This Page

has been moved to new address


Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Eclecticisms: February 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mmmolasses Crinkles

"The best cooky of 1930-1935"! (Or so Betty Crocker's "Cooky Book"  tells me.) This is the same book I got my lemon bar recipe from, and so far, so good. I used my cookbook, but the recipe can be found here, too. Molasses Crinkles

Molasses cookies are my favorite, but these turned out fatter than I had hoped. (The ones I made years ago were very thin and chewy... I'm thinking it must have been a different recipe?) I learned a couple of interesting lessons while making these, and want to give them another try sometime soon to see if a couple of tweaks will produce better cookies the next time around.

Before I go any further, I have to share the exciting news that I have a new blender! Ok, not new. Still from the 50's (ish?), but new to me. I found it in the house and, like my other blender, it had belonged to the woman who lived here before me. I felt it only fitting to name my two girls. I named my first mixer Martha, and I am pleased to introduce to you...


I gave Betty a try for this recipe, and she didn't disappoint. I like this blender for several reasons. First, the bigger bowl works well with the mixers. My other blender (Martha) doesn't make it to the edges when I use the bigger bowl, and lots of ingredients get lost off on the side. I still plan to use it and love the smaller bowl, but I'm going to be using this "new" one for awhile. Another feature I LOVE, is that I can unplug it either from the wall or from the blender itself. It's a quick and easy way to make sure no power is attached when I'm cleaning off the mixers; Knowing my clumsiness, it was only a matter or time before I tore a few fingers off.

Check it out!

Now for the cookie of the hour.... Molasses Crinkles! (I noticed that the same exact recipe is on the back of the Grandma's Molasses jar, in case you don't want to write or print it out.)

Did you know that Molasses comes from sugar cane, and is the by-product of what we know as "regular" sugar? The first boiling produces a lighter molasses, and the molasses continues to get darker with each boiling, as more of the sugar has been removed.

I started out really excited, thinking I would make one batch with regular white (granulated) sugar and another with raw sugar. Imagine my dissapointment when I saw it only called for brown! Still... you dip the tops in white, so I mixed and matched there to tide me over for now. (Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses present. The more molasses, the darker the sugar.)

You start by mixing the shortening, egg, sugar and molasses...

...then add in all dry ingredients. Once again, I felt like the dough was too dry. I might start to under add flour by just a pinch, and add the remaining amount once I am certain the dough is ready for it! I'm also going to try another brand of flour... I think what I have is generic. (Note: I find, especially in baking, that generic is fine. If I find the opposite to be true here, I'll let everyone know!) There are several ways to measure flour, and I have been using the "dipping method". I'm moving onto another method where you spoon the flour into the measuring cup and do not dip the cup into the bag directly. See here for more info.

The recipe didn't specify how long to chill the dough for, so I called an expert (my Momma!) and she suggested an hour, which is what I went with.

After the dough is chilled, you roll it into balls (the recipe calls for 1 1/4" but I'm going to try smaller next time to see if the cookies turn out any thinner), dip them in sugar and then place them on a greased baking sheet (I was skeptical about the greased part since these cookies have shortening, but I'll get more to that later), sugar side up.

Dippin' time!

I haven't figured out why yet, but after that you sprinkle the cookies with a few drops of water, and pop them in the oven.

Here's where the real fun began.

As I wiped down my table and started cleaning up, I noticed a not so pleasant smell in the kitchen. Now, half the fun in baking is enjoying the rich, warm aromas as they fill your home. This was more like the smell of a house fire. After only 2 minutes I opened the oven to find SMOKE. If you make these cookies, do not, I repeat, DO NOT grease the pans! What a fiasco! The butter had already turned most of the cookies' bottoms black. Nice.

Out of the oven the 3 pans came, off came the cookies, the pans were washed, and I started again. I only put 6 cookies in to begin, to make sure the smoking wasn't going to continue. Nope! They turned out great. With the rest of the cookies in, I went out ot the living room to watch some TV. After about 10 minutes (they take about 12 to cook) I went back to take a peek and they were... raw? Apparently I inadvertently turned off the oven after taking those first cookies out. Damn! I turned it back on and cooked them another 10 minutes, that proved just a couple of minutes too long. Given the circumstances, I didn't feel too horrible. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done on many of these cookies, and the bottoms were burnt. BUT- they still taste ok, which made me not feel too bad.

Who likes burnt cookies?

They weren't all bad...

After couple of days, these cookies are getting pretty hard. Hopefully with another try using changes mentioned above, the outcome will be a bit different next time. My faithful taste-testers enjoyed the flavor, and that has to count for something, right?

