Friday, December 31, 2010

Banana Muffins with Big Blackberries and Sugar Crust

Banana Muffins with Big Blackberries and Sugar Crust

Makes about 20 muffins.

Happy New Year's eve! These are great muffins... and freeze well too. Whip some up and start your new year right.
Source: Christmas with the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook

Vegetable oil cooking spray, for misting the pans
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 small banana, very ripe
3 c. self-rising flour
1-1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. large fresh blackberries (about 12), rinsed and drained
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mist the bottom of 20 muffin cups with cooking spray. Set the pans aside.

Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat again until the mixture lightens and is lemon-colored, 30 seconds. Slice the banana into the bowl. Add 1-1/2 cups of the flour, 1 cup of the buttermilk, and the nutmeg. Stir the ingredients just until combined, 10 strokes. Add the remaining flour and buttermilk and stir with the spoon to just combine the ingredients, 10 strokes more. The batter will still be a little lumpy. Fold in the blackberries.

Spoon 1/3 cup of the batter into each prepared muffin cup, filling it three-quarters full. Sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar and place the pans in the oven.

Bake the muffins until they are lightly golden and just spring back when they are lightly pressed with your finger, 21-23 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven; immediately remove muffins from pans by running a dinner knife around the edges of the muffins.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Buffalo Chex Mix

Buffalo Chex Mix

Makes 12 cups.

I made this as directed, but afterward, wished I had cut back on the amount of celery seed. Next time, I will make it as I have written here. It's a tasty mix. The Buffalo flavor isn't quite as strong as I suspected, so increase the amount of Buffalo sauce if you'd like.

4 c. Rice Chex
4 c. Wheat Chex
2 c. pretzel twists
2 c. parmesan crackers (i.e. Goldfish brand or Cheez-It brand)
8 T. butter
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
2-1/2 T. hot sauce
1/2 t. celery seed

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Melt butter in a large stock pot. Once melted, remove from heat and mix in hot sauce, Ranch dressing packet, and celery seed. Stir in Rice Chex, Wheat Chex, pretzels, and parmesan crackers, doing your best to coat evenly.

Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Cool and serve!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Half-Broke Horses

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Have you read The Glass Castle? If not, go read that. And then, after you love it (which you will), go read this. The story grows deeper, the characters acquire richer personalities, and you continue to enjoy the stories behind Jeannette Walls' life.

Publishers Weekly review from

For the first 10 years of her life, Lily Casey Smith, the narrator of this true-life novel by her granddaughter, Walls, lived in a dirt dugout in west Texas. Walls, whose megaselling memoir, The Glass Castle, recalled her own upbringing, writes in what she recalls as Lily's plainspoken voice, whose recital provides plenty of drama and suspense as she ricochets from one challenge to another. Having been educated in fits and starts because of her parents' penury, Lily becomes a teacher at age 15 in a remote frontier town she reaches after a solo 28-day ride. Marriage to a bigamist almost saps her spirit, but later she weds a rancher with whom she shares two children and a strain of plucky resilience. (They sell bootleg liquor during Prohibition, hiding the bottles under a baby's crib.) Lily is a spirited heroine, fiercely outspoken against hypocrisy and prejudice, a rodeo rider and fearless breaker of horses, and a ruthless poker player. Assailed by flash floods, tornados and droughts, Lily never gets far from hardscrabble drudgery in several states—New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois—but hers is one of those heartwarming stories about indomitable women that will always find an audience. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Emeril's Turkey Meatloaf

Emeril's Turkey Meatloaf

Serves 4-6.

A nice little change from the standard meatloaf. Serve traditionally with mashed potatoes and a vegetable.
Source: Everyday Food magazine

1 t. vegetable oil
4 oz. turkey bacon, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped (1 c.)
1 small green bell pepper, chopped (3/4 c.)
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 c. rolled oats (not instant)
1 c. evaporated milk
1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey (preferably 85% lean)
1-1/4 c. sweet chili sauce or ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook bacon, stirring, until almost crisp, about 4 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add oats and evaporated milk. Let cool.

Add turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons chili sauce or ketchup. Stir well to combine. Transfer mixture to a 5"-by-9" loaf pan and smooth top. Spread remaining chili sauce or ketchup over top. Bake until meatloaf is cooked through (165 degree internal temperature), about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let cool in pan 20 minutes before slicing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow

Makes 9 cups.

Quick! You have a few more days before you feel obligated to make your annual "healthy eating" New Year's resolution! :::wink!:::
My younger brother is The Best puppy chow maker ever. I don't know what his secret is, but I think it involves increasing the amounts of chocolate, peanut butter, and butter, and keeping the amount of Rice Chex as directed. His puppy chows always contains luscious powdered-sugar-covered-peanut-butter-and-chocolate glumps. And they taste amazing.
Here's the basic recipe. Increase amounts as you choose. Even made as-is, this is a spectacular, tried-and-true sweet snack.

