Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn

Just as the petite, raven-haired Scarlet O’Hara raised a clenched fist to the Heavens and swore she’d never go hungry again, so, too, have I fervently declared a promise to the blue skies up above.

Only my declaration of independence wasn’t about food or a lack thereof.  It wasn’t about the skyrocketing price of just about everything these days, nor was it about neighborhood cats that use my front yard flower box as their toilet.  Although, don’t get me started on that one.

No, my recent double-fisted call to arms had to do with . . . trash bags.  Specifically, the kitchen variety trash bag.

“As God is my witness, I will never buy cheap kitchen garbage bags again,” I think is how I put it today, out loud and to no one in particular, as I attempted to change the trash bag in the kitchen.  Borrowing a line from the film, Gone With The Wind, where Scarlet rose from the ashes of devastation as only she could, I made a pledge that no matter how bad my financial picture gets I will find a way to buy decent kitchen garbage bags.

I have had it with wrestling inferior, thin plastic bags into some tiny speck of submission as I work my way into a frenzy — and possibly an aneurism — trying in vain to tie the ends into a knot in an effort to secure my spoils.

Oh, sure, I could try not cramming so much garbage into one bag, but then I’d just dredge up that old wasting money debate.  (I’m sure dear old Dad rolls over in his grave every time I pluck another paper towel off the roll or pop another plastic trash bag under the sink.)  Why should I have to use three bags instead of one, simply because the bags are inferior?  My mind began to wander . . . how would the cost factor differ between the cheap bags and the sturdier, more costly bags?   If I buy cheap bags, but use three of them to every one of the more expensive bags, isn’t it better to just buy the higher priced ones to begin with?  Ugh.  That sounds like one of those math problems that requires a lot more thinking than I’m willing to invest right now.  Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn.

Several moments of sheer frustration could be read like a road map on my furrowed brow as I muttered to myself, “Why does it have to take me 10 minutes to bundle up the damn bag and take out the trash!?”  There go 10 minutes I’ll never see again.  I vowed right then and there to find some way to justify spending the big bucks on the better trash bag — if only to save myself precious moments in life.

Let’s face it.  In our lives, no matter how much money we have, there are things we’ll skimp on and things we’ll refuse to skimp on.  For instance, when it comes to printer paper and garden fertilizer, I’m OK with the bargain brand.  But things like fresh fruit, chocolate, toilet paper — and, now, kitchen garbage bags — are off limits to any bargain hunting.  I simply must have the freshest, best, most reliable or I’m not going to be happy.

It felt good to make that hard and fast decision today.  If nothing else, I have conquered that tiny part of my frazzled life.  Not wasting any more time with that one, I thought, as I clapped my hands together as if brushing off the dust of decaying lousy plastic bags of my past that in their day had me near tears.

What helped me shake off the bad mood implanted by the uncooperative kitchen bags was the fact that today is National Peanut Butter Cookie Day.  Yep.  I shared all of the above just to get to cookies.

Now, when it comes to my large stash of recipes, I’d say my peanut butter/chocolate chip

Ready for the oven . . .

cookies are the most requested by family and friends — especially my niece.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every batch of peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies I’ve made over the years, I could make my mortgage payment this month — along with the late fees that have been piling up like warm, fragrant cookies on a party platter.  Suffice it to say, these are good.  Real good.

Because that’s another thing I’ll never skimp on — ingredients for the cookies that my soon-to-be-college-bound niece loves so much.  I buy the best peanut butter, the best chocolate chips, and I make sure the eggs are extra large and very fresh.

Life is too short to waste time wrestling with something that’s on its way to the county landfill.  That’s time better spent in the kitchen whipping up something delicious for someone who will soon be several hundred miles away.  And life is definitely too short to not enjoy a cookie now and again — especially with someone you love.  Do it while you can.

