The secret to chocolate mousse Wednesday, Jan 30 2013 

Well, I mentioned recently that I was interested in the cookbook challenge posted at http://growandresist.com/2012/12/21/cook-the-books-a-cookbook-challenge/. I had borrowed the January and February selections from my local library, devoured them page by glorious page recently when I was ill and stuck in bed, and then finally got into the kitchen today after finishing up chores, homeschooling and the like. I am so happy I did, with sweet results!

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I think Dorie Greenspan is my new hero…Her recipes sound so amazing, fresh and inspired. I cannot wait to purchase my own copy of her book Around My French Table so I don’t have to worry about ruining the library’s copy while I’m playing (messily at times) in my kitchen. Her stories are interesting and entertaining, as well as educational. But I will now forever love her for the inclusion of the top-secret chocolate mousse recipe. It is probably the best I’ve ever tasted — not to mention the absolute easiest! And hey, with such a large family and crazy life…Well, I’m all for easy! You will have to buy this book and try this recipe!

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I’ve been searching for a recipe for chocolate mousse for as long as I have been cooking. And I am so happy to have stumbled upon one that will live in my recipe files forever. So for the curious: What I liked about it…

Obviously “everything” is too general, so here’s my short list:

036First, all natural ingredients. By that I mean there are no boxes of pudding or canned anything or otherwise heavily processed, chemical-laden ingredients…It’s just chocolate, eggs, salt, sugar. That’s it. Simple. While I’ve seen other recipes that add cream, coffee or liqu0r of some kind — which I’m sure are delicious add-ins — this recipe would be great when you want to serve something elegant but fast. I always have those four ingredients handy…I mean, who doesn’t have a stash of chocolate, right??! (If you don’t, you need to start building a stash ASAP! Seriously!!!)

And guess what else catapulted this to my top fav chocolate mousse? Absolutely no gelatin of any kind — thank goodness! I despise working with gelatin…I don’t think it likes me. And I can only stomach it when doing jello shots (go figure!). It never sets up right for me. Ever. Which is sad because even my 8 year old son can get it to work. Plus, I’m trying to purge many animal products from our diet. I make an exception for the eggs because we own our own free-range chickens, thus I know where the eggs come from and how the chickens are treated, so no one needs to call PETA or anything. It’s totally legit and the chickens actually seem happy. I digress —

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This is definitely a keeper!!! My official recipe testers loved it and some were disappointed there were no seconds. I served it with whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, though a dash of cocoa would have worked nicely too. It was very light but yet dense with chocolate, if that even makes sense. My palate was in heaven.

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Reading when I am sick… Sunday, Jan 27 2013 

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I have liked to read (and be read to) since early on. We’re talking All. The. Time. Just ask my mother. She was so sick of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss that by the time my sister was born, my mother didn’t read quite as much to Noel because I wore out her vocal chords. And yes, my sister Noel was born around Christmas — she was my gift at age 2…under the tree in a Santa suit and everything…you can feel free to say “awwww…”. But I digress — My mom came to loathe and despise that particular book. I mean I can not stress enough how much she hated it. When my youngest son would ask her to read it (because of course he had his own copy!), she would first clench her jaws — but sweetly try to get through it for his sake — which makes her a wonderful Nana, knowing how she hated it!

At any rate, I was already reading foodie books (note the eggs and ham!) at a tender age, so it’s not really surprising that when I do fit reading into my hectic schedule I am usually reading cookbooks, cooking magazines, food blogs, foodie books or culinary mysteries. Since I am feeling really under the weather — and had to miss my middle daughter’s cheer competition today — these books were my first choice. The house is quiet with everyone gone for a while and I can take my time and savour the words and the pictures. Even though I borrowed them from the library, as soon as the budget allows I am definitely purchasing both! One can, after all, never own too many cookbooks (though my family might argue otherwise…)

Why these particular books? Well — I had stumbled upon a cookbook challenge earlier in this month, which you can find here: http://growandresist.com/2012/12/21/cook-the-books-a-cookbook-challenge/. These were the featured books for January and February 2013. I love the inclusion of narratives in both Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (January challenge) and Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings (February challenge). The stories behind a recipe or technique always seem to draw me in, and these two books have so far provided many anecdotes, stories and explanations that are keeping me plenty intrigued. Of course that is in addition to the amazing, mouth-watering recipes I am seeing! I hope you’ll take a look and get into your kitchen — I know I can’t wait til I’m feeling better to play around a bit with some of these recipes! For now I’ll just have to remain in bed and read…

Spaghetti Lovers’ Soup Friday, Jan 25 2013 

It has been quite cold in my neck o’ the woods lately. It’s a balmy 18*F now — and snowing — with a high of 21*F at some point that I am not sure we have yet or will ever reach (have I mentioned it’s snowing?!) And to think — this morning I actually considered going for a 2 1/2 mile walk when it was a mere 12*F…I wonder if that qualifies me as “crazy”?? It wouldn’t surprise me. Maybe being certifiably crazy would even give me a slight break! Though I doubt it…which is why I am still here …lol.

