Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me - and Extreme Chocolate Cookies

You know how birthdays are really not a big deal once you’re grown up? Try spending your big day with a classroom full of third graders who all think you’re great; I just had the best birthday I can remember since I was a child!

I’ve been substitute teaching these children while their teacher has been out on maternity leave. They are really sweet kids. We’ve gotten to know each other quite well over these weeks. And they were so excited to celebrate my birthday! All day long handmade cards were delivered to the teacher’s desk at the front of the room. One little girl even made me a bracelet by straightening out a jumbo paper clip and bending it into a curve. She fashioned a paper charm for it that said Happy Birthday. We talked about my birthday all day long. I think the subject came up every few minutes. By the end of the school day, I was starting to think that my birthday really is a big deal, just like it was when I was in third grade.

I took treats to share with the class. They loved them and they all want the recipe.

Extreme Chocolate Cookies

2 cups brown sugar

2 cups white sugar (granulated)

1 lb. real margarine or butter (I use Western Family brand Real Margarine)

5 extra large eggs

2 tsp. almond flavoring (1 tsp. if using real almond extract)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream together above ingredients.

3 (12 oz.) packages milk chocolate chips

Mix chocolate chips into above mixture.

1 cup cocoa powder

6 ½ cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Don’t burn out your mixer; you might have to finish mixing by hand. Scoop dough using an ice cream scoop. (I use one with a two inch diameter.) Pack well. Flatten dough slightly with hands. Put some granulated sugar in a bowl. Press formed cookie dough into granulated sugar to coat. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 7 or 8 minutes. (Oven temperatures vary; do not over bake. If cookies crack, you're baking them too long. If you use a small scoop, bake for about 5 ½ to 6 minutes, but watch for cracking!) Remove cookie sheet to cooling rack.

This recipe makes 4 ½ to 5 dozen big cookies. Sometimes I form the cookies, freeze some of them on a cookie sheet without baking, then dump them into a Ziplock bag and freeze them for later. You can also bake them all and then freeze some. Or, just eat them all!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Avocado Milkshake - A Brazillian Specialty

How about a recipe from Brazil? In some parts of the country, they drink avocado shakes. It sounds a little weird, but as soon as you taste it, you'll forget you ever thought so.This is one of the most refreshing drinks I've ever had.

1 large avocado
1 1/2 cups milk
2 T sugar
juice of two small limes

Put all ingredients in blender and blend well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Foreign Language House

Do you remember the movie Breaking Away from back in the seventies? The main character was obsessed with the Italian cycling team and drove his father crazy speaking Italian around the house? We have a similar situation in our home. My husband, Kent, served an L.D.S. mission in Germany from 1980 to 1982. As is the case with most L.D.S. missionaries, he developed a love for the people he served and for their language. He’s still speaking it. Which is great - how many of us can speak a second language? He probably speaks it better now than when he lived in Germany all those years ago. But sometimes, usually when it’s early in the morning and we’re all getting ready for work and school, it can be a little… Well, Kent’s a real morning person, and the rest of us really aren’t. He’s quite chipper around the house in the morning, and chipper in a foreign language somehow comes across as extra chipper. And when he speaks German, he tends to shout it out:

“Guten Morgen, Meine Frau! Gut geschlafen?”
“Ach! Meine Kinder! Habt ihr gut geschlafen?”
“Was soll ich zum Frühstück essen?”

Fortunately, I speak some German and the kids have studied it at school. When they reached junior high they thought “Why not? We’ll probably have a head start.”

We also, of all odd things, have memorized quite a few hymns from the German version of the L.D.S. hymn book and we sing them during Family Night regularly (if you can call what we do singing). At church one recent Sunday, someone made a comment about occasionally singing a hymn in a foreign language. My son Jeff turned to me and whispered, “Sounds like us.” I whispered back, “No, we occasionally sing a hymn in English.” But only if the kids and I insist.

Two years ago, our oldest son, Kurt, received a call to serve a mission in Brazil. He was really excited. And so was his dad. Kent went right out and bought the Pimsler Language Course for Portuguese.

The next morning we got up for school and work.

“Bom dia! Como vai?”
“Você fala Portuguêse?”

And it was on to Portuguese. Kent was riding his bike to work most days. Ten miles there and ten miles back listening to Pimsler CDs through his ipod.

“Adeus, minha esposa!” he’d holler at me on his way out the door in the morning.

And “O restaurante fica na esquina!” he’d holler at me when he walked back in at the end of the day.

We’ve all picked up a few phrases over the past couple of years. And Kent can’t wait to try out his Portuguese on Kurt when he gets home in a few weeks. But in the meantime, Jeff has received his mission call. He’s going to (drum roll) Germany! He is very excited. And so is his Dad.

The morning after we got the big news, we all got up for work and school. Naturally Kent was the first one up and I could hear him in the shower, belting out the German National Anthem:

“Deutschland, Deutschland über alles
Über alles in der Welt!”

