Friday, December 31, 2010

Leek & Potato Soup: French Fridays with Dorie

I missed my French Fridays with Dorie post last week ... too busy with Christmas activities!  I did not get around to making the speculoos yet, but I'd still like to do that ... maybe next week.  I did make the Leek & Potato soup this week, though.  It was another fairly quick & simple recipe.  I started by sauteing some onions and garlic in a little butter.

After the onions were soft, I basically just threw everything else into the pot ... some salt & pepper, a few springs of thyme, a cubed potato, three leeks, some milk and some chicken broth.  I let it cook on the stove for about 40 minutes, as the recipe states, and then I decided to add a bunch of frozen corn.  My kids & I tried the soup for lunch with a little shredded cheese on top.

I have to admit that I was not super excited about the results.  The soup was too runny, I wasn't loving the thyme, and overall the flavor was too onion-y.  I felt like it needed more veggies or something to kick-it-up a notch!  I left the soup on low on the stove for a few hours and then came back and had some more for dinner.  By dinner time, the soup was thicker, the flavor was so much better and the thyme & onions were no longer too strong.  I still kinda wished I had some bell peppers and another potato or two in my soup, but I guess that would've turned it into corn chowder.  :)

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from My Nest!!

Last week I was busy making Christmas cards.  I still have some on my desk that need to be mailed, but hopefully some of my friends & family have gotten their cards by now.  For my family, I wanted something that would allow me to use multiple photos....

And then I was in the mood to be more creative and do something a little more fun, so looked around for some ideas & made this card for my sister and her family.  I actually like hers a lot better, but I have to remind myself that I wanted multiple photos. :)

Wishing all my Blogging Buddies a

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Carol

On Saturday, my dad planned an outing for the whole family & it was a very nice way to spend the day.  We went to the Hale Centre Theatre in downtown Gilbert and saw the matinee showing of A Christmas Carol.  The production was great & much better than I expected and my kids were very well behaved and enjoyed it as well.  After the show, the whole group went out to lunch.  Great family day!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas Printable Gift Tags *FREE*

Today, I've been working on goodies & treats for Hubby to give to his associates at both his jobs.  Here is a sample of the gift tag that I made: 

If you'd like to use my tags, here is a page (8.5 x 11 inch) with 4 tags on it.  When printed, each tag should come out to be about 3.75 x 3.75 inches. (or about 9.5 x 9.5 cm):

I used a scallop punch that has a diameter of about 3.5 inches to cut mine out, but they could also be left as a square or cut at into a circle shape.  You can glue or tape the tag onto a skewer and stick the skewer into food (something like brownies works well) or punch a small hole in the top of the tag & thread the tag onto a ribbon and attach it to your gift that way.  The possibilities are endless!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Spiced Butter-Glazed Carrots: French Fridays with Dorie

This week I finally got around to making my carrot dish and I'm so glad I did!  I actually served them with the mushroom lasagna that I made last night. The carrots finished quite a bit quicker than the lasagna, even though I started the lasagna much earlier, so I put the carrots on the table with a little piece of foil over them.  My little Turkey kept coming over to the table and swiping carrots. By the time dinner started, he had put a decent sized dent in the carrots!  My boy loves to eat ... I should start a savings account now for his teenage years!!!

The carrots were yummy and were very easy to prepare.  I used ginger, garlic, onion, chicken broth, and cardamom to season them.  I have to admit that I had never cooked with cardamom before last night, but I'm glad I searched it out at the store and tried it.  The smell of it reminds me of cinnamon gum. :)  The only change I'd make next time would be to cut some of the carrots into pieces that are a little smaller because the fatter ones didn't cook evenly.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mushroom Lasagna

Ever since I saw the recipe for mushroom lasagna on Smitten Kitchen's website, I've been wanting to try it. I'm glad I finally made the lasagna last night!  It was delicious!!  I was a little worried about the sauce not having cheese in it, but it all turned-out great.  If I were to make it again, the only change I would make would be to add 1-2 more vegetables.  I don't think I'd want to turn it into a veggie lasagna, but some zucchini or something along those lines would go nicely with the mushrooms and not detract from the flavor.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Proud to Announce....

