Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fluffy Frosting

My people are not big on icing.  Let me be specific.  My people do not like butter cream icing.  It is so sweet you can almost detect the sugar granules (I'm sure some people think that is the best part).  As a result, I only made cakes topped with chocolate frosting, not necessarily a bad thing, but a little monotonous. 
A few years ago, for my daughter's fourth birthday, she wanted a blue cake...  hmph.  I scanned the internet and came across one of the best recipes I have ever found.  Jello cake.  The cake itself is not such a big deal (even though it is good).  The frosting, is the real story.  It is smooth and creamy and light.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  It can be made in any flavor instant pudding you can find.  It only takes four ingredients and all you do is dump them in and turn on the mixer.  Uh-may-zing.

Fluffy Frosting

1 envelope Dream Whip
1 pkg. instant pudding (4 serving size)
1-1/2 c. cold milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Dump everything in a mixer bowl.
Whip on high speed until fluffy, like light pudding.

That.  Is.  It.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chocolate Chip Crunchers

Here is another of the recipes my grandma brought me from her book.  These were by far my family's favorite.  My husband who is a man of few words said they "are good... really good".  If you knew him you would understand that meant they might possibly be the best cookie he had ever eaten.  One thing I did find was they are best the first day they are made.  The cornflakes hold their texture really well, but after a day or so, get more of a stale crunch with chew texture.  Don't get me wrong!  That did not stop me from eating them, I just wanted to give you the heads up.  Happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Crunchers
1 c. butter, melted
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
2-1/2 c. flour
2 c. crushed cornflakes
2 c. chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a large pot.
Add in the sugars and stir, set aside to cool slightly.
Once the mixture is cool enough, stir in the baking soda, salt, vanilla and eggs.
Fold in the flour, followed by the cornflakes and chocolate chips. 
Chill the dough until firm.
Roll into walnut sized balls and flatten on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. 
Cool on sheet 2 minutes then move to a wire rack and cool completely.

Mondays With the Maid... on Tuesday

So yesterday was a little hectic.  Seven loads of laundry, bathroom cleaning, Kumon, homework and a trip to urgent care hectic.  Long story short, I forgot Monday's with the Maid.  So here it is Tuesday and I owe you.
I saw this great printable for a cleaning schedule on Pinterest.  I never understood how some people's homes were always clean.  I think this might be the secret.  Unfortunately, it did not fit my needs, so I decided to make my own.  After about an hour, I realized I have forgotten EVERYTHING I learned in my high school computer class.  I am sure I can and will figure out how to make a spreadsheet with only four columns and two rows, however with a cranky toddler and laundry to finish, today is not that day.  So, I did what any one lacking the proper computer skills would do (such as my grandmother, only one of them, the other could probably have it figured it out), I did one by hand and scanned it.  In your face technology!  Here is my basic form:

I wanted to give you a blank version in case you were so impressed you felt the need to print it out and use it as your own (I do realize that possibility is slim).  I work Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, so I plan to keep those days basic with the heavy cleaning done on the other days.  The schedule you saw above, had the dishes and clutter being done every day which I thought was a great idea.  Here is how I organized my days:

I am going to make a nice printable version for you to fill in yourself.  Hopefully by the end of the week.  No promises though!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherry Delights

I do my grandmother's hair every week.  Frequently, when she comes in, I have baked goodies to share with her.  She lives alone and baking can be a very dangerous sport when you are the only one available for consumption.  For the past few weeks, she has been telling me about a book she was reading.  The main character is a baker and they actually give some of her "world famous" recipes in the book.  Some of them, my grandmother told me, sounded really good.  Then, this past week, she brought me copies she had made of her three favorite cookies in the book.  Subtlety is not my family's strong suit.  What's a good granddaughter to do?  Make the cookies of course.

All the recipes were easy to put together, no mixer required.  All of them were yummy, but this was the most unique of the bunch.  It was also my grandma's favorite so I had to post it first.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Delights
1 c. melted butter
2 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. cocoa powder
3 c. flour
2-10 oz. jars maraschino cherries (I needed more)
2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk

Melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan.  As soon as it's melted, take it off the heat and
add the sugar.  Let this cool a bit.  You are adding eggs to it and don't want to scramble them.  Don't cool it to room temperature or the sugar will begin to recrystallize and you will have to re-warm it.
Once cool enough, stir in the egg.
Followed by the baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla.
Stir in the cocoa and the flour. 
The dough will be very stiff and a little crumbly.  Chill till firm.
While dough is chilling, pour chips and milk in a small saucepan.  You could do this over a double broiler, but I'm lazy so I warm it gently over low heat and stir the whole time.  I used semi-sweet chips and they seized up as they melted so I had to add some cream just to smooth it out. 
As it melts you will add some of the cherry juice to thin it out to a nice consistency.  You want it thick enough to dollop on the tops of the cookies without having it run down the sides, almost like frosting.
Once the dough is chilled, roll it into walnut sized balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Make a deep indent in the center of each cookie with your finger.
Add a cherry to each indent and top each cherry with a dollop of chocolate sauce.  Be sure to cover the cherry but don't let it run down the sides.  I used a small spoon to smooth mine around. 
Now bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack. 
This recipe will make about 5-6 dozen.  These taste just like a chocolate covered cherry. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Easy Fried Rice

My people do not like to eat leftovers so I have learned to disguise them, otherwise I get the stink eye.  Sometimes I can sneak them into my husbands lunch with no complaints, but not often.  Last weekend we went to our favorite Chinese restaurant and ended up with quite a bit of leftover white rice.  Of course I couldn't just leave it there, all alone, with no one to love it.  The next day I had to give it a make-over so someone would eat it (they're flighty) and what better way than fried rice. 
This is a VERY versatile dish.  You can use any left over rice, brown, white, jasmine, whatever.  Add whatever veggies you have on hand or even chicken or steak.  It is a great way to clean out the fridge and trick everyone into thinking you worked really hard!

