Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chocolate Crackle Cookies and an education

This weekend we have to make 300 cookies to hand out as holiday packages. They are going in a box with peanut brittle and something else, so they have to be non-peanuty, travel well, and be able to handle a few days of shipping time and still taste good.

After much consideration and a nixing of peanut butter blossoms as being too fragile (they like to lose their kisses), we decided on Chocolate Crackle Cookies.  You know, those delicious chocolate morsels covered in powdered sugar?

We got the recipe from Alan's mom and made a test batch last week.  They were super tasty, but Alan frumped about the house for a while because they weren't exactly like his mom's. Ours were chewy and a little brownie-like, but flat and the powdered sugar wasn't evenly dispersed. His mom's are fluffy and look like what you expect from chocolate crackle cookies, a la Martha Stewart, even though they use different recipes.

Where did we go wrong? We followed the recipe, so we knew that wasn't it. Maybe my baking powder was bad? ....No, I just bought a new container. So I did a little research.

I found some things that I didn't instictually know, like....
* more baking soda = thinner cookies.
*Eggs = puff, so replacing eggs with milk = flatter cookie.
*Butter batters are more likely to spread because butter converts from fat to liquid at a low temperature.
*Crisco, or shortening, melts at a higher temp, so they will stay fluffier with more loft before setting.
*More white sugar in the white-to-brown ratio means a crispier cookie. (I always thought of it as more brown sugar means more chewy)
*Baking powder instead of baking soda adds acid and makes a fluffier cookie.
*Cold dough spreads slowly.
*The smaller the scoop, the more fluff to the cookies.
*Parchment paper absorbs more fat, so use paper instead of a Silpat if you want crispier cookies.
* Silpats retain heat and are not so good if cooking chilled doughs.

So what was a our problem? Oh, a myriad of things. Most notably, I think, are that we chilled the dough for only one hour. It appeared thick and solid, but other recipes I've found have said to chill for at least two hours. Also, I'm thinking the Silpat was partly to blame for the same reason - not cool enough.

I have read in a blog post or two, including the earlier link to Bakerella, that cookies rolled in powdered sugar should be rolled in granulated sugar first because the powdered sugar just melts into the dough when it gets hit with the heat. So if when we make 6 batches of them this weekend we'll try it both ways, sugar and no sugar, and report back. Hopefully somewhere we'll find success!

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
From Alan's Mom (potentially from Taste of Home?)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar for rolling

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler.  Allow to cool but not solidify. Add sugar and oil; mix.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add vanilla.  In separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to chocolate mixture in three installments, scraping bowl between additions. Chill dough at least 2 hours.  Roll about 1 tsp dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar to coat.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Monster Cookies

I made these in high school for some event and they were affectionately nicknamed the "Patriotic Turd Cookies" due to the red white and blue M&Ms and the fact that they're gloopy and kind look like... well, no, they really don't.  That's just Sarah for you.

My mom also made them for our trip to Oregon a few weeks ago and they were gone in a flash.  YUM!!

In case you ever need to make cookies to feed an army, this is the recipe for you. 

Monster Cookies

2 2/3 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1/2 lb butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 tsp karo syrup
1 1/2 lb jar chunky peanut butter (use the "good" stuff, i.e., Jiff or Skippy. None of that Natural crap.)
4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
9 cups quick cooking oatmeal

1 package chocolate chips
1 package plain M&Ms
1 package peanut M&Ms

In very large bowl, cream butter and white and brown sugars.  Add eggs and karo syrup. Mix in peanut butter, baking soda, and vanilla.  Stir until combined. Add oats, chocolate chips and M&Ms. Stir just until combined.

Bake at 350F for approximately 12 minutes.  Do not overbake.

Makes LOTS of cookies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finished Knits

I've been slowly chipping away at this yarn that's been sitting in my stash for a couple of years.  It's big. It's bulky.  Some of the colors are ugly. And I had no idea what to do with it.

Enter the need for instant gratification knitting.  I haven't been working on my striped dolman since the summer, mainly because it's for me and it's now too cold for it anyway, but also because after knitting for two hours it doesn't feel like you've accomplished anything. This crappy yarn that I have is the perfect solution to my dolman problem.