.... that I am an auntie again!  My younger sister and her husband brought this sweet bundle of joy into the world Monday evening.  A perfect little Christmas package!!  Just wished that they lived closer so I could meet this little guy.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Princess Party for a Princess

This cute girl had a family birthday party nearly a month ago.
 She wanted a princess party with lots of treats to eat!

Her siblings and a couple cousins joined in on the fun ...
as well as some of her aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Since we were going with the princess theme,
we had "Poisoned Apple Cake".

Brownies with Yorks were also on the menu.

So were mini Strawberry Cheesecakes as well as NY-Style Cheesecakes with Butterscotch Sauce.

My mom & sister baked Princess Peacock Molasses Ginger Snaps & Sugar Cookies.

We can't celebrate Peacock's birthday without
Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Bars.  It's tradition.

The Purpalicious Princess Cupcakes were pretty ....
but not so tasty.  Won't be using that recipe again!

We had to have lots of fun purple & pink decorations!!

We enjoyed our Arizona evening out on the back patio with a little fire, homemade hot cocoa, and all our goodies!!  We also had other cheesecakes, chocolate-chip sweet rolls, ice cream, and other delicious homemade goodies.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Sweet & Spicy Cocktail Nuts: French Fridays with Dorie

So, I'm behind this week in my cooking assignment.  {I'll be back-dating this post to Friday just cause I want to be able to find all my FFwD posts on Fridays.}    I intended to make the carrot dish all week, but it never seemed to fit with the meal I was making or I was already running behind at dinner time and didn't have time for one more thing. 

{getting ready to go into the oven}


{just out of the oven}

On Saturday morning, after Hubby went to work, the kiddies & I were lounging around in our PJ's ... not really a good time for a carrot dish, but a great time to try sweet and spicy cocktail nuts!  My three year old Turkey was at my heels the whole time, but this was a great dish for a little kiddie help and there was hardly anything in this recipe that a toddler couldn't do.  He helped me measure & mix the sugar & spices.  He helped whip up the egg white a little bit.  He helped me measure and then coat the nuts.  Once the nuts were out of the oven and slightly cooled, he helped me pick the nuts off the parchment paper and some of the nuts made it to a bowl, but most made it into his mouth.

I was really worried about how the nuts would taste with both chili powder and cinnamon.  {I omitted the Cayenne pepper this time around.} I was pleasantly surprised, but I think I'd still prefer a sweet nut.  They were also a tad too salty for my tastes, but as always, it was so fun to try something different that I wouldn't normally make.  After the kiddies and I got ready for the day, we took some to Daddy so he & his associates could try some nuts and give us their honest opinions.  His front desk lady thought they were perfect.  His assistant thought they were just a little too salty.  The hygienist also thought they were perfect and wouldn't change a thing.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wedding Invitation & Map

A few weeks ago, a special friend asked me to make her wedding invitations.  She & her fiancĂ© came over one evening so we could discuss styles, colors, fonts, wording, etc.  Then I was free to have fun ... I ended up creating 6 different wedding invitations for them to choose from.  Once they had a favorite, I spent another day making variations to their favorite so they had lots of choices.

This is the one they decided to use:

{Please excuse the hearts ...
 I had to block out personal info!}

We made a little map insert using the colors of their wedding ... black, white, & red.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Breakfast Idea: Egg in a Hole

How about a quick-n-easy idea for a fun Christmas breakfast?  You don't have to make this part of your Christmas morning breakfast ... my kids enjoyed this for breakfast earlier this week ... it helped us get in the Christmas spirit.                 

For each person you will be serving, you need:
1 slice of bread
1 egg
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Approximately 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  This is a recipe that's worth getting out the ol' iron skillet for even though it takes more time to clean when done, but any skillet will do.  Put some butter (about 1/2 tablespoon) in the heated skillet and let it melt.

