Monday, June 29, 2009

Black Forest Cookies

I love Black Forest Cake! I keep meaning to make it again but there are so many other recipes that get in the way. Then the title of this recipe caught my eye. The cookie version of Black Forest, who could resist that? And they are delicious. And, I dare say, easier to make than the cake!

Black Forest Cookies

1 pkg. semi sweet chocolate morsels, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup dried cherries
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour 3/4 cup semi sweet morsels into a small bowl and melt in microwave for 1 minute, stirring as needed.

In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla until blended. Add melted chocolate. Blend flour and baking powder together then add to chocolate mixture. Stir in cherries, the remaining semi sweet morsels and the nuts until just blended.

Drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool on a baking rack. Makes approx. 2 dozen.

“It may be the way the cookie crumbles on Madison Avenue, but in Hong Kong it's the way the egg rolls.”
-Robert Orben, American humorist

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Thirteen- Losing Weight

Here are 13 things I've done to either lose weight, or maintain my weight. Some of these I like, some I'm not proud of (and please, no one take this as diet advice. Gosh, I would not want to be responsibile for someone else getting sick or otherwise- shudder!):

1. Eat Salad, and lots of it- I'm big on salads so this one really fits me well. I like to add things like dried fruit, extra veggies or a little turkey. I use a low fat dressing and munch away. It makes me pretty full so it works for me.

2. Skipping lunch- this one I'm not proud of at all. *guilt* But sometimes I can get away with eating a very small amount of something like a few turkey slices and a drink of juice. I usually only do this if I ate tons the night before.

3. Have Lean Cuisines for lunch- They are so low in calories and fat, I don't feel bad eating them. And they are so good! But usually I'm starving by dinner and run the risk of overeating so I don't do this too often.

4. Exercise- I made the mistake of thinking the more I exercise, the more I can eat. I found out the hard way, it doesn't work like that (esp. after 40). So now I work out more for strength and my health and a little for weight maintenence.

5. Small portions- This is a tough one for me. When I eat, I like to feel full. Grazing was never my thing. But some days, if I'm really motivated, I can eat the right amount at each meal and eat no more than one snack.

6. Not eating after 6 p.m.- This is also hard. I love to sit down, watch a good movie and eat something yummy, even if it's a bowl of cereal with lots of milk. For some reason, T.V. and food go together so well :)

7. Getting the Flu- Ok, I admit, this is a really twisted one. As much as I hate getting sick, I always hope I've lost a few pounds when it's all over. Yeah, it's mostly water loss but there is always hope! Crazy, aren't I?

8. Inspiration- While I don't tend admire famous people and all their dramas, I sometimes like to pick someone famous (or not) who inspires me fitness wise and use that to motivate myself. It does help some, but since I don't have a personal chef and a personal trainer...well, you know.

9. Weight Watchers- This is my favorite way to lose weight. I first tried it after I had my last child when I could not get rid of the weight. I didn't join Weight Watchers but I gathered as much information as I could from the internet and from friends about the points program and gave it a try. It really works! And it helped get me back on track with paying attention to what I am eating. Now if I could motivate myself to stay on it...

10. Drinking lots of water- Everything I read about losing weight says you should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. I find this easier said than done. During a workout, it's no problem because I am so thirsty already. But at home, I forget. Plus I take a water pill so I would spend three quarters of my day in the bathroom if I drank 8 glasses a day! But I do drink water when we eat out, instead of soda. So that is good, right?

11. Writing down what I eat- This actually is a great idea. It's part of the Weight Watchers point plan and it helps a lot. My issue is finding the motivation to record everything that goes into my mouth. I can't remember to go to the bathroom half the time, let alone write down what I eat.

12. Nixing chocolate and other sweets- yeah, right. Ain't happening, diet or no diet. Too bad no one has come up with a chocolate mousse diet, or a cookie diet or a cheesecake diet....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bananas and Cream Bundt Cake

This cake is unbelievably easy to make and is delicious with just a little bit of confectioner's sugar sprinkled over it. I did end up using some icing on mine, just because I had leftovers from another recipe. The icing was very good, too. Most of the ingredients in this cake are staples in most kitchens so this would make a great quick cake for unexpected company or a last minute get together.

Bananas and Cream Bundt Cake

1/3 cup shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup mashed ripe bananas
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsps. of baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

In a mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and bananas and combine.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, stirring until just combined. Add walnuts and chocolate chips, if desired.

Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar or top with your choice of icing.

