Saturday, December 31, 2011

the jackpot question

It's New Year's Eve! What are you doing tonight? I have never been a go-out-on-NYE type of gal, so true to form, this evening I can be found in comfy jammies waiting on my gwumpki to come out of the oven. We usually make a traditional southern New Year's staple, black eyed peas; the frugal bean is supposed to bring riches to your family for the coming year. My favorite way to cook black eyed peas is in Hoppin' John. Mmmmmm.

But this holiday, since we didn't go to Atlanta and sample my family's gwumpki, we decided to make our own. I added some pictures tonight to the recipe I posted a few months ago.

For the remainder of the evening, I plan to cozy up next to the hubster, who is as we speak cursing at the bowl games. I have my spread all laid out before me with [Nerd Alert!] three new cookbooks I'm flipping through:

This has been another amazing year for our family. Thanks as always for stopping by and reading my musings on life. We wish you the merriest, the merriest of new years.

Welcome be ye that are here,
Welcome all, and make good cheer,
Welcome all, another year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

putting the 'rat' in bratty

I was going to post about our wonderful trip down south, but first I must pause to tell you about what grade-A brats my children are after returning from a visit with grandparents. It isn't as though the grandparents don't realize what they are doing; in fact, I detect a note of freshman hazing in the glint in their eyes and the smile creeping up in their mouths as we open yet another gift.

To be clear, I fully enjoy the grandiose amount of spoiling my kids receive. The more who love them, the merrier. But I do not love the military-style retraining that must happen upon reentry into life as we know it. We sometimes go weeks without a timeout in normal life, and today we've had three. In the last two hours.


My one source of much-appreciated relief has come this evening via a screening of Wall-E, with kid #1 giggling uncontrollably and #2 watching slack-jawed from behind the snuggling clutch of a giant stuffed yellow ducky. Meanwhile, Nate has taken refuge with a friend to a local pub. All I'm saying is, they are lucky they're cute. That's my constant refrain of the last three years. Do you have one too?

Signing off from mommy boot camp,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

country fried vacation

Yeehaw and merry Christmas from sunny Florida! We are busy down here enjoying our light and happy hearts. I'm writing to you from a couch coma induced by some Cracker Barrel dumplings and two glasses of Bailey's Irish cream. Sorry I haven't been better about blogging this week, but if y'all are having a holiday week like mine, you're not paying this little site the notice anyhow. I plan to be back before the end of the year with more stories, including the curious/unfortunate incident with the left hand and the bacon grease. I'm fine, just not the most graceful or attentive lady on the planet.

Hope you had as blissful and merry a Christmas as we did.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

a side effect of listening to The Killers

It seems like I haven't discussed the mundane details of home life lately, so I know you must be on pins and needles with anticipation, reader. Here goes...

The goings-on are happening in our house. We are headed to Florida on Christmas Eve to be with Nate's family, so Santa is coming to our house tonight, and Nate's taking the day off work tomorrow to do the pancakes and present-opening. All this means I am running amok today to prepare. What is it about the holidays that makes us all loony tunes?

Vivi goes to school twice a week, and when she's not at school, she can be found reading in her princess tent, harassing the kitty, listening to her dinosaur CD for the bajillionth time, and playing with Charlotte. These days, "playing" consists of smothering her with a blanket or whining "Charlie, stoooooopppppp!" Really though, she's a great big sister and seems to care quite a bit about Charlotte's well-being. If Charlotte is fussy, Vivi is almost always the first to suggest maybe she's not feeling well, rather than my go-to diagnosis, "bratty toddler stage." And she's almost always right.

Charlie can also be found bothering the cat, but unlike Vivi, she hasn't yet figured out she should do it with a long instrument from a safe distance. You should see the perplexed look on her face when kitty strikes back; but then thirty seconds later she's back for more. I have to admit, there is something irresistible about that kitty. As I type, Charlie is trying to put a sticker on kitty's face, and kitty is desperately attempting to defend her one square foot of sunlight on the couch. Poor kitty.

The girls had some great leaf-jumping yesterday while I attempted to bag up the suckers. Much to my dismay, a product of living in a compact neighborhood is that there are no wooded corners in our back yard in which to pile up the year's leaves. To top it off, the neighbors to the back of us are grouchy gardeners who are not to be messed with, so I'm trying to do my part and complaining all the livelong day while I do it.