2. While your butter is melting, use a Christmas cookie cutter to cut a shape out of the middle of a slice of bread.  You don't want to cut-out too much bread, but you need enough space for an egg to cook.

3. Place your slice of bread in the skillet and let it soak up some of the melted butter.  Crack an egg into the middle of your bread ... right where you made your Christmas cut-out shape.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper onto the bread & egg while it cooks.

4. After the egg has cooked for a couple minutes, flip your toast & egg over.  This is a good time to add that other 1/2 tablespoon of butter.  I like to toss it in the pan as I'm flipping my toast so the second side has some butter to sizzle in.  Add a little salt & pepper while it cooks.

5. Cook until desired done-ness/brown-ness.  My kiddies don't like runny eggs, so we cook ours until the egg is no longer runny.  I also like to toast the piece of bread that got cut-out and serve that as well.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brownie & Hot Fudge Ice Cream Sundae Birthday Party

Last week one of my laurels, Mary, turned the big 1-8!!  I gathered up some of the other laurels in my class and we went to kidnap Mary for her birthday.  The girls grabbed a blanket out of the back seat of my van and used that as a blindfold. :)  I brought all the girls back to my house for brownie hot-fudge ice cream sundaes.

I used fondue pots for homemade hot fudge & butterscotch sauces.  We also had bananas, strawberries, whipped cream, sprinkles, chopped nuts, candy canes, brownies, and ice cream, of course.  It was fun to be able to spend some time with the girls doing something that we kind of just spontaneously planned and that wasn't church related.  The girls had fun being silly and eating yummy food, too.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

The EVMCO Bells Rang

Whew! What a weekend!!  I feel like I've been running for weeks and now today ... there is nothing that I have to do.  I'll probably start working on returning several phone calls, go through 100+ new emails,  finally finish some of those blog posts that I started but never finished, and begin thinking about Christmas festivities and traditions.

Saturday was a very fulfilling day.  After months of hard work and practicing and rehearsals, the EVMCO performed our Christmas show for two sold-out audiences ... probably about 3,000 people.   The first show went well, but the second show was indescribable ... at least from my perspective.  We were in our groove. :)  My two favorite pieces to perform were I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day and Carol of the Bells. Very powerful and Brett Stewart's arrangements of those pieces are like no other arrangements I've ever heard. I don't know if my head and back have ever hurt so bad after a concert, but I was too happy to care. A special thanks to those of you who came to see us perform (it's always fun to see familiar faces in the audience), who helped me with the kids, and who give feedback after the shows. 

On Sunday, I did something a bit crazy ... well, crazy for me. :)  The Chandler Symphony was in need of a couple first violinists for their Christmas benefit concerts, so I volunteered.  I showed-up to the concert without rehearsing with the group and played two concerts with them.  The first concert went well, but I was sight-reading.  By the time the second concert came around, I was able to relax and really enjoy myself.

Today I'm paying the price of playing four 90+ minute concerts this weekend, but I wouldn't trade it.  I feel rejuvenated.

A funny thing happens after our EVMCO concerts.  I wake up the next morning to photos in my inbox ... just don't know where they come from!! :) 


Congrats to my Penguin, too!  Her choir sang on Saturday night and they did a beautiful job!!  She sang When Christmas Comes to Town and The Polar Express ... both from the Polar Express movie.... and Christmas Bells are Ringing.  The children's voices were like bells and their harmonies were amazing!!

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Friday, December 3, 2010

My Go-To Beef Daube: French Fridays with Dorie

Because we had some unusually chilly days here in the Phoenix area and my sous-chef (aka Hubby) was a around a little extra this past weekend, we decided to go with the beef stew for our first December recipe. 

First of all, we had to buy a dutch oven cause we didn't have one.  (I used a roasting pan to make the roast chicken a few weeks ago, but didn't feel like I had an appropriate dish for this recipe.)  After shopping online a bit, I decided to go with one from Sam's Club ... I think it was around $50 for a 6.5 qt incase anyone is in the market for one. 