PEANUT BUTTER/CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (to die for)

This is my version of a Betty Crocker recipe I read years ago.  I’ve taken liberties here and there, such as doubling the original recipe, because, who are we kidding?  These are good cookies, you’re going to want a lot of them on hand.  I’ve also played with the amount of flour because I like a thicker, more cake-like cookie here, and, though I’ve used milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and even mini M&Ms, my favorite is Ghirardelli’s bittersweet chocolate chips.  The flavor combination of the dark chips and the sweet peanut butter is . . . well, to die for.  This recipe makes about 40 cookies, depending on the size.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons peanut butter (I use only creamy Jif, because I think it has the best flavor)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed, dark brown sugar (I think dark brown sugar has a deeper flavor)
  • 2 extra large eggs (they don’t need to be room temperature, as is usual for baking ingredients, because you’ll need to chill this dough before baking the cookies)
  • 2 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • One 11 or 12 oz. package dark, bittersweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix well with a whisk.

In a separate, large bowl, combine the butter and oil; add the peanut butter and mix well.  Add the sugars and blend until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir vigorously, fully blending the eggs into the mixture.

In small batches, fold the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture and blend.  Add the chocolate chips, and evenly distribute within the cookie batter.  Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours to enhance the flavors.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  (Now is when you’ll want to put a big glass of milk in the freezer!)  Using a small ice cream scoop or large tablespoon, drop rounds of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 9 to 13 minutes (depending on your oven and the size of the cookies), or until edges are light golden brown.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing from the cookie sheet to cool completely — or to pop one in your mouth!

Posted in Comfort Food -- Sweet, Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

In Defense of the Nontraditional Mom

I passed a milestone of sorts a few weeks ago.  I’ve been at this blog for a little over a year now.  And I can’t believe how fast that year flew by!

This blog started out and continues to be a labor of love for me, a floating life preserver within reach, giving me solace, hope, and joy.  It is also a reconnection to my heritage, my childhood, and the people and things that made me who I am today.

Mom and Deb, celebrating Mother’s Day in 2006.

One of my earliest posts here was on Mother’s Day, where I wrote a little something about my mom, who passed away a few years ago.  She was a traditional mom in nearly every sense of the word.  Unlike her own mother, who preferred the working life to fussing over babies and such, my mom truly loved to bake for her family, jumped at the chance to babysit the grandkids, and would’ve been perfectly giddy if we’d all lived happily on the same street until the end of time.  She was, as the saying goes, very motherish.

I fall somewhere between Mom and Grandma.  I’m what you’d call a nontraditional mom.  No one calls me mom, but I have had children.  Fur children.  Well, dogs, to be exact.

Oh, sure, I can see the rolling eyes from here.  What gives me the right to lump myself into the elite club called motherhood when I’ve not had and/or raised human babies?  Yeah, like that’s all it takes to win Mother of the Year honors.   The line between traditional mom and nontraditional mom is quite faint, actually.  Our similarities are striking.

If our fur children pooh, do we not clean it up?   If they make a mess with their toys, do we not pick it up?  When they catch the Frisbee in mid-air, do we not beam with pride as we cast a glance of pity toward the other mothers at the dog park?  If they are sick, we see the doctor.  If they are bad, we punish.  If they are good, we reward.  If they run out into the street, we pull hamstrings running after them in slippers.

When we give them pills, they spit them out — along with the $2 worth of cream cheese that failed at tricking them into thinking it was just a yummy treat and nothing more.  And whenever we can, we arrange playdates so our little ones can learn valuable social skills, like how it’s not polite to nibble on your own pooh and then try and grab a kiss from a visiting dog mom.

The visiting Kate, on a playdate in our backyard. Just like Club Med.

OK, there are some differences.  Instead of watching my kids splash around in a tub filled with warm water and bubbles, I watch the dogs bounce in and out of the blue plastic kiddie pool on the lawn.  And, while I am lucky that I don’t have to go through driver’s training with a teenager who can’t quite master the brake pedal, I have had to delicately carry on a conversation with a less-than-amused traffic cop while a large, hairy, black dog barked incessantly over my shoulder from the back seat.