Bed time! This weekends projects: Blueberry cake and Mint Creme Espresso cupcakes. Leslie and I have challenged each other, each picking a baking recipe for the other to try. Mine is pretty intense. Stay tuned for updates, and wish me luck!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who Am I, Anyway?

"Hi, I'm Val! I used to be shy!"

At least that is how I introduced myself (post self labeled "shy-girl" phase) to my Grandmother's friend in the grocery store when I was about 3. I've since fine-tuned my introductory skills, thankfully. Not to say that I've lost my spunk...I most definitely have not! Having realized that I sort of jump started this blog with a post about the last 50 things I had made (and was so excited about!) without mentioning much about who I was, I felt it was about damn time that I stopped to say "hello" to all  you fine people out there.

I popped into the world on a summer day in 1982 as the first child (which I like to remind my brothers of when I am trying to get them to do something for me) of Mike and Jane. Brian and John followed in 1984 and 1987, respectively. If there is one thing I can say about my life that has stayed consistant from day 1, it's my love of animals. We had 4 cats when I was born, and I've only gone about 3 weeks of my life not living with cats and/or dogs, though it's usually cats. Right now I have a dog I adopted, Footloose, and a cat I adopted named Mr. Bo Jangles. They keep me sane, and Footloose loves to sample some of the baked goodies I make. (No chocolate or raisins or course!)

I got my BBA, but just to have it on my resume. One day I'd love to get my Masters in something that interests me. No time soon though! I work full-time as a Accounting Anaylst in Chicago at a technology company, M-F.

I grew up around a lot of homemade, homebaked and homegrown food, along with some great chefs. My Grandmother, Mom and Dad are all fantastic in the kitchen, and after years or figuring it had finally skipped a generation, I'm hoping I can join their ranks soon. I sure am getting a hell of a lot of practice in! My Dad hunts, so I grew up around a lot of meat, eating pretty much any that came my way. Despite that, my love of animals made me realize that I couldn't bring myself to keep eating them. So, one day 11 years ago I stopped cold turkey and haven't looked back since!

I've always been into creating, whether it be painting, drawing, creating mixed-media collages, sewing, writing, making jewelry or playing piano. I was never great at piano, but it's still something I enjoy to mess around with. I've started selling my jewelry, and hope to one day get that business on its feet and maybe even open a bead store. I have yet to sell an item through my site, but I've sold to several people now, and vended for the first time ever this past summer.

So, why did I start this blog anyways? There were a few reasons. As mentioned in my first post, Leslie ( really inspired me to actually get off my butt and finally do it. I had planned for this to be more of a jewelry related blog, but I'm letting it evolve and am going to include pretty much everything I feel inspired to write about. Events, cooking, creating, rants, etc. I'm finding that writing (which had taken a backburner) again has been very thereputic to me. It's a wonderful way for me to document and share my triumphs, failures, defeats, wins and anecdotes that I collect along the way. Anytime I get a new follower, a comment, or even just a view, I jump for joy a little bit inside. (Ok, sometimes a lot!) 

I often describe myself as a slightly sexist feminist, as I love my independence and am all for equal rights (specifially for women, for this blog's purposes), but there are certain stereotypes that I find myself embracing from time to time. (I like when I can ask a man to change my oil, open jars,fix broken things, or do other "masculine" things. So sue me!) I've noticed many women my age who are starting to embrace things that I feel we have lost touch with over the years like baking/cooking, reading, knitting, etc. DIY is absolutely booming right now and I love it! In a way, I feel like we are regaining control. We are such a specialized society now and all too often come to rely on others to do the most basic of tasks for us. It's very hard to feel like a well-rounded person when you can't buy your own groceries or darn  your socks. (Ok.. so I don't personally darn socks. You get the picture though.) We're a deadly combination of busy and lazy that gets us reliant upon dinner deilvered, dry-cleaners, cleaning people, landscapers, bakeries... there is someone to do EVERYTHING for us. The trouble with that is, we start to forget how to do it for ourselves. That's pretty scary. 

Let's say that this blog is a celebration of getting back to the basics, loving life and keeping it simple. 



*Molasses cookies blog to follow, tomorrow. Tonight didn't go as planned (I didn't factor in shovelingtime!). Now it's late and I need sleep!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cinnamon Bread (Another non-yeast bread)

Last night I made some cinnamon bread using a recipe off


This recipe taught me one thing for sure, and that is that buttermilk smells horrible! Yuck. I almost wondered if it was bad, but it was freshly bought, sealed and no where near the expiration date. Yeah, it just doesn't smell good. It sure does make yummy bread though!