I chopped veggies and worked on other aspects of the recipe while my Hubby got banished to the other side of the kitchen with the bloody meat.  There is no way in the world I could've made this recipe without him ... too much handling of meat for me!!  We opted to make our beef daube without any of the alcohol and replaced it all with a nice beef broth.  My stew may have turned-out more water-y/runny, but it was still delish.

I served my stew to my family with leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, which was a perfect go-along.  I was worried that I didn't have enough gravy leftover, but I don't know if anyone even touched the gravy cause there was enough broth in the soup ... I just plopped my potatoes right into my stew.  I also had some homemade rolls in the freezer that I hadn't quite baked all the way, so my daughter got those out and helped me finish baking them.  The rolls were great with the recipe as well!

If you like pot roast or love meat, this is a great recipe for you to try!  If I were to make it again, I'd add more veggies ... maybe some more carrots, a few potatoes, some celery, etc.  My only complaint about the recipe was when we had leftovers the next day, one of the herb flavors (I couldn't tell if it was the rosemary or thyme or both) had become too strong for my tastes.

For the month of December, we get to choose the order that we want to cook or bake each of the December recipes.  It's fun to see what everyone else chooses to do for the week and to see their results.  If you'd like to see what everyone else has done this week, go HERE.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Caramel-Topped Semolina Cake: French Fridays with Dorie

{I'm slow in posting ... busy weekend! :) }

I saved what I hoped would be the best recipe of the month for last.  Cake ... made with Cream of Wheat!  I've always loved Cream of Wheat ... one of my most favorite breakfast items. 

I started making the cake after 8 pm one evening.  It was done & out of the oven by 9 pm.  Very quick & easy and I keep all the ingredients on hand except for maybe a fresh lemon. I made my cake with dried blueberries cause I'm not a huge fan of raisins.

I had two friends visiting late that particular night, so they taste-tested the cake with me.  They both enjoyed the cake and commented several times that it was yummy.  They did comment that the cake was not sweet enough unless they had a bite with a blueberry, which most/all bites did have a blueberry, but maybe something to keep in mind for the future.  I also think my caramel got too much lemon juice cause it was a little too sour.

The next morning, my kids polished off the rest of the cake for breakfast.  My 7 year old requested chocolate chips instead of blueberries the next time I make this cake.  I have to admit I was actually thinking the same thing.  Chocolate would be a very yummy addition!!

Overall this cake was yummy and had great texture.  I think that even those who don't like Cream of Wheat cereal might still like this cake.  If I were to make it again, I'd try a caramel sauce with less or no lemon juice.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wise Use of Leisure Time: Young Women Lesson #43, Manual 2

I do have a Young Women lesson this week, for those of you who are interested.  Lesson 43 is about using leisure and free time as efficiently as possible.  This was a fun lesson to teach.

Instead of having a treasure box with photos of girls participating in different activities, I brought a bag and put things in my bag that represent activities that I like to do.  In my bag I put a piano book, a novel, a scrapbook, a cookbook, and a quilt.

When I was searching for lesson ideas on Sugardoodle's website, I came across this article about time management.  I made word strips and we discussed some of the main points of the article at the end of the lesson. (Minus point #8 in the article ... at the time I was preparing my lesson, it didn't seem like something I wanted to talk about during my lesson.  If you use my word strips in your lesson, #8 is not there, so you will have to also skip point #8 or make your own word strip(s).)

Word Strips for Time Management Article:

Man 2 Lesson 43 Wise Use of Leisure Time - Time Management Tips

Here is the quote from the lesson.  Just print it out and hang on the blackboard at the appropriate time:
(You may want to ask one of your kids to quickly color in the block letters.)
Man 2 Lesson 43 Wise Use of Leisure Time Quote

And finally, a little handout with a quote from C.S. Lewis:

When you cut these out, you can leave them as squares or you can play around with a large paper punch ... squares, circles, something with scalloped edges, etc.    I used a circle-scalloped edge punch that's probably about 3 1/4" or 3 1/2" in diameter to turn my squares into this:

I noticed one of the other teachers brought a nice mantle clock from home to display on her table.  It was a nice touch.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Favorite Things #4

Although I didn't really have anything officially scheduled on my calendar this week, it is turning-out to be another killer of a week.  Today I spent several hours making "rough-drafts" of wedding invitations for a good friend & trying to recover from Peacock's birthday party this past weekend.