Well, now I’m sitting around at 4:30 PM trying to figure out what exactly I want to throw together for supper, not feeling the least in a creative or playful mood because of the foul moods of 6+ children that are milling about complaining about chores – and the fact that I won’t let them go anywhere…I am such a mean mother! But back to the supper dilemma. Fortunately the other day that was not the case!

012 My mother and I have a standing date with a local butcher about once a month. In my quest to start to eat more healthfully, as well as save money, I confess that I don’t purchase as much meat as I used to. But when I do buy meat at all, I prefer to deal with the butcher rather than the meat section of a grocery store or Walmart…I find that the cuts are nicer, and that I can stretch the meat further because of the superior quality. Plus I now know the people who run the store. I can ask questions. Even from time to time garner recipes. So I cook meat for my family maybe 1-2 times a week — much different from my early marriage when we ate meat daily. That’s progress.

So I had about 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef that was supposed to feed at least 11 people on a particular day. The odds could’ve been against me, but I had enough other ingredients on hand to throw together this lovely spaghetti lovers’ soup. I honestly don’t know where I first saw the recipe, but I used it once and then adjusted ingredients and amounts to suit my own tastes. I even did this before with a combination of ground beef and some TVP (textured vegetable protein) that I had a small amount of and wanted to use up. So I’m thinking the whole dish really could be adjusted to be vegan if you substitute vegetable broth for the beef broth originally called for. I haven’t attempted it yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t! Anyways, back to the recipe…

Here’s what I do:

* Brown 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or more, or combine with TVP) in a pan. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and set aside.

* In a stockpot, saute one medium sweet onion (I use Vidalias) and 4 bell peppers (I used a mix of colors this time — one each of red, orange, yellow and green) chopped in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil til tender. (You can also add garlic if you like — usually I add one clove minced, but I couldn’t find it…it’s on my list for next week!)

* Add ground beef to stockpot with one 6 oz. can tomato paste, one 8 oz. can tomato sauce, one 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (with liquid), 4 cups beef stock (or vegetable if you prefer) and 2 cups water and bring to boil over high heat.

* When soup is starting to boil, reduce heat to medium and add 4-6 oz. spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds. (I will add more to stretch the dish when necessary).

* Reduce heat to a simmer and cook til noodles are done the way you like them — in my house they are always slightly al dente, but I know some people like them very soft.

* Serve with fresh chopped parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish. I was out of parsley, at least the fresh kind, so I used cilantro this time. I also set red pepper flakes on the table for those who prefer life a little on the spicy side.

013This dish comes together pretty quickly. It’s best served with garlic bread or a thick, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside real Italian bread. If you haven’t noticed, while I do like to get creative and play with complicated or unusual recipes, as a homeschooling mom with an incredibly large house to maintain and six children’s schedules to coordinate, it is really nice (read: convenient!) to have recipes that are easy and delicious, and I appreciate the way that I can stretch a meal in order to be in a position to offer hospitality to friends and family. So there ya go — quick, easy, delish!!! It’s a keeper in my house…I almost never have leftovers!!!

Curried Kamut and Corn Thursday, Jan 24 2013 

So the other day I was kind of bored with my usual lunch choices…I guess that is a creative license to play in the kitchen for sure, right?! I was not in the mood for ramen noodles again, we had exhausted the surplus of leftovers I usually heated up and the kids opted for canned beefaroni (it was on sale and yes, sometimes I cheat…at least for lunches!), which I was not in the mood for. At all. Well in my quest to (sometimes!) eat a little bit healthier, I had started to purchase more new-to-me whole grains, different dried fruits, new and untried (by us anyway) veggies, nuts, seeds…So there was plenty to experiment with. Yeah, I’m thinking “play in the kitchen”! And to top it off — I actually had a spare few moments!!!

