Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's a gorgeous day here in Vermont!  The sun in shining, everything is just green and gorgeous from the rain we've had the last couple of days and the lilacs have burst into full bloom.   Here's what I see when I look out the window today:

Yes, that is my Christmas Cactus, blooming in May!  Isn't she beautiful?

I've been lazy all week - reviewed a few books, watched some MasterChef on Hulu+, and found the camera but mostly I've just been recovering from the Baking Marathon last week for a Relay for Life Bake Sale and sleeping far too much due to rain and allergy pills.  About a week ago along about 7 pm my youngest daughter called to ask me if I was still going to help bake for her bake sale.  "Sure" says Grandma . . .  "When is it?"  "Tomorrow" she replied!  

Since I was pretty tired, I figured I would just get up around 4 am (since I'm up then anyway) and bake the cupcakes she asked for.  Great plan, right . . . .  until I got up and read my daughter's Facebook page where she wrote "Forgot to buy vanilla!"  Luckily, Grandma buys vanilla in large bottles and always keeps a spare.  That forgotten vanilla did mean, however, that we had just about 2 1/2 hours to turn out an entire bake sale's worth of cupcakes, cookies and brownies.  Luckily Grandma has several mixers and many bowls!

This was Grandma's  Girl's first experience using the big workhorse of a KitchenAid Stand Mixer that is Grandma's pride and joy.  GG just couldn't stop raving about how fast that cookie dough went together.  (You know what she wants for Christmas, right?)  She used the Original NESTLÉ Toll House Cookie recipe, then mixed things up by substituting M&M's and Heath Bar Crunch bits for the chocolate chips.  Leave out the nuts if you want -

Original NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.
Recipe Courtesy of Nestle

Grandma's Mass Production Cookie Baking Tips:

1.  Feel free to double or even triple the batch of cookie dough.  A big 6-quart KitchenAid like Grandma's  will handle this amount of dough easily.  Make 2 or 3 variations by leaving out the chocolate chips and nuts, then dividing the dough into smaller portions and stirring the extras into each part separately.

2.  Use a  Cookie Scoop  to make portioning out the dough quick and easy while insuring that your cookies are all the same size for a professional look.

3. Parchment Paper is a baker's best friend.  Line your baking sheets with parchment before you start to portion out dough.   Most baking sheets will hold 1 dozen cookies, correctly spaced.  You can reuse a parchment paper liner several times.

4.  You can always look like SuperMom by planning ahead!  Mix your cookie dough, then portion it out on a baking sheet that will fit into your freezer.  You can place the cookies quite close together.  Freeze for 1 hour, then pack the frozen cookie dough portions into a freezer container with waxed paper between the layers and store in the freezer.  These will keep several months.  To bake, remove the number of cookies you want to bake from the freezer, place them onto parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake as usual, adding a minute or so to the baking time.

Great Gadgets!

Grandma loves well designed kitchen gadgets, so when she saw these Magnetic Measuring Spoons in the Housewares aisle a few weeks ago, she grabbed them.  Not only are the spoons magnetic, they are marked with the equivalent metric measurements in addition to US Standard and have both a round and a "pointy" end especially for reaching in jars.  These got a real workout on baking day and saved lots of washing up.

 Oil in spray bottles is so handy for quickly greasing pans & baking dishes but it can get expensive if you buy the  stuff at the grocery.   A year or so ago Grandma's Girl gave her one of these Misto Gourmet Olive Oil Sprayers.  You can fill it with any sort of oil you prefer.  The top acts as a pump to inject air into the cylinder so that you can spray a fine mist of oil wherever you need it.

In Grandma's Mail Box

Grandma is constantly finding good stuff in her mailbox.  Last week it was a "Cookies:  A Fine Selection of Sweet Treats" recommended by Becky.  It looks like that might have been the last copy as Amazon doesn't even have a used copy to show you.  Instead, let me give you a head's up about one of the best cloak-and-dagger's  Grandma has seen in some while!

  There is nothing Grandma loves more than a good mystery, especially one that is also part spy novel with a touch of romance.  Due to be released on July 12, 2012, the book is available for pre-order in both Paperback and Kindle editions!


Asparagus is one of Grandma's most favorite vegetables.  It's asparagus season here in New England, so this lovely veg can be had relatively cheaply.  Fresh asparagus should be brightly colored (unless you are buying white asparagus) and have tips that are tightly closed.  Tips that have started to open indicates that the asparagus is old or was picked past its prime.  Use older asparagus for stir fries, soup or frittata where appearance isn't as important.

The quickest, most scrumptious way to serve asparagus that Grandma knows is Roast Asparagus.  Trim the bottom 1/2 inch or so from the asparagus stalks.  If they are thick use a vegetable peeler to peel the last two or three inches of each stalk.  Place the stalks on a foil covered  baking dish (or just a piece of heavy duty foil if you are going to grill your asparagus), add a few drops of olive oil - tossing to coat - and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.  Roast at 350 about 10 minutes until the asparagus is cooked through or place the spears over a grill, still on the foil, for about the same amount of time, tossing every minute or two to keep the spears from sticking.  Absolutely DIVINE - and best eaten with your fingers!

Here's another of Grandma's favorite asparagus recipes:

Asparagus and Leek Frittata

1 leek*, white and light green parts, sliced thin
about 1/2 pound of asparagus, ends trimmed, then cut into 1.5 to 2 inch lengths
5 or 6 mushrooms, sliced thin
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated or diced cheese - Monterey Jack or Fontina are both nice
~ 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1 or 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

Saute the leeks, asparagus and mushrooms in the butter/oil over medium heat in a heavy 8 or 9 inch skillet.  Grandma likes cast iron, but anything that you can put under the broiler will do.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.  Pour the eggs over the vegetables, lifting the egg as it cooks.  When the egg is nearly set sprinkle the cheese over the top, then place the pan under the broiler (or in a 450F oven) for 3-5 minutes until the frittata puffs and the cheese is golden.  Serves 2 or 3, makes a delightful brunch or meatless supper dish.  Wonderful served at near room temp too.

*To clean leeks, cut off the top of the leaves where the leaves begin to fan out and either discard them or save them for the stock pot.  Cut through the middle of the remainder with a heavy knife.  Run the leeks under cold water, using your fingers to separate the layers, making sure that you've rinsed out any hidden dirt.  Slice the leeks across in pieces about 1/4".  If the leeks are quite large you may want to quarter them before slicing.



  1. I have belonged to a gardening blog on livejournal for years, found out today my pictures have been stolen and put on I am so angry. I love your Christmas cactus, but alas, will no longer be posting public pics of my plants, they even stole a picture of Izzy! my dog!


    1. I hope you've sent them a copyright violation notice Becky. That is why so many people put a copyright notice or URL right across the middle of the picture.


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