But I’m telling you, when you add in the fact that I don’t have to come up with iPads, prom dresses, first cars, and college funds, I’d say my life as a nontraditional mom is pretty rosy.  And fulfilling.  I am loved and adored daily — without having to first hand over $20 and the keys to the car.

Kate and Skipper, on a playdate, keeping a watchful eye on the squirrels.

So, to all the moms out there — traditional or non — I tip my hat and wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day. We are one in the sisterhood of love and loss, heartache and joy.  We are all mothers in spirit.

To fellow nontraditional moms, Suzanne, Lynn, Paula, Angela, Sandy, and Ali, enjoy your day.  You probably won’t get flowers, but at least you didn’t have to gag your way through a breakfast in bed of green and brown eggs.

And to so many wonderful traditional moms whose unique wisdom and support can move Heaven and Earth: rejoice in the labors of love you’ve created, nurtured, and hopefully motivated toward an affluent future and a house big enough for a room for mom some day.  Women like Debbie, Arline, Michelle, Jo, Teresa, Beth, Dixie, Susan, Jeannie, Marti, and Karen.

And especially my sister, Deb, who within days will watch her son and daughter graduate from high school and head out into the world on their own.  At least I don’t have that worry!

Today, for our Mother’s Day celebration together, I made lemon cake with berries for Deb, a tearfully joyful woman whose unwavering devotion to her children was evident even before the grainy, black and white picture revealed two hearts beating inside one.

LEMON CAKE

This is an Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa (Food Network) recipe, and it is easily the very best lemon cake I’ve ever tasted, hands down.  Another plus: this recipe makes two cakes — one for you and one for your mom.  It is perfect for brunch or to top off a spring dinner of roast leg of lamb and fresh asparagus.  I like to serve it with freshly whipped cream and berries.  Don’t skimp on the lemon zest — it is the best part of this cake.

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (from 6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, and an additional 3 and 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (for the glaze)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two (8.5 by 4.25 by 2.5 inch) loaf pans.  You may also line the bottoms with parchment paper, if desired.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.  Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a wire rack over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them.  Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze: Combine the 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar and the 3 and 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth.  Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Posted in Brunch Favorites, Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Fiesta Food For Thought

I know it’s going to be a strange day when I find I’m having trouble composing a simple email.  As a writer, when my fingers merely loiter over the keyboard, and my mind stumbles over sentence structure in a quick note to a friend that only needs to say Happy Birthday — I know it’s going to be a long day.

That’s about the time I cut to the kitchen.  Or the laundry room, or the backyard for the unpleasant but necessary dog-pooh round-up.  That’s my usual attack on a day that drags on and on with no visible signs of accomplishment — get out of that room and do something else.

Reinventing my day in the middle of a writer’s block is the smart thing to do, I’ve found over the past year or so.  It saves me hours of frustration and the subsequent mental scolding I’ll give myself over dinner for a day that came and went with nothing to show for it.  Who needs that kind of drama in an already unforgiving world?  The kinder, gentler approach wins me over every time.

Kudos beat scolds any day.  Just ask a mischievous preschooler or underappreciated worker bee.  A big pat on the back to me for starting the laundry early, rather than 30 minutes before I wanted to wear my favorite capris, for watering the lawn first thing in the morning before the allergen-thick breezes kicked in, or for picking up the dog-pooh before I’ve stepped in it moving the sprinkler around the yard.  That’s motivation that gets results.

And since it is Cinco de Mayo, I’ve another legitimate reason to play in the kitchen — as if I needed more convincing.  May 5th is a big foodie day — no matter what food website you frequent.  It unofficially begins the outdoor fiesta season, where colorful platters of fajitas and bowls of guacamole will soon give way to burgers and ribs on the barbecue.  Bring it on!

