Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Magnolia Cookies

One of my all-time favorite movies is Steel Magnolias. I vividly remember the part in the salon where Truvy explains how to make the cuppa cuppa cuppa recipe. Well, this recipe reminded me of that scene. Only this recipe is a half-a-cuppa, a half-a-cuppa -- you'll see. So, I named appropriately.

You'll love these light cookies that have some great texture with all of the bonus ingredients.

Magnolia Cookies

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 c. rice krispies cereal 
  • 1/2 c. coconut
  • 1/2 c. regular oats, uncooked
  • 1/4 c. pecans or nut of your choice
Combine the sugars, butter, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well.
Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the cereal, coconut, oatmeal and nuts. Shape into 1-inch balls and place onto a cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with a fork. Bake at a preheated 350-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes.

Yields 5 1/2 dozen


Monday, March 30, 2015

How to Extend the Life of your Water Heaters

I had one of those weeks. Years ago we were roped in to buying a  reverse osmosis unit that requires the filters to be changed ever year. The company we bought it from calls us annually to come out to change them for us for a premium price. However, I find my self playing the succor and letting them come. With that expensive call, they do a complimentary check on our water softener as well. This time, he noticed in our furnace room that our unit that heats the water for our radiant heat had leaked and had some corrosion. It was done and about to explode, he told me.

So, I decided to call my trusted local plumber to fix the job. Not my highly inflated bilker soft water company who took an hour to figure out it wasn't the typical water heater like my other two. I am glad I did. I couldn't have met a more knowledgeable man. While he was here, in passing he told me a crucial tip. He instructed me on how to extend the life of my water heaters by as much as FIVE years. At $1700 a piece for my two water heaters, I was all ears.

He told me to get a small water hose and hook it up to the bottom of my water heater spigot once a year. Then open it up and drain about five gallons out of it or until my water runs clear. He claims the calcium sediment settles in the bottom of the tank and causes problems for the unit making it not so efficient -- adding layers creeping up to where the tank won't hold as much water.

I was all over that. I don't know if this is something to brag about, but it didn't take me long to scour my back yard up next to the canal where they recently excavated, I found a garden hose that the workers carelessly tore up. Yeah, I need to clean up around here. Sure enough, it was the perfect size; In tact. So, I took it downstairs with my bucket and did what he instructed. As expected, my water seemed a bit cloudy. I emptied the water and had a little Tim Allen from Home Improvement moment.

I was so elated that I just wanted to share with you so you can avoid the surprising flooding of the basement carpet like we experienced a few years ago when our water heater decided it was done. 

Hopefully you'll find some enjoyment in this sort of science experiment.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chocolate Divine Layer Cake

There are some desserts that just make you plain angry. Angry that you can't stop eating them. Angry that it is just so tasty and you lose all willpower. Yes, this is one of those desserts. Be warned. Chocolate Divine Cake
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 & 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup boiling water
Directions: 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat three 8-inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Spray each pan again and coat with a thin layer of flour. 2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the boiling water; the batter will be very thin. 3. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 4. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Make the cream cheese filling. When you're ready to assemble the cake, remove the layers from the refrigerator. If needed, level each layer with a serrated knife or cake leveler. 5. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate. Evenly spread about 3/4 cup of the cream cheese filling over the cake, leaving about 1/2 inch margin around the edges. Top with the second layer and repeat. Finally, top with the third layer. Cream Cheese Frosting 1 cup cream cheese 3/4 cup butter 1/2 tablespoon vanilla 6 cups powdered sugar Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed for about one minute. Add the vanilla and beat one minute more. Reduce the mixing speed to low, and add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. Once the sugar is completely incorporated, beat at medium speed for about two minutes or until fluffy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies

Ready to get your green on? Or at least eat it? These Andes Mint Cookies are easy to whip up. They look like you spent a long time on these -- and will taste like it, too. I'd like to think they are second cousins to these cookies from a few weeks ago. They have a similar base. These are great to make with little helpers, as there will be leftover mints to crack open and spoons to lick. You'll see.
Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies
  • 1 1/4 c. Butter, softened
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 18 pieces of Andes Mints
Cream butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla. Slowly incorporate the rest of the dry ingredients. Once fully mixed, roll them up into balls onto the baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Once they come out and are hot, place 1/2 of a mint on top of each cookie and let rest for a minute there to melt.
After they start to melt, you can swirl the mints on top of the cookie with the back of your spoon
This will frost the cookie. Then, after you have frosted all the cookies, you will need to find someone to lick the spoon.
That shouldn't be too hard, right? Now, go enjoy your day since this was a breeze.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rolo Stuffed Cookies topped with Sea Salt

Who are we kidding? The price of gas is creeping back up, but has anyone bothered to check the prices of Rolos? WHAT!? One of my favorite candies is getting less affordable.
So, call is a splurge, but I think you'll agree it will be worth it. Luckily this batch only requires 24 of those precious nuggets that you roll a rolo to your pal.
Here we go:
The Ingredients:
  • 2 and 1/4 cup (280 grams) all-purpose flour, measured the correct way
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (180 grams) chocolate chips, divided
  • 24 Rolo candies, unwrapped of course
  • sea salt
Mix together the flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a medium size bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the egg, then the egg yolk. Finally, whisk in the vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. The dough will be very soft. Cover the dough and chill for 2 hours, or up to 3 days. Chilling is necessary. The longer the better.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow to slightly soften at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside. Unwrap the Rolos.
Grab a small amount of dough (less than the amount you would to roll out a ball for a cookie) and carefully shape it around an unwrapped Rolo. As long as the Rolo doesn't peek out, you're good. Continue until you have wrapped 24 Rolos. I think that's as many as you're going to get -- fewer if you snitch the dough like I did.
I poured the sea salt in a ramekin and dipped the ball to adorn the tops with salt.
Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes until golden brown. Let them cool as long as you can wait. Then, eat!
Let me know what you think. I did a batch with salt and without. I like the salt.
And if I have you thinking of the iconic 1980's Rolo commercial now, here's a link so you can get the song stuck in your head.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


First let me "D-éclair" this is not a cake walk. This recipe is time consuming; generally saved for birthdays or special occasions. When we do make it, we usually triple it in order to please everyone -- each needs his fill of one... or five éclairs. 
1 c. flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. shortening
1 c. boiling water
4 eggs
Sift flour with salt in a bowl and set aside. On the stove, combine boiling water with the fat in a saucepan. Keep on low heat until fat is melted. Add flour and salt mixture all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan. Cook for about 2 more minutes until the mixture appears dry. Remove from heat. Add unbeaten eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Continue beating until a thick dough forms.
With a large gallon-sized Ziploc back, pour in the dough. Zip close making all air escape. Cut a ½-inch slit in the corner of one of the bags to create your own pastry bag. Gently push the dough out onto a brown paper-lined baking sheet. You can use Kraft paper or a paper bag that has been cut into one sheet the size of the pan. You will want to arrange the eclairs about 2 inches apart. You will push out the dough to make about 4-inch long logs.
Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then without opening the oven, reduce heat to 400 for another 7 minutes. Then reduce again for another 7 minutes at 375 degrees. These will cook for anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes – they are done when you no longer see moisture on the surface. It is important not to open the oven during the beginning part of the baking.
Remove to wire racks to let cool. Once cool, cut a slit in side of each log and remove doughy centers if necessary.
Spoon in cream filling (recipe below)
Cream Filling
1 pkg. Vanilla Instant Pudding
1 c. milk, cold
Whisk together and let sit
Meanwhile beat together
1 cup of whipping cream
¼ c. Powdered sugar.
Once whipped gradually fold in the cream into the pudding mixture.
You can adorn the tops with a little chocolate icing.
Chocolate Icing:
1 T butter
1 Heaping Tablespoon of Cocoa
½ c. powdered sugar
½ T to 1 T milk to
Mix above together to desired consistency. Again with the same method, place frosting into a sandwich bag. Zip close and snip a very small section of the corner to create another pastry bag. Create swirly marks on top of the filled e-clair with the frosting.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!