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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finally, the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

It's no secret among my friends and family that I can't make a decent chocolate chip cookie.  No matter what recipe I try, and I've tried a ton, they all turn out like crepes with chips in them.  Flat as pancakes.  A foster mom, Lisa, did give me a recipe that worked, but it had a box of dry pudding mix in it and really stopped my nose up because I'm allergic to corn, and pudding is mostly cornstarch.

At retreat, Katy brought the best CCC's I've every had in my life.  Thick, chewy, and soft.  It's from a Dierberg's grocery store recipe booklet giveaway, but it's not on their website.  I emailed Katy for the recipe earlier today, but haven't heard from her, yet.  We're going to Darlene's for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and I was doing my cooking today.  I made dressing, the green bean casserole, cooked some frozen corn, and peeled pounds of apples to cook.  I looked in my stack of printed-from-computer recipes for Sallie's Stewed Apples from her and Laura's Vintage Kitchen Recipes blog.  I pulled it out, but there was another sheet of paper stuck to it.  It was a copy of the Thick and Chewy CCC recipe from Dierberg's that Katy used.  I swear!  I don't even remember how I got it or who from, but there it was.  Like magic!  All because I had some apples that were getting old and needed to be used.  Thanks, Sallie.

I mixed them up and baked one sheet.  I could tell after I added the flour that this dough was different.  It was stiffer, just like my grandma's cookie dough. 

 How's that for a cookie!  You can't believe how impressed I am with myself after 40 years of trying to do this.

The difference is replacing 2/3 of the butter with shortening and using more brown sugar than white.

Is this not magazine perfect?  Okay, I could have used a prettier plate than my 30-year-old Corelle.  And the cookies are as delicious as they look.  My husband was suitably impressed.

Since this recipe was already published in Dierberg's recipe leaflet, Everybody Cooks, and given away free, I don't think there's a problem posting it with credit to them.

Dierberg's Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

4.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c.  white sugar
1 c. solid shortening (Crisco)
1/2 c. butter (1 stick), softened

3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 pkg. (24 oz) chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Mix dry ingredients together.  In a large bowl, beat sugars, Crisco, and butter together till light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat at low speed until well combined.  Add flour mixture all at once and beat on low until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips (I used the mixer) and nuts.  I don't like nuts in my cookies - I'm a purist.

Drop by heaping tablespoons (I have a scoop) onto a baking sheet.  Bake 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Makes about 7 dozen.

NOTE:   The cookies literally slid off the sheet.  Not a crumb stuck.  This is a double recipe from the chocolate chip packages.  My Kitchen-aid mixer came in very handy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Invasion of the Giant Sock Monkey

It's well know in the guild that I dislike sock monkeys.  Dislike is probably too kind of a word.  I hate them.  It all goes back to my childhood when I would spend an occasional Friday night at my grandparents' house, staying with my aunt who was only four years old than I was.  Aunt Becky had a four-poster double bed and had a sock monkey doll.  The thing had wires in it's arms, and Becky had it wrapped around a bedpost at the bottom of the bed.  It stared at me all night long with those beady eyes and that stupid big red mouth.  Since that was about 50 years ago, I'd like to tell you that I've grown up and gotten over it, but I can't.  I still hate them.  It's not like I go screaming from the room or anything.  They just give me the creeps.

At the Mercy Center, our sleeping rooms are on the second floor and our sewing room is on the first.  We have to walk through the chapel to get from one to the other.  Three years ago, as I was going through the very dimly-lit chapel on my way to my room to change into jammies about 11pm, I got the creepiest feeling I've ever had in my life.  In England and Scotland, I would go to every dungeon in every castle just to "feel" something.  Got nothing.  Seeing or feeling a ghost has been my fondest wish for 50 years, but I'm about as psychic as a block of wood.  Except in this chapel.  I had the most intense feeling of dread that someone was not only watching me, but was going to jump out and kill me.  I've never been so scared in my life.  As soon as I got into the hallway, the feeling stopped.  Went up, put jammies on, but now, I had to go back through the chapel to get to the sewing room.  It was only 11:15!  I still had three more hours of sewing in me.  I felt like an idiot calling someone in the sewing room to come and escort me through a church, so I sucked it up and ran through.  The feeling was gone and nobody killed me.  When I related my tale to the group, one of the more religious members said that was God telling me to come back to the church.  I told her God has a very sick sense of humor, and that wasn't God.