I found a pattern that called for super bulky yarn on really big needles that required.  It's a big loose thing that you call "finished" when you run out of yarn. I finished in about an hour and 15 minutes.  It's that fast. Seriously.

Then I started looking for a hat pattern to go with it since I still had two skeins left. And then I found the pseudo-jester hat.

It's knit in the round, but when you get to the top you don't do any decreasing, then just three-needle bind off the top so it's flat on top with two points.  And you know those points need pom poms. The had used less than one skein.  And you know what eats up a TON of yarn? POM POMS!

BOOM! Hat in about 2 hours of knitting.

For some yarn that I used to call crappy, I think they both turned out really cute. As I was photographing the scarf on the couch it was mentioned that it was reminiscent of the flying carpet from Aladdin.  Totally! Love it.

I have one skein in this colorway left.  Now that I've done a hat and a scarf, I'm not sure how to use it.  I don't think they're enough left for mittens, but since it works up so fast there's no harm in trying.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mummies for Halloween

My mums are blooming, just in time for the spooky holiday.

The mum on the south end of the fence isn't blooming, but it's working to come back from the multiple mowings. The greenery is starting to come back, though.

The cosmos are still blooming.  They've really benefited from some dead heading I did while trying to save seeds.

I planted a bunch of seeds several weeks ago in hopes that they would do something before they got rained out.  I've had to uncover them from under leaves a couple times, but they're sprouting.

I planted radishes and carrots, which are both coming up. I also planted some leaf lettuce.  Either I forgot which row is which or it hasn't sprouted yet.

I also planted a few more kale seeds, but I'm almost positive it's too late to get them to grow into anything edible.  These guys are still kicking along. I just pulled the broccoli from this bed the other day.  Don't know if I'll be trying to grow that again!

The little zucchini that could. This plant got the bushiest leaves of all my summer squash, but didn't start producing flowers until a couple of weeks ago.  I'm fully prepared to pull the rest, but this one might get a few week reprieve, just to see if it will do anything.

I may not have had luck growing squash this year, but someone certainly did! I got my pumpkins from a small farm in Olympia and they were overflowing.  Soon these guys will be carved and lit, waiting for some trick-or-treaters!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Came back from a long weekend away to rain.  It's pretty soggy in Seattle. I squished my way through a pumpkin patch yesterday and came home to a garden that was mostly brown and gray, with a bit of green leftover.  It's now past time to pull the spent plants in the garden. I should have done it last week before the fall rains started, but I got distracted by the upcoming trip. And, some part of me thinks that maybe I can get in one last harvest before I pull everything... Looking at the garden after a week of rain... probably not.  It's time.  Don't let the blooming flowers on the zucchini fool you....

The best thing about the rainy season? It's a dang good excuse to hang out inside and knit!! And when you go outside? You can wrap yourself in all the handknits! Yes!

Finally got some pictures of the hat and mittens I knit for my mom's birthday back in June.  Luckily, there was a bit of sunshine during our weekend at the coast and I was able to get some shots.

Project: Leafy Mitts, by Ruth Stewart
Yarn: Filatura Lanarota Chunky Wool, teal
Needles: US 6, DPN

Project: Seedling, by Alana Dakos
Yarn: Filatura Lanarota Chunky Wool, teal
Needles: US 6, 16" circulars

Last week I needed some instant gratification, and wanted to make some space in the stash, so I made a scarf with some really old, really fluffy yarn, then started a hat.  I had high hopes of finishing the hat this weekend on the trip and taking some pictures, but there was a lot of other stuff going on.

It's a full time job keeping an eye on this little guy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet.  We make it all the time in the fall and winter, pretty much as soon as we can find butternut squash until they're no longer in stores in the spring.  It's a perfect combination of squash that I love, and a squash recipe that Alan really enjoys! For some reason he isn't into the roasted half acorn squash....

Golden Winter Soup
Originally from Cooking Light, passed to me by B.Lee

2 Tbsp butter
5 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
2 cups peeled and cubed potato
2 tsp salt
1 tsp peper
2 cups chopped leek (1 large or 2 smaller)
4 cups broth
1 cup fat free 1/2 and 1/2

Melt butter over medium high heat.  Add squash, potato, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Add leek and saute 1 more minute.  Add broth and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until squash and potatoes are fork tender. Blend with and immersion blender until no lumps remain.  Add more broth if too thick.  Stir in half and half and cook until heated through. Garnish with shredded parm and a sprinkle of thyme.

