Monday, August 17, 2015

Nestle Toll House Cookies

A friend of mine was asking me today about Toll House cookies and me in my usual, very honest way about cookies admitted that I think it's one of the worst recipes--it comes out sometimes and other times it doesn't come out at all.  I've found this multiple times when I've tried the recipe over the years and I've heard it from others too!  Most of the time everyone seems to think it's them that's the problem--not the recipe.

I think it's the recipe that's the problem.

Recently, though, my daughter Sami was working on a regions report and her project for the Northeast US was to make a regional food.  She picked Tollhouse cookies over a fluffer nutter sandwich...

Thankfully, we found a recipe that actually worked for us!  It's on the blog,  If you click on the name of the blog, it should take you to the blog post that has a download link for a fun printable version of the recipe for kids.  I compared it to the recipe on the back of the bag and the only difference is the distribution between brown and white sugar.

There are a couple of other things that I think help make a successful cookie.

1) I don't soften butter unless a recipe specifically says so.  All of my cookie recipes, minus one, just call for butter.

2) Cream the butter and sugars together until there NO lumps.

3) I use half size bun pan cookie sheets for my cookie sheets with half of sheet of parchment.  Every few years, I order a box from

The quilon parchment paper can withstand temps up to 425, which is fine for every cookie I make and biscuits.  A box usually costs about $35-$40 for 1000 sheets (which can be torn in half to cover 2 bun pans).  I usually divide the box up among a few friends.  It does take me several years to go through a box (3-4 yr), but the cost savings is worth it because 1 roll of Reynolds parchment paper is equivalent to 30 pieces (or 15 full size pieces).  A roll of Reynolds paper cost about $4.50 at Target the last time I checked.  So, 100 sheets from the box cost the same as 15 sheets from the roll.  

4) Use a kitchenaid mixer.  It makes cookie making so much easier!  Kohl's is the best place to get one around Christmas time--combining coupons can make them a much less daunting purchase.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Beans and Rice, My family's style...

Yesterday, my girls had some friends over for a book group discussion and us moms got to talk.  We talked about cooking for a little bit and one of the moms mentioned cooking by looking in the fridge and deciding what to cook based on what was in her fridge.  I took a cue from her last night and went downstairs to my freezer.  What I had planned for dinner wasn't going to work, so I needed a new plan.  I saw some sausage on the top shelf and remembered my husband saying a few days before that he loved beans and rice.  So, I thought I'd try my hand at a makeshift version.  My kids don't like spicy things, so 

Rice and Beans, My family's style

1 -15 oz. Can black beans, rinsed 
1 -28 oz. Can baked beans, rinsed 
1 small onion, chopped in small pieces 
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
2 stalks celery, chopped finely 
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp dried sage 
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped 
1 pound Italian sausage
1 tsp. seasoning mix...
                 the seasoning recipe: ¾ tsp paprika
                                              ½ tsp garlic powder
                                              ½ tsp black pepper
                                              ¼ tsp thyme
                                              ¼ tsp ancho chile powder
                                              ¼ tsp onion powder
                                              ¼ tsp oregano
                                              1/8 tsp salt
                                              1/8 tsp ground mustard powder


  1. Brown and cook sausage through. Then, cut into half length wise and then slice each half. Place in a bowl and set aside.

  1. Saute onion, bell pepper, garlic, and celery in 2 Tbsp olive oil for 3-4 minutes until softened.

  1. Rinse beans and add to onion mixture. Add spices and parsley. Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

  1. Add sausage to mixture and warm through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice. My kids like to sprinkle it with a little soy sauce.  My husband liked it even without adding any heat (cayenne pepper) which was quite surprising to me!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cradle Cap

Many children, like two of mine, end up with cradle cap that doesn't want to go away after they are toddlers.  So, I made a trip to the dermatologist and was given a surprising recommendation!

Dawn Dish Soap

Rub it in every other day.  Let it stand for 15 minutes on the scalp and then rinse out.  Repeat for a few weeks.

Simple, inexpensive--I tried to find one that smelled the most like shampoo and least like dish soap.  And, well, it seems to be working!

My youngest child's cradle cap is finally gone and my middle child's is finally mostly gone.

Just thought I'd pass this on in case it might be of help to someone--and save them a trip to the dermatologist!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

IMPORTANT! Scam Phone Calls

I just got a message on my phone from an "unavailable" number.  I hate these phone calls :(  The message said it was from the IRS and they were getting ready to sue me--and of course, to contact them at an included phone number.

This one was meant to inspire panic in me, but before I even let my mind run, I got on the computer and googled "IRS Scam Phone Calls".  I found some very helpful information here on the IRS' website:

No worries.  The information on this page totally confirmed that the phone message I received was a scam.  It makes me mad that people do stuff like this--make people panic--just to cheat them out of money.  The love of money can cause people to do a lot of wrong things...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Quilting Beyond...

