Comfort in a Cookie

I can smell spring, can’t you? I am so excited. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming.

Until it gets here though, I thought I’d experiment with a warm cozy recipe.

Two things that I love: tea and cookies. A special treat for me is a cup of Chai. Chai tea is warm, spicy, frothy, and delicious. However, I usually don’t splurge five dollars for a single warm beverage.

Sometimes I just have to have my chai fix, so I was excited to find an affordable powdered chai mix! It’s from Pacific Chai and is around $4.00 at Wal-Mart. One container makes about 13 servings. At 38 cents a cup, that is a price I can handle.

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I also love drop cookies. They are easy and homey. I had made a batch of snickerdoodles  during the blizzard and thought that I could convert that recipe into a chai cookie to create a spicy and delicious comforting treat.

I added two tablespoons of the powdered chai mix to the regular snickerdoodle recipe, and it worked awesomely! The first bite tastes like your traditional snickerdoodle and it follows with that wonderful spicy chai flavor.

 

I gave a few plates away on a plain white plate with a ribbon and a Twinings Chai Tea bag to follow the theme.

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

Is Tiggers are wonderful things! Their tops are made out of rubber; their bottoms are made out of springs! They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

So maybe I’m talking about trampolines and not Tiggers. I was always more of a Piglet fan than a Tigger fan anyway.

This weekend the gang and I went to a trampoline park. They have a floor that is a giant grid of trampolines with angled trampoline walls around the perimeter for tricks and practice bouncing. Then they have a foam pit, rock wall, slam dunking, and dodgeball.

Our group of five almost-30s guys and little ol’ me were a bit skeptical as we walked up and saw no one over the age of 14 anywhere near the place, and a three-tier ten year old’s birthday cake heading through the front door, but it ended up being a blast.

I have never been one for flips and tricks – I am entirely certain I will land wrong and snap my neck. So after bouncing on the grid for a few moments, I was out of breath and getting seasick. I was concerned that I had bought the longest pass and was going to be sitting on the sidelines. Luckily, about that time we found the dodgeball court.

Fun fact: I LOVE DODGEBALL.

High school gym class was basically one full semester playing dodgeball, and it was always so much fun. It hasn’t gotten any less fun in the last 6 years. Most of the adult and older people there who weren’t actively monitoring their children wound up at the dodgeball court (ages 15 and up). One thing that high school gym class taught me was self-preservation. While I’m not so good at throwing the balls, I got pretty ok at not letting one bash my face in. I played for the whole two-hour session.

While I had a blast, my office job and slacking off at the gym showed me I’m not in high school any longer- I was in so much pain the next two days. Frankly, it’s Wednesday and my legs are just now only slightly painful instead of very. That being said, I had so much fun and cannot wait to go again!

The gang and I have definitely added this to our list of fun activities.

 

Valentine’s Day Treats

It is a snowy, snowy February. Looks like my new spring wreath did nothing to ward off the snow and ice. We actually were sent home from work early due to freezing rain today. I had to chisel the ice off of my windshield before taking on the perilous journey that is the interstate. Thankfully, I made it home ok.

The managers at work almost always stay late and help people clear their cars off in bad weather, for which I am always so grateful. I’m glad to be home snuggled up under a fuzzy blanket with my warm cuppa tea.

The crab legs and steak turned out ok, but the shrimp didn’t compare to Daddy’s. Oh well, you can’t win them all and two out of three ain’t bad. The fellow’s V Day gift to me is a “pick your own gift” at a hobby store. As Grandpa Alfonse always said, “Anything free is worth saving up for” and crafting supplies are always worth the wait!

Now that V Day is over, I can share with you the gift basket I assembled for him.

My gentleman happens to be a beer snob and that makes gift-giving easier. A four pack of a particular beer that he likes (and has a difficult time getting) was the main gift, and then I threw in some other things to fill out the basket.

When we go on vacation, he always ends up stealing a glass from the house (Again, beer snob. Can’t drink from a bottle). I etched his SCA name on a glass, so that he could have a cheap glass for vacation that wouldn’t get lost. The letters didn’t come out very crisp, but for my purposes I like it.