So ... back to some of my faves.

I am a girly-girl.  I love wearing make-up and feeling pretty.  If I were going to get myself stuck on a deserted island and could only take a limited number of items, mascara would rank high on my list.  I've tried lots of tubes of mascara in my life, but I'd have to say my favorite, especially for the price, is Loreal's Voluminous Mascara.  It's usually about $7 and can be found at all those regular places we shop ... Target, Wal-Mart.... 

The Voluminous mascara lengthens your lashes, but also adds lots of volume.  Before symphony concerts, our conductors ask us ladies to wear lots of make-up ... more than what we usually wear.  I usually put on about 3 layers of mascara before a concert and I always get lots of compliments on my eyes.  Mascara is always a favorite stocking-stuffer!!

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Pumpkin Flans: French Fridays with Dorie

Because time is of the essence this week, I chose to make the pumpkin flans.  This has to be one of the fastest recipes I have ever made!!  I just dumped a handful of ingredients into my blender, whirled everything around a bit, poured the mixture into ramekins, and then walked away while they baked.  I chose to use some more of the Gruyere cheese that I had in my fridge because I knew my family wouldn't come close to the flans if they had "moldy" cheese in them.

I tried a flan while they were still a little warm.  I liked the flavor better than I thought I would, but I think when we see cute little pumpkin custards, we expect them to taste like pumpkin pie.  I served the remaining 5 flans with dinner.  We put a little honey on them and they appealed to us a little more with some sweetness. My girls didn't care for them at all, my husband ate some, but my little 3 yr old guy was the only one that asked for more.  If you are worried about using the Gorgonzola cheese that Dorie calls for, the Gruyere was great with the flans.  My favorite bites were definitely the ones that were loaded with toasted walnuts and cheese.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dancing Queen

Congrats to my Penguin!!  Yesterday in her ballet class she won the "Ballet Spirit" and "Nutcracker Expert" awards.  Her teacher said that in all her years of teaching, she has never had a student  with so much love and enthusiasm for ballet.  Penguin earned the Nutcracker Expert award because she knows the titles of all the Nutcracker songs. 

Guess I better sign-up that Penguin girl
for more ballet classes.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Favorite Things #3

For the chef/baker in your life or someone who would like to aspire to be one, I highly recommend Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Around My French Table.  Check out French Fridays with Dorie to learn more about all the delicious recipes.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Favorite Things #2

For someone who loves sewing and other crafts that involve fabric, I love my Gingher scissors.  These are special scissors that you hide from husbands and little kids.  I prefer a medium-sized scissor ... something that's not too big and heavy but that still gets the job done.  I'm fairly positive that you can use your 40% off coupons to buy these scissors at Jo-Anns.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

My Favorite Things #1

I think I've bitten off more than I can chew for this coming week.  Too many things going on!  If I turn-up MIA for a few days, I'm just running around with my head chopped off!!

Instead of regular blogging, I thought I might share some of my favorite things.  I know that I'm no Oprah, but hopefully my faves are a bit more practical for us regular people.  Maybe you'd like to do the same by sharing some of your favorites.  I thought it might help spark some ideas for the approaching gift-giving time of year.  So, if you are also up for sharing some of your favorite items in life, please leave your blog link in my comments so we can all check-out your faves.

Today for Monday I'm gonna have to say some of my favorite things are the Ikea plastic dishes for kids.  The fun, bright colors initially caught my attention several years ago while shopping in Ikea.  We have now collected a few sets of their cups, bowls, plates, and utensils.  I keep most of mine at kid-level in the kitchen so the kids can grab what they need and help set their spots at the dinner table.  I love that they wash well and that they can go in the microwave ... great for lunchtime leftovers!!