Its soup, so I'm never too exact with the measurements.  I'll throw in the whole squash if it's on the smaller side, or just the neck if it's a big squash.  If I have potatoes that are just past their prime I'll throw in two instead of just one. I find I like to add a couple of dashes of garlic salt to jazz it up (but I pretty much add a dash of garlic salt to everything). The original recipe suggested some crazy roasted baguette with gruyere thing to go with it, but we're not fancy around these parts - we stick to whatever bread we have on hand slathered with butter and a little garlic salt (see?) and grated parm broiled until brown.  As Alan said last night, the soup makes a really good bread delivery device. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Into the Fall Rains

You know that Blind Melon song, No Rain? That's how Seattle is right now was. We surpassed the 65-year record for July-September. The nice weather was starting to get boring. I kept feeling like I had to go outside. Not a bad thing, but normally by October I'm doing a heckuva lot more knitting. It's weird.

I took these photos last week when the weather was still warm during the days and starting to get cool at night.

I really love this burning bush.  It looks so lush in the spring and summer and is full of "flava" in the fall.  He's definitely on my list to put in when I have my own yard to landscape.

I was sure that I failed at cucumbers this year. I started a bit late and then didn't fertilize soon enough, probably didn't water enough, blah blah blah. I do have one stunted little cucumber. I don't think I should consider that a win though. Still a fail.

This is the only healthy looking summer squash plant I have.  It didn't start flowering until a couple of weeks ago.  I know I should pull all my squash plants because they're so covered in powdery mildew and it's only going to get worse, but... they're all flowering so much I just can't bring myself to do it.  Maybe now that the rain has started I'll grit my teeth and just do it this weekend. But there is a wee itty bitty tiny delicata on the vine hiding under the yellow beefsteak plant...

I have a few tomatoes still on the vine.  I forgot to water them the last week because I was at a wedding then out of town for work, so I probably could have had a few more ripe and ready, but considering I still have two bowls full inside I think I'll be fine just harvesting the rest of the blushing green ones and letting them ripen inside.

This is the little sunflower that could.  He was planted at the end of the fence so he got shaded out by the tree on the corner, and probably got less water than he should have.  He has a skinny little stalk and I wasn't sure if he was going to bloom, but he managed to escape the neighborhood hooligan who has been hacking away at the flowers and has been perky for a few weeks now.  He makes me smile.

The roses from the ORG are kicking butt. They looked a little sad when transplanted, but now they're going crazy with blooms.  I need to get after them and dead head, but they're so pretty when they're in flower!

If you can see past the weeds that are starting to take over, a couple of the strawberry runners I liberated from the MG Demonstration Garden pathway (I tell myself its okay because they were in the pathway and were just going to be trampled or tossed) have dug in and decided to survive. I would love to have this entire patch around the roses and blueberry pots filled in with strawberries. I might finally have enough to make jam... but I would probably eat them as they came ripe instead.  Just like the blueberries.

That's it for the garden.  I'll have to do some work this weekend, but it will just be pulling dead plants and maybe planting some carrots, radishes, and lettuce.  I've done two rounds of fall planting  but I kept forgetting to keep them watered for the first week or so, so I don't think too many of those seeds will come up. With the weather changing, I'm hoping that all I will have to do is sow and weed!

I've been working on a few projects on the sly, but they're not completed so they'll have to wait to be blogged about.  Soon, I tell ya, soon!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

b-b-b-b-beet beet

Last night while watering I found a fully developed and big enough to eat beet.  I've been keeping an eye on it recently since it looked to be almost big enough, but when I pulled it yesterday it still seemed like a big surprise.  It was a full 3 inches round.  With the lack of luck I've had this year with root vegetables, I was kind of expecting the top to look like a 3 inch beet, but the bottom to be all shriveled and inedible. 

But alas! It was perfect. 

