How Mrs. Grinch Tried to Ruin Halloween

Andy has strict instructions to be generous with the trick or treaters. I mean 3 or 4 pieces each. I don’t want any leftover candy. I’m a candy addict and it’s dangerous for me to have it around.

When I heard about that woman who is giving notes to overweight kids instead of candy, I got livid. Hey, here’s an idea if you don’t approve of overweight kids getting candy, why not turn off your porch light and skip Halloween this year? Another alternative might be to ignore  the candy giving tradition and just  give raisins, dried fruit or granola bars. Give everybody the same thing or nothing at all. It’s not like overweight kids don’t have self-esteem issues anyway. The note giver is as bad as a bully. I’m glad this  awful woman has now earned a lifetime of egging and toilet paper trees.  She’s Mrs Grinch and she’s trying to steal Halloween! 

Anyway  I’ve been very good since June. I’ve had no candy whatsoever. Then we bought some Halloween candy on Sunday.By Sunday night, I had eaten some candy-not chocolate but candy just the same.

I’m not proud that I couldn’t resist it. I didn’t overdose on it but I still had some. Yes, I fell but I’m not going to shame myself about it. I’m going to find delicious alternatives to the candy. In order to have a not-loaded-with-sugar treat today, I made some delicious yet fairly good for you Butterscotch Blondies.

I was going to use some whole wheat pastry flour but when I opened the closed bag two moths flew out! Yes another ingredient fail. I had to toss the bag immediately and use all-purpose flour. 

I didn’t use up the butterscotch chips or the chocolate chips but I did use the rest of the brown sugar, so that was good. 

This recipe wasn’t  great in using up stuff before it went bad but good in that I have something to distract and satisfy me from the candy. See, like many other people I don’t like feeling deprived or shamed. Give me an alternative that will help me to make a better choice. Don’t say I don’t deserve candy; say here is something just as delicious that will satisfy you without driving your sugar intake up. 

You’re a mean one, Mrs. Grinch.

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Racing Against Spoilage

My mother has a type of OCD that makes her an extreme anti-hoarder. I’ve heard her condition called “Obsessive Compulsive Spartanism.” She can’t stand having things and is constantly throwing out or giving away her possessions. She doesn’t have a toaster, a blender, a coffee maker or more than 6 forks (3 are plastic.)

I don’t have this affliction-I have plenty of stuff. In fact, I have muffin pans, loaf pans and even a special pan for madeleines. I have what I need. I even have  some  stuff that I don’t need or know how to use like the mandolin slicer and the food processor. But points for me for getting rid of the chopper thingy that didn’t work and the burnt to bits cookie sheets. I’m trying to strike a balance between what I need and what I have.

At any rate, I’m neither a hoarder or an anti-hoarder. I just hate to see things go to waste. I also hate built-in obsolescence–if I hold on to something I want it to work and last for a long time. My mother gave away my childhood cookie cutters which annoys me every time I think about it. They were vintage, sturdy and would have given me many more hours of cookie joy. 

Obviously I have issues about things going bad. I find it very irritating when you buy something at the grocery store and two days later, the freshness date has expired. This is why I’m always in a race to use something up before it goes bad. I want it to last forever, even though I know it won’t. If I can save something against spoilage and turn it into something delicious then I win!

For this week’s baked good I made an Appley Apple Bread with applesauce and chopped apples. I was able to finally use up that ticking time bomb of freshness that was in my fridge–the applesauce, along with two apples that were well past fruit middle-age  and the two remaining eggs of a carton. 

The bread is delicious and healthy as it has only a little oil, egg whites and agave in it. Yummy!

Count for the Appley Apple Bread 

applesauce

2 apples

2 eggs

How do I know it’s good? I had put a couple slices in a bag for Andy to take to work and he accused me of being skimpy with the portion. There were two slices!! He also stated up front that he wouldn’t be sharing it with anybody. When Andy gets greedy, I know I’ve succeeded.

 

 

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It’s the Great Pumpkin Banana Bread!

Yeah, I’m one of those. I’m one of those people who goes crazy for pumpkin.

I’ve always liked pumpkin pie. It wasn’t my favorite pie but it was good. It was serviceable.  Pumpkin Pie was always our traditional Thanksgiving dessert. I was as happy to see it as I would be to see an old friend or a family member that I’m still talking to. And is there a better day-after-Thanksgiving-breakfast than a piece of Pumpkin Pie and a strong cup of tea? I think not.

