Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Confetti Party Cake

Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!  I bring you Betty Crocker's "easy and delicious stacked cupcake extravaganza" just in time for your New Year's Eve party.  As I'm sure Betty herself would ask, why just have dessert when you could have an extravaganza?  

You can find the recipe here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: Use-It-Up Soup Recipe

Gentle readers, I lied to you a little bit in the title for this post.  Use-It-Up Soup is more a method than an actual recipe.  I don't know what you have in your refrigerator that needs to be used up; in fact, I'll bet you don't, either.  That's okay, you can go check.  I'll wait.

Got your list?  Let's begin.

Use-It-Up Soup


1 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-ish carrots, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced (aim for roughly equal amounts onion, carrot, and celery)
2 cloves garlic, minced (use more or less to taste)
1 15.5 oz. can beans of your choice, rinsed and drained OR 1/2 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed and drained
1 28-30 oz. can tomatoes of some type: diced, crushed, whole (chop them up before adding)
4-6 cups of water, stock, or combination (depends on amount of stuff to use up and how thick you like your soup)
2-3 potatoes peeled and diced (optional)
Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or cooked, cut to bite size (avoid anything cabbagy, such as broccoli or brussels sprouts)
Leftover cooked meat
Leftover cooked pasta or rice (omit potatoes)
Salt & Pepper
Herbs and spices of your choice


1. Heat oil in soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  When hot, add the onions, carrot, and celery and cook until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes.  (I season these with a little salt and pepper).

2. Add garlic, saute one minute more.

3. Add beans, tomatoes, water or stock, and potatoes, if using.  At this point, add any fresh vegetables and dried herbs and spices you are using.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally (you want your potatoes and lentils, if using, almost but not quite done when you add the rest).   Add water or stock if needed to maintain soup consistency.

4. If you're using frozen vegetables, give them about 10 minutes of cooking time at the end -- 5 to get the soup back to temperature and 5 to cook.

5. Leftover vegetables, meat, and pasta or rice (if using), and fresh herbs (if you have them) go in for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.  Heat through.  Another option is to put the rice or pasta in the bottom of each bowl and pour the hot soup over it.

6. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve.


~ Match your stock to the meat you're using (chicken with chicken, beef with beef).  Chicken stock works well with leftover pork or turkey.
~ You can omit the meat entirely.  The beans, veggies, and starch will still give you a hearty soup.
~ Try out different combinations.  I put some leftover water chestnuts in my soup last week, and to my surprise they maintained their crunch even after 30 minutes of simmering.  They added a fun texture to the finished soup.
~ Lentils need more cooking time than canned beans, so plan to simmer them 30-40 minutes.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

Image: Laugh It Out

Merry Christmas to you, Gentle Readers!  May the New Year be filled with all your favorite things.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookie Sunday Highlights

Time my alarm went off: 6 a.m.

Time kids started arriving: 9 a.m.

Number of cups of tea ingested between 6 and 9: 4

Cookies baked between Saturday and Sunday:
          Snickerdoodles: 2 batches
          Sugar cookies: 2 batches
          Moravian Spice Crisps: 2 batches
          Peanut Butter Swirl Bars: 3 batches
          "Best Ever" Chocolate Chips: 2 batches
          Red Velvet Cookies: 3 batches

Funniest thing that kept happening all day: People would sneak red velvet cookies and then deny it when asked.  They were lying through lips that were stained red.

Reason we made 3 batches of  Red Velvets: See above.

Number of injuries: 3
          1. A burn on my right bicep.  My giant guns have a tendencey to get in the way.
          2 & 3. Army Dude cut left thumb (copycat) and and burned right hand.  Demanded Purple Heart paperwork be submitted through command channels ASAP.

Cutest thing I didn't find until the next day: A poem written by my great-niece Elizabeth.

Number of hours I slept on Sunday night: 10


Saturday, December 17, 2011


This is a cheese slicer.

This is my thumb after meeting up with the blade of a cheese slicer that had some muscle behind it.  Leave it to me to do this two days before spending the weekend baking cookies and doing the dishes associated with baking cookies.

Did you ever hear that saying "if I had a brain, I'd be dangerous"?  Good news.  I have a brain.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Sunday is Cookie Baking Day 2011, so I'm spending today preparing for the big event by napping and carb-loading.  What differentiates this from any other day of napping and carb-loading is that today I have an excuse.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cookie R&D Phase 2

I meant to keep you all abreast of the latest cookie-prep news, but I've been busy Santa's elfing it in my workshop for most of the week.  But fear not, Gentle Readers, cookie prep is in full swing.  A maiden aunt does not shirk her baking responsibilities.

To catch you up, last weekend I made and froze a couple of batches of my special chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough.  I also tested a new cookie: Moravian Spice Crisps.  They came out great -- the same sort of spicy goodness you get in gingerbread cookies, but without all the hassle of gingerbread dough.  (Gingerbread cookie dough is, of course, the stickiest and most difficult-to-work-with dough there is.  But you knew that, right?)

Yesterday I decked myself out in the awesome apron given to me by ny niece and great-niece, and made and froze snickerdoodle and sugar cookie dough.  This completes the make-ahead portion of the operation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sloppy Joes

Sometimes you just want one.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cookie R&D

I tried out a recipe from the cookbook I got last year for Christmas from my niece Katie.  Then I carefully constructed a Cookie Testing Focus Group based on who I saw over the next couple of days.  I am, as you can see, a woman of science.

The Focus Group included my mom, the Army Dude and an army dude buddy with whom he was headed to one of our country's military bases to do Army stuff (I imagine this consists of camping out, toasting marshmallows, and singing Boy Scout songs), the guy who cuts the lawn, and my friends IT Guy and the Rock&Roll Drummer.

Rock&Roll Drummer shared his cookies with a friend of his that I don't have an online nickname for yet, who would not eat the cookie in front of me in case he didn't like it.  Which has made me completely neurotic, by the way, so the friend without an online nickname should watch it.  I am as good at picking out mean nicknames as I am nice ones.  Just ask my friends about the Evil Snowman of the Apocalypse.