My peppers are still growing and growing and growing. I'm waiting for a couple to turn red, but it's hard work.  They look so tasty and I just want to eat them.  I've been holding myself back and only picking the ones that have bug spots on them to eat and letting the really good looking guys keep going.  No hint of color change yet. I may have to give up in a week and just eat them.  Oh darn.

Another sign it's fall - my burning bush is starting to "burn".

I call him Mr. Leany. His main bud may have been picked, but the side guys are starting to bloom.  I can't tell if they make Alan happy or if the just make him mad at the kid who broke off the top.

Unlike the peppers, I couldn't resist the beet last night after dinner.  I immediately roasted him and ate him.

And it was good.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seed Packets

It's still hitting 80 degrees here in Seattle so I hate to say it's almost fall.  The days are still bright and beautiful, but the evenings are getting cooler and the last few days we've had dense fog in the mornings.  And THAT definitely makes it feel more like fall.

But I really hate to say it's fall because that means I'm not going to get much more out of the garden.  I've gotten a couple meals worth of pole beans, a bunch of carrots and radishes, a handful of Anaheim peppers, bushels and bushels of tomatoes, and only one measly squash.  I have four summer squash plants in front of the fence, three more inside, and three winter squash plants, and ONLY ONE STINKING SQUASH. I know it's mostly my fault. I planted a few weeks too late.  I didn't fertilize enough. Blah blah blah.  That's still a ton of plants to only get one fruit. Boo.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my really healthy looking butternut will flower soon (for the first time) and I'll be able to hand pollinate one blossom.  I don't care if it's super tiny when I get to eat it, I just want to be able to eat one out of my garden!!

All whining aside, since it is almost fall, it's also time for most of the flowers to go to seed. I cleaned up my front beds the other day and harvested seeds from my cosmos and poppies. Last night we took a walk through the P-Patch and I gave in to my urge to harvest as we walked.  (If they're already dead it's not stealing, right?) I harvested some nasturtiums, red poppies, and rose campion. Rose campion is all over Seattle, fuchsia colored flowers and silver-green foliage.  I've long admired it, but  wasn't sure if I could start it by seed - guess we'll find out next year!

I had some free time today at work and went about making seed packets.  Not sure how well they'll hold the teeny-tiny little poppy seeds, but I think they should work just fine for everything else.

I'm going to try my hand and tomato seeds this weekend.  I hear it's smelly, so wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I sold my first two pairs of koozies at the Husky game on Saturday! SUCCESS!!

I sold what I like to call the "Charlie Brown" koozies....

... and the striped koozies.

Now I've got the diamond ones...

.....the single stripe (which the menfolk seemed to like)....

...the solid color Ws.

I'm just finished a pair of black ones - one with a purple W and one with a gold W - at work yesterday, so that will leave my stock at 4 pairs for the next game (it's in two weeks, so I might be able to bang out a pair in the field next week) in addition to three hats and a pair of fingerless mitts.

I got a request for a pair of mittens, so I'll be designing those during my lunch breaks this week.  I'm thinking striped ribbing, then purple mittens with gold diamonds, but I may get crazy and change the diamonds to argyle.  Whoa there! 

I calculated that if I can sell three pairs of koozies per game, I can afford my football tickets with my knitting sales! I slacked this first week, so I apparently need to do some better marketing.


This spring there was a request for an adult-sized pair of kid's octopus mittens from a quick knitting book. I had him pick out the specific yarn  because I knew he was picky about his colors.  We ended up with 100% icelandic wool in what I would call eggplant purple and goldenrod yellow.  I tired to guide him to a softer wool with what I thought was more "true" husky colors, but there was no swaying him.  So eggplant octopuses it was to be.

I put off knitting them until recently because they needed my full attention due to the intricate pattern, and I had to sit down and calculate my gauge to determine any pattern adjustments needed to make them adult-sized.

Somehow, magic happened and the first needles I used got me a gauge that would fit width-wise, but was too short length-wise.  The easiest adjustment!! I was able to follow the pattern exactly until I got past the octopus' head, then I added about 5 rows of plain knitting before starting the decreases. 