Then one day my liking turned into an obsession and suddenly I started wanting more and more pumpkin. I didn’t just want Pumpkin Pie, I wanted Pumpkin soup, Pumpkin curry and Pumpkin Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting.

After I became a  pumpkin fanatic, I was never the same again in regards to that orange orb. I don’t know why it happened, it just did, like needing reading glasses.

I now have a Pumpkin Lovers Cookbook. This poorly constructed book has recipes for Pumpkin Skillet Cornbread, Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts and even something called”Pumpkin Italiano” but still I crave more pumpkin. 

I searched online for pumpkin recipes to quench my pumpkin desire and found a recipe for Sweet Pumpkin Strudel! My head practically exploded at that one. The recipe says that the strudel is fairly easy to make but I think it may be a little advanced for me. Let’s say it again, Pumpkin Strudel! Have I mentioned that my father came from Vienna and I’m of Austrian decent? Strudel is right up there with sausage as a food I can’t resist. I don’t know why it’s just in my DNA. 

So in the midst of my pumpkin frenzy I made Pumpkin Banana Bread to satisfy my pumpkin lust.  Oh my, is it good! It’s so moist that even though I had baked it for the correct amount of time, I questioned it’s doneness.  I did the toothpick test (I use a wooden skewer to go down deep) which came out clean and I still wondered if the bread needed more oven time. 

I used  a skinny recipe so there wasn’t much oil, butter or a lot of  sugar in the end product. It’s healthy and still delicious!

I hoped to use up some pumpkin puree I had in the fridge. I had made some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins on Saturday for my friend Lora. She was jonesing for some pumpkin action. The muffins were also an enticement to get her to come to my show the next day. She didn’t end up coming to the show but we had a bunch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins to tide us over until I made the bread so it’s all good.

I wasn’t able to throw in some wheat bran into the bread as it had already been eaten by bugs. Yes, I had failed at the bake it before it goes bad resolution. I didn’t even have the bran that long. Bugs are sneaky and fast when it comes to ruining our food.

As far as using stuff up before it went bad, the count is

3 ripening bananas

the rest of a bag of  pecans

Unfortunately I didn’t use up the pumpkin puree and now must find a recipe that doesn’t use much of it. Pumpkin Smoothie, perhaps?

I also failed on my glamour shot of the bread. I debated including it here but I’ve never claimed to be a food stylist, and it’s a visual aid, so please enjoy.

You know those old trees that have faces? You can see an one-eyed man’s face in the bread! No, that’s not my pumpkin mania talking!! Never mind the cleft in his chin, that piece has my name on it!

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It’s Complicated

I seem to like picking  recipes that are complicated but don’t require any actual skill. If the recipe has a few extra steps it makes me feel like I’m slightly better at baking than I actually am.  If I can use some food stuff  up in the process, all the better.

I had some scraggly oranges hanging around and knew they weren’t long for this world so I made Orange Spice Molasses Cookies. I found the recipe from Eating Well. I never post the recipes because they aren’t mine, even though I sometimes make so many substitutions they really don’t resemble the original recipe much at all.

The first of the complications was to grind some sugar and freshly grated orange peel together. Then further down I notice that a cup and a half of rolled oats must also be ground. While we have a food processor I don’t know how to use it. I do know how to use this small chopper thing I have.

Using my powers of baking deduction I realize if I grind  the oats first I don’t have to wash everything out, a slight dusting with a paper towel will do. So I switch the steps. I will do almost anything to cut down on clean-up.

I mentioned that I don’t like the putting all the dry ingredients together step so I always do it first. I like to add to the complications by sifting ( even if not called for ) and a lot of mixing. I hate when you bite into a baked good and get a big taste of baking soda or baking powder-blech.

My second least favorite thing to do with baking and which is  also strangely complicated is lining the cookie sheet with parchment paper. If specifically sized paper exists, I can never find it. I always seem to cut it a little too small so that the edges of the pan aren’t covered. I was so irritated by this today, that I went right online and used a gift card I had received for my birthday to buy a non-stick cookie sheet liner. I can hardly wait for its arrival and how much less complicated it will make my life.