9 c. Rice Chex
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. butter
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. powdered sugar

In a large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt butter, chocolate chips, and peanut butter. Stir frequently until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food storage bag.

Add powdered sugar to bag, seal, and shake to coat. Spread on wax paper to cool completely or, if you're lazy, just keep it in the bag or throw it in a container with an air-tight lid.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you have a wonderful, blessed holiday.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lemon Icebox Cookies

Lemon Icebox Cookies

Makes about 4-5 dozen.

It's Christmas Eve! You're probably enjoying time with family and preparing for Santa Claus. I'm sure you are done baking at this point, but keep this in mind for next holiday season... or this summer. It's a refreshingly tart butter cookie that will add a blast of sunshine to your holiday cookie platter.
Source: Everyday Food magazine

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 t. coarse salt
1 T. plus 1 t. lemon zest
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
1/4 c. granulated sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, and lemon zest until combined. Add butter and process until sandy. Add egg yolks and lemon juice; pulse until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and form each into a 1-1/2"-wide log. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, about 2 hours (or up to 1 month).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Spread granulated sugar on a piece of parchment; roll logs over sugar to coat. Slice logs into 1/4"-thick slices and arrange, 1" apart, on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.

A Note From The Little Lady: Sometimes I read recipes like this, and I get turned off by the use of the food processor and parchment paper. If you want to use you stand mixer, as I did, simply beat butter and confectioners' sugar together; add egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat. Then add in salt and all-purpose flour. Mix until dough just comes together. When it comes to baking, just be sure to use nonstick cookie sheets -- I didn't have any problems.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Cane Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen.

Not gonna lie... these were more work than I thought!
Source: Taste of Home magazine

1 tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough, softened
4 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. peppermint extract
1 t. red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cookie dough, flour, and extract until smooth. Divide dough in half; mix food coloring into one portion. Shape 1 teaspoon of white dough into a 6" rope. Shape 1 teaspoon of red dough into a 6" rope. Place ropes side by side; press together lightly and twist.

Place on an ungreased baking sheet; curve one end of cookie to form handle of cane.

Repeat with remaining dough, placing cookies 2" apart on baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until set. Cool for 2 minutes before carefully removing to wire racks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Wreath Cookies

Christmas Wreath Cookies

Makes 2 dozen.

A buttery little cookie whose festive appearance makes it a great addition to your cookie tray.

1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. white sugar
3 egg yolks
1 t. vanilla extract
~5 T. red and green sprinkles (I used holly berry sprinkles)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla, beating until light and fluffy. Mix in the dry ingredients.

Shape into 1" balls. Work your finger through the center of each ball and shape dough into a ring. Dip top of each ring in decorating candies/sprinkles. Place cookies onto prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheets and let cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cocktails

The Happy Elf

Green and festive, this drink will make you verry merry.

2 c. sour apple liqueur
4 c. citrus vodka
2 c. white cranberry juice or white grape juice

Chill liquids before mixing. Mix all ingredients in a punch bowl or pitcher. Serve over ice.

Ward 8

Another festive, yet strong, cocktail. Sip slowly and enjoy.

4 c. bourbon
2 c. orange juice
1 c. grenadine
5 lemons, halved and juiced

Chill liquids before mixing. Mix all ingredients in a punch bowl or pitcher. Serve over ice.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread

Need something from Christmas morning? What's better than a chunk of buttery, sugary, warm dough in between presents? This is a classic. It may make you feel like the Pillsbury Doughboy after consuming, but it sure does taste delicious going down!

3 pkgs. Pillsbury dinner rolls or biscuits
1/2 c. sugar
2 T. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each dinner roll/biscuit into four pieces. Roll in cinnamon sugar mixture. Put dough chunks in a greased bundt pan or angel food pan.

Pour any leftover cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the cut up rolls.

3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
1 stick butter, melted

Mix together the three ingredients listed above. Pour over top of the rolls.

Bake for 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and turn onto large dish. Monkey bread will fall out in seconds.

A Note From The Little Lady: This can be prepared the night before and refrigerated and baked in the morning.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Bark

Makes about 2 lbs.

And to go with your white bark? Chocolate bark! Feel free to play around with what you add in -- after I chilled this in the fridge, I was wishing I had added peanuts or chopped pretzel pieces. Swirling in peanut butter, or adding chopped candy bars, would also be fantastic.
You can also play around with the chocolate chips -- maybe do half chocolate chips and half peanut butter chips?
Slightly adapted from: USA Weekend, November 12-14, 2010

2 pkgs. (10-12 oz. each) chocolate chips
1 T. vegetable oil
1 t. extract (peppermint, almond, etc.)
Dried fruit
Candy bits

Melt chocolate chips with vegetable oil and extract in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently. Stir in nuts, dried fruit, and/or candy bits, and spread it out in a baking pan with greased foil. Let it harden in the refrigerator for about two hours; then break apart into pieces.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

White Chocolate Bark

White Chocolate Bark

Makes about 2 lbs.

