Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fun New Cooking Competition Show - The Taste: Tuesday at 8/7c on ABC

For the last few weeks I have been enjoying ABC's new cooking competitive reality show called The Taste. I love competitive cooking shows, and was really excited to watch ABC's new show-The Taste.

The Taste is different than most cooking shows in that the contestants have to prepare their dish in bite sized portions for the judges, and when the judges try the food they don't get to see who prepared the dish.  I love this twist, because it really makes the competition about the actual taste of the food, not the presentation or the personality of the cook.  I think this levels the playing field for the contestants, which are a diverse group of cooks with various cooking backgrounds, from home cooks to professional chefs.  The competition is always pretty exciting.

This weekend I stopped in town to pick up my own set of "tasting spoons", on The Taste, the bite sized portions of food are presented on Tasting spoons similar to these.  I am excited to try them out, and prepare a little tasting evening for my family.

I also found these mini tasting mugs that I thought were so cute, there are whole lines of mini little dish sets available for tasting parties.

Last week my Grandma sent over a few of her old cookbooks she was no longer using, I love looking through vintage cookbooks, I plan on using some of these books as inspiration for little tasting recipes.

I was surprised last week when I got an invitation from Influenster.com to review ABC's The Taste, and join in a Twitter Party (#TheTaste) today to talk about The Taste today before and after tonight's show.   You can catch up on last weeks episode of ABC's The Taste here.  I am really looking forward to tonight's episode, the theme of the competition tonight is Sandwiches, I think it will be very interesting to see how the cooks pull off a great sandwich in one bite.

Have you seen The Taste?  Which is your favorite judge/mentor - Anthony, Nigella, Ludo, or Brian? (I'm rooting for Nigella and Ludo)

Thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Red Velvet Big Fat Cookies

Yesterday I made a fun cookie for Valentine's Week- Red Velvet Big Fat Cookies.  I have made many different versions of the Big Fat Cookie over the years, it is such a wonderful, quick and easy cookie recipe to make, here is the link for The original Big Fat Cookie, and last year I made a Cherry Chip version for Valentine's Day.  This year Red Velvet is every where, on Pinterest a week doesn't go by that I don't see some new Red Velvet twist on a dessert recipe.  So of course I had to try a Red Velvet twist on one of our favorite cookies.

You can make this cookie recipe up in a jiffy, the beautiful red color makes it a perfect Valentine treat.

Red Velvet Big Fat Cookies

1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 a bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large mixing bowl mix together the cake mix, eggs, and water, until combined.  Drop by large heaping tablespoons ( I use a cookie sized ice cream scoop) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (parchment works best, but you could use a greased pan).  Only bake six cookies at a time as they spread out quite a bit.  After you have dropped the cookie dough onto the baking sheet, sprinkle the top of each cookie with chocolate chips, use plenty of chocolate chips on top of each cookie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until no impressions remains after a light touch to the top of the cookie and the edges looked cooked, it is harder to see any browning on the red velvet cookies, but the cookies will resemble a cooked cupcake top.  Remove to cooling rack.

This recipe only makes one and a half dozen cookies, so I always double the recipe so I have plenty for company.  I hope you give this recipe a try. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 8, 2013

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #45 - The Turnip

For 52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #45, I have chosen a Grimm's tale called The Turnip.  I had never heard of this tale until I came across it last year in one of my Grimm's Fairy Tale books.  I love learning new fairy tales, so I thought I would share this one.

The Turnip

The tale begins with two soldiers who are brothers, one is rich and the other is poor.  The poor man decided to better his lot in life, so he took of his red soldiers coat, and became a gardener.   He sowed turnip seeds, and worked very hard at tilling the ground and tending to his plants.  When the turnips started to come up, one was much bigger than the others, and it kept growing bigger, and bigger, and bigger!  It seemed as though it would never stop growing, it was so large it was like the prince of all turnips, and there has never been another turnip so large since.  

At last, it was so big that it filled the cart, and two oxen could hardly pull it.  The gardener was not sure what he would do with this turnip, and whether it was a curse or a blessing.  He didn't think it would be a good idea to sell it, as it would bring no more money than the other turnips, and since the little ones were better for eating, there was no use in eating it.  So, instead, he decided to bring it to the King as a mark of respect.

When he arrived at the King's court, and gave the giant turnip to the king, the king was very impressed.  The king had never seen anything like it, he asked the farmer where he got his seed, and was it his luck that helped him grow it, and if it was luck, that the farmer must be a very fortunate person.  The farmer answered that he was not a very fortunate person, and that he was just a poor soldier turned farmer.  The farmer told the king that his brother was rich, and even the king knew his brother, but he was just a poor man, that no one knew.