The recipe called for just a yoke. This seemed strange to me since it’s a “light” kind of recipe and they usually use only the whites. Okay again it’s not my recipe, I’m sure The Eating Well people know what they’re doing.

Another reason I chose to make this recipe  was that it used applesauce and I still have lots left in that family-of-54-sized jar.

I didn’t have quite enough molasses but I decided to just use what I had and live dangerously.

It took the zest of three oranges and since I don’t like to waste I made my favorite drinks when in France an Orange Pressee   (which is just orange juice, ice, water and a little sugar.)  Although it does taste more delicious in France, it tasted pretty good drinking it over the sink.

Total count of items used before they went bad

3 oranges

1 jar of molasses

And still the applesauce taunts me with it’s “could go back at any moment” attitude.

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Please notice the dusting of orange sugar on the top of the cookies. The recipe suggested brushing off the excess sugar. Ha-that’s not going to happen.

The cookies are pretty tasty and very dense. I don’t think anybody could eat too many of these, so in that way they are really good. 

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Baking Bad

Today’s post isn’t about baking with stuff  before it spoils. Today I’m writing about how sometimes it really is the thought that counts. And the bonus is, those thoughts don’t have a bunch of sugar and fat!

We’ve been trying to economize a little lately, so I asked Andy if for my birthday present he’d make me a cake. Honestly I think I was inspired by my friend Kurt, who once told me he didn’t get presents from his family for his birthday. His mother would say ” Your cake is your gift.” I kind of found that horrifying and honestly young Christine would not have put up with that for a minute but I’m older now and I understand that making a cake can be an act of love. I do it all the time.

In the past Andy has made some of the most delicious Toll House cookies that  you’ve ever had, so it didn’t seem like a stretch for him to make a cake. Although I’ve been staying away from sugar, I thought it would be okay to have some for my birthday weekend.

I found a recipe that didn’t look that complicated for a Coconut Cloud Cake. Doesn’t that sound light and delicious?

The first bit of trouble was that the recipe called for coconut cream which Andy did not find at our local grocery store.

I suggested he go online to find a substitution. He didn’t seem interested in doing that, so I did for him. There were a number of options but by then he decided to go to Trader Joes and get some there, which he did. He was shocked at how expensive the coconut extract is but the recipe called for it, and it was for my birthday, so grudgingly he bought it.

Is coconut extract the new saffron? 

Then we don’t have a 9 x 13 size pan, so he decided he’d use another pan and just bake it in two batches. I was confused by this but didn’t say anything. I’d probably just use a bigger pan and make it more of a sheet cake but okay this is his project.

The day before I had gone over to my friend Jenny’s house and we’d had a lovely tea with some new and old friends. One friend brilliantly brought mini-angel food cakes and whipped topping, another cream puffs and I brought my favorite French madeleine cookies ( like Proust but packaged.) All and all, a delightful birthday celebration. It was also kind of a sweet  back-up in case the cake went awry.

Back to the Coconut Cloud,  Andy mixes the batter all up, puts it in the oven and then after five minutes realizes that he forgot the all important coconut cream. Okay this next part is not for the faint of baking heart. He takes out the-already started cooking-cake, puts it back into a bowl, adds the coconut cream and returns it to the oven.

Bless his heart.

When the cake is done, it’s really done. Andy takes it out of the oven and it’s a disaster. There’s no saving it and frankly I’m not sure that even  if it had looked okay, it would have been edible. I think the starting and the stopping of the baking had probably spoiled it as fast as chicken salad in the hot summer sun.

Andy was horribly disappointed but all the effort he made really was the best gift he could give me. Luckily he had given me a couple of boxes of my favorite London Cuppa Tea and a Halloween Spice candle. 

Nothing was saved from going rotten-actually quite the opposite but it’s okay. I think I may try to make the Coconut Cloud Cake myself, now that Andy did a test run and we have some coconut extract on hand.

Baking bad, how can it be bad when it feels so good?

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Forced To Frost

I love frosting but often I just can’t be a party to it. Although I believe the whole point to cupcakes is the frosting and that every cupcake  should have 3 to 1 ratio of frosting to cake. I have a tendency to skip the frosting/ icing. I usually  just powder the top of my baked item with confectioners’ sugar and call it delicious!  It’s as if  my cake is a beautiful woman’s face and my frosting is a smattering of shine control powder. Not all women need foundation. Their natural beauty is enough and so it should be with my baked stuff.  Right?