Normally, I’m not big on Mexican food, at least not in Mexican restaurants where I tend to eat about a gazillion chips with salsa before my meal arrives, leaving me bloated for the rest of the night and sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.  But fresh, reinvented Mexican food from humble home cooks who love to put their family’s unique touches on traditional fare?  Well, that’s a reason to celebrate right there.

When Dad was craving Mexican, my mom made soft tacos with ground meat, all the fixins, and corn tortillas quickly cooked in Crisco in a cast iron skillet — only about 15 seconds so they wouldn’t get crisp.  But if mom was planning a menu for company or visiting relatives, her chicken tortilla casserole took center stage on the dining room table.

A thick, hearty, cheesy concoction that is easy and quick to assemble, thanks to the convenience of store-bought products such as canned soup, packaged shredded cheese, and the glorious precooked rotisserie chicken.  I’ve added or changed up ingredients here and there over the years, or experimented with different cheeses, but mom’s original recipe has basically stayed the same for more than 35 years.  It’s a great addition to any Mexican fiesta buffet, and the memories that come flooding back to me as the aroma of this baking casserole fills my kitchen is the best part of the meal.

However, I didn’t eat my home-baked tortilla casserole tonight — but that’s OK because it is actually much better a day or two later and freezes beautifully.  Instead, this Cinco de Mayo, I met friends for dinner at . . . get this . . . an Asian restaurant.

Makes perfect sense to me.  I do like margaritas, but I love mai-tais.  Just think of it as Cinco de Mayo, Reinvented.

Can Asian-infused tamales be far behind?

 

CHICKEN TORTILLA BAKE

For our family’s take on this comforting classic — a dish that some would call a Mexican lasagna — I start with a good old, reliable precooked rotisserie chicken — although my mother’s original recipe called for roasting four large whole chicken breasts ahead of time, which also works just fine.  But for my money — which I’m watching more carefully these days — you can’t beat a Costco rotisserie bird right out of their massive ovens.  At about twice the size of a grocery store rotisserie chicken, and much tastier in my mind, these big birds will have you doing a delighted double take at the price tag.  They are one of the best buys in town — as chicken is so versatile, so reinventable.  But don’t spread that around, we don’t want the Costco folks to up the price on us! 

  • 4 large whole chicken breasts, bone-in — or the breast and thigh meat from a large precooked rotisserie chicken
  • 1 can drained black beans (Mom never used these, but I added them for color and to up the nutritional value)
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1 can of milk  (I used Half&Half because that’s all I had in the fridge! Oh, darn!)
  • 1 small can mild diced green chilis
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas
  • 1 yellow onion, grated (Believe me, grated beats chopped here because grating produces the deliciously flavorful onion juice.)
  • Two 8-oz packages of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I sometimes do half sharp cheddar and half Monterey Jack)
  • Salt & pepper and olive oil (optional)
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Begin by buttering a 9×13 baking dish, and set aside.  If you’re cooking your own chicken breasts, sprinkle them with the salt and pepper, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, wrap in foil and bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.  Cool, debone, and cut the breast meat into bite-sized chunks.  If using the rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and debone the breasts and thighs, and cut into chunks.

Cut tortillas into strips, about 2 inches wide.  In a large bowl, mix soups, milk, onion, and green chilis, and add a few drops of hot sauce if you like the heat.

In your prepared baking dish, layer the tortilla strips, chicken, beans, sauce, and cheese — and repeat.  Top with the last of the cheese and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.  (Great make-ahead dish for a dinner party.)

Bake at 325 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes.  Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving.  Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, or finely chopped tomatoes and a sprinkling of chives.  Serve alongside a bowl of chips and guacamole, a fresh fruit platter, or a lightly dressed green salad.  Fiesta, baby!

Posted in Chicken / Poultry, Comfort Food -- Savory, Entrees | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

After a few foggy moments staring at my computer screen this morning, I decided to take a motivational walk through the neighborhood.  Zipping around the elementary school, I don’t know where it came from but I started to hum the Rolling Stones song, You Can’t Always Get What You Want.  As I pictured in my mind that scene from the iconic 1983 film The Big Chill, where that song was the background music at a funeral, I started to mouth the words in breathy synchronicity.