P.S.  They're cheap too ... each set of 6 (6 bowls, 6 plates, etc) are only $1.99!

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux: French Fridays with Dorie

This week I chose to try the Roast Chicken for the Lazy!  Lazy is about right.  It was a very simple recipe with few ingredients.  I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try cooking the meal without making any vegetarian variations.  I picked-up a whole chicken from Trader Joe's ... my first whole chicken.  I was somewhat surprised by how inexpensive the chicken was, even for an organic/natural one ... but I wouldn't know what to compare the price to since this was my first purchase of one.

My hubby is a huge fan of pot roast & veggies and when we make our pot roast, we make TONS of veggies to go with it because that's what we eat the most of at our house. I already had some large red potatoes, so I used those ... about 3 lbs of them.  I used up some carrots and ended up with about 1 1/2 lbs of carrots in my pot.  I also had my garlic, onion, oregano, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  I love celery with my roast and debated on adding some to my chicken.  I decided against it, but afterwards wished I had that celery to enjoy with my potatoes & carrots.

We put bread down in the bottom of our roasting pan and then placed the seasoned chicken on top of the bread.  (I made my hubby do all the handling of the chicken!)  After the chicken had cooked a while, we added all our veggies, which had been tossed with some olive oil.  The final product was delicious and I even enjoyed the chicken!  The bread that had cooked under the chicken didn't really do much for me or my kids, but I think my hubby enjoyed it.  Next time I'd add more variety of veggies & use less olive oil somewhere along the way.  I could see our family enjoying the recipe again in the future, especially on a chilly day.

Go here to see other participants' results from this past week.

All FFWD recipes are from her new cookbook, Around My French Table.  As participants of this online cooking group, we are not allowed to share the recipes on our blogs, so if you like what you see, pick up your own copy of the cookbook.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Butterscotch Sauce

I had a request from a dear friend for the recipe of the butterscotch sauce that I used on my pineapple cake.  It's an easy recipe to type-up and I actually have no idea where the recipe came from ... it's just one I've used for a long time.  So ... I'd love to share. :)

Butterscotch Sauce:
{I usually double the recipe, but keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way!}

1/2 C Unsalted Butter
1 C Brown Sugar (packed)
1/2 C Heavy Cream
1/2 t Vanilla
Pinch of Salt

*In a small saucepan, melt butter & then add sugar & cream.  While constantly stirring the mixture with a whisk, bring it to a boil.  Once the mixture is boiling, remove it from the heat and stir in the salt & vanilla.

Store extras in a sealed container in the fridge ... it will keep in the fridge for quite a while.

Super Easy!!!!!!!!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alice Medrich's Chocolate Pudding Bars

On Sunday, I was in mood to spend some time in the kitchen.  Since Hubby was around, I had him help me with my FFWD (French Fridays with Dorie) recipe for the week cause it involved raw meat.  More on that Friday...

Saturday morning I helped my mom teach an appetizer/cooking class.  As a thank you gift, my mom gave me my very own copy of Alice Medrich's newest cookbook: CHEWY GOOEY CRISPY CRUNCHY Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.  I was very excited & since it's a very new release, I hadn't gotten my hands on one prior to my mom giving it to me.  I made a stop at Trader Joe's on my way home and grabbed some heavy cream to make some cookies that had already caught my eye.... Chocolate Pudding Bars!

The chocolate pudding bars are delish and a recipe that I'll definitely make again.  The crust is like toffee and then the pudding is about the consistency of cheesecake ... not runny at all.  I made 1+1/2 the recipe and used a 9x13" pan.  Alice recommends cutting this treat into bars or circles using a biscuit cutter.  I tried to cut the circles first and lost the handle to my cutter .... the crust was too hard.  I also couldn't figure out how to get the treat out of the cutter ... it kinda stuck in there and when I tried to gently remove it from the top, the crust broke in several places.  I ended up cutting my bars into squares and they were just as good. :)

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