So I've been to three retreats since then and no more eerie feeling.  However, the guy that runs the kitchen said he often hears a person whistling when he comes in early in the morning, and he's the only person there.

Anyway, when I got to the center Monday, I went directly to the sewing room with all my crap.  When I wanted to put jammies on later, my clothes bag would be down there, I could change in the bathroom, and not have to make two trips through the dreaded chapel.  So, when I did go up about 1am to go to bed, Darlene went too.  We were the last two and closed the room up.  I put my bag down in my room and went in the bathroom and stopped with a sharp inhale, and backed out.  There was a dark shape on the toilet!  I couldn't find the light switch reaching my hand around the corner!  It wasn't there!!!  It was on the bedroom wall!  HOLY CRAP!!!  Scared the shit out of me!!!  There sat the biggest damn sock monkey I've ever seen!!!

Knowing Darlene wouldn't be in bed, yet, I tapped on her door and asked her if she knew about this!  She claimed ignorance but came in my room expecting to see a bug or spider.  Not even close.  Nobody told her anything, because they knew we were good friends and she'd tell me.

Nobody enjoys a good joke more than I do, so once again, I sucked it up, touched the damn thing, and put Morty to bed.
At least he wasn't staring at me all night with those beady eyes.

The next morning, I took him down to the sewing room.  Going with my first instinct, I'm letting out years of pent up hatred for sock monkey's everywhere by strangling him.

Morty pleaded with me for his life.  He'd do anything.  He'd even do some of my sewing so I could have a break.

Well, this could work.
He needs practice on his quarter inch seam, but he wasn't too bad.
Then he got a backache from sewing and had to lay down on the stage and rest.  Being a foster mom, I know how important it is to spay and neuter, so while Morty was sleeping, I neutered him and put a bandaid on his tummy.
When he woke up, he was thirsty.

Coming back from lunch (also through the dreaded chapel) Morty wanted to stop and give thanks that I didn't throw his butt out my second story window the night before.

After dinner, Morty was ready for something a little sweet, and had some of Darlene's brownies and a wee sip of vodka to ease the pain from his neuter.
Morty had a little too much to drink and had to take another nap.  A little better look at his bandaid.

Everyone wanted to know what I was going to do with Morty when we got home.  Ha.  Not going to happen.

As pieces of the story came out, Jeanne found Morty at Walgreens and put him in my room.  Since I hadn't been in it at all the first day and evening, the door was open.  Everyone was very disappointed with me.  Poor Morty sat on my toilet for hours and hours waiting for me and no one got to be there when I found him.  Gee, I'm so sorry to disappoint you all - NOT.  Now, I have a whole year to plot my revenge.  They'll never see it coming.  And Morty went home with Jeanne.  Nice job, Jeanne.  You really got me this time.

And Jan swears she didn't have anything to do with it and had a legitimate alibi.  If she had done it, the monkey would have had a complete wardrobe of clothes.  That's true.  Last year, Jan gave us all a fabric "paper doll", like a gingerbread man shape, and told us to dress it like ourselves and we'd vote on who did the best job.  We all had a lot of fun with that one.  Mine had a red t-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, blond hair and a small cat.  I brushed a cat and used a glue stick to put cat hair and threads all over Little Barb.  Jan's doll had a box and about five changes of clothes!  Then, somebody kidnapped Little Barb from the table and held her for hours in a dark, scary box until mama correctly guessed who kidnapped her.  It didn't take long for me to figure out it was Jan.  She kept asking if I'd figured it out, yet.  And whispering to her neighbor, Rita.  So obvious to someone who watches every police procedural show on TV.

Morty didn't creep me out as much as I thought, so I guess I have Jeanne to thank for that.  But, I still wasn't taking him home.

Retreat Projects 2011

These are some of the projects we worked on at retreat.  Most of us bring 3-5 projects, thinking we're really going to get a lot done.  Most of us have the fabric already cut out so we can just sew and get them finished quickly.  Most of us don't finish their first project until the last day, and some of us don't finish our first of four projects we brought.  That would be me.  I thought I had more cut out and pieced, since I worked on this last year, too, but hadn't opened the bag until I got to the retreat.  I had a 23" x 30" section done of 68" x 102" for a twin quilt.  I did finish the top today at home.  The rest of the quilts pictured are the tops only - not quilted - unless otherwise stated.