Although I haven't been good about collecting them here, Vivi still says some funny "Vivisms." Generally, they are now full conversation-length instead of the one-liners they once were and often involve a complicated question or two. Here are a few recent conversations.

The exact location of Heaven...
Vivi: Mommy, I know God lives in Heaven, right?
Me: That's right.
Vivi: And I know Heaven is somewhere in the sky, but it can't be higher than the sun because that would be too hot. So where is Heaven exactly?

On Christmas, grandparents, war, etc...
Vivi: Tomorrow is Christmas, and then Saturday we are going to see Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Katie, right Mommy?
Me: Yes! Are you excited?
Vivi: Yeah. And today I'm going to school, and Daddy's going to work. What are Grandma and Grandpa doing today?
Me: Grandma is probably getting ready for us to come, and Grandpa is working.
Vivi: What is he doing?
Me: He's flying his airplane to help the soldiers come home.
Vivi: What's a soldier?
Me: A soldier is a hero who helps fight a war.
Vivi: Oh. What's a war?
Me: Well, sometimes countries have problems, and soldiers go to help them figure out their problems and stop bad guys from hurting people.
Vivi: Like Batman?
Me: Yeah, kind of like Batman.
Vivi: Oh...(long pause) I got soul but I'm not a soldier...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

wordless Wednesday: ham

I set out to take a picture of Charlie's spaghetti face, and this is what happened...

Editor's Note: I joined the Wordless Wednesday linky party again at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I am becoming one of those bird ladies

Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to buy top-notch birdseed from the Audubon Society or anything. But I'm feeding the birds, and it's new to me to get pleasure from watching them eat from my kitchen window. Currently we have mostly sparrows, chubby squirrels and the occasional cardinal or blue jay.

In the spring we get cedar waxwings that eat our mulberries, and they are a gorgeous sight.

Anyway, if I start talking about buying suet or shooting squirrels, I'm expecting one of y'all to host an intervention. Consider yourselves warned.

Image Credit (cedar waxwing): Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Monday, December 19, 2011

Portland is full of Christmas spirit

On Saturday morning we woke with a fire under our butts to DO something, since the weather report said the coming days were going to be f-f-f-freezing. [It did not lie. I am only really typing right now to stave off numbness in my fingers.] We considered going to Portsmouth, NH or Portland, ME; we've been to both places, but I haven't been to either since we've lived here. They are both less than 2 hours away! New England is so small.

While we were considering what we'd do in Portland, Nate came across the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum's Polar Express Christmas train trip. I am new to the world of The Polar Express. I didn't have the book as a child and, although I'd heard about how wonderful it was, had never read it until getting it from the library this week. Heart-meltingly wonderful!

Going back to the train ride, the tickets were sold out for the day...and a bit expensive for the ROI at our kids' ages. But oh, that reminds me of the best part! While reading the FAQ, I came across this little gem explaining whether the under-twos needed a ticket:

As long as your child can sit on your lap for the ride, they do not need a separate ticket.  Please note that children who do not have a ticket will not receive a bell, hot chocolate or a cookie. 

And Santa will not look your kid in the eye.

Bhahahahaha! I am not making that up! Ok, I did make up that last line. Are we serious here, folks? How much could an extra cookie and bell cost, really?

We eventually opted to stay home for the day. I did want to let Vivi see Santa, but being the frugal, anti-mall-Santa type, I chose a little children's bookstore in Concord [not far from the corner of Walden and Thoreau Streets. Adorable and quaint do not begin to describe the Concord experience]. Poor Charlie was having a high-fever reaction to her chicken pox vaccine, so Nate stayed home with her.

Vivi had an up-close and personal chat with Santa all about The Incredibles, her favorite movie, and about her favorite character in the movie, Violet. He was jolly and kind, the very best Santa we've seen next to last year's giving of the cheese. I'm pretty sure that one will go down as the best ever. They both surely beat our first experience in the Georgetown Mall, in which Vivi did the traditional infant scream on Santa's lap.

We spent Saturday evening drinking spirits, eating pizza, and chatting with my cousin and her husband, while Vivi and her cousin giggled and banged around upstairs in Vivi's room. General ruckus aside, Vivi has never been easier to watch than at this age, where you can basically not only send her away but give her a toddler to entertain.

On Sunday we met up with my friend, Laid-back Mom, and her family at our local ice skating rink. They are from Canada, and I am not exaggerating when I say their younger son has been skating since he began walking four months ago.