kamutKamut is an interesting grain. I find I appreciate it’s chewy texture and it is a great stand-in for rice, especially with the recent arsenic scare. Not many people have heard of kamut yet. Here is a site that offers some good information on various ways to prepare kamut: http://chefinyou.com/2009/08/how-to-cook-kamut/   I am really grateful to have found a local store that sells not just the grain, but also kamut flakes (which will likely be featured in a coming breakfast post!).

turmericI have also been reading a lot about how turmeric is good for many health conditions. Whenever I think of turmeric I guess I think about curry, so I decided to make a quick curried kamut dish similar to a curried rice. To get an idea of how turmeric is beneficial, you may find this site helpful as well: http://www.ask.com/web?q=turmeric+health+benefits&askid=f46453d0-1219-4cf6-bfbe-0c06bea359cb-0-us_gsb&kv=sdb&gc=0&dqi=&qsrc=999&o=4416&l=dir

Sometimes I don’t always plan too well, but some happy accidents happen in the kitchen, don’t they? I had hoped to pair the kamut with some frozen peas, but I’d used them up in a pasta alfredo-like dish earlier in the week and I was not about to venture out into the cold to run to the store — so I dug around in the freezer and found some frozen corn, which I much prefer over canned. I found the natural sweetness of the corn complimented the entire dish, so I was not disappointed.

Have I mentioned that I am horrible about measuring when I’m “just experimenting”? You will no doubt need to adjust and tweak this to your personal taste, but here is what I did:

029* Boil 1 cup water. Add 1/3 cup kamut and then simmer, covered, til close to tender (about 35 minutes).

* Add 1/3 cup frozen corn, 1 tsp turmeric and 1-2 tsp curry powder and let steam on low heat til most of the liquid is absorbed.

* Season with salt to taste.

In the original dish, I ate it as recorded in the above recipe — but for leftovers the next day it occurred to me to add some craisins (we were out of raisins) and some cashews. It gave the dish more depth of flavor, and I will be adding it to my “try on the family next time” list!

Cabbage and Noodles Wednesday, Jan 23 2013 

I had been under the weather for more than a few days with a headcold. Then I set out to clean the attic and was beseiged by dust bunnies attacking from all directions…All in all, I was not too pretty a sight over the last several days. I really wanted to get into the kitchen and cook up something a little fabulous after perusing many recipes and discussing a few options with family and friends (I did try a Carrot, Ginger and Pear Soup which may show up on a post in the near future) — but since I wasn’t really feeling too creative I instead opted for quick, easy and comforting.

This is some sort of nod to my ethnic heritage, though I’m a mix of many different things and so I am not quite sure of the official name nor the origin of this particular dish. It’s just something that has always screamed “comfort” and “cheap meal” to me, especially this particular time of year. My mother used to make this dish for our expanded-via-foster-care family. At one point she was feeding herself, my father, my sister, myself and eight to ten extra children, all squeezed into a three bedroom rancher – so a cheap meal was a good thing!! [Secretly, I hated this as a child! I don’t know why…It’s one of my favorites now. Funny how the tastebuds evolve over time!]

I like to think that it was the influence of my parents doing foster care when I was younger that sparked a desire in me to be more compassionate and understanding about altered families and the children who are ultimately the ones that suffer. Les and I did foster care early on in our marriage, and I am so thankful that we had the opportunity to do it. Of course later we ended up adopting five children and though some of it was for the selfish reason that I wanted children and was told I would never have any, there is still a sense of having hopefully touched a child’s life for the better. I love all of my children and am happy to stay at home and watch them growing up. We still have the normal issues, and even some added adoption things, but we are very blessed just the same!

015Back to the dish…This recipe is so simple you almost don’t really need an actual recipe, but here is what I do:

* Saute 1 onion, sliced thin, in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter. Add 1 medium head of cabbage, thinly sliced, and saute til wilted.

* Cook 16 oz. egg noodles per package directions. Drain.

* Toss noodles and cabbage together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Like I said, pretty simple. The picture to the left doesn’t show the finished dish — can you believe I forgot?! I guess I’m still learning, so please continue to bear with me!

Now, of course I like to play in the kitchen, so I can’t say this is always the same dish…For example, I like to carmalize the onions and cabbage slightly; but I have also served it just after the cabbage was slightly wilted such as in the picture. To make this dish stretch, I often buy a larger head of cabbage and maybe add an extra onion. I also wanted to note that earlier in life I could not stomach onions in any way. Now I can eat them cooked, so in they go!

By the way — this is an excellent way to make use of seasonal produce. Cabbage is pretty inexpensive around my way at the moment, and I am blessed to be able to still get some fresh cabbage at reasonable prices rather than have to rely on grocery store offerings.