This is my Trip Around the World done in bright pink, orange, blue, green, yellow, and purple. It's laying on the floor by my table.

When I got home, I added the blue inner border, then the piano key border.  I don't know what the binding color will be, yet.  I like to make happy quilts, and this is certainly a happy quilt.

This is Katy's quilt top done in gorgeous fall colors.  Sorry, I don't know the pattern name.

 Jan's scrappy strip quilt top.

 This is only a portion of Reba's Jelly Roll Race quilt.  This is quilted and bound, and she brought it for show and tell.  I love this quilt and plan to make a JRR quilt, too.

Quilters will know what this is.   Non-quilters won't care, and the explanation isn't easy to do and won't make sense without pictures.

Reba made this pastel Jelly Roll Race top at the retreat.  This is the left half.  Her other quilt is hanging over it.

 Jeanne made a JRR top, too, and added little squares between the strips.  Jeanne hasn't felt well lately, and hasn't done much sewing, so we're all very proud of her for getting the top done.  Good job, Jeanne.  Get a border on that puppy and call it done.

More about my good friend, Jeanne, in the next post.

Darlene's quilt top done in different shades of blue.  This is only a portion of it.  I must have taken the picture before she got the other blocks sewn on.  It's a very striking top.

Another of Reba's quilts.  It's an "I Spy" for her grandson (I think).

Rita's batik quilt.  She made it for her pastor, much to her husband's chagrin because he wanted to keep it, and Darlene quilted it.  I don't know this pattern name, either.  Batik quilts are always stunning.
 Lee Etta loves scrap quilts like I do and makes wonderful quilts with hundreds of different fabrics.  She brought several tubs of precut strips and would reach in one, pull out a strip, and sew it on regardless of color.  That's what you have to do with many scrap quilts - disregard the color.  It goes against everything we've spent decades learning about quiltmaking.
 This is Rita's scrap quilt.  Her daughter wanted a quilt made from her daughters' clothes.  In order to make it large enough for the bed, Rita had to call her daughter several times and have her send more clothes.  Every single square is from something worn by Rita's granddaughters.  How special is that!

Jan is working on her top, and I don't know this pattern, either.  I didn't think to walk around with a notebook and write things down.

Ree is making a quilt for the Quilts of Valor.  It will be hand quilted by the ladies of the group and presented to a man or woman who has served for our country. 

I apologize to Joan.  I know I took a picture of her black and red Yellow Brick Road quilt, but it's not anywhere to be found.  It's one of my favorites and the YBR is probably my favorite pattern of all time.  I've made five of them.  In my previous post, you can see a part of Joan's quilt on her picture.

So, our retreat is over for another year, and we're very sad about that.  We live for this all year long.  This was one I know I'll never forget.  You'll hear all about it in my next blog - Invasion of the Sock Monkey.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quilt Retreat 2011

Our retreat is over for another year.  Boo.  They say there's a price for everything - including fun.  I'm paying for my wonderful last three days.  I'm exhausted, overfed, and have the mother of all backaches.  You can't believe how hard it is on your back to sew for that long with your machine at a different height than you're used to.  We even stack two chairs together for more height, but it still isn't enough.

We're in the auditorium at the center.  We each have a table to sew on, a couple tables for cutting, a couple for ironing, one for snacks, lots of floor space for laying blocks out, and a stage with movable walls to hang our finished tops or quilts on.

I panned the room left to right.

Three days of sewing, laughing, eating, and a little sleeping.  These are some of my closest and dearest friends.  This is our 6th retreat together, but I've known Katy, Jan,  and Joan for over 20 years.

More retreat blogs to follow.






Lee Etta



 Reba is taunting me with sock monkey fabric.  I hate sock monkeys.  An explanation blog to follow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autumn Trees

Since I'm at a quilt retreat now, I set this to be posted Tuesday morning.

Our two maple trees in the back yard are finally getting big enough to get the beautiful fall color.   I really waited too long to take the pictures.  They've lost some of the brilliance they had at their peak and really did seem to glow with fire.  It was gloomy for days, and I couldn't wait any longer for the sun to come out or risk a storm taking all the leaves off.