When Kurt found out where Jeff was going, he wrote the following in an e-mail:

Dude, Germany! That’s awesome! Dad must be off his hinges with joy. I bet he’s already trying to teach you German. He tried to teach me Portuguese and he didn’t even speak it.

Yes, it’s been back to German around here for the most part. Imagine how interesting it could get in a few years when we find out where Joel will serve?

German Cooking

Kent got me a special present for Christmas – a German cookbook. Oh great, many of you women may be thinking, a cookbook, just what every woman wants for Christmas. But the real gift is that, after twenty-five years of marriage, Kent is taking up cooking. I really don’t know if that was his intent when he bought me the cookbook, but that’s how I chose to interpret the gift. He’s gone along with it. So far he’s made potato pancakes and deep fried cauliflower. The potato pancakes were pretty good, but the cauliflower was fabulous. I know. Deep frying cauliflower kind of takes away from the whole idea of its being good for us. But I really don’t think it’s in the nature of cauliflower to absorb a whole lot of oil. It really didn’t seem too bad. Besides, I’ve heard that in the Netherlands they deep fry Milky Way bars. Makes this recipe seem okay.

Gebackener Blumenkohl

(Deep Fried Cauliflower)

from Culinaria Germany

1 head cauliflower


3 eggs

white pepper

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

4 tbsp flour

½ cup white breadcrumbs

oil for deep frying

Rinse the cauliflower, trim, then divide into florets. Cook the florets in boiling, salted water for about ten minutes, until just tender. Strain the florets, refresh in cold water, and drain well. Beat the eggs with a little salt, white pepper, and the nutmeg. Toss the florets first in flour, then dip them in beaten eggs, and toss them in the breadcrumbs. Fry batches of cauliflower in hot oil and drain on paper towels.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A "Stupid Moment"

I was at the gym working out on a treadmill. There is a TV in front of every three or so pieces of equipment. On the screen in front of me was a talk show. The host was a middle-aged woman with red hair. I suppose she’s famous, but I don’t know who she is. She was interviewing Dolly Parton. I know who Dolly Parton is, but I wasn’t really interested in watching this. What I really wanted to watch was the Food Network. I had seen it at the gym a few days before and went home and made Thai peanut sauce and grilled chicken skewers from memory for dinner. It was delicious. Besides, the volume on this TV was really low and I could hardly hear what either Dolly or the Red Head were saying. The closed caption was on, but it was delayed. So I was hearing little bits of the red headed woman and Dolly (but mostly hearing the football game on a TV somewhere down the row which had its volume turned up really loud), and then reading what they said about thirty seconds later. Really annoying. I looked up at the controls on the television set and noticed that the buttons to change the channel were gone. Empty holes in their place. But there were volume buttons. If I had to watch the Dolly interview, at least I could turn the volume up enough to compete with the football game. The TV wasn’t too far in front of me, and just a little higher than the level I was on. I tried reaching right up there while treading on the mill and nearly wiped out. Not a great idea. I paused my workout, awkwardly leaned up between my machine and the one next to it, and managed to reach the up volume button. I pressed it a few times and resumed my workout. It still wasn’t loud enough. I paused my treadmill again and awkwardly reached up there again. Better. I could hear them pretty well now, but I was still compelled to read the delayed captions. And by now, the Dolly interview was pretty much over. The Red Head announced that next up was Valerie Bertinelli. I know who Valerie Bertinelli is. But I really wasn’t interested in watching this. What I really wanted to watch was the Food Network. I had to go home and make dinner and I wanted some fresh ideas. Instead, I was forced to watch the Red Head quiz Valerie about her recent weight loss and bikini photo shoot. By now, I knew more about Dolly, Valerie and the Red Head (except her name) than I ever wanted to know. And then came the “stupid moment.” It was now forty-eight minutes into my workout. Right there, no more than six inches from my left hand, in the cup holder of my treadmill, was the remote. But by now there was someone on the treadmill next to mine and she really looked interested in Valerie’s weight loss. I finished up my workout, transferred the remote to the woman’s cup holder, and left. Bean burritos for dinner.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ruth's Salsa

My sister-in-law, Ruth, brought salsa to a recent family gathering. It was delicious, as is everything Ruth makes. She told me she had made it using bottled tomatoes from her garden. She chopped fresh peppers, onions, cilantro, and whatever else, added it to the jar, and shook. Voila. I don’t grow enough tomatoes to bottle any. We eat them all. But I tried Ruth’s idea using a large can of diced tomatoes I bought at the grocery store. I chopped up two different kinds of hot peppers, orange and yellow bell peppers, green onions and cilantro and put it all in a good-sized Pyrex bowl. I added the canned tomatoes, some fresh lime juice, and salt and pepper. I made sure to put the lid on nice and tight. Shake, shake, shake. Salsa. It was delicious. You get some of  that fresh salsa taste even though the tomatoes are canned. Since it’s virtually impossible to get good tomatoes in the winter, this seems like the way to go. We had it on breakfast burritos for New Year’s Day, and then ate the rest with tortilla chips during the afternoon football games. Yum. Thanks, Ruth!