“You can’t always get what you want . . . you can’t always get what you want  . . .  But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need . . . ”

Which got me to thinking about all the things people want and need in life.  We want love and happiness, money, stability, health, security, yada, yada, yada.  And some folks want fame and fortune, along with all the goodies that fame and fortune brings.

But if my crushing economic slump has any noteworthy meaning, it is that it’s got me rethinking my perspective of and position in life — not because I want to but because I need to.  Now, it is more about what do I need at the grocery store: toilet paper, milk, antacid tablets, oatmeal; and less about what I want: family size bag of Cheetos, filet mignon, high-end vodka, and imported dark chocolate bars.

This certainly isn’t the life I thought I’d be living in middle age, if you’d asked me to describe it 20 years ago.  But, here I am.  And though it’s sometimes tough clawing my way out of my slump, I know one thing is certain: life could be worse.

“The storybooks are bullshit!” is what Nicolas Cage’s character told Cher’s character in the acclaimed 1987 film Moonstruck, as he tried to convince her to give in to her lust and love for him, and quit waiting for some manufactured Mr. Wonderful to come along.  He’s right, you know.

I’ve often wondered — especially in the last year or so — where is my Prince Charming, my glass slipper, my happily-ever-after, as promised by Disney in so many animated classics on which I was weaned.  I’m OK doing without the prince, and I can certainly live without the fear of a sharp pain in my instep from a broken glass slipper.  But, the happy ending?  Where is the path to my Camelot?  How do I get back on the fast track to happiness?

If the storybooks were just a bunch of melarkey, maybe what I need to do is write — or rewrite — my own, as a Facebookpal recently suggested.  After all, he posted, “storybooks are passive, life is active . . . Life comes to those who reach out, and it seldom shows up while you’re waiting.”   He’s got a point there.

My mother's classic and well-worn Betty Crocker cookbook, circa 1950.

Maybe there comes a time in all our lives when we simply need to rewrite the classics that sit collecting dust in our hopeful hearts and minds.  And for every one of us, that moment in time is uniquely specific to where we are in life, and what our lives have yet to teach us.

So, it’s back to the computer — to rewrite my life story.  It’s back to work I go.  Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho.

And speaking of classics, after several hours on the computer, I broke free of the keyboard’s grip and headed into the kitchen where I rewrote a classic Betty Crocker recipe.  Well, not so much rewrote as I merely enhanced Betty’s easy scone recipe.  Just what I was looking for: quick, easy comfort.  Now that’s a rewrite I can sink my teeth into.

CHEDDAR-CORNMEAL SCONES

This Betty Crocker recipe is probably delicious in its original form, but you know me.  I had to change it up a bit to get to the flavors my mouth was watering for.  Besides, I didn’t have on hand the 4 oz. can of chopped green chilies that the recipe called for, so I did a little tweaking.

  • 1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup firm margarine or butter (I prefer butter)
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used buttermilk just for fun)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I like sharp cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup frozen, thawed corn kernals (1 small can of creamed corn would also be yummy)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
  • Honey, if desired

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease or spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in butter, using a pastry blender or a couple of forks, until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Mix in milk, egg, cheese, corn, and cranberries.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times.  Pat or roll into an 8-inch circle on the prepared cookie sheet.  Using a sharp knife, gently cut the circle into 8 wedges, but do not separate.  Drizzle a bit of honey round and round on the top of the scone circle.

Cheddar-cornmeal scones ready for the oven.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Immediately remove from the cookie sheet and carefully separate into wedges.  Serve warm with butter and more honey.

Enjoy one while you work on your life story!

Posted in Brunch Favorites, Comfort Food -- Savory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kiss Me, I’m Irish

Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone.  And I didn’t wake with a corned beef and green beer hangover, nor did I find any pots of gold.  In fact, I didn’t even see a rainbow.