Along with the glass and the beer, I filled a Dollar Store tub with beef jerky, beer nuts and dry salted peanuts, sunflower seeds, and two alcohol-flavored chocolate bars from Target, one was pale ale- flavored and the other was porter. The chocolates ended up not tasting much like alcohol, but they were a cute addition to the basket, and everyone loves chocolate!

Also, I wanted to share a picture of the mini-cheesecakes. The tart pans worked great!

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yuuuumy!

Cupid is a Knavish Lad

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is one of those holidays that I love because I get to just enjoy the holiday. Major holidays carry an incredible amount of stress for me, enough that I dread November and December. I love the minor holidays because I get to bake fun-themed cookies and meals and have parties. I can decorate and bust out my hot glue gun and do crafts and put together fun little presents.

This Valentine’s Day hasn’t been a let-down. I’ve got the fellow’s gift basket all put together and the table set. I’d like to have dinner ready when he gets here, but most of the meal doesn’t keep so I expect we will end up cooking the meal together which is something I really enjoy.

I cook because a gal can’t really live off of cookies, regardless of how much I want to try, but I love to bake! Cheesecake is one of my fellow’s favorite desserts and something I’ve only recently began experimenting with. We’re trying to eat a little healthier, so I wanted to do something special without having a whole cheesecake sitting in my fridge.

I use the Kraft cheesecake recipe and I quartered it. I was unsure how reducing the recipe would work out, but it seems to have been just fine. A friend at work gave me a mini spring form pan and a few mini tart pans (Are we seeing a theme with me and mini foods?). The quartered recipe made one spring form pan.

I plan on topping the cheesecakes with a peach topping. I make this on occasion as a sweet and healthy treat. I cut the peaches into pieces and cook them down in a pan on medium heat with a little brown sugar. We usually just eat it plain, but this works well with some whipped cream, ice cream, or in this case on top of cheesecake!

For the rest of dinner, I’ve been craving shrimp and crab legs and figured I’d use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to indulge. Crab legs and shrimp are one of those foods that my father makes and I get to enjoy – like steak. The fellow and I have gotten pretty good at making steak (not quite like Daddy grills it but what can ya do?), so tonight we’re going to try our hand at not only steak but shrimp and crab legs too.

Might as well jump into the deep end. My stomach is already rumbling!

 

 

 

 

 

Flowers in Snow

My plan for this weekend was to make a spring wreath for my front door. Despite the new covering of snow on the ground, I went ahead with the plan. Maybe some pretty flowers on my door will ward off any more cold weather. Hey – a girl can dream, right? I decided on some spring blooms on a twig wreath.

Pink and white flowers work for both Valentine’s Day and spring. When your tiny apartment has no storage room for decorations, dual use is a win!

I do a lot of shopping at the Dollar Tree and this project was no exception. I found everything for this project there – both sets of blooms, base wreath, and ribbon. Nothing makes me happier than an inexpensive project and at $4 I’m not complaining.

(Please ignore the cracked paint on the door- it’s a rental.)

Nothing like some hot gluing on a cold day. Today it is sitting right around 16 degrees and windy and while I may venture out a little later, right now I am so glad to be bundled up inside, finally getting a few projects done. Next thing on the list is to get the fellow’s Valentine’s Day gift all assembled!

 

 

Heart-Shaped Hand Pies

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. I’ve got a few ideas for dinner and dessert (We’re thinking about avoiding a fancy restaurant since they will be packed and overpriced). I’m going back and forth between just ordering in Chinese, watching Netflix, and chilling in sweatpants and getting steak and crab legs and throwing a fancy Valentine’s Day meal in the apartment. I’ll let you know which wins out!

What is it that makes tiny things so much cuter than their full-sized counterparts? Think about it – muffins, cupcakes, cake pops, birthday cakes, kittens, puppies all are cutest when they are tiny! Don’t believe me? Do a quick Pinterest search for teacup puppies.

I wanted to take something to our monthly potluck. In the spirit of the season, I decided to make mini heart-shaped hand pies. They came out just as I had hoped, although they were a little on the crusty side. The fellow said I could have used more filling, but it would have made it more difficult to close the pies.

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There was a bit of trial and error with the sizes of my pie crust hearts. Originally, I had thought that the best way would be to make the bottom crust larger and the top crust smaller. The thought was to lay the base crust down, fill with the meat and veggie mixture, and top with the final crust. To close the pies I folded the bottom crust edge up over the top crust creating a seam to hold in the filling. I made about three that way before I realized there had to be an easier way.