Fried Rice

leftover rice
leftover or fresh veggies
leftover chicken or steak (optional)
soy sauce 

This is not so much a recipe as a technique.  All the ingredients and amounts at your discretion.  I will tell you how I did mine and give you some tips and ideas along the way.  First heat up some vegetable oil in a non-stick pan or wok over medium high heat until shimmering.  If you are using left over, pre-cooked vegetables heat the oil to smoking.
I used fresh veggies, so they had to cook a little.  I wanted my oil just to shimmering so I could cook them longer and not worry about them burning.
Add the vegetables.  If using fresh stir them frequently and cook until done.  If using pre-cooked veggies, stir constantly and heat through. 
Toss in the garlic and stir constantly about 30 seconds.
Add in the rice.  I used frozen peas and they cook quickly, so I added them at this step too. 
Now is when you would also add the cooked, left over meat.  Crank the heat up to high and start stirring.
Try to break up all the rice as you stir.  Add in some soy sauce.  You could also add pepper flakes or ginger if you wished.  My people would not have liked me.
Once everything is hot, scoot it to the sides and make a spot in the center.
Crack an egg in the center and start stirring in immediately, keeping as much of it out of the rice as possible.  Scramble it up into small pieces.
Then stir it into the rice.  Check the seasonings and add more soy sauce if necessary.

So yummy.  Maybe I'll come up with a good spring roll recipe to show you to go with it!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mondays With the Maid-best cleaning product ever!

So.  It is time for the first official installment of Monday's With the Maid.  As promised I am going to share my favorite cleaning product with you.  You will be a little shocked and probably not believe me.  It's okay.  It's happened before.  But let me tell you, everyone I have ever told about this product who has tried it became a believer.  You will too if you give it a chance.  Here it is:

Notice it is almost gone?  I use it for everything.

I first heard about this cleaner many, I mean a couple of years ago when I first started doing hair.  Hairstylists use it to get color out of their clothes.  I started using it for that purpose and then figured if it got color out it could probably do anything.  So it became a personal quest to see what all I could accomplish with this product.  The maker has some suggestions:


It is meant to be diluted a certain amount for different uses.  All are listed on the back of the bottle.  I am a no nonsense kind of girl.  I generally use the stuff straight. 
This stuff is... well... awesome.  They named it well.  I have used it on any kind of stain a husband or child or pet can make on clothes (my husband is a chemical engineer so he can make some pretty interesting stains) or carpet or upholstery.  I have removed Sharpie from carpet without damaging the rug.  I have gotten poop and vomit stains out of carpet and clothing.  I use it with my carpet cleaner on hard to get out spots and pee pee smells (gross).  All I do is spray it on and using a shoe covered foot, rub it into the spot.  Then I wait a few minutes and do it again.  I run over it with my carpet cleaner filled with clean hot water and 99% of the time a miracle happens.
Here is the really incredible part.  It is sold at dollar stores for $1.  That's right.  A buck.  Insanity.  You can also pick it up at Walmart.  If you have people or pets I highly recommend getting this and starting your own personal quest to see what you can remove with this awesome (groan, I know, I had to) product!

Friday, March 2, 2012


So today was going to be the first day of Fitness Fridays.  However, I feel like crap and don't necessarily feel like getting my picture taken doing some sort of humiliating muscle toning move.  So, Fitness Fridays will begin next week.  Today, I am posting a recipe I found in my newest issue of Cooks Illustrated.  If you are a foodie and don't already subscribe to this magazine, you should.  They take recipes and perfect them.  Sometimes it's worth the effort (like this granola) sometimes it's not (the steps they use to make refried beans is ridiculous). 
This granola is amazing.  If you like granola and have never made it yourself, you should try it.  It is easy and totally worth the effort (not to mention it is soooooo much cheaper).  You can also easily change the ingredients to what you have on hand (as I did), or to suit your tastes.  Try it cold or hot in milk, on top of yogurt or just by itself out of hand.  It is crispy and slightly sweet and nutty... and wonderful!

1/3 c. maple syrup (not pancake syrup, there is a BIG difference)
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
5 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (I have never found a container that says "rolled" only "old-fashioned")
2 c. nuts
2 c. dried fruit

Whisk together maple syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.  I also added about 1 tsp. cinnamon because I like it.

Next whisk in the oil.

Fold in the oats and nuts until thoroughly coated.  I used half sliced almonds and half chopped walnuts.

Pour into a rimmed baking sheet that is lined in parchment paper.

Press down with a spatula to compact the granola into a solid type layer.

 Bake on the upper middle rack at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Break apart into pieces and stir in dried fruit.

Beautiful.  A thing of glory.