A non-frosted cake can still look delicious and I don’t have to go through the extra effort and extra sugar to provide it. Today I had every intention of not frosting my Applesauce Bars but because of my own ineptitude I was forced to frost.

It was going so well.

Remember how I just had a little of flour left from my recent baking? Well this recipe called for 1/2 a cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour. Perfect. I also had just enough left over dried cranberries ( not leftover from Thanksgiving thank you very much).

We have a Duggar family sized jar of all-natural  applesauce in the refrigerator and that stuff turns bad in a nanosecond. I was thrilled to find a recipe using one whole cup of it!! Hooray and applesauce is a great substitute for oil or butter.

I mix the dry ingredients ( which I always do first, no matter what the recipe says. It’s my least favorite part of baking and I like to get it out of the way just like you would with homework) and then add them the wet and carefully put the sticky batter in a square pan.

I bake it up.

Awhile later as I’m transferring it from one plate to another, almost like a pizza person working their dough into a pie sized piece but without the aerial flipping) I manage to crack my uncut bars down the middle.

Oh shiz.DSCF0321

Now I get the need for frosting-it’s to hide a variety of mistakes. Suddenly I’m frosting these bars!

The recipe calls for milk and walnuts but I have just a little whipping cream and pecans, and use those instead. I’ve taken somebody else’s recipe and made it my own.

What was used up before it went  bad

Flour

craisins

Whipping cream

Sadly I did not use up the applesauce or the pecans. Frosting Fail!

Upon tasting Andy said ” Now I know why Graham on Master Chef lifts his head while tasting-it makes you savor the taste all the more!” In other words, the verdict is tasty!!

 

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Put the Lime with the Coconut

Limes are like criminals–they hardened before they go completely bad. They almost mock you with their attitude. You think since they aren’t moldy or squishy that you will still be able to use them but that never seems to be the case.

I used to sneer at people who bought “fresh” food at the 99 cent store. I figured that all the produce and such was hanging on to its last gasp of life when offered for sale there at the discount store. Too many items for me to ever save from turning rotten.

But I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I purchased a bag of limes, an English cucumber, 4 orange peppers and a mango, all fresh and all under a dollar.

I also got some whole wheat Pop-Tarts which I can’t fully recommend. I guess they’re a healthy-ish choice but honestly they are odd and will just confuse your tastebuds.

Since I didn’t want the limes to go bad, I decided to make something that would use them and a tiny bit of coconut I had hanging around the fridge.

Today’s baked good-Lime Coconut Cookies

The recipe called for 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and I had exactly that. I toasted the coconut in the oven and oh what a heavenly scent. I wonder if my favorite candle company has a toasted coconut candle because I could smell that one all day.

I was hoping to use up the flour but I had about 1/4 of a cup too much. Oh well next time I need to grease and flour a pan-I’m set!

End count of items used up

Two limes ( since two squeezed limes makes more than the 3 tablespoons of lime juice that the recipe called for, I put the extra in my water as a special treat.

Coconut!

The cookies turned out wickedly delicious. I have cut way way back on sugar since  June and I had two. I could have eaten 10.

I would recommend serving these cookies with tea or coffee.

Put the lime with the coconut and save a couple of limes from hardening and going bad, gangsta bad.

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The Lone Sweet Potato

Like anyone who has ever had a friend become a zombie (and face it, who hasn’t these days) the Lone Sweet Potato sat on our kitchen table alone  worrying  about his own fate. He had seen what had happened when his friends had been turned by time and neglect into monstrous, rotting softies. He knew his fate would be very similar as he  pictured the trash, can outside the side door, that was awaiting him.

I couldn’t let that happen to the Lone Sweet Potato. He deserved one last culinary adventure.

So I made Sweet Potato, Pineapple, Pecan Bread

Although the recipe called for a baked sweet potato, the extra hour of oven time did not appeal to me, so I peeled, cubed and boiled it. When soft, I mashed it up. The recipe called for Mace which I did not have on hand nor did I feel inclined to buy, so I just used allspice. I had some leftover crushed pineapple from last week’s cake and some pecans instead of walnuts. 

I had hoped to use some old pistachios but I was too late, they could not be saved. 

The recipe called for only grated orange peel which irritates me. I hate grating a peel and then having the naked fruit just hanging around staring at me as if I was purposely torturing them. I’m not the crazy guy ( no the other one, Jame Gumb) in Silence of the Lambs, only wanting skins.  I debated throwing the juice in anyway but decided to save the peel-less orange for later. 

Since the recipe only called for one egg, I thought I might enjoy a piece  toasted, so I used liquid Stevia instead of sugar.

End Count of Items I used and saved before they turned bad

1 Sweet Potato

2 Some crushed Pineapple

End result-I gave meaning to the death of a super food!

 

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Let the Expiration Date Guide You!

It continues to be excruciatingly hot here and no one wants to cook, let alone turn the oven on. Unfortunately today is the sell by date on some chicken in my refrigerator. Last week I had to throw some chicken away in the trash-not only was it wasteful– it  was stinky and it  stank for 4 days. I wasn’t about to make that mistake again. I found a recipe online that called for Parmesan Cheese, Yogurt and Garlic. Darned if I didn’t have some Greek Yogurt with today as it’s sell by date.  I used up the chicken, my Greek Yogurt and instead of garlic powder  and Seasoning Salt ( I was out) I used garlic salt. I think we’ll probably eat the chicken picnic style outside under our only tree. And yes while this isn’t a “baked good” I did bake it in the oven. 

End count of items I used before they became stinky

8 chicken thighs

1 container of Greek Yogurt

Unfortunately sometimes even I fail on my quest to use stuff before it goes bad. There was a peculiar smell around our” bread/everything without a spot elsewhere” table.

I couldn’t put my finger on the smell until I actually put my finger on it. It turned out to be a rotting sweet potato! Dang it I could have made sweet potato fries or sweet potato chips but instead I had to throw it out.  Wasting a super food is extra demerit points bad.

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Bake it Before it Goes Bad Banana Pineapple Cake

DSC00019Andy likes banana bread a lot. He will purposely buy bananas and not touch them so that they will go bad. I don’t like to be wasteful so I make a lot of banana items. I recently froze some bananas ( peel them before putting them into the freezer storage bag) but I used those bananas in some low fat, low sugar smoothies. They were fabulous.

Anyway it’s very hot here and the bananas ripened quickly. I found a recipe for banana pineapple cake.

I used 3 very old bananas, some vanilla sugar packets and instead of the pistachios, Macadamia nuts or Walnuts recommended, I used some pecans I had on hand.

Everything is going great-it’s a pretty easy cake to make. It says to preheat oven to 350. You can’t just turn our oven on, somebody has to light the pilot light. Since I’m always convinced that the oven will blow up if I light it, I have to get someone else to light it. Andy kindly did the honors today even though he’s feeling kind of poorly.

Then the recipe says to grease a Bundt pan or spray with non-stick spray and dust lightly with flour, tapping out the excess. Usually I skip the flour part because I always seem to put to much flour but today I think ” No I’m going to follow the recipe perfectly.” I spray the non-stick spray and then flour it. No matter how much I tap it out, it still looks like the inside of the Bundt pan has been floured using children’s paste. I decide if I can get away with it or if it will be a big mess. I can see the future and it involves the cake sticking to the pan and the outside being covered with a frosting of paste.

I clean Bundt pan and start all over again. For some reason this makes me  feel like a responsible adult.

I’m supposed to use two cups of regular sugar but only have about a cup and a half. I do however have three packets of this weird European Vanilla sugar that my mother passed off on me. I add that in.

I mix all the ingredients and like the texture of the batter. It looks like batter should look. I pour in the pan and put it in the oven.

About 20 minutes into the 75 that it’s supposed to bake, I realize that I forgot to put in oil!

Oh no, I’m going to have to re-name this blog-Stupid Baking Mistakes.

It smells delightful as it’s baking and even sickly Andy perks up a little. ” I have a bit of an appetite,” He says hopefully.

I take the cake out of the oven at the correct time. It looks good.

Although I’m not really eating sugar, I have to test the product and I have to say it’s delicious-more like a bread than a cake but that’s okay with Andy.

End count of items that I used before they went rotten

3 bananas

3 packets of European Vanilla Sugar

1 bag of pecans

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