He likes the end result, but we'll see what happens when it's actually cold outside.  I'm positive they will be SUPER warm, what with all the 100% wool and the extra thickness from the fair isle. Unfortunately, I'm also sure they are going to be very very itchy.  And shed.  I had a full layer of fibers on my lap after knitting each mitten (about 5 hours per mitten, which was one field day each).

I really didn't enjoy knitting with the yarn.  Aside from the crazy shedding, it also was VERY splitty. It's not plied, so it had a tendency to have stray loops. I'd like to say I will avoid using this stuff in the future, but unfortunately he bought two skeins of each color, and the mittens used a bit less than one skein each, so I'll have to use the Lopi for at least one more project to use it all up.

Project: Octopus Mittens, by Elli Stubenrauch, in 60 Quick Knits
Yarn: Reynolds Lopi, 100% icelandic wool, eggplant and goldenrod
Needles: US 10, DPNs

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Garden Update - End of August

It's been a weird summer.  Up to 90 degrees for a couple days, then 60 a week later.  It's hard on me, but I think it's been even harder on the garden.

This is the outside vegetable bed. It has three zucchini/summer squash plants which are potentially doing better than the ones inside the fence, but they're still pretty small.  The pole beans are probably doing the best of everything in the garden.

I've got a bunch of beans that are starting to plumb up, and a ton more flowers.  They're getting too tall for the fence, so we are trying to train them to go across the top.  It's a daily job, but I think it's working ok.

Here are two of the zucchini plants and the smallest of our sunflowers.  They have lots of flowers, but they're all males.  The one female flower that I attempted to pollinate by hand had a slug in it, so when I reached in with the male the dang flower fell off! Slugs.  Bane of my existence.

On a side note, I'm really mad about our sunflowers.  Last Friday I came home from a BBQ to see the one that was blooming bent about a foot down, like someone had tried to break it off by hand but couldn't and just left it hanging there.  Today we came back from running errands and the other sunflower, the big one you can see near the gate in the first picture, was ripped off about 6 inches from the ground! Oh, SO MAD. It wasn't even blooming yet!!  First the tulips, now both of the big sunflowers.  We're pretty sure we know which kid it is, but I'm afraid to confront him in case he starts doing more damage.  Little butthead. What to do?

The leeks keep growing. I've started to pile up the dirt around them to make the white usable park longer. I think we have a few beets that are harvestable size, but I'm scared to pull them. Maybe next week.

These are my sad zucchinis in the carrot bed.  They're just so small and puny.  I fertilized this week, so maybe they'll get a big bigger, but we are approaching the end of the season so I'm not sure...

I left the rest of the carrot/squash bed unplanted so the squash plants could expand over the area.  Big thinking, eh? Not so much.  Maybe I'll plant some more carrots in here since I know they'll be able to overwinter once the squash are done.  You can see my yellow beefsteak heirloom tomato in the background.  It's about 4 feet tall! It's just starting to get wee tomatoes on it.  It was one of the last ones planted, so I'm thinking that this is the bed my 'maters will go in next year.  Must be the most sun in the whole yard.

Butternut squash! Coming along.  Fertilized and hopefully growing quick and big.

These two are delicata.  The one in the front was the best of the bunch, but when I lifted a leaf to fertilize the whole stalk broke off at the base.  It looked like it was rotting, which was really disappointing.  I plopped the whole thing back in a hole with the hopes it would be able to root (ha, fat chance) but one of the leaves is still perky while the rest have shriveled. Maybe the root system will grow, but I'm not holding my breath.  Now all my hopes have moved to the one in the background.  Keeping my fingers crossed I get at least one squash this year!!

The tomato bed is rivaling the beans.  These guys all have tomatoes on them, either orange, pink, or green.  I get about a cup of cherry tomatoes a day, and the romas are starting to ripen.

Caspian pink heirloom, looking plump and delicious.

Ripening romas.

The shriveled tomatoes are starting to plump up and ripen, too.

Last but not least, Anaheim peppers.  I have six plants in pots and they're going bonkers.  I wish I had more cages to put around them because they're so big they're starting to flop over. The peppers are currently a couple inches long.  Putting them in pots was genius, a move I will definitely be doing again next year.  Looking forward to eating these guys!!

Now, off to see what I can harvest today and check for hooligans running around to have a little talk.