Years ago when I was first married, I learned on my own how to quilt.  (This was in pre-Youtube days.)  I remember looking at a few websites and books--and then I began experimenting.  But, I felt like I was cheating somehow when I would applique designs on instead of piecing them into the quilt.  I could piece in designs, but I often chose to applique.  I've always wondered how I could improve my quilting skills and stop my "sort of" cheating!

Well, I came across a really neat quality book, all points patchwork, by Diane Gilleland.  This book
explains a style, or method, of paper piecing that can be used to make complicated polygon shaped quilts and quilting projects.  The pictures and directions are extremely clear and well written.  the projects included as examples are appealing and are somehow both modern and old fashioned at the same time.  The patterns of the material in the examples seem timeless.

I was impressed with how clear the author was able to explain how to quilt using the method of paper piecing.  I've never done this before, but the directions are so clear, I feel fully confident that I can now begin a project!  

When I showed this book to a few other moms, who aren't actually even quilters, they loved the projects and expressed how much they would like to have them in their own homes.  Quilters naturally love quilts, but it's always interesting to see how people who don't quilt react to them.  

If you're interested in beginning to make more complicated designs in your quilts and projects, this book would give you much food for thought and a great place to begin!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Publishing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Crafting Cookies

When I walk into high end bakeries, I am often amazed at the beauty of the foods.  I didn't always notice such things, but I married someone who pays a lot of attention to the "look of food".  I, on the other hand, am a person who tends to cook for flavor rather than looks.

Part of it is because I am often disappointed by the "look" of foods in bakeries because they don't match the taste I'm hoping for.  Usually, they're drier.  So, my solution when I really want to try and bake something is just to find a recipe and make it at home...  which brings me to a fun cookbook I received in the mail recently.  It's titled Cookie Craft by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer.

This book tackles and completely explains how to make those beautifully decorated sugar cookies you've seen in fancy bakeries.

What I love in this book:
--The recipes are clear
--All the vocabulary of cookie crafting is clearly explained
--Tons and tons of ideas for both shapes and potential detailing
--It makes sense.  Above all else, this is important when tackling a new and complicated craft!

Why I love this book more than a Youtube video...
--You can flip back and forth to the info and directions you need
--It would take hours to watch enough Youtube videos that would give you all the info in this book
--I need ingredients written down--not on a screen--so I dont' forget what I've added!

Cookie Crafting is definitely a craft.  I don't usually think of cooking and baking as a craft, but these cookies are not for the faint of heart.  I would compare this craft to scrapbooking--it's time intensive, but you'll have a beautiful end product when you're done!

If you've ever wanted a book on cookie crafting or have wanted to know how to make those fancy, decorated sugar cookies, I'd definitely check this book out!!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Publishing.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Chicken Tikka Masala

A few weeks ago, we went to an Indian restaurant near us.  My kids loved the Chicken Korma and the Chicken Tikka Masala.  I had made Chicken Tikka Masala before at home.  The first time it was great, but the second not so great.  So, last week I thought I'd try again.  I looked up several recipes and combined them to make a new one.  This is what I ended up with:

Chicken Tikka Masala

1.  Mince 1/2 large onion and saute over med. heat in 3-4 Tbsp canola oil for 5 minutes, until they are softened and just beginning to brown.

2.  Add      2 garlic cloves, minced (1 tsp.)
                  2 tsp. coriander
                  1 tsp. cumin
                  1 tsp. paprika
                  1 tsp. garam masala
                  1/2 tsp. salt
   Saute for 30 seconds.

3.  Stir in one 8 oz. can of tomato sauce and simmer for 15 minutes.

4.  Pound 2 pounds of chicken breast till thin.  (between 1/4-1/2 inch thick = 1 cm thick)

5.  Mix 1 cup plain yogurt
             2 Tbsp. lemon juice
             1 tsp. salt
             1-2 tsp cumin
             1/2 tsp black pepper
             1 tsp cinnamon
             1/4-1/2 tsp. ground ginger (optional)

6.  Put foil on a cookie sheet and place grate on top.  Spray grate with cooking spray.

7.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels and coat chicken with yogurt mixture.  Then, lay chicken on grate.  Broil 10 min. @ 475 degrees.  Turn chicken.  Broil 5 min. more.  I place my oven rack on the level as close as I can get and still fit in the tray, but you don't want the chicken to burn--so the first time you make this, I would keep a close eye to make sure your chicken isn't burning.

8.  Add 1 cup half and half plus 1 Tbsp. butter to sauce.  Whisk in.  Tear chicken into pieces and stir in.

Serve with basmati rice and cilantro on the side.

I know the half and half seems like a lot of calories--but several of the recipes I saw called for whole fat whipping cream!  So, at least it's less than that.  You could probably get away with sauteeing the onion in only 1-2 Tbsp canola oil and without altering the taste of the recipe too much and I will try doing that next time.

Oh, and my kids and I are very mild, so you might have noticed that there's no cayenne pepper in this recipe...  My husband loves spicy food so I just leave the cayenne pepper on the table and he can sprinkle it over his food to taste!

:)  Let me know how this recipe works for you if you try it and if you have any alterations you make to it!