Venison Gravy Tuesday, Jan 15 2013 

I know, I know — I said I don’t really eat meat. Not many varieties and not very often. Well, I truly don’t. However, I also mentioned that I do cook it up for my awesome famly. I throw in enough fruits, veggies, grains and legumes every week though, so I don’t really mind cooking up something they want once in a while…

My husband, Les, has been hunting for the majority of his life. That doesn’t mean he always gets anything. In fact, there were quite a few “dry spells” over the last several years. My father-in-law lives in the home he grew up in, located in a somewhat remote (ie, not built up yet) area in south-central Pennsylvania. The little house sits at the base of a ridge, which is where my father-in-law, my husband and several of my children learned to hunt. Behind the house is a little patch of woods, with a field breaking the space up a bit before another stretch of woods dots the ridge. Somewhere amidst all the trees is a tree stand that Les built back when he was a teen, and which my oldest son patches up from time to time so it can still be used.

I’m not really sure what the statistics are for the number of deer in Pennsylvania, but I do know that the number of hunters who descend upon our state every fall has got to be pushing a million, as license sales for 2011 totaled around 933,208 (from: http://www.outdoornews.com/August-2012/Pennsylvania-lags-in-sales-of-hunting-licenses/). I know a lot of people have issues with “killing Bambi”, but hunters in this state are more active in conservation efforts than in many other areas, and hunting really does control the deer population. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey, so I’m not too experienced with hunting overall…I took the hunter’s safety course with my now 14 year-old daughter. I’m honestly more of an “indoor gal” — as evidenced by most of my favorite past-times: writing, reading, sitting at the bookstore, cooking, baking…!

Anyway, no one in our immediate family had gotten a deer in the last several years, but this year we were blessed to have Les get two — in one day! He shot a doe at first light, then got a nice buck later in the day. What this means is that we will have meat for our freezer, and it’s a more healthful and compassionate option than, say, buying bulk meat in the grocer that came from questionable means! I have seen many documentaries on slaughterhouses and I am convinced that hunting is really the less evil way to get meat. Les and the kids out-voted me to have a good portion of the deer turned into deer bologna, which I am not really a fan of…I had hoped to try my hand at making deer jerky. Maybe, but doesn’t seem terribly promising this year. Anyway, I am thankful that the family now has various cuts of meat for some hearty winter meals like stews, roasts and the like, as well as some ground venison for miscellaneous dishes.

Not a gal who really loves wild game, I have to say that my mother-in-law coud cook a really tender, really amazing venison steak. Unfortunately she is no longer with us, having lost a battle with lymphoma in June 2009 the day after her 60th birthday. Les will often reminisce about some of the things she could do with food, especially with the cuts of meat that hunting provided for their family. I was kind of honored when he said that the meal I made last night replicated one of her meals…it was one of the highest compliments I have ever gotten.

So without further adieu, here’s my recipe for a venison gravy. I served it over boiled pierogies last night for a quick, filling meal, but you could easily serve it over pasta or rice, or just over top of toast in an open-faced sandwich kind of way. I also tend to add extra mushrooms or broth to make this meal stretch to feed my 8+ usual dinner crew!

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Brown 1 lb. ground venison in a stock pot with 1/2 cup chopped creimini mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter on medium. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add one pinch crumbled dried rosemary and lower temperature slightly so as not to scorch the bottom (maybe this is just my old stove…?).

Add 1/4 cup beef broth and simmer til liquid is mostly absorbed, then add another 1/4 cup beef broth and 1-2 tsp of cornstarch to thicken. (I continue alternating beef broth and cornstarch in the above increments until the gravy is as thick as I’d like). Re-season to taste and serve warm.

Pomegranates… Monday, Jan 14 2013 

I have recently discovered this tangy, juicy fruit, thanks to quite a few cookbooks featuring some mouthwatering recipes I’ve come across. So far the most unusual has been for pomegranate fudge, which I have in my “to try” recipe file. I enjoy cooking with the already-sold-in-a-bottle juice, but I am learning to use the actual arils, which are the “seeds” pictured below. You can find some interesting information and a plethora of recipes at http://pomegranates.org/

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Do you have a favorite way to use this vibrant fruit?

Cooking Magazines… Friday, Jan 11 2013 

So tonight I picked up a few cooking magazines for inspiration…These are just a few of my “favs”. Believe me, I have a long list of publications I regularly check. These are just the lucky few that made it home. I can’t wait to try out some of the recipes. Stay posted!!!