My second attempt was what I ended up doing for the rest of the pies. This time I made both the top and bottom crusts the same size using my largest heart cookie cutter. I layered the bottom crust, then the filling, and lastly the top crust. Instead of folding the bottom layer up, I just took a fork and crimped the edges down which made the heart into a pocket.

In hindsight, it probably would have been best if I had combined my first and second attempts. If I make these again, I will try making the bottom crust a size smaller than the top crust. That way I could put more filling into the pies and the top crust would have more room to stretch over the filling. I would still crimp the edges.

Supplies:

Cookie Cutters

Baking Sheets

Parchment Paper

Grammy’s Pie Crust:

2 C Flour

1 tsp Salt

¾ C Crisco

Cold water to mix

Blend Crisco into flour and salt; gradually add water until dough reaches correct consistency to roll.

(This is the official Crisco pie crust recipe in a double batch. My grandmother has used it for years and it is amazing. This yields enough for a top and bottom crust or two topless pie crusts and is flakey and wonderful.)

Pie Filling:

1 Large can of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup

1 Bag frozen mixed veggies

3 Sticks of celery

3 T Butter

3 Chicken Breasts

Salt, Pepper, and Herbs De Provence to taste.

Boil and shred the chicken breasts. Chop the celery and sauté it in the butter until tender; add in the bag of mixed veggies and heat. Once the celery and veggies are tender, add the cream of chicken soup and spices and continue to heat. Add the shredded chicken breasts to the heated veggie mixture. Set aside on low heat while you prepare the crusts.

I mixed each batch of dough individually, rolled it out and cut out as many hearts as I could from one batch. I’ve found rolling it two or three times in succession causes it to be tough so I work the leftover dough from each round into the next batch. I made approximately four turns of pie crust for this endeavor.

I swear by parchment paper for almost everything that requires a cookie sheet. Less spreading and quicker clean up makes me a happy camper.

Towards the end, I managed to fit around 8-9 hand pies on a cooking sheet. At the beginning, I was spacing them farther apart and only got around 6-7 per sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes until edges of crusts are beginning to turn golden brown.

Love Smells Like Syrup

Everyone has some type of comfort food that they grew up on. For some people its mac and cheese, tomato soup with a warm, gooey grilled cheese alongside it, or for some it’s breakfast foods.

French toast happens to be the favorite of my fellow. It is a quick enough treat to whip up so sometimes when I’m feeling particularly sweet (and lazy) I’ll make him French toast for a snack.

Now that it is finally February anything that can be made with a heart-shaped cookie cutter is fair game- French toast being no exception.

**If I can get around using measuring spoons and cups I do, dishes like this don’t need exact measurements. As I always say, cooking is an art not a science.

 

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To make heart-shaped French toast you will need:

Eggs

Vanilla

Milk (I used Almond Milk)

Cinnamon

Bread

1. Preheat your pan (I use Cast Iron so this step is a necessity).

2. Cut a heart out of the bread using the cookie cutter.

(Here you have a decision. You can make mini heart-shaped French bread shapes, or you can do what I did and use both the heart and leftover bread sections separately.)

3. Crack 2 eggs into a bowl large enough fit your bread. Add a splash of milk, a dash of cinnamon and a bit of vanilla (Rough guesstimation: 3 T milk, ¼ t vanilla, ¼ – ½ t cinnamon) and mix together.

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4. Quickly lay the first of the bread pieces in the mixture then flip it to coat the other side. Put the battered bread immediately into the preheated pan (Don’t let the bread sit in the egg mixture or it will get soggy and rip. A few seconds on each side will do it).

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If you left the heart cut-out of the bread, you can dump a little of the egg mixture into the empty heart to fill it with scrambled eggs like I did.

Flip so both sides are cooked. Repeat with the next piece of bread until you’re done!

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**Use a medium heat so that the French toast cooks the whole way through slowly, not just cooking the outer layer which then burns before the center hardens.

Serve with either syrup or powdered sugar. You can also use the cookie cutter idea for Eggs in a Basket! Butter both sides of the bread and cut out a heart. Put the bread in the pan and crack an egg into the cut-out section.

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