Sunday, September 23, 2012

Volleyball Cookies

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So volleyball season is underway.  On a recent visit, my daughter informed me that her teammates were hankering for some cookies.  It was only right that I obliged.  Much to the dismay of the parents, I arrived to the gym with 2 boxes of cookies, all bagged up for each girl, the coaches and the trainer.  Sorry parents!  The girls also asked for some chocolate ones in the mix.  I love making the chocolate cookie from LilaLoa, they are amazing and bake up beautifully.  They also look great with that purple icing for the Millsaps Majors.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

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 White chocolate.  Not my favorite thing.  It brings back some icky childhood memories of something that was around at Christmas called Almond Bark.  The smell makes me queasy.  I have discovered that high quality white chocolate is worth the price, but it is not part of my regular pantry.  I came across a few boxes of great white chocolate at work nearing its expiration, so I picked them up thinking I would make some macadamia nut cookies to send to Nic and Frank.  However, my freezer, although full of nuts, was void of macadamia nuts.  I am a fan of Trader Joe's and just couldn't stand buying the nuts at the local market.  So I decided it was going to be pistachio and white chocolate.  What a great decision that turned out to be!

I followed a pretty basic cookie recipe, which follows. It is credited to Curtis Stone, and of course I can never leave well enough alone.  So here's how it went for me.  I suggest pulling them out while they are still a little soft on top.  They will hold that softness even if they are frozen and thawed.  I did have some a little firmer, and they are equally as tasty, and make much better dunkers.

White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup Crisco (it keeps things soft after baking)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4  teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 pound good quality white chocolate chunks
1 1/2  cups shelled, toasted pistachios

Cream sugars and butter in bowl of a stand mixer.  Add vanilla, salt and eggs, mix well.  Add flour and soda and incorporate until no dryness appears.  Add nuts and chocolate.  My pistachios came from the freezer, so I gave them a quick toast in the oven to get them a little crispy.

I then chilled my dough overnight.  Drop onto parchment or Silpat covered sheets, and bake at 375 (350 convection which is how I do it) and watch until they are just getting set and browned on edges.  Cold dough takes a little longer than room temp dough.  Cool on sheets and then transfer to racks to cool completely.  My batch made about 4-5 dozen cookies.  (Curtis must make enormous cookies!)  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pure Barre Cookies

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I have been working out my whole life, but never the same thing. I went to a small grade school where you did everything, basketball, volleyball, track and softball.  When I was little, my mom owned a Figure Salon.  Yep, rollers to jiggle the fat away, belts to jiggle the fat away and my entrepreneur mom would hold a class to a record she owned (that's a large piece of vinyl that plays with the assistance of a turntable, diamond needle and speakers) and the women would pack Shelly Lynn Figure Salon to do leg lifts, sit ups. jumping jacks and other old fashioned moves that are very hip right now! Dr. Charles Bucher was the man of the hour.

My very hot mom circa 1972...belly dancing was a favorite form of exercise!

I cheered and dove in high school, and was a casual runner and biker in college, because they fit my lifestyle.  I would even head to the pool and swim long distance.  I am all about endurance, not speed.  I used to take an aerobics class taught by a 60 something woman, (I thought that was old when I was in my 30's) and I have done my fair share of home videos like Tae Bo and Shiva Rhea yoga.  My favorite (before now) was Bikram Yoga, but it is just too far to do an hour an a half class.  And, there is no if, ands, or buts; you have to have a shower after that, no running into the market for milk and bananas!  And since this regular exercise has brought no progress, I needed a new outlet!

So last spring I decided to go to Pure Barre.  I love, love, love this class.  Now, I am a realist.  I know that at 48, I am never going to look like these instructors.  One, I didn't look anything like them when I was their age, two, I never danced a day in my life (unless you count alcohol induced dancing at Rayford's Disco), and three, I don't know, maybe the pounds I would have to drop???  These girls are tiny, but oh, they are mighty!  They are curvy and strong.  Muscle definition and great posture, and flexible too.  Me?  Well, yes, I also have great posture, I have always been flexible and I too have muscle definition.  Ha!  I even have a 2 pack.  Yep.  I am not sharing it with you, but Mr. Preppy was like, whoa, I am impressed.  Which is good, because it doesn't come cheap!  Most women describe it as a cross between Pilates and old fashioned exercise.  Which it kind of is.  You work every muscle group, lots of abs, and the workout has little differences for each instructor.  So you do the same routine, but it never gets old.  I love that I can see my progress.  Men's push ups?  Yep, not on that first day, or week, but now, I am pumping away.  Planking?  Who knew how hard that was, for 90 seconds?  Now, I am so focused it flies by.  Another thing I love?  Modesty.  There are no bare bellies, no shorts, even your feet are covered in no skid socks.  And contrary to the name, you do not hike your leg up on the barre for ballet type work, you hold on to that barre for balance and resistance in many sequences.

I feel fantastic, I look forward to going, and everyone who sees me wants to know what I am up to.  It has rearranged my body.  Really.  I made these cookies for the 2 year anniversary of Pure Barre Germantown.  And you should check out their site to see if there is one near you.  The intro package is a great way to see if you love it as much as me! Thanks to the great girls there, and Tuck!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sesame Street Cookies

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They should have made a set and included Big Bird, Bert and the Count!

Who doesn't love these guys?  I made them for Williams Sonoma for a visual display.  The cake dome is tied down to discourage people from "sampling"!  They were great fun to make, and way easier than Cars 2 or Star Wars.  Finally, cookies for the little kids.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Of course a Cookie Monster, cookie!

Elmo!  But no Big Bird???

Don't be a grouch, Oscar!
Ernie...but no Burt!

Monday, September 3, 2012

SRC Crab Rangoon

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Crab Rangoon Poolside!

One of my favorite parts of the month.  Secret Recipe Club.  I spent some time perusing my assignment  Avocado Pesto.  This is a great blog, full of really healthy recipes.  Vicky is about to head out on a journey of a lifetime to Osaka, Japan with her boyfriend.  They have a blog up for the adventure A Couple Travelers.  What is so ironic, my niece and bf just left the U.S. this summer on a similar adventure to Japan.  Perhaps they will all bump into each other on the other side of the world!
As I cruised through the recipes, a few things jumped out,  sometimes, a recipe just shouts to you, "Make Me!" When I stumbled across Avocado Pesto's  Crab Rangoon, I knew what I was making.  I know regardless of what Chinese restaurant we stumble into, Mr. Preppy will order Crab Rangoon and MooShu Chickeen.  Every time.  So, the MooShu will be made another night, tonight, we filled up the small saute pan and headed to the grill.

Roll the whole batch...

Frying on the grill.  No grease splatters, no smell, perfect!

  I always fry outside!  I made up all the rangoons (?) inside and we had a few cold ones and fried them in batches.  We ate every last one for dinner and enjoyed every morsel.  So easy to throw together, and a quick fry.

Sauce for her...spicy!

Sauce for him...sweet!

Maybe not the healthiest option on this amazing blog, but certainly tasty!  We dunked them a sweet chili sauce (his)  and a spicy mango coconut with peppers (hers).  We decided they are perfectly wonderful alone too.  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!  And Bon Voyage Vicky and Dave!