“All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.”
-George Harrison

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

"A father carries pictures where his money used to be."
-Author Unknown

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
-Mark Twain, "Old Times on the Mississippi" Atlantic Monthly, 1874

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Thirteen- Things To Do In Pittsburgh

Although Pittsburgh is not my city of choice, it does have it's advantages. Here are some of the more interesting places to visit, even if you are not a tourist:

1. Kennywood- Legendary around these parts, Kennywood is a medium sized amusement park that is located on about 20 minutes from town. They do a great job mixing new thrill rides with older traditional rides. The food is really good and I love the candy store!

2. The Carnegie Museum- It always reminds me of old museums you see in the movies. They have a little of everything from a new dinosauar exhibit to the older section with stuffed animals, gems and egyptian displays. There is also a good art gallery.

3. The Children's Museum- An interactive museum that my kids love. Mr. Roger's, climbing walls, science and a huge water play area are some of the reasons my kids beg to go.

4. The Strip- I know, it sounds like an "adult" place to visit, but really it's a road that connects to downtown that has vendors/stores on each side. It ranges from Wholey's (pronouced "woolies" by most people here) to a chinese food market to two very Italian grocery stores. It's like a big food shopping trip around the world all in one place!

5. The Carnegie Science Center- Getting used to the fact that most things in Pittsburgh are named Carnegie, this is another great place to go. The science learning experiences in this place are fantastic. I've left this place after a long day and wanted to go back the very next day. I liked it that much.

6. Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium- We go every year and love it each time. The exhibits were redone years ago to match the animal habitats as closely as possible, one thing I'm really happy about! Very fun place to visit. My favorite part is the aquarium.

7. The Duquesne Incline- Can you believe for as long as I've lived here, I've never been on one of Pittsburgh's biggest tourist attractions? Basically, it's two cable cars that ride people up and down very steep Mt. Washington across the river from downtown. Apparently, it provides beautiful views of downtown Pittsburgh. Maybe someday I'll get around to it!

8. Downtown Pittsburgh- Some people here would disagree, but downtown does offer some sights to see. It has a very large Macy's and the best chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh- Chinatown Inn. And there is the view of the stadiums, the three rivers, and Point State Park. It certainly isn't as vibrant as it used to be but it's worth a look.

9. The National Aviary- Currently under renovation, the new aviary will include a large penguins display and an indoor free flight bird area.

10. The Andy Warhol Museum- I see references to this museum in the paper, on the news and just about anywhere in Pittsburgh. I'm not a big fan, but it must be interesting with all that talk about it!

11. The PA Trolley Museum- One of my husband's favorite places, it's a collection of trolley history and trivia. They include a real trolley ride in the ticket price. Apparently Pittsburgh used to use trolleys as a major form of transportation. You can still see the tracks in some places.

12. The Pittsburgh Symphony- Though it struggles from time to time, it apparently one of the best in the world. The kids often go to see the symphony for field trips, something I wholeheartedly agree with!

13. The Hyeholde Restaurant- I saved my favorite place for last. Though it's not really a tourist destination, it should be. It used to be my parent's favorite and now it's ours. Because of the cost, we have to save our visits for only special occasions (darn!). The food is out of the world and the atmosphere so romantic. Make this place a must see if you ever visit Pittsburgh!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Paula Deen's Chewy Cake

Whenever I'm really stuck and don't know what to make, I turn to Paula Deen. Well, her cookbooks, anyway. She always has something I can make that will turn heads and get lots of compliments. This recipe did exactly that. It was all gone within two days. That is what I call a make again!

Paula Deen's Chewy Cake

1 pound package of brown sugar
2 cups of self rising flour
1 stick butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened coconut
2 cups pecans or walnuts, chopped
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour and butter. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Fold in the coconut, nuts, and chips until well combined. Pour into the prepared dish and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream.

"Cooking has always brought me a happiness that I didn't think was available. I just fire up the stove, and things start to fade away."
-Paula Deen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday Thirteen- 70's Fads

Sometimes I really miss the 70's. Yeah, really I do! It was the decade I grew up in, though I also went a little into the 80's. The 70's really established great rock and roll, women becoming more equal (though there is still a lot of work to do there), and fashion that is surprisingly resurging today. Here are some of the things I really miss:

1. Farrah Fawcett hair- so cool! I was never able to get my parents to let me cut my hair that way. Not cool!

2. Mood Rings- I had one of the original mood rings until a friend stole it (not nice!). Now they sell those cheap reproductions. What I wouldn't do to own an original again. So, what mood am I in today?

3. Pop Rocks- Do you remember the first time you tried these? Wow! Does anyone remember that chocolate powder that turned into chewing gum? That was so neat!

4. CB Radios- My friend Robin had one and her handle was Yellow Ribbon. We were a little scared of talking to all those tough truck drivers out there, but everyone was doing it, so we did too.