The first parts of the recipe are standard and easy to follow. The batter was a bit sticky but pouring it into the pan wasn't a big deal.

When I crumbled the butter mixture on the top, I realized that using cold butter would probably be a good idea next time. As far as my limited experience has taught me, butter should always be at room temperature but in this case, you want it crumbly and a bit chunky. Even though my butter wasn't cold, it turned out ok. The colder butter might even sink more... who knows. Next time I'll find out!

Ready for the oven...

Like with the zucchini bread I used the bread pan I have, which is about 8 x 3.5 and not the standard 9 x 5. I hoped that this loaf would also turn out fine. After the called for 50 minutes of baking... raw! I'm starting to feel pretty sure it's partly my oven too... as everything seems to take just a bit longer to cook.


I put it back in for about 12 more minutes and it ended up cooking fine. Still, I really need to get a standard sized bread pan!

With or without butter, this bread is pretty damn yummy.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Butter and Sugar and Flour (*oh my*)!

Let me start off this blog by airing my nerdy-excitement and announcing that I saw my first famous person in real life today! Phillip Seymour-Hoffman was sitting one table away from me at lunch... wow! I probably got so excited because I love his movies, but I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in myself for getting so "giggly". I tried to sneak a phone pic, but I failed. It was blurry, as were my White Sox "perfect game" phoone photos. I really need a better phone.


Shortbread hearts!
I am way behind on posting, as these cookies are long gone and from last week, but I must say they did turn out tasting much better than I had expected. This one is another Martha Stewart recipe (you can go here to get it and everything seemed to be ok- except the dough was too dry. I think next time I might reduce the flour from 2 cups to 1 3/4 to see how it turns out. You also roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, which I'm sure dried it up even more.

The recipe is relatively easy, and you don't need a ton of ingredients. At first I thought they could do without the chocolate, but (like most cookies) they tasted way better after the first day, and the chocolate really proved the perfect compliment to the shortbread flavor.

About to mix the flour and salt in...

The biggest trouble the dry dough really caused me was that it made some pretty ugly cookies. It was hard to roll out and cutting the cookies out was nearly impossible. The dough was stuck in the cookie cutters, the raw cookies were falling into pieces, my patience was wearing thin. Not a big deal in the end, but these ended up pretty sloppy looking. I'm guessing you can tell which the rack of the "I give up, just slop it on" cookies is.

If the cookies weren't such a dry, crumbly mess at this point, I would have been a little more meticulous with the dipping and decorating. I definitely ended up going with a more avant-garde look here.

*A note on this recipe. I found the chocolate to be a bit messy, as it never really hardened on the cookies. I'm wondering how leaving out the corn oil would affect it?

Today's project: Cinnamon bread! I will post later tonight or tomorrow on how it turned out... but my house is smelling pretty yummy right now!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I think I'm mad at Martha.

So, remember a couple of blogs back where I said that you should always read a recipe in it's entirety before starting? I didn't follow my own advice and started a batch of cookies at 9 PM that took a minimum of 2.5 hours of chilling time. "2.5 hours!", you say? "You must have skipped the baking and went to bed!", you say? Wrong. If I was in bed, how would I be blogging right now? Pft. Silly.

Instead of getting much needed rest, I decided make MORE cookies while the dough was chilling. I'll post another blog about how the shortbread ones turned out (taste good, look pretty crappy). There was a lot of dry dough involved which got pretty frustrating..

Now... what to make while I wait. I got very excited when I remembered I'd wanted to try making sunflower seed butter cookies (it tastes just like peanut butter!) but then realized... it is also a refrigerated cookie recipe. Damn. Then I remembered I had two fully zested (unzested? Cooks... help me out here!) lemons that I had been afraid would go to waste. Problem solved. I would make something with lemon juice.

Anyways, on to bigger and better things. Lemon bars! Not the same kind I made last week; This time I used a Betty Crocker recipe from her Cooky Book (let me know if you want the recipe... I'd type it out but it's midnight!). These bars don't have any cheese. Just flour, confectioners sugar and butter for the "crust", and egg, sugar and vanilla for the top.

(Sorry the pics are crappy. My camera isn't the best and I was too tired to clean them up before posting!)

I got VERY excited when I remembered that I had a vintage sifter. The flour was pre-sifted but I sifted it anyways!