How the pros dress their kids: ski pants and a helmet. Smart!
It was Nate's first experience teaching Vivi to skate, and our friends helped him out a bit in getting her to go faster once she got comfortable. They were impressed with how quickly she picked up the sport and with her stamina.

There's the 19-month-old on skates. A sight to behold.

Future figure skater? Doubt it; with my non-grace, Nate's muscles, and her own bossiness, it seems to me hockey will be the sport for her. And it doesn't hurt that the youth hockey league levels are called squirt, pee wee, and bantam. Cuteness! Charlie loved watching and was itching to walk out on the ice. Nate took her out for a round at the very end, and she beamed the whole length of the rink. My little northern baby!

Hope you had a lovely weekend, friends. Ready for Christmas? We are counting the seconds!

Love and hugs,

Friday, December 16, 2011

we are so merry and bright...and a little gassy

You know how sometimes an experience has to marinate a while before you want to pick it apart? Nate's holiday party was a week ago, so we got all dolled up and took on the town. I wore "the dress," which I bought--along with its matching clutch and heels--six years ago while working at Ann Taylor Loft. "The dress" has been my uniform for most weddings and cocktail parties since then. I plan to continue to don it until it falls apart or goes on strike. See here:

Although my inner frugality nearly always wins the debate of whether to purchase a new evening wardrobe, I secretly still rock and moan in the pre-party hours, worrying I'll stand out in some wrong way that my fashion-challenged sense won't pick up on. What to do during the fretting hours? Make chili!

I've been wanting to try out an Emeril chili recipe, and his turkey and hot sausage chili was wonderfully simple, hearty and satisfying. A great way to use up our hot Italian sausage from our CSA, I might add.

I finally made a jar of Emeril's Essence, which is so big it will now likely follow us in our next six moves. Who knows? Maybe I'll spice up our standard beans and rice with it. Seems like a useful spice mix to have on hand. But never fear, Tony Chachere's, you will always have a place in the seasoning of my heart.

So yeah, when I should have been curling my hair or doing some other prettifying pre-party ritual, I made chili. And then, when I should have been putting on make-up or jewelry, I ate some chili. Because when lipstick isn't enough, an orange stain around your mouth adds that little extra something.

To save money and the potential leeching of BPA in canned beans, I cooked my own beans from a bag of dried ones. I only recommend doing that if you're cooking on the weekend or if you're a home ranger like me. They take forever and are kind of a pain. Of course, of course, I had to say "BAM!" when pouring in the Essence. I wholeheartedly recommend this delicious chili. As for eating it prior to a night on the town, that could probably be avoided to everyone's liking, particularly your girlish figure.

Update (2-13-12): I made a quick chili tonight with no recipe to follow, just using up leftovers from my fridge, and it turned out great! Nate said it was the best he ever had, so I decided to share it below my adaptation of Emeril.

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Emeril's turkey and hot sausage chili
serves 4

1 Tbs. oil
1 pound ground turkey
3 hot Italian sausages, removed from casings and crumbled
2 tsp. Essence (BAM!), recipe follows
1 1/2 c. onions, diced
1/2 c. chopped, roasted and peeled green poblano or Anaheim chiles
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. Mexican chili powder (I like this kind because of the oregano)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (12-oz.) beer
1 (28-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes with their juice
2 c. cooked small red beans, or canned beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro 
Corn muffins, accompaniment

To roast the poblano chile, broil it in your toaster oven for 8-10 minutes on each side until it is sufficiently charred. Let it cool and then peel off the skin. (A more step-by-step version with jazzy photos can be found on the Inspired Bites blog).

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, sausage and Essence, and cook, stirring, until the meat is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onions and chilies and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and salt, and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans, beer, and tomatoes, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Remove from the heat and season to taste. At serving time, sprinkle each bowl with 1/4 cup of cheese and a pinch of cilantro. Serve corn muffins on the side.