( Here is a picture of my felted turnip in a mini wheelbarrow from the fairy garden)

The King took pity on the farmer, and told the farmer that he would be poor no longer, and in fact, even richer than his brother.  The king sent him with gold, land, and flocks, and the farmer became very wealthy.

When the farmer's brother had heard how rich his brother became all because of a giant turnip, he became envious, and decided to think of a way he could increase his fortune.  So he decided that he would get together a gift for the king of gold and fine horses, and if a turnip got such a nice gift in return, he was sure he would be given a much better gift, when the king saw his gift.

The king was very happy with the gift from the farmer's wealthy brother, and he could think of no better way to honor the gift than by giving him the amazing giant turnip.  The farmer's brother was angry, but could do nothing other than bring the giant turnip home, and thank the king.  Soon after, the farmer's brother became so angry that he plotted to have his brother killed!  So he hired some thugs to hide and ambush his brother.

He went to his brother, and told him of a valuable buried treasure that he had heard about, and that he wanted his brother to come along and dig it up with them and share the treasure.  Of course this was a wicked plot to lead his brother to the thugs waiting to capture the farmer.  The farmer had no suspicions of his brother's wicked plan so he followed him, and the wicked men grabbed him, and tied him up.  They had planned to hang him on a tree, but soon they heard someone singing down the path, and didn't want to be caught so they quickly put the farmer in a large bag, and hung the bag from the tree, and so the farmer was stuck dangling in the bag.

The farmer worked to get his head out of the bag, and along came a young man who was a student.  The student asked the farmer why he was in the bag, the farmer told him he was in the "bag of knowledge"  and was learning many great things about the world.  The student was eager to try out the bag himself, and begged the farmer to let him have a try.  The farmer agreed to let the boy try it out, so the student let the farmer out of the bag, and the farmer hoisted the student up into the bag.  The boy asked when he would start learning, the farmer replied that he was learning already, and left the boy to hang there a bit and "learn", he sent someone to let the student down after a little while.

And that is the end of the tale.

I thought that this story was pretty interesting, I do wish there had been some punishment for the wicked brother,and if I was telling this to younger children I would leave out the "trying to kill him" part and switch it to something a little less awful. The ending with the student "learning" by being left in the bag seems a little odd, he was hopefully learning a lesson in being a little less gullible though.  But otherwise I like the idea of the giant turnip, and the poor man making his fortune in farming, certainly a fun thing to think of.

For my craft, I needle felted a turnip.  I love needle felting and have always thought it would be fun to needle felt a set of fruits and veggies.  I decided to blend a few of my pink and purple wools to try and get a more realistic turnip color.  

This was a fun little project, and I was glad to have the chance to do a little needle felting, I hadn't done any needle felting since clear before the holidays.

Here is my turnip out in the garden with a real turnip plant, I had purchased a turnip awhile back at the supermarket, and waited too long to cook it, so it was a bit too soft, but it had sprouted such nice greens, so as an experiment I planted it out in the garden, and it is doing pretty well, I have never tried turnip greens, so I look forward to giving them a try.

I am looking forward to the weekend.  I hope everyone facing the big storm on the east coast stays safe and warm!

Thanks for reading. :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Easy Puff Pastry Cinnamon Palmier Cookies and Garden Planning

This last weekend the whole family had various fun activities.  My son, along with his school Drama group, competed at their regional competition, Gary went along as a chaperone.  My daughter attended the school's fund raising dance to raise money for a local family with a medical need.  Sunday the kids watched the Super Bowl with their youth group, and Gary and I stayed home and enjoyed the game at home with a pizza, some hot wings and an apple pie.  It was a fun game to watch.

Monday I was preparing a snack for our bible study, and I wasn't sure what to make, I wanted something easy that wouldn't make much of a mess in my kitchen.  I had a thawed out box of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry in the fridge that I was going to use for a Groundhog day treat, but since the whole family was out that day I hadn't used it yet.  I had remembered reading that you could use it to make Palmier Cookies, so I thought I would give it a try.  They were so easy to make I thought I would share the recipe.

Super Easy Puff Pastry Cinnamon Palmier Cookies

I started with this recipe from Food.com as a guide, but modified it a little to make it even easier.

Preheat oven to 400 F.


1 box Pepperidge Farms Puff pastry Sheets thawed out according to package directions and
about a cup and a half of cinnamon sugar ( We always have cinnamon sugar made up for toast, add cinnamon to sugar in a small container with a lid and shake until combined, I never measure the cinnamon to sugar, just eye it, and adjust it to taste)

Lay out a sheet of wax paper on your counter, and unfold one of the sheets of puff pastry, shake a good layer of cinnamon sugar over the entire surface of dough.  Then roll the dough from the short end, like you are rolling up a cinnamon roll, but only roll it to the middle, then start a new roll from the opposite side until they meet, you can see from the shape of the cookie the general idea.  Cut into 12 slices.  I then took each slice and pressed each side into a little pile of more cinnamon sugar, so the whole cookie was held together and had a thin layer of cinnamon sugar on the surface.

