Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Cookies

I love cookies, and to me, Christmas is the ultimate time to eat cookies. There are so many good recipes to try. I didn't have a lot of time this year, but I probably made seven or eight different kinds of cookies, and these are some of my favorite. The bars in the middle are Seven Layer bars. I didn't have butterscotch chips so I used dried cranberries, and they were great. The cookies around the edge are almond-raspberry shortbread thumbprints. These have been a hit every year, and I can't stop eating them. The ingredients are simple: butter, sugar, flour, almond extract, and seedless raspberry jam. Yum, yum, yum.

Cookie cutouts have been a tradition at Christmas. I didn't have any helpers for decorating, so the cookies look rather plain this year. I like the strange ways kids decorate cookies! Nevertheless, they tasted great, and alas, disappeared all too fast.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday cookies and desserts

The Christmas season brings with it many parties, concerts, open houses, and various special events that have cookies and other desserts. This year I decided to keep track of all the cookies that they offered. (If you have a blog that needs pictures of desserts, and you do not have the talent to make them, you do whatever is necessary.)

The first was a sale at the college bookstore. The little cookies were bait to attract shoppers, who then were expected to buy something that was on sale.
I attended a community event called Santa's Village, meant mostly for kids, that had cookies.

I skipped a December graduation event because it was too late in the day, but I suspect it had cookies. However, I did attend a band concert with big cookies.
Some Christmas events are by invitation only. Here are desserts at a very nice invitation-only Christmas party I went to.
Wait, there was more. The little men were solid chocolate! I am not sure what the little white snowmen were made of--I did not try one, but I am sure they were delicious.
One of the local banks had a customer appreciation day or some excuse to serve big bakery cookies. I would like to make an Alliance with them--they provide cookies, and I will eat them.
And finally, there is the employee Christmas party with cheesecake.
That is enough for one post. If I find more cookies, I will show them in another post.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The two Lindas serve dessert

On the first day of finals week I was surprised by an array of cookies, cake, candy, cider, and even healthy things like grapes in the lounge. The two Lindas had been at work.
Here the new Linda is preparing brownies for the table.
Here the old Linda (can I say that?) is sampling some of the cake.
Thanks, Lindas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Key lime cheesecake

Brian C sent an e-mail message last night that he had put a cheesecake made with real key limes in the faculty refrigerator and invited people to sample. I got there a bit late today, but there was still about a third left. I sampled it and it was very good. Brian's ability to create desserts clearly is much higher than mine.

People who have the ability to create excellent desserts need and audience, and I am always ready to be part of that audience. (Or is it an eatience?)
I had a meeting to attend today, and when I stopped back two hours later, the plate was empty. The eatience approved.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pumpkin pie disaster

I noticed that after Halloween some neighbors had discarded perfectly good pumpkins, so I checked the Internet to see if they could be used to make pumpkin pie. The site at had all the info I needed. I even learned that most canned pumpkin is actually butternut squash--it has better flavor and texture than pumpkin. Also, the best pumpkins to use for cooking are the small pie pumpkins, not the large jack-o-lantern pumpkins.
I decided to prepare my pumpkin by microwaving it. It worked--the picture below shows pumpkin that has been microwaved on the left and raw pumpkin ready to go into the microwave on the right. Then I set out to find all the ingredients. We had all the spices, but the evaporated milk we had on hand was very old. It did not smell bad, so in it went. Enough spice and who will know that it came from the last century.
I decided I did not want to bother with a traditional crust, and since I like making crisps so much, I decided to modify my crisp recipe to make a crumbly crust, and that was a mistake.

The website warned that the pumpkin mix would be watery before it was cooked, and mine certainly was.
I cooked them a bit too long, and my crust alternative did not work out well. However, the pies were not only edible, but actually quite good. However, they would never win any baking awards.
Maybe I should have just stuck to apple crisps. It is pretty much the same recipe I used for rhubarb crisp, rhubarb-raspberry crisp, rhubarb-blackberry crisp, cherry crisp, and peach crisp, though I have switched to the oven because I have scaled it up. (If something works, just keep going with it.) Unfortunately, I am almost out of apples.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Educational cookies

The good Karen in the education department brought in lots of deserts today. There was banana bread, some kind of muffins, brownies, and other sugar-filled delectables.
Thanks, Karen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Apple Crisp with a Twist

A few days ago we went over to a neighbor's orchard and picked some delicious Winesap apples. I was so happy to get the apples, because we've had several freezes at night and I had thought the apples were ruined, but in fact they turned out to be just fine. When we got the apples home, my husband dried some apples in the dehydrator and I decided to make an apple crisp.

I like apple crisps because they are easy to make and don't take many ingredients: flour, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and oatmeal. Except I was out of oatmeal. I searched all my cupboards but couldn't fine any. There was no way I was going to drive an hour each way to town to get some oatmeal, so I decided I had to be creative or do what I dread: make a pie crust. The creativity won out, and I realized I had some granola cereal. It was made with oats, plus had some extra ingredients that had to be good.

Then I got out my newest gadget. When we picked the apples, the people asked if we had an apple peeler. I told them I had a regular vegetable peeler, and they looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe because I had three boxes of apples and they knew how long it would take to peel them with a vegetable peeler--like until about Christmas. So when I got home I got online and found this cool apple peeler.

It worked like a charm, and it only took a few seconds to peel the apple. Plus Desert Boy was entertained watching the wheels go round and round.

Here are the results of the peeling. I actually peeled 11 apples, but nine made a much more symmetric and pleasing picture.