This is so easy to make... you will have it done lickity-split. Granted, you need to allot for time in the fridge, but the prep is a breeze.
Slightly adapted from: Quick Cooking magazine, November/December 2005

1 T. butter
1 T. vegetable oil
2 pkgs. (10-12 oz. each) vanilla or white chocolate chips
1 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. dried cranberries
1/4 t. ground nutmeg

Line a 15" x 10" x 1" pan with foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Place the chips in a saucepan with butter and vegetable oil. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until smooth.

Stir in walnuts, cranberries, and nutmeg. Spread into prepared pan. Chill until firm. Break into pieces.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Damaged by Cathy Glass

A disturbing... yet totally addicting read. You can easily get through this in two days if you have the time to read it. I realize you could say that about any book about this length, but my point is that you will want to read it. You will be riveted by the story and will find yourself flipping pages quickly, wanting to see what happens. A great -- yet eye-opening -- look into the world of foster parenting.

Product Description from

Although Jodie is only eight years old, she is violent, aggressive, and has already been through numerous foster families. Her last hope is Cathy Glass. At the Social Services office, Cathy (an experienced foster carer) is pressured into taking Jodie as a new placement. Jodie's challenging behavior has seen off five carers in four months. Despite her reservations, Cathy decides to take on Jodie to protect her from being placed in an institution. Jodie arrives, and her first act is to soil herself, and then wipe it on her face, grinning wickedly. Jodie meets Cathy's teenage children, and greets them with a sharp kick to the shins. That night, Cathy finds Jodie covered in blood, having cut her own wrist, and smeared the blood over her face. As Jodie begins to trust Cathy her behavior improves. Over time, with childish honesty, she reveals details of her abuse at the hands of her parents and others. It becomes clear that Jodie's parents were involved in a sickening pedophile ring, with neighbors and Social Services not seeing what should have been obvious signs. Unfortunately Jodie becomes increasingly withdrawn, and it's clear she needs psychiatric therapy. Cathy urges the Social Services to provide funding, but instead they decide to take Jodie away from her, and place her in a residential unit. Although the pedophile ring is investigated and brought to justice, Jodie's future is still up in the air. Cathy promises that she will stand by her no matter what—er love for the abandoned Jodie is unbreakable.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Blondies

Christmas Blondies

Makes about 24 bars.

Deliciously dense, chewy, and fragrant. What a great new addition to my holiday collection!
Find the candied cherries with the fruitcake supplies, usually in your grocer's produce section.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens magazine, December 2009

2/3 c. butter, softened
2 c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 T. cherry brandy or cherry juice
1-1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. chopped toasted walnuts, optional (I omitted)
3/4 c. chopped white or dark sweet chocolate (I used white chips)
1/2 c. coarsely chopped candied cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9 baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat until well-combined. Beat in eggs, brandy, baking powder, vanilla, and salt. Add flour; beat until just blended. Stir in nuts, chocolate, and cherries. Spread in prepared pan (batter will be thick and sticky).

Bake 30 minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you are including the toasted walnuts, spread nuts in a baking pan. Toast in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bruschetta with Balsamic Glaze, Two Ways

Bruschetta with Balsamic Glaze, Two Ways

I love this appetizer and it's especially fun around the holidays, because the color combination of green pesto and roasted reds is oh-so seasonal. :)
My sister-in-law turned me on to this easy and scrumptious appetizer.

Version #1 is pictured above.
It's simply baguette topped with pesto, chopped roasted red peppers, and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

Here's version #2:
Baguette tops with chopped tomatoes, goat cheese, and drizzled with balsamic glaze.

Close-up of #1:

Close-up of #2:

A Note From The Little Lady: Balsamic glaze is NOT the same thing as balsamic vinegar, although you can typically find them right next to each other in the grocery store. My local Kroger carried it. If you can't find it at your local grocery store, try a specialty store, such as Whole Foods.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

Makes about 24 squares.

Always a hit, and easy on the baker!
Source: Christmas with the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook

1 yellow cake mix
1 c. peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, your choice)
1 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla

In a bowl, combine cake mix, peanut butter, melted butter, and eggs. Reserve one cup for the topping, and press the remaining mixture into a 13x9 baking pan.