Instead, everywhere I look is a sea of green. Out my office window to the front yard is a big green lawn, and a big patch of ivy around the big green pine tree next to a big green bush in the middle of the big green lawn.  If I look out the French doors to the backyard — more green.  Lush, growing, large green carpet of lawn, dotted with patches of clover — doesn’t get more Irish than that! — with a stray dandelion or two for color.

So, though I skipped the typical St. Patrick’s Day dinner, I did surround myself with green, mainly in hopes of pleasing the little green men who cart those pots of gold from rainbow to rainbow.

Hoping to channel the money gods — and the leprechauns who work for them — to coerce them into sending a little green dough my way, I celebrated the day not with drinking green beer in a crowded, noisy bar full of holiday revelers in green T-shirts and corny hats — although I’ve done that a few times in years past — but by making cheesy beer bread and green-spiked sugar cookies as a remembrance of my father and his favorite holiday.

My dad was a proud, funny, friendly Irishman with a fabulous laugh who absolutely loved St. Patrick’s Day and all it called for.   Though he’s gone now many years, I can’t help but think of the man who always called me his “little leprechaun” when March rolls around on the calendar.

To dad, March 17 meant a big corned beef dinner with all the trimmings — fragrant, tender cabbage, juicy carrots, big chunks of simmered onion, and hunks of perfectly cooked red potatoes that would make any spud farmer smile.  Chase it down with green beer or good Irish whiskey — your call — and you’ve got yourself a grand St. Patti’s Day celebration.

But baking bread and cookies in remembrance of my dad was my way of calling on the leprechauns for a little help.  Am I a hopeful optimist — or hopeless dreamer?  Maybe a little of both.  I’ve been called worse.

I do know that on St. Patrick’s Day anything can happen — because my dad always said so.   The tides can turn and calling on the leprechauns when you need some plain ole’ Irish good luck is always a smart move.

Green is the color of money — of which I currently have little.  And green is also the color of healthy grass, of which I have an abundance — until the green money runs out, then I’ll have to say goodbye to the green grass as well.  Here’s hoping I channeled a little bit of old fashioned Irish luck yesterday.

GREEN-SPIKED SUGAR COOKIES — This couldn’t have been much simpler — although I did end up tweakin’ the recipe a bit, as I often do.   I started with a pouch of Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie Mix that I had on hand, then added:

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Continue following the directions on the package for roll out/cut out cookies, and bake as directed.  Allow cookies to cool completely before icing or decorating.

Sugar Cookie Icing — I followed the easy recipe for Buttercream Frosting on the C&H Powdered Sugar box (which my mother always claimed was the best — If it was good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.)  Use whatever frosting you love — homemade or packaged.

  • 1/2 cup green mini M&Ms for decorating.  (The mini M&Ms are perfect for decorating small items like cupcakes and cookies.)

Frost the cookies, or decorate with dollops of frosting, as you see fit; drop on the mini M&Ms for color.

CHEESY BEER BREAD — I actually got this recipe from my father more than 20 years ago; he found it in a Sunset magazine, circa 1980s, I believe.  My family has used this easy recipe over and over and over again — tweaking it in many different directions.  Mix up a big batch of your favorite soup to serve alongside this delicious bread.

  • 3 cups self-rising flour (or 3 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional — I don’t usually use caraway, but have added other dried herbs)
  • 1 bottle (12 oz.) beer or light ale
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine  (this is the good part!)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (original recipe doesn’t call for cheese — I added sharp cheddar one day; it was so great, I’ve been adding cheese ever since)

Stir together flour, sugar, and caraway seed and cheese, if desired.  Add the beer and mix thoroughly.  Spoon into a lightly buttered (I use an oil spray) loaf pan.  Pour melted butter over the top of the batter.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until loaf is golden brown and begins to pull from edge of pan, about 50 minutes.  Allow to cool a few minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool a bit more on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted in Comfort Food -- Savory, Desserts, Sandwiches & Paninis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment