Baby, It’s Cold Inside

It’s cold here which for Glendale, California is really something as it is almost always super hot. I’m cold which is remarkable as I am almost always super hot myself.  Here’s the thing–our  house has no heat. Truly. Once upon a time we had a heater and warmth and then it broke. 

To fix the heater, the repair person would have to navigate themselves into a small crawl space under the house.

Each repair person who came to the house was larger than the one before  until finally desperate we asked the last and the largest repair man what he thought we could do to get our heater fixed? He literally suggested that we call the various heater repair companies and find out if they had any “small Chinese men” employed and then hire them.

This seemed so incredibly racist to me that I never did get the heater fixed and now our house is cold, really cold. 

What’s a good way to warm up rather than exercise? Bake!

I made Use-It Up Cookies 

Use-It Up Cookies are great for getting rid of the last bits of pumpkin puree, cranberries, nuts and chocolate chips you may have leftover from your Thanksgiving baking and festivities.

Ingredient List

1/2 cup butter 

1/2 cup (possibly slightly past it) plain Greek Yogurt

3/4 brown Sugar

1/2 cup white sugar( finished up a small box)

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract ( nearly finished bottle but not quite-dang it)

2 cups flour ( used up more as I inadvertently dumped a bunch over the table as I was measuring.)

1 cup oats ( as Andy was getting it down from the shelf it knocked over a bunch of stuff on the counter)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup nuts (I used walnuts but any kind of nut would probably do or don’t use any)

1 cup chopped cranberries ( I think dried cranberries work better if you are using chocolate chips)

1 cup chocolate chips

I used my cookie-sheet liners and as predicted they make my life much easier.

My friend Jenny came by for Writing and Tea ( which really is talk about writing and have tea treats.) Michael and his wife, Rachel, came in and said hello. And even Andy came in and had some cookies and Jenny’s delicious soda bread/cake. Well I did say treats.

The baking was so successful both in the cookies and the warmth that I even took off my sweater!!

Photo credit-Ms Jenny!!

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Take My Cake,Please!

I was searching for a pumpkin bundt cake recipe with less sugar but had no luck. Finally I just decided to use a Martha Stewart recipe. While I was making the batter, I ran out of sugar. Instead of substituting some honey or sugar substitute, I just used the sugar I had on hand.

Helpful Tip- don’t overbuy ingredients, that way they won’t go bad and you won’t be bad overdoing it with the sweet stuff.

I used up all the sugar and still have a pretty big cake on my hands. Andy will take some to work for his morning coffee and have some for dessert but Kurt is being very good these days with his diet (not counting the entire bag of chocolate chips he ate) so I have a lot of cake on my hands.

Let them eat cake? No I’m begging you to eat cake because even though its low sugar I don’t want to eat any.

It’s odd, I can resist cake but cookies I have a harder time saying no to. I think because cake has a bit of a bad reputation. If it isn’t for a celebration of some kind, people kind of look at you askance if you are having cake. Nothing says losing control better than someone in a movie eating cake by themselves.

There used to be a time when every meal ended with dessert. My grandmother made a pie or cake or apple brown  for every single dinner and get-togethers would often involve going to someone’s house for cake and coffee. Now cake is practically thought of as the devil’s food( see how I did that) and nobody wants anything to do with it.

Poor maligned cake. Don’t make that cake feel bad like it was left out in the rain. Have a piece today! 

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Picture This

I have a confession. I’ve been baking but I haven’t been sharing. Well I’ve been sharing with friends, in person but not with you. 

I know that I’ve been very post stingy.

Last week I made low sugar Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Raisin cookies. I used up the coconut oil and raisins. In fact I used up the roommate’s raisins as well ( and that’s not a euphemism.) They were delicious. Andy had some, I gave some to Kurt to give to his girlfriend and I gave some to my friend Max. Everybody seemed to enjoy them. 

Then I took the picture and they looked like mini-cow patties. Hmm hardly the image that I want representing the deliciousness of these cookies.

Okay so I’ll just get the satisfaction from the baking.

On Saturday, I went to this lovely ladies tea at my friend Amy’s house. She’s one of the people who just knows how to do everything well and her special touches on everything from her furniture to her art is beautiful. She made a completely vegan, non-diary and gluten free tea! Yes a very difficult feat to pull off and to make it delicious, even harder. And she did it, everything was delicious: brussel sprout salad, butternut squash soup and all kinds of muffins and sweets. One of the most fantastic teas ever and trust me I’ve been to a lot of teas.

Inspired by Amy I decided to make a lower fat brownie. I had apparently really wanted to make these brownies as I had two copies of the same recipe. My friend V happened to be coming by for a visit, so I had a reason to make these insanely chocolately brownies.

I used up the chocolate chips.

We had the brownies for tea with V and Me. Andy had some. I gave some to my friend Jean and her young son Seamus the next day and sent one to Kurt’s very healthy and fit girlfriend. Everyone enjoyed them very much.

I took the picture and again the photo did not do them justice, actually quite the opposite. They looked like jagged mounds of danger.

Now I’m not a gifted photographer but also it’s not that difficult to take a picture of some baked goods. But my camera is old and is now ( maybe due to the battery) almost immediately shutting itself off. I have to take the picture very fast and it’s just not working.

In conclusion I invite you to imagine(just like they did in the old days) the crispy, sweetness of the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and the decadent, lushness of the brownies.

 

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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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