Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fairy Godmothers

This weekend, my husband's godmother visited from Virginia. We spent Saturday shopping and catching up. It was so much fun and I'm so lucky that my husband has such a nice godmother. Speaking of godmothers...My nephew was baptized today. My youngest sister received the honor of being his godmother. She did an excellent job.  The baby didn't even cry when the water was poured over his head.We had a very nice family gathering afterwards and everyone got to hold the new addition to the church.
As a child, I always thought of Disney movies when I thought about godmothers. They were always so magical, helpful, and usually somewhat plump. My favorite godmothers were from Sleeping Beauty. My favorite scene was at the very end when they couldn't decide on the dress color.

Graham Chocolate Mint Bars
adapted from Taste of Home
Oven 350

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 pkgs (4.6 oz each) Andes Creme de Menthe Thins
9 graham crackers (about 1 cup crushed)

3 ounces chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Spread, with greased spatula, into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine flour and salt;gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Gently spread, with greased spatula, over chocolate layer. 

Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven; top with mints. Bake 1-2 minutes or until mints begin to melt; carefully spread mints evenly over the top.

Sprinkle crushed graham crackers over the top, gently pressing in. Cool completely.

In a microwave, melt bittersweet chocolate and butter; stir until smooth. Drizzle over bars; chill until set.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Losing time

I don't know how anyone else felt, but the time change hit me hard on Monday. You never realize how much you miss that one hour until Monday morning! It was a long day for me, a faculty meeting and class at night, so I couldn't wait to get home and go to bed. Another thing that has me losing sleep is the NCAA basketball championship games. My bracket is not doing quite as well as I would have hoped.

St. Patrick's Day has come and green bagels for us but we did have Guinness Stew and Corned Beef and Cabbage. We got to enjoy a great parade and see plenty of bagpipers and Irish step dancers. I love being Irish, especially in March! We even tried a new breakfast place called Kelley's Deli. Very Irish and very good! Highly recommended.

Also, I just finished a great book by Hank Warren called It Simply Must Be Said. It felt like I was simply talking to a colleague, rather than reading a book. Teachers will appreciate this book!

Oatmeal Rum-Raisin Cookies
adapted from
Oven 350
3/4 cup softened butter or margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 cup raisins(soak in 1/2 cup rum overnight)

Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix well.

Stir in oats, raisins and nuts, if using.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake12 to 15 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets.

Cool on wire racks.Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Irish American

I don't need peppy, crazy, over-the-top reporters/weathermen at 6 am. Just tell me if I need a coat, umbrella, or an alternate route to work. After moving, one local channel was the only one that I felt gave me the most amount of information without annoying me. Sadly, my satellite company decided to cancel the station (contract negotiations) and thus, ruin my morning for a week. It's amazing how something like this can throw you off so much. Thankfully, this week should be better...they came to their senses and we have our local channel back!

I had many ideas for what to bake this week, in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. I thought about Bailey's Cheesecake, Guinness Chocolate Cake, and even Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (sounded good, but it would involve purchasing a lot of Irish alcohol). One of my least favorite Irish baked goods has been the Irish Soda bread. I set out to find a recipe that would make me like it, something not so dry. This recipe is an Irish American version in the form of muffins. It seems like a very adaptable recipe while still staying true to the flavor. Enjoy!

Irish Soda Bread Muffins
Oven 400

1 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

3/4 cup 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins
1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream
6 tablespoons butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
sparkling white sugar, for topping

Lightly grease a standard muffin pan; or line with papers, and grease the papers. Makes about 18 muffins.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).

Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won't take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups. Top with sparkling white sugar, if desired.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don't get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Busy, busy, baking

It has been a very long and tiring week. Teaching, masters classes, parent meetings, department meetings, etc. I have had more meetings and projects due this week then I have had all school year. By Friday, I found myself walking aimlessly around searching for the coffee maker and my last meeting. So not much to talk about, other than this new cookbook, Baked Explorations. It's from the owners of Baked in NYC.  How cool is it that they have trailers for their cookbook?!? Love it! Enjoy!

Double-Chocolate Loaf
adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Oven 350

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 oz mini chocolate chips

Toss chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon flour and set aside. Spray a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sift brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into mixing bowl. Mix on low for 20 seconds.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk until blended, then add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; whisk until combined.

Turn the mixer on low and slowly stream the wet ingredients into the dry ones, mixing just until combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let the cake cook in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
The loaf will keep, in an airtight container or wrapped tightly, at room temperature for up to 3 days.
This is amazing as is, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!