Emeril's Essence
yield: 2/3 cup 

2 1/2 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbs. salt
2 Tbs. garlic powder
1 Tbs. black pepper
1 Tbs. onion powder
1 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 Tbs. dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Justine's "leftovers chili"
serves 2 with leftovers

2 c. dried small red beans
1 tsp. bacon fat*
handful of chopped celery heart
1 small onion, diced
1/3 c. leftover cooked and chopped bacon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbs. Essence
1 Tbs. Mexican chili powder
1 1/2 c. leftover cooked sausage, ground pork, or beef
1 c. diced tomatoes in juice

Rinse and pick over beans. Put in a Dutch oven and cover with 8 c. water. Boil for two minutes, remove from heat, and let sit for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Add bacon fat, onion, celery, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes. Add bacon, 4 c. water, beans, Essence, and chili powder, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook over low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Add sausage and tomatoes and cook another 30-45 minutes, removing cover for the last 15 minutes.

*I use leftovers throughout this recipe, but you can always use fresh ingredients instead.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I am the fiyah startah

Yesterday the girls were feeling crummy with a virus. Doc thinks it's nothing serious, so the prescription is ice water, honey, and plenty of Pixar. Isn't there something about Pixar films that just feels positive and wholesome? We watched Toy Story 3 and Robots back to back. Well, Vivi watched while Charlotte took the longest nap known to man, and I baked delicious Christmas treats, boxed them up, and still had time left to have a chat with the mailman while I handed them off to him.

Oh, and Robots isn't actually Pixar, but it was cute! Though, I must add that in a non-Pixar children's movie, there is typically an air of "We are making a joke RIGHT NOW. Get it?" going on, and this film is no exception. Still, worth a rent at the library.

In the afternoon, I left the house bra-less and pajama-clad (aka "honey-badgered") to run into the post office two minutes before they closed, and then perhaps more appropriately, to bring my therapist her holiday goodies. Because if you can't be a boob-swinging, striped-panted, half-crazed mess at your therapist's office, then when can you, amirightladies? At least my therapist wasn't in her office when I dropped them off, so I've got that going for me. Winning!

Tonight will undoubtedly end in another evening writing Christmas cards by the fire. In what could be called true home ranger fashion, I am the go-to fire maker in our household. It started with my ability to light a one-match fire when we were camping, thanks to all those pioneering summer camp classes, and it has continued to our first home equipped with a fireplace. Can you believe we've lived in something like 11 places in 10 years, and we only JUST got a home with a working fireplace?

Anywhos, I am looking forward to the snuggling to come. Oh, and I'll note that I first thought our kindling was called "Firelady's Ambiance," which I thought added to the kismet that I wear the fire pants 'round here. Then I noticed it's actually "Fiready's Ambiance," without the L, which makes no sense. So, I plan to ignore that fact and go back to my original name for it. In conclusion, I must share with you the ridiculous photo on the side of said kindling.

How's that for some Firelady's Ambiance?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

wordless Wednesday: diary of a holiday photo shoot

Editor's note: I joined the "Wordless Wednesday" linky party on the 5 Minutes for Mom site. Check out her original post with her Canadian ice skating daughters. This southerner's jaw is still dropped.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

same blog, different name

Editor's Note:
I was planning to share this idea later on, but what I just discovered is that when you buy a domain name to go with your blog, it happens RIGHT NOW. No turning back, y'all. And so, here we go!...

Off and on, I've been considering changing what I call the blog for a while. "Aimless digressions" made a lot of sense back in 2005 when I first started blogging. Back then, I often found myself writing rambling tangents about life in my twenties, travel, politics, and our many moves, but there was no common thread to represent the musings. I quite literally aimlessly digressed.

Much has changed since then, namely that I became a mom. Suddenly, I had this crazy fun and incessantly needy human being to care for, and it made for a lot of writing material. Although I still ramble and digress, I think for the most part my posts have taken on a common theme of the trials and successes of a thirty-something parent. More specifically, I often feel that I am forging a new path in parenthood; I am one of the first of my friends and family in our generation to have kids, and similarly I am one of the first I know to quit my job to stay home with my kids for a time.

Thus, we have arrived at my desire to change my name. I suppose I should say change my name again; for those of you who have been following the blog since the beginning (hi Dad!), there was a short time during our England stay where I called the blog something like "Justine & Nate's Adventures in the UK."

Without further ado, I am proud to present the new me: the lone home ranger. The idea for the name blossomed out of a post I wrote back in September, in which I waxed poetic about being a "stay at home mommy." I eschew that title, ditto homemaker and housewife, which has left me feeling nameless.

That post was a bit long-winded, and looking back it appears to be more of a tirade than I had intended. But here's the gist. Calling myself a home ranger feels much more "me," and although I sometimes feel alone, my blog helps me feel there are compadres out there who are also experiencing life's laugh-out-loud ridiculous, happy, crazy moments. My hope for this blog is that it can be a place we can experience these moments together.