Baked the crust for 20 minutes at 350....BUT, remembering my dilemna last week, I made sure to grease the pan and not press the crust down too hard.

After 20 minutes, I added the topping and baked another 25...

But wait. What is this? Raw top? Aghhhh! (Ok, not raw... but defnitely too gooey.)

You may be thinking to yourself, that I tossed them. Well, you may be wrong, because I decided to break the rule given to me by several cooks in my life. The rule to end all rules. After it had cooled a bit, I put it back in the oven. (Yeah,I know.. *gasp*! I'm such a rebel.)

Let me pause for a moment and say that I think I'm probably more upset at Betty Crocker, for her insistence to NOT over bake these bars. I baked to the time and color specified, and look where that got me! Now, where was I?

Oh yes, breaking the rules. I baked the lemon bars for another 8 minutes or so, starting at 300 and increasing back to 350 about half way through. the result? Delicious bars... still a bit messy and sticky, but fully cooked. I'm planning to bring a few to work tomorrow, and I'm REALLY hoping they don't fall apart on the train!

Voila. Lemon bars!

(Don't they look a little like cornbread?)

A few things I am learning/remembering.

1) If you want to be ballsy, go ahead and throw that bad boy back in the oven. Just ask yourself, "How much worse can this get?"
2) Thinking it is ruined doens't mean it's ruined. Don't stop... keep baking until all hope is lost. (Even the "back in the oven" has failed you.)
3) If it looks great, it won't necessarily taste great, and vice a versa. This one seems obvious, but it isn't as easy to accept when you've made it youself. Always room for improvement!
4) The smell of baking cookies will cheer any mood and warm any home.
5) Cookie recipes will NEVER make as many cookies as they claim, even if your cookies are translucent-thin. Expect to get closer to half the recipe's yield.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My House Smells Like Blommer's! (Valentine's Cookies Adventure)

You know that warm, wonderful aroma of chocolate that sometimes fills parts of the city? The one coming from Blommer's Chocolate Factory? That's what my house smelled like tonight. It was amazing! Unfortunately, the chocolate heart cookies I made are just too sweet for my taste. They're definitely good, but I'm not sure I'll make these again.

Here's how it went:

Stephanie (my cousin/helper) mixed up the dry ingredients while I got the chocolate started...

As the chocolate started to melt with the butter and brown sugar, the smell of heaven began to fill the house!

Mix in one egg and then the flour mixture... flatten dough and freeze for 20 minutes. (Not bad, when you compare it to the 8 hours I had to chill my last recipe!)
We cut out the hearts, but the dough was a bit hard to work with. Also- the recipe ( claims it will make 45 cookies. We got 23... after a lot of re-molding the dough scraps (see cookies that look like dirt!) which was plenty for our purposes.

Angry man, made of scraps. "But I don't wanna be a heart!" Too bad Mister Man...
10 minutes in the oven, and we're done! Again.. these are good cookies, but REALLY sweet.

To end the night, Steph and I made some jewelry. I don't have a picture of what she made, but here are my creations of the night.

Time for bed now. It's after midnight and I'm too old of a lady to be up this late!


Photographs- REAL ones! (No...really?!)

I don't know why I never knew this existed, but someone told me about using the Walgreens website to upload your photos and then picking up actual prints in the store. I had practically been ready to buy a printer, ink and paper just to get some of my favorite photos in a real album... something I haven't done in YEARS. Good to know I can get pictures for way less money... and way faster. Hurrah!

Since I'm a cheapskate, I Googled for a coupon and found a good one. It's valid through Saturday... and no, Walgreens is NOT paying me to post this! I want to share deals as I run across them. Feel free to post any that you've found, too!

Now I just have to hope that my pictures don't turn out like crap.
Buy 25 photos, get 25 free thru Feb 13. The code is "love10".

Monday, February 8, 2010

Zucchini Bread!

Tonight I did my FIRST load of laundry in my house (got the machine hooked up!), did an hour of yoga and made delicious Zucchini bread. I don't think it's as good as my Mom's, but the recipe is really easy and quick.

If you want to try it, you can find the recipe here:

I used a pan slightly smaller than what they called for, but all the batter fit just fine. The only real issue I ran into was with the suggested baking time. I'm not sure if it was the pan size, but I had to bake the bread for at least an hour and 10 minutes, while the recipe calls for 45-55 minutes. It was RAW at 45 minutes!

Getting Started

Just about ready...

Ready to go in the oven!

All done! My first zucchini bread!


Frozen Pipes and Floods

Some early 2009 winter fun for you to enjoy reading about!