The next shortcut step was to slice them. I have never used one of these before; I know, I must be from the Dark Ages or something. Anyway, I found out how much fun it is to slice an apple in one fell swoop and have it fall apart in eight pieces. I felt a bit artistic as I did it, like I was looking at a flower, with the slices falling open like petals.

Then I added cinnamon and sugar. The cinnamon came out a little faster than I expected, but fortunately I like it a lot.

Then it came time to make the topping. When I'm feeling really with it, I make the topping first, but today wasn't one of those days. Please notice that this is an action shot--the mixer is on--I thought it would make the photo more dramatic.

I put the topping on the apples, put it in the oven at 375 degrees, and promptly forgot to set a timer or look at a clock. Apple crisp is one of those dishes that fills the house with a wonderful odor, so it really wasn't far from my mind. Except when I went out to rake leaves.

It all ended well, though, I rescued the apple crisp in time, and was ready to dish it out when I realized I hadn't taken a photo of the finished product (hence the spoon). It turned out delicious. The granola cereal gives it a little extra flavor. I think that I might put a few raisins on top the next time I use plain oatmeal, they add a nice texture and color to the dessert. Speaking of desserts, I have a separate blog called Dessert Survivor. I don't post on it often, but Dessert Survivor picks up the slack. If you want to see some desserts, head there.

In real life, the dessert isn't really done when you take it out of the oven. There's always the cleanup!

If you want to check out this cool apple peeler, click on the photo.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bazaar desserts

Tonight was the annual St. Augustine Church Bazaar, a turkey dinner with much fund raising after. Of course they had desserts, which were bazaar desserts but not bizarre deserts. I wanted to try out my new camera, but found that the picture I took with my old camera was actually better. (I need to read the manual--there are a lot of buttons I do not understand yet.)
I did not have cookies tonight--I had blueberry pie instead. It was a change of pace from apple crisp in the morning, apple crisp in the evening, apple crisp just about all the time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dessert in the zoo

On Wednesday night I was on the road again to Indianapolis with a bunch of college students for a networking event. Some of our junior and senior students met and mingled alumni, getting a chance to practice their social skills and to hear what life can be like after graduation. I am not sure why they wanted me to go along, but for some reason they do. Maybe they just enjoy seeing how ridiculous I look in a suit and a tie.
This year the event was held on the grounds of the Indianapolis zoo, in the White River Gardens. We were in the Hulman Riverhouse and it had a spectacular view of downtown Indianapolis.
I do not think I was supposed to go there, but there is a large conservatory just off to the side of the hallway, and I stepped in to take a picture, shown below.
The reception had a lot of hors d'oeuvres, including a plate with a lot of different cheeses. I tried the all, even the ones that had green lines in them.
Unfortunately, they did not have either cookies or cake. The only thing that could function as dessert was a tray of cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, and grapes, which were very good and certainly a lot healthier than cookies or cake.

After a couple hours of socializing, it was back on the bus or into the cars to return home. So we left the still-lighted hall to return to our homework and class preparation. And to find some good cookies.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CDC cake

Tuesday evening we attended the annual dinner for CDC, an organization that provides services for children and adults with mentally or physically disabilities. They have been active for 55 years! And since they had cake, I thought I should take a picture or two and post them.

One cake was chocolate and one was not. There were a lot of people there, and almost all the cake was gone when we left.
This year the dinner was held in Monticello. CDC provides important services for the communities in which it operates and appreciates any support they get.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wedding cakes

The reason I was staying in a motel and eating Chinese food was to attend a wedding. I attended a rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, and it featured an ice cream cake. I almost did not get a picture of it because it was eaten so quickly.
For the wedding itself I made sure I got a picture of the cake before anyone started eating it. I never did get back to show you want was inside. There were two kinds of cake, and the kind I had--I think it was chocolate--was very good.
Best wishes to M & M.

Motel cookies

I recently stayed several nights in a motel that not only provided breakfast in the morning, but also set out cookies at night. (I almost wrote that they provided a free breakfast, but caught myself. The cost of staying there included the breakfast and the cookies--there really was nothing free.)
Anyway, the cookies not only looked very good, but were very good. This young gentleman totally agreed. (Maybe we should call him "dessert boy.")

Chinese dessert

Yesterday I went to a Chinese buffet, and got to sample their "Chinese" desserts. I doubt it they were really Chinese--I do not think that dessert is a traditional part of Chinese meals. What they had looked pretty good. I was less impressed with the taste.
Of course they had fortune cookies. None of the fortunes, though, were as intriguing as the advertisement on the table for Coke: "Refresh your thirst." Doesn't refresh mean renew, revive, or restore? Does the ad mean that you can take some water to quench your thirst, then drink some Coke to renew it, so you can drink some more water?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Picnicking with the Education Club

The Education Club at Saint Joseph's College had a picnic on the first Sunday in October, and I was invited. The day was sunny and warm (for October), and the kids were having a great time catching (or in some cases, trying to catch) minnows. (They were using kitchen utensils as fish nets. I hope they get washed well before they go back on the kitchen shelves.)
Who really cares if you catch anything as long as you can get soaking wet?
The students enjoyed the food and the conversation.
This little boy enjoyed his bottle. He also later got very wet when he went down to the lake. (According to Desert Survivor, his diaper should have weighed about 2.5 pounds.)
And here another little kid tries to finish his potato chips while I torment him and he tries to capture a lady bug.
The picnic had a lot of food, and a tremendous amount of dessert. The delicious brownies alone would have been plenty.
However, the picnic also had a huge box of cookies. After just three I was overloaded on sugar and had to stop. So many cookies, so little space in the stomach. Sometimes life is not fair.