbled up so quickly. Karli made more whoopie pies for the occasion. This time she made a perfect seasonal flavor - pumpkin and spice. Needless to say, they were gone first. It was great to watch customers buy one and walk off, only to return within minutes to buy a couple more. Karli and I were technically "working" this event, but it's just so much G-danged fun, it's like play.

Our booth! I wish we had gotten a photo of me and Karli behind it, but the idea wasn't around at the time. Maybe I should photoshop us in....

Our gallery mates totally showed us up at booth displays. They had it down, and their tables looked perfect.

After Day 1 of Handicraft, Karli, Travis, and I took Andy and Julie of Nourishing Notes out for a snack and a drink. We ended up at the Living Room Lounge downtown. They got to eat their first Indiana tenderloin. They were not expecting a slab of meat the size of their plate, so this was their hilarious expression when it was set before them. If you get a chance to meet these folks, it's your lucky day. You can't find nicer people.

Gallery Mates: Bobbie of b.makemake. We had the pleasure of lining the En Route hall at the Harrison Center again with Bobbie and Aubrey. These girls are half the fun of Handicraft. I had to buy another critter to add to my collection. After an introduction, my critters liked each other instantly, as I knew they would.

Gallery Mates: the adorable Aubrey of Backwoods Belle. This was her first official business event, and Karli happened to be her first customer. The transaction was documented via multiple photos. It was just too cute!
Yay! This is Sara B. She was a student of mine. I didn't teach her much because she had so much talent under her belt already. She's got a great eye and hand for design. This was her first craft fair, I believe. She rocked it out like a pro.

I had a LOT of self control at this extravaganza. I didn't hurt my wallet as badly as last time. Check out my goods:
Frosty Almond tea from Herb and Ginger. It's red! Check out that red tea!
A breeder handstitched by Bobbie of b.makemake.
Flower hair clip from Aubrey of Backwoods Belle.
Bumble bee hair clips from Buttons for Breakfast.
Handicraft logo t-shirt from the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange.
Fan-flippin-tastic hand printed foodie birthday cards by Nourishing Notes.
Grumpy cloud pin made by Cordial Kitten.
I will attend this event again and again and again. It's more fun than words can describe! Thanks Amanda for putting together such a great indie-craft fair!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Weekend of Eating in St. Louis

The Strange Folk Festival happened to be only a 20 minute drive away from my lovely friend, Sarah, who lives in St. Louis. My lovely friend, Sarah, was lovely enough to let my mom and I stay for the weekend. We had a great time being in St. Louis with her. We ate and ate and ate some more - my favorite kind of vacation! I had a list of places to eat, given to me by Karli, a STL native. We did indeed go to each place. What can I say? The girl's got good taste.
Our first meal in STL was at Mangia Italiono - walking distance from Sarah's house. When Mom heard "fresh, handmade pasta," that's all she needed to know, so we headed straight here. Above is my port-soaked fig salad. I dig fruity salads with salty cheeses.

This was mom's (blurry) pasta and veggie dish. It was very light and fresh. I snagged some of her sweet peas and bell peppers.

Dinner on the second night: a delivery of Imo's Pizza. I guess that this pizza is pretty common, but in Indiana, it's unknown. Sarah said that people either love it or hate it. I would like to meet these haters face to face to inquire what the hey they are thinking. How could anyone NOT like this pizza?! The thin crust is perfectly crispy with a bit of chewiness. The cheese is softer and not stringy like your average pizza. I was completely satisfied and wished I had more stomach room to fill.

Warning. Addiction ahead. Ted Drewes frozen custard, just off of Route 66, is a landmark. A very popular landmark. The line was insane! I've never seen such a line for dessert. Choosing what to get was the hardest part. I was deciding between three concoctions and decided at the last split second.

I had a pumpkin pie concrete. Sarah had an apple pie concrete, and Mom had a cup of vanilla custard with pralined pecans...or was is macadamia nuts...either way, delicious.

Mom, Sarah, and I had a wonderful dinner at Schlafly's Tap Room. This, so far, is my favorite restaurant in St. Louis. The atmosphere is perfect; relaxed, open, breezy, comfortable. If I lived close to this place, I'd be here at LEAST once a week. The menu had soooo many delicious looking items, it was very hard to choose. We ended up getting quite a variety even though we weren't very hungry.

The air was slightly chilly and we ate outside, so a steaming bowl of onion soup hit the spot. Under the stringy cheese was house-made beer bread. I wish I had a refill right now.

We split this poached pear and candied walnut salad. The chevre cheese was a great balance to the sweetness, and I got some much needed spinach in my mostly carb and sugar diet...tsk tsk, I know.

Steak chili, chunky mashed potatoes, and German-style potato salad were passed around the table, shared between the three of us. I love dining like this, when everyone shares with everyone. I love that sense of community. It makes the moment very personal. In the middle is Sarah's tall glass of hefeweizen. She approved.

I couldn't go home and face Karli without trying this Sticky Toffee Pudding. I'm pretty sure Karli dreams about it. It did not disappoint. The freshly whipped whipped cream was a perfect mate. I would bathe in that carmel sauce.

A bootleg-esque photo of a giant bottle of beer: a present for my dad. Local beer is a fun gift for any beer lover. We had to pick up a bottle before we left the Tap Room.

This is a picture of the best chai tea latte I've ever had. All four times I've had the pleasure of drinking this liquid heaven, I'm reminded every time how superior it is to all of the others with it's name. Mom had a cup of Earl Grey and that tiny cup of happiness is gelato: half pumpkin and half mascarpone. A breakfast for champions! If you are ever in the neighborhood, Gelateria del Lione is the place to be.

Ahhh, the Courtesy Diner. I had so much hope for you. Yes, I knew you were a greasy spoon diner, but you were recommended to me. (I LIKE greasy spoons and hole-in-the-walls.) When I dragged my mother inside your smokey walls, I reassured her that your food and service would be great. This was not the case. After waiting for 45 minutes for a plate of scrambled eggs and a biscuit with gravy, all the while watching EVERY other customer get their food, patience runs a BIT thin. And when your glorious, very belated eggs were put in front of me, not scrambled, but over-easy, my high expectations plummeted rather quickly. The ONLY saving grace this diner had was our waitress. She knocked our bill down to $2.75. Oh, a nasty blog this could have been!

While introducing Mom to The Loop, we stumbled across a Bubble tea cafe! (St. Louis Bubble Tea to be exact.) I thank my good friend, Natalie, for introducing me to this fantastically fun beverage. It's a cure-all drink for oral-fixated folks. Drink and chew, drink and chew. (The black bead-like things are tapioca balls.) Mom liked it, too. The little girl in the background was staring at me; probably wondering why I'm taking photos of tea.

Our last eating adventure was at this fine establishment in Highland, IL. Again, Mom was hesitant to try a strange new place, but I insisted. It's funky, road-side stops like these that MAKE road trips so much fun. This IS American dining. This IS America. (And suddenly a Simon and Garfunkle song popped into my head.)

I immediately felt at home at this restaurant. It was the definition of "small town." Our server was probably still in high school, the decor was severely outdated, and the dining room was filled with old couples. The Blue Spring is apparently known for their foot high pies. We just had room for solid, home cookin'.

Our spread of fried chicken, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans was enough to feed a family of four. Not pictured biscuits and beets. Boo beets. Note the giant piece of pork fat in the green beans. Fat = gross, but makes verrrry tasty beans. I ate the leftovers for two days, and it was still good.
So, until the next gastronomic vacation! Note to self - next time, bring the stretchy pants!