Sunday: After having a gutted bathroom for about a month, tub was FINALLY installed, so I took a great jet-bath with my book and a glass of wine. Walls still missing, no ceiling, exposed insulation, etc. Still, how relaxing!

Monday: Wake up for work, time to wash my face! Turn on faucet... no water. Hm. Check bathroom (no sink there so I've been using the kitchen)... no water to the tub either. We call 311.... they are not working that day. Give dog and cat a bowl of snow (for water) and go to work.

Tuesday PM: Pulled some strings, city comes by and spends 2 hours working on heating pipes. No luck. Still no water. Continue to use canteen to wash face and brush teeth, and use buckets of water from parent's to flush toilet. Try to go potty anytime I am not home. Ew. haha

Tuesday 11:30PM: City comes by and paints the ground to mark pipes

Wednesday: Start time 7AM. After about 4 hours work, city decides the pipes are frozen under the street. Close street, dig giant holes. Do stuff with pipes. 7PM. I arrive home. They're still working, neighbors in the street watching... big holes... icy.... flooding along curb.Skip forward, water starts working, so we turned on faucets to let the water get going and not freeze again and clear the pipes. I come in after walking the dog, and hear something or someone in the house....turns out it was a waterfall. (OK, I'm exaggerating. Still... it was water.) The 2nd floor bathroom flooded due to a slow drain (I never use it) which ran into the first floor bathroom because there is no ceiling from the construction, which ran into the basement because there are no wall either. I am so glad I can flush my toilets.

Cleaned up flood on all 3 floors. Wrote blog.

"Good Things"

This had disappeared after I posted it, but here is my first official post. :)


I'm starting to really appreciate Martha Stewart.

I've really been getting into cooking lately (super estrogen rush... where did you come from?!) and I decided to blog about some of my experiences, thanks to inspiration from Leslie ( ).

My 2010 goal will be to blog about various creative endeavors, which will in turn get me writing again. My last blog was on Myspace, oh so long ago. I'll post a few here for your reading enjoyment.

Soon to come:
1950's Blender: Did it work? Were there injuries?
Homemade cookies, soup and mashed potatoes: What worked and what didn't?

Food... my true love.

Cooking and baking: 2 wonderful things I have been revisiting in the past few weeks. Now that I have a boyfriend to help me eat all this food, I have a reason to keep cooking (let’s face it… 4 days of eating leftovers is enough to kill the desire to cook or bake just about anything!).

I am going to post a few pictures, but here are a few things I have tried recently:

Sloppy Joe’s: A pretty standard recipe using Morning Star fake ground beef

Stir Fry: Went to Super H Market and got a ton of fresh veggies for this one. Honestly, not to sound conceited, but it was probably the best stir-fry I’ve ever had! I think the ginger and vegetable broth really did the trick. Note to self… stick with traditional Asian veggies only, and avoid the green peppers next time.

Mashed Potatoes: Oh, I was so nervous to mash them! I’d never made mashed potatoes before, and I was afraid my masher wasn’t good enough (I’m nuts). Once the potatoes started to mash I got super excited and they came out GREAT. Here’s the recipe I used… except I added some browned garlic to the mix.

Cream of Spinach Soup: I couldn’t find a good recipe, so I used one for cream of broccoli and made a couple of small substitutions.. it turned out delicious! I love that you can freeze soup and enjoy it at just about anytime and plan to really take advantage of my garden veggies that way this summer.

Lemon Butter Cookies: I’ve learned next time to spread out the pans out in the oven more (the lower pan burned a bit, but I think I might have used a bit too much egg yolk on that batch anyways). Still, these are delicious and relatively easy to make… though I was disappointed when I realized I had to chill the dough for 2 hours and not get to eat them sooner! (Another note to self: Read recipes more thoroughly before starting. ALWAYS!)

Lemon cheese Bars: So, for these bars I used a lower fat recipe, though you can’t really tell. The only real difference that I can name would be that they use cottage cheese instead of cream cheese (think lemon cheese cake bars). But… whether it be the pan I used (I sprayed it with cooking oil first), that I pressed the crust down too hard, or if it is just part of the fun of a healthier recipe, I had one hell of at time getting the first couple of pieces out of the pan. I got frustrated and was about to chuck them, that is until my boyfriend showed me how easy they came out of the pan after the first couple. We needed to use a super sharp knife, but they came out… and they were a hit with my family!

Those are the few that come to mind right now. I am going to do my best to keep up with this blog and really talk about all of my creative endeavors, whether they be food, jewelry, or other craft related.