Place the slices onto a cookie sheet lined in baking parchment paper, bake for 6-7 minutes, then flip the cookies over and return to oven for 4-6 minutes. Possibly flip one or two more times with another 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how fast your oven is cooking them. Make sure they are cooked through before removing to a cooling rack.  You can keep the second sheet of dough chilled in the fridge until you are ready for the second batch, this recipe makes 24 cookies. My first batch wasn't as cooked through as I would like, so I gave the next batch a few more minutes, and they turned out wonderfully. Definitely keep your eye on them as they get closer to being done, the sugar can burn very quickly.

We all loved these cookies, they were so easy to make, and so pretty, I will definitely have to keep a box of Puff Pastry in the freezer, this is a perfect easy recipe to make for company or just a special family treat!


Today I have begun my garden planning, I have been gathering the seed catalogs as they arrive, and thought I would read through the Farmer's Almanac for fun too.  This year I will be devoting more garden space to greens like Kale and Swiss Chard, I am considering giving some root veggies a try again, I love root veggies like beets, turnips and carrots, but I have difficulty with pests destroying them.  Of course I will pick out a few varieties of summer squash, and various peppers.  I have decided to grow less tomatoes this year, we don't eat very many of them, so I will pick out a few special tomatoes to try.  I am also hoping to plant potatoes this year in potato growing bags, which should be a fun addition to the garden.

I love picking out my seeds and plants every year, I am really looking forward to springs arrival and a new year out in my garden!

What are you looking forward to growing this year?

Friday, February 1, 2013

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales Week #44 - The Pied Piper of Hamelin

For Week #44 of my Fifty-Two Weeks of Fairy Tale series I have decided on the tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a short tale with an interesting history, it is worth reading some of the background on Wikipedia's Pied Piper of Hamelin Entry.  The website gives various theories about what might have inspired this story, theories from the plague in which the piper might have represented Death to the medieval Children's Crusade, and other interesting theories.

The story begins with the town of Hamelin being over run with rats.  The Pied Piper, a man dressed in a multi colored bright coat, is called in to lure the rats away with his magical pipe. The town offers to pay him an agreed upon amount for his service.  The piper successfully lures the rats away, down into a river where they all drown. The people are glad to be rid of the rats, but regret having agreed to pay the piper, so they decide to not pay him.  The Pied Pier becomes angry and promises he will be back to get revenge.

The Piper returns on Saint John and Paul's Day (In June), this time dressed in a green hunter style outfit with a red hat.  The adults of Hamelin are in church.  The Piper began playing his magical pipe and instead of rats, this time he lured away the town's children, 130 of the town's children disappeared and were never seen again.  In some versions three children were left, one that was too lame to follow, one that was deaf and couldn't hear the music, and one that was blind and couldn't see to follow, these children informed the town of what happened.  It was said that the children were led away by a piper into a mountain.


In softer versions of this story, The Piper returns the children after the villagers pay him several times the amount of money that they were originally going to pay him.  This story was first recorded on a church window in Hamelin in the middle ages, the rats were not added to the story until the mid 1500's.  Historian's and researchers haven't agreed upon what actually happened, but the story might be based in some truth, which makes it a frightening tale.   You can watch the old Disney Silly Symphonies version on YouTube which is a little nicer.  Although this tale is frightening, I enjoyed it as a child, it was an interesting tale to think about.

This tale was a prime candidate for a paper cutting, to add to my fairy tale scrap book.  Here's how it turned out.

I have really enjoyed making my fairy tale scrapbook during this series, it will be fun to use for storytelling.  When I finish my fairy tale series, I hope to start work on a bible story scrapbook that I can use with my Sunday school class, as well as paper cuttings inspired by nursery rhymes.

What crafting projects are you hoping to do in 2013?

Tomorrow (Saturday Feb. 2nd) is Groundhog Day, here are links to my posts from 2012 and 2010 about how we have celebrated Groundhog Day in the Past.

Groundhog Day 2012   Groundhog Day 2010

I am looking forward to making a special Groundhog Day treat tomorrow, but if tomorrow is anything like today was, a bright sunny very spring like day, I suspect Mr. Groundhog will see his shadow and we will have more winter yet to come, so I will be enjoying this sunshine while I can. :)

Thanks for reading!