A couple days later the sun did come out, but the color was faded even more.  They're still beatiful, just not what they were.

Fall is my favorite time of year and I get to look at these two gorgeous trees as I sit on my deck reading a book and holding cats.  Ah, life is good.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Jello Shots

I'm packing today for my 3-day quilt retreat starting tomorrow.  I'll be a whole 30 minutes away at a conference center, but it will be out in the middle of nowhere as far as we're concerned.  We get fed three times a day, but everybody brings something for the snack table in our meeting room.  About ten of us will be in a very large well-lit meeting room.  We each get a 6' table and set up our sewing machines, irons, cutting mats and sew on our own projects.  My contribution last year was chocolate-covered cherry jello shots.  The others said I could do that again this year.  I just did one batch last year, but made a double batch this year. The recipe is at the end.

 I wanted larger cups, but waited until yesterday to get them and had to take what the stores had. Got two kinds from two different grocery stores.  The first store only had 50 and I didn't know how much I would get from one batch, so I got a package of 25 from the other store.

I put a maraschino cherry in each cup and filled them with the jello mix to within 1/2" to 3/8" from the top.  Had to leave room for the chocolate and whipped cream.  I put the cups on two cookie sheets and into the fridge to set.

After a couple hours they were ready for the squeeze chocolate topping that hardens when it gets cold.  Have the chocolate at room temp when you squeeze it on.  I used about 1/8" of chocolate for each one.  There's not much in a bottle.  I bought two bottles, but I didn't know how far each would go.  Turns out I came out perfect down to the last cup.  I do stuff like that a lot with numbers and amounts.  Like grab the exact number of papers/rubber bands/whatever that I need.  Open a book to the exact page.  I can guess what numbers people are about to say when they're talking - even on TV.  Works with everything except the lottery!  Once at a party, we could put $1 in a pot and guess the weight of one of the guys.  I wrote down 309 lbs.  Right on the nose.  I made about $16.

You probably don't need quite this much whipped cream.  It was the first out of the can and came out faster than I thought.....

Since the whipped cream can't go on now, I'm taking the can with me to the retreat.  All cups got a lid and went into some plastic bags.

As a very conscientious person, I needed do a taste test to make sure I didn't poison anyone. The cups are so small, and I wasn't sure they were acceptable, so I had a second.  They still didn't taste right, so I sampled a third.  Okay, they'd do.  Maybe the others won't like them and I'll have to bring them all back home.  What a shame.

Aster really wanted to sample, too, but she was too late.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Jello Shots - Single recipe

6 oz. box of cherry Jello
2 c. boiling water
1 c. vodka
1 c. creme de cacao
maraschino cherries
chocolate syrup that hardens
canned whipped cream

Mix the jello with the boiling water like usual.  Add the two cups of liquor that takes the place of the cold water.  Some recipes say to let the jello cool to room temp, then add the liquor.  Whatever.  Put one cherry in each cup and fill to within 1/2" to 3/8" of the top.  I dipped a measuring cup in the bowl to pour the jello in the cups.  Refrigerate for a couple hours.  Top with about 1/8" of the chocolate syrup and put the lids on.  Refrigerate until used.

Note:  A 10 oz. jar of maraschino cherries has about 44 cherries.  This recipe will make about 24-27 shots the size shown here.  I made a double recipe and got 51 shots. Including samples. Since I used the whole jar of cherries, I mixed the cherry juice in, too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Not Just a Box

Before I left Petsmart a couple weeks ago, I was taking the trash from our cat room to the back of the store when I saw some great boxes next to the trash cans.  I asked a manager and he said, yes, they were trash and I could have them.  There were three boxes and I gave two to another foster mom.  Display boxes that have held cat food or treats are like magnets to the gang, but this box held soft stuffed things.  Didn't seem to matter. Within seconds of putting the box on the living room floor, it was occupied.

First was Lilly and Zach.

Then Cody.

 Then Xena.

Then Xena moved and Ebony came in her pretty pink collar.  I have four shiny black cats and need it for identification.

Then Delcy came.  This all happened in about three minutes.  Everyone loves a new toy.