031So — What magazines inspire you in the kitchen??

Canning – Pear Vanilla Jam Thursday, Jan 10 2013 

Not a native of the area, I have really come to enjoy living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There is no shortage of farmers’ markets in the area. The one closest to me — Root’s (pronounced “ruts” by those in the know) — is open every Tuesday all year long. I am so thankful for the ability to obtain fresh fruits and veggies year-round, although of course we do better during harvest time than during the winter. It was cold here on Tuesday, with a biting wind, so most of my go-to vendors were not out and about. I did score some great veggies though — Such as organic spinach for only $1.50/bag…and it was not a skimpy bag. (I envision a nice spinach salad for lunch tomorrow…) Or the lemons I picked up 10 for $1. They are certainly not that cheap in the regular grocery store! I would’ve brought home more if we’d had more hands, lol!!! However, it was only my 8 year old son and myself, and our hands were already quite full! And I actually remembered to bring along my shopping bag, too — trouble is, we filled it way fast. But thankfully with healthy, fresh foods!

So. I was recently browsing other food blogs — which is probably how I spend any spare time I have, if I’m not already reading a cookbook or looking at a cooking magazine — and I stumbled upon a recipe for Pear Vanilla Jam. I had to email it to myself while my laptop was down so it didn’t get lost in my “recipes” folder. Now it’s all printed out and safe in my canning recipe binder. You can find the original recipe at www.foodinjars.com/2011/02/pear-vanilla-jam/ Let me just say that I LOVE that blog. Quick note too: my stove top does not allow for the traditional size water bath canner if I’m going to have room to fit all the other stuff — like the actual pot with the recipe, the jar lids simmering, etc. Thus I am a HUGE fan of small batch preserving, which to me is any batch that makes about 8 jars (any size) or less, because then I’m not slaving over the stove the whole day. Unless, of course, I want to! This batch made 7 4-oz jars (or half-pints), plus a tad extra, which I gratefully sampled!

I decided I had to try the recipe, so I added pears to my ever-growing shopping list. I use my iPhone “Reminders” app and have different lists for different things. I happen to have a grocery list for each market or store I frequent.

Since it was so bitter cold, the indoor part of the market was so crowded that I almost walked right past the display of pears — but I was fortunate enough to have to stop to help my 8 year old son adjust the bag of bananas ($1 for about 3 lbs) that he was helping to carry. They were Bartletts, on sale for $2.50 for a box of 5-6. I couldn’t remember how many I needed so I just bought two boxes. I used about 7 pears to make 8 cups of chopped pears. The extras certainly won’t go to waste in this house! We had two beautiful Bartlett dwarf trees in the yard until the autumn flood of 2010 — they never recovered. (It’s on my to-do list to replace them this year.)

034At any rate, I proceeded to make the jam, with one little deviation from the original recipe. I couldn’t find my vanilla beans, and I certainly did not want to go buy any, so I dug out my Neilsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste, which I had purchased from Williams Sonoma for $11. That wa some time last year. I think it’s $12.95 online now. I will be buying some again very soon, as I use it a lot in place of whole beans or just vanilla extract. The rich flecks of bean in the paste appeal to me even more than using the traditional bean itself. You simply substitute one Tablespoon of paste for one whole bean. So I didn’t need to remove the beans before mashing the pears as stated in the recipe, and it all merged together quite beautifully for me.

I also have to note that while this was all cooking up — before I put it into jars — the kitchen smelled heavenly…a heady combination of floral pear with the soft scent of vanilla. I am looking forward to baking a loaf of fresh bread later and spreading some of this love on there for breakfast this weekend!!!

Here’s a pic of the jam that was just going into the fridge for immediate consumption, instead of the canner to savor later. You can see that I didn’t mash all the pears 100%, as I like my jams to have visible pieces of fruit. Plus I don’t have an immersion blender either, so I used the old reliable hand-held potato masher.

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Don’t be intimidated — canning is easy peasy!!! I want to note that I was not raised in a household where we canned. I originally learned how to can red beets — the first thing I ever canned — from a friend. Everything else I learned from taking classes at my local cooperative extension (an AMAZING source!). Once I got the hang of doing jams and jellies, I graduated myself to trying marmalades, tomato sauces, salsas and pickled products, and then started to foray into more complex recipes. Next step: to learn pressure canning.