In a saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and butter over low heat; stir until blended. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

A Note From The Little Lady: If you'd like, stir in 1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut to chocolate/milk mixture when adding vanilla extract.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Baked Tortellini with Bacon

Baked Tortellini with Bacon

Serves 2-3.

Simply amazing. The original recipe says this will serve 6, but I disagree. It IS a richer dish, so it's probably best paired with a large salad, which will stretch the servings to 4-5, but if this is the main and only dish, plan on 2-3. And you'll like it enough that you won't want to share with many others.
Source: Everyday Food magazine

4 slices bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2" pieces
1 small white onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 T. all-purpose flour
2 c. whole milk
2 pkgs. (8.8 oz. each) cheese tortellini
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper tower to drain. Add onion and garlic to pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds.

Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Add tortellini and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer; cook, stirring often, until liquid has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in bacon and 1/4 c. Parmesan. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and top with 1/4 c. Parmesan. Bake until top is golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

A Note From The Little Lady: Feel free to use variations on the cheese tortellini. We had great success with mixed herb. Also, if you would like to make this ahead of time, reduce oven temperature to 350; bake for 35 minutes and then increase temperature to 400 for a final 10 minutes, bringing total baking time to 45 minutes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Little Bee

Little Bee by Christ Cleave

This is a tough read at times, but a very good one. You'll laugh, cry, and become wide-eyed at the intense plot. Definitely recommend it for a "serious" read.

Bookmarks Magazine review from

Chris Cleave's Little Bee works because the unflinching, brutal story balances an outwardly political motive with rich, deep character development (and even some welcome humor), focusing narrowly on events before broadening to reveal some larger truths. Cleave's firm grasp of human nature and his unsparing disdain for injustice allow him to articulate lives as different as those of Little Bee and the less-likeable Sarah; both characters, though, are unforgettable. Comparisons between Cleave and fellow Brits Ian McEwan and John Banville are apt. The only dissent came from the San Francisco Chronicle, which took issue with the narrative voices and the rushed pace of the story. All others agreed, however, that Cleave's sophomore effort is, as the Chicago Sun-Times succinctly put it, "a loud shout of talent."
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FAIL: It happens

Every once in a while dinner is a complete flop. Thankfully, it doesn't happen all that often, but believe me -- it still happens.

Take last night for example...
It smelled bad.
It looked horrible.
I crinkled my nose and almost gagged upon lifting the crock pot lid.
I couldn't even bring myself to try it.
The Mister took and taste and said: "It's kinda like beggar's food."

Cue frozen pizza.
And a good laugh.

The point? I aim for everyday, real-life foods here. Meals that fit your busy lifestyle. Easy, weeknight meals and the occasional fancy-schmancy meal. And what's real life without recognizing the fact that failure DOES happen in the kitchen. Sometimes it's funny (I thank God when it is!), sometimes it's utterly frustrating (yes, I've cried before), and sometimes it's just sad ("Look at all those ingredients I wasted!")... but you toss it, you eat frozen processed food, and you start again the next day.

Or you take a day off and start again the day after tomorrow. :)

Any memorable failures in YOUR kitchen?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Smashed Potatoes with Bacon

Smashed Potatoes with Bacon

Serves 2.

Who doesn't like mashed potatoes? And who wouldn't like the addition of bacon?
Source: Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals cookbook

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 lb. small red potatoes
1/4 c. sour cream
1 T. butter
salt and pepper
milk or chicken broth, for thinning purposes, if necessary

Cut larger potatoes in half; leave smaller ones whole. Place potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with water and place over high heat with lid on. When water boils, add salt. Cook potatoes with lid off until tender, about 10-11 minutes.

Drain cooked potatoes and return to hot pot. Smash with sour cream, butter, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper. If they are too thick, thin them out with a splash of milk or broth.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini

Serves 2-3.

A rich and creamy classic.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book Limited Edition

4 oz. dried spaghetti or linguine
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms, optional
1/4 c. sliced green onions (about 2)
1 T. butter
1/8 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. black pepper
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
2/3 c. chicken broth
2/3 c. milk, half-and-half, or light cream
1 c. chopped cooked chicken
1/8 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook spaghetti or linguine according to package directions; drain.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan cook mushrooms and green onions in hot butter until tender. Stir in flour, pepper, and nutmeg. Add broth and milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in chicken and half of the Parmesan cheese. Add cooked spaghetti; toss gently to coat.

Transfer pasta mixture to a 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes. If dish has been made ahead of time and refrigerated, bake for 45 minutes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Apple Pie Cheesecake

Apple Pie Cheesecake

Serves 12.

Here's one of the dishes I contributed to our Thanksgiving spread this year. I had made it in the past and it always goes over well. It's a moist and creamy cheesecake, and the apple pie middle makes it perfect for Thanksgiving.

Source