5. Polyester- Did they make clothes out of anything else in the 70's?

6. Streaking- being young in the 70's, I didn't really get to see too many of these incidences, but the news stations sure thought it was fun to report!

7. Shag carpeting- Orange, green, any bright color will do. My parents actually had white, brown and black shag carpeting that sort of reminded me of a cow.

8. Very Tight Jeans with bell bottoms- the tighter, the better. Famous parent saying- "Can you breath in those?" Nope.

9. Clogs- Dr. Scholl's. I so wanted a pair of those. Everyone had them. Didn't matter that they looked painful as heck. I've seen them recently in the stores and I still want a pair. Now I can't afford them.

10. Roller Skating- I went every Sunday with my friend Kay to Skatetown USA. Loved every minute of it, plus it's where I met my first boyfriend. Skating rocks!

11. Gouchos- What on earth was that fad about? And yeah, I did have a pair. Now they are called capris and are worn a lot tighter.

12. 8 Track tapes and players- I actually had a lot of tapes. I even remember recording off the radio. I also remember the cleaner tape you had to use on the player to keep it from clogging. Those were the days! My kids don't even know what a record is, let alone an 8-track.

13. T.V. shows- Charlie's Angels, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Land of the Lost, The Love Boat, Wonder Woman and the zillions of cartoons on Saturday Morning. Gosh, I miss them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Black Eyed Peas and Corn Salad

As the summer gets warmer, I'm always on the look out for tasty recipes to keep everyone cool and filled up at the same time. I will even make an entire meal out of vegetable and fruit salads on really hot days. I found this recipe yesterday and it's a keeper. It's cool, tangy and versatile. Can't beat that!

Black Eyed Peas And Corn Salad

1 can black eyed peas, rinsed well and drained
1 can yellow corn, drained
1/2 finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 large tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Optional ingredients:
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped

In a medium bowl, mix the black eyed peas, corn, red onion, parsley, and tomato.

In another bowl, mix together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper, if desired. Pour over vegetables and toss together to blend. Refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours. Serve.

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."
-Sam Keen

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Thirteen- Reasons to Smile

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing is really wrong but you feel like the world is ending tomorrow? Nothing feels good and you wish you could climb into bed and pull the covers over to block it all out. That's me today. Sigh. So to make myself feel a bit better, here are thirteen reasons I should be smiling:

1) I'm alive and healthy. 'Nuf said.

2) The sun is out, and if you live in Pittsburgh, you know that is a rare thing indeed.

3) My kids are home for the summer. Though that usually has me quaking in my shoes, it's wonderful to spend time with them and not have to deal with all the teachers, homework and schedules.

4) I live in the U.S. I know I've said this before, but even though I've never been out of the country, knowing that people suffer all over the world just trying to survive everyday makes me so appreciative for all we have. We all could easily be there ourselves.

5) Chocolate.

6) My garden. Tomatoes, peppers, buttercrunch lettuce, garlic, pumpkins and greens. Watching them grow and anticipating eating them is more fun than I thought it would be.

7) A good novel. Just can't beat it after a long day of work or even on a rainy day. It's a wonderful way to get lost without having to go anywhere!

8) A good movie. The more action the better.

9) A good show. We are currently addicted to NCIS. Man that is a fun show.

10) Friends. A good conversation with my friends always cheers me up.

11) Baking. I can feel just awful but when I get out that mixing bowl and start, I feel so much better.

12) Fall and football. Yeah, I know it's three months away but so is Christmas in September and that doesn't stop anyone from getting excited!

13) My kids. I've said it before but my kids or even anyone else's kids just bring a different perspective to life. They see life so differently than adults it's hard to take anything seriously when you spend time with them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Coffee Cookies

Since the kids are done with school tomorrow, I wanted to make them a special treat for their last full day of school. Now coffee is usually not something that comes to mind when thinking of treats for kids, but my kids love coffee. Weird, since I only drink it a few times a year myself so they are not around it a lot, but kids are strange that way. Anyway, these cookies turned out fantastic. They are seriously hard to stop eating. This recipe was adapted from my Maxwell House Coffee drinks and desserts cookbook. I hope you get a chance to try these!

Chocolate Chunk Coffee Cookies

1 large egg
1 tablespoon strong instant coffee
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chunks or 1 8 oz package semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir egg, instant coffee, and vanilla in a small bowl until blended. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric beater on medium until fluffy. Mix in egg mixture. Beat in flour, oats, baking soda, and cinnamon on low until blended. Stir in the chocolate chunks and nuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoon full 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned on bottom. Cool 2 minutes then remove to cool completely on wire racks.

"Coffee, the finest organic suspension ever devised."
-Star Trek: Voyager