If I can figure out how to preserve foods and produce amazing results, anyone can. Seriously. Just be sure to follow directions to avoid potential issues with food poisoning. And never ever EVER chance using a product if the jar is suspect — ie, it wasn’t sealed or the food looks or smells bad. Start off with a Ball Blue Book or one put out/approved by the USDA and never substitute ingredients if you’re uncertain whether or not they’ll work. It’s usually okay to substitute small amounts of spices or flavorings for those called for in a recipe. Where you will get into trouble is if you add starchy foods or low acid foods to a high acid canning recipe, as they are canned by different processes to make sure the food is thoroughly cooked at a high enough temperature to avoid bacteria growth. If in doubt, contact your county extension agency and ask.

But really, canning is sooooo simple! There are tons of delish recipes out there! And the great thing is that you know what’s in your food! No artificial this or that. So get up and play in the kitchen!!!

What’s Cooking? Monday, Jan 7 2013 

Hi friends! I’m so excited to be kicking off the year 2013 with a new blog to address one of my passions in life — food — while utilizing one of my other passions, writing!

So here’s a quick bit about me — I am a certifiable gourmand, or foodie. At least I would say so. There are not many foods — except meats — that I won’t try. That’s not to say I don’t cook meat. I do, for the family – just not as often as I used to, both for financial and health reasons. Speaking of family…I am a wife and stay-at-home mom of six (yes, six!!!!) children. And that doesn’t include all the “extras” who find their way to my house whenever I am making supper or baking! I love to do redwork stitching, card making and a few other things in my “spare time” (haha! what’s that??!). My other passion is reading, and I mainly love to read cookbooks. I am especially drawn to cookbooks or magazine articles where the food has some kind of story behind it. It just makes it more interesting and intriguing to me.

So yeah, a lot of foodie things going on in my mind most of the time. I love to take a recipe and experiment if I can, or try to plate it in a way that gives it a new look. And I like to try to recreate dishes or things I enjoyed, such as chocolate covered candied orange slices (still perfecting the coating of chocolate). I also like to collect recipes from friends or other foodie blogs to try too. I made the best pitas ever that I found on a blog from my friend in Israel. Truthfully, sometimes it isn’t possible to keep up with my list of things to try in this crazy house, but I do dream of one day owning a bed and breakfast, or a quaint cafe…something like that where I can still play with my food!

The neighborhood kids always seem to end up here during the supper hour, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t flock here on a baking day. One of the things I’m known for in our little (ever-growing) circle is a special recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I inherited from my husband’s side of the family. For years we always called them “Aunt Mary Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies”. But I just found out over the 2012 holidays from my father-in-law that he found out the recipe was actually bachelor Uncle Dutch’s recipe. I believe it! The stories about that man are just fascinating! One story that I find…interesting…tells of Uncle Dutch and an exploit involving fishing. This is the way my hubby told me, and he got the story from someone else, so any errors in the story are sooooo his fault! (Sorry, Les!)

Any die-hard fisherman knows that sometimes a fish will shrink just a tad after it’s pulled from the water and sits a while. Here in Pennsylvania, there is a limit to how many trout you can catch at one sitting. Not sure how long the rule has been in effect, but they actually do tend to enforce it. Well, the fish warden came upon Uncle Dutch, who was trout fishing. He had one fish that the warden thought was just a tad under legal size, so he took him to court. The judge heard the case and fined him. Well, Uncle Dutch was a bit angry…the size difference was so miniscule that he was irritated with the warden for making such a big deal over it. So he asked the judge what the fine would be for punching the warden in the face. He was told $25, so he promptly paid the fine (which was $25) plus the $25 — and proceeded to punch the warden. Yep, right in the face! (Yeah, he was a bit of a character, for lack of a better word!!!)

So here is the tried-and-true recipe for Aunt Mary Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (I really am too used to the name by now!). They are not flat and crisp like other chocolate chip cookie recipes I’ve tried. Rather, they have a cakey light quality which makes them one of my favs. I should also note: my father loves these cookies! I have to set aside 1-2 dozen for him every time I make them! The yield really depends on the size you make them. I usually end up with around 5+ dozen, but that’s just me. Also, please excuse the lack of photos…I can’t keep these cookies around long enough to take any!

* Preheat oven to 375*F.

* Mix 1 tsp baking soda with 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 4 cups of flour. Set side.

* Cream together 2 cups light brown sugar with 1 cup butter-flavored Crisco (plain is fine too). Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate.

* Add in 1/2 cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

* Add the dry ingredients slowly and mix well.

* Stir in 2 12-oz. bags chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional).

* Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes or til lightly browned.

ENJOY!