So... what do you think? Like my therapist always says, brutal honesty is the only way we are going to get anywhere. Lemme know your thoughts, brutal or otherwise.


frugal baking

Did you notice my new button in the top right corner? The one that says "23 Day Frugal Living Challenge"? Even though I already consider myself to be frugal, I think we can always do better, so I signed up to begin a frugal living challenge on January 6th. I know I said I was doing birthday resolutions this year, but one can add to the self-improvement list any time, right?

'Tis the season for baking, and even though I'm generally not a baker, Pinterest (aka pothead's paradise) has inspired me to join in the fun. It doesn't hurt that baked goods make great frugal gifts, an eager three-year-old is itching to lick bowls and help roll out dough, and we also have two preschool teachers to give presents to this week.

We began our holiday baking with some gingerbread men, courtesy of a box of Trader Joe's mix. Every time we cut out a cookie man, Vivi would wave and say in a falsetto voice "Hey there, little guy!"

Making cookies is actually a tradition we started last year with Halloween cookies, and Vivi has loved baking ever since. Check out a shot of her inaugural baking experience:

Munchie-kins! Look at that belly.
I continued the baking (without Vivi) using a recipe I found on Pinterest, land 'o good intentions and plenty a yummy dessert recipe. I quickly found one that fit my only criteria: 1) cheap, 2) easy, and 3) including pretzels and chocolate.

Say hello to salted caramel chocolate pretzel bark. You're welcome.

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Thanks to Legume Loyalist for the recipe. I would share it here, but it's an involved recipe with many steps, and they do such a good job of interspersing pictures in the directions that I recommend going straight to the original source.

I must admit, I was a little skeptical that it was going to work out at a few points in the process. First, when the recipe says to "strafe" the caramel, I'm like "Do what?" so I ask Nate if he's heard it, and he says "Only if you're referring to what the military does when doing air strikes." Yes honey, of course that's what I mean. I am sure they are telling me to air strike this dessert. But nevermind. I decided "strafing" must have something to do with moving the pot around like a maniac in fear that the caramel is about to harden. Even though it looked pretty messy, the magical oven-cooking process totally evened it out.

After strafing the chocolate, I was again skeptical, when it looked so gooey and melty, that it was actually going to harden into bark. See here:

But it too magically cooperated, and after an hour of chilling and some breaking, I had for real bark. I may have found a dessert to dethrone our beloved pretzel M&M's. Nate is not one to sing a dessert's praises, but after sampling it I could hear him doing a  "What About Bob?" routine in the next room. I'm tellin' you what, this stuff is THAT good.

Do you have any fool-proof desserts that you make during the holidays? Spill it! I could use more than one recipe that doesn't include serious involvement on the part of Trader Joe's.

Think our teachers will like their goodies?
Update 12/14/11: I just tried making a two-batch version, and all seemed to be going well until breaking the bark into pieces. One tray was fine, the other chewy. Dunno what went wrong, but it appears I'm still a bantamweight when it comes to baking. Solo batches only from now on for this amateur.

Monday, December 12, 2011

weekend putzing and crusty steak

We had a relaxed, do-nothing kind of weekend. The girls didn't seem to mind the cold, so we romped around the back yard for a bit. I really need to get out there and rake the leaves. Why, oh why, didn't I do it when it was in the 60's? Oh yeah, my rake is busted. Santa, if you're listening, I also need a pitchfork to turn my compost. Pretty please!

Yesterday I decided to try out a technique for getting a brown crust on steak I learned on America's Test Kitchen. Did you know ATK is located right here in Boston? I'd love to go visit and watch them film the show. Total food nerd, I know. Anyway, the browning technique didn't really work, and I've decided it's because I couldn't leave the ultra-thin steak in the pan long enough, which resulted in it sticking to the skillet, creating an uber-mess. But blame the cook, not the technique. I've shared it below.

I was hoping to space out the eating of our newly purchased CSA meat, but instead we've been ravenously consuming it daily, and it will shortly be gone. Hey, it's our first month, and a holiday month to boot. January is the month of moderation, right?

One of the reasons I love doing a CSA is learning about new food ingredients I've never seen. Kohlrabi and beets stand out as the best new-found items from our vegetable CSA days; however, it never occurred to me that we would also discover varieties of meat. Today I decided to cook our flat iron steak, which is a relatively new cut of meat just catching on. Didn't know there were new cuts of meat? Me neither, but apparently the science behind butchering is a many-splendored and layered art. Don't try to put it in a box, people.

I started with a simple marinade in the morning (thanks to Kalyn's Kitchen, one of my recent Pinterest finds), and by the afternoon it was ready for the royal cornstarch treatment. A quick sear in our cast iron skillet, and voila, steak salad is served.

This is becoming one of those food blogs, eh?...

steak salad
serves 2

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1 smallish, cross-cut steak, marinade below (flank and skirt work if you can't find flat iron)
baby spinach
shaved carrots
crumbled gorgonzola cheese
fried shallots, recipe follows
balsamic vinaigrette, made with Good Seasons Italian mix (I know, it's Kraft, but dee-licious)

Marinate steak for a few hours (up to 24) in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon, garlic, dried thyme, dried oregano, and smoked paprika. Remove steak at least 1 hour prior to cooking.

Brown crust technique
According to the masters at ATK, the secret to a brown steak crust is three-fold:

1) Dry, very chilly steak keeps it from overcooking

2) Salt and cornstarch wick moisture and create crust

3) Screaming hot pan/grill keeps it from sticking

I'm adding a fourth requirement: 4) Thick steak.

Pat steak dry with paper towels. Allow to air dry for a few minutes while you mix your rub. Stir together cornstarch and salt in a small bowl (2:1 ratio). Rub mixture liberally on all sides of the steak. Pop steak into the freezer for 15-30 minutes to chill prior to cooking.

Fried shallots
There are probably lots of ways to pull it off, but here's how I do it. For the two of us, I take one palm-sized shallot and slice it cross-wise thinly with my sharpest knife. I pull the rings apart in a small bowl and top them with a few teaspoons of flour. I set up my station with a metal slotted spoon and a plate lined with paper towels.

Meanwhile, my small heavy pot is heating with 3 inches of canola oil over med-high heat to 350 degF (I don't have a oil thermometer but have learned my stove. This is a hit or miss method I don't recommend. Get the thermometer).  Test readiness of your oil with a few drops of water; they should sizzle.

Drop in a few of the shallots and gently stir with the slotted spoon to ensure even cooking and keep them from sticking together. Watch closely, as each batch will only need about 2 minutes. Once browned, remove to towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. Enjoy!

Editor's Note: This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Recipe Lion's March Blog Hop.

Friday, December 09, 2011

breakfast cookies

We like Clif and Luna bars, but they can be expensive and sometimes taste too proteiny for my liking. And have you seen the ingredient list? Vivi loves granola bars (especially the Quaker smores flavor), but I like to cut the sugar by making my own healthier snacks. This recipe was adapted from Ellie Krieger's, with my own substitutions and including some ideas from Cooking Light. If you haven't seen EK on the Food Network, she's a dietician who makes healthy recipes. I sometimes catch her show while at the gym and always come away with great ideas.

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breakfast cookies
makes 9-10 big cookies

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (I like buckwheat or spelt)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
Squirt of molasses
3 Tbs granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup bran flakes (like raisin bran cereal) or unprocessed bran
1/3 cup dried fruit, e.g. raisins, cranberries, and/or chopped figs
1/3 cup chopped and toasted nuts, e.g. walnuts, almonds, or pecans

Oven at 350 degF.

Whisk dry ingredients through salt in a medium bowl. Combine butter, oil and sugars in another bowl; mix for two minutes by hand, or if using a stand mixer, on high speed for 1 minute (you're looking for a lighter color). Add egg, applesauce, and vanilla; beat for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Gently fold in oats, flakes, fruit, and nuts (Warning: Sticky dough! Use an ice cream scoop). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Form balls and use wet fingers to press cookies flat. Bake for 12 minutes until almost set. Let cookies cool 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Editor's Note: This recipe is part of Real Food Wednesday and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Update 1/20/12: Last week I tried adding 1/4 cup of Bob's Red Mill flax seed meal in place of half the all-purpose flour. The cookies came out a bit more loose than usual but still delicious. Next time I think I'll leave the same amount of flour and add a bit of water to balance the meal. I think this will do the trick. Also go try Dinner: A Love Story's breakfast cookies with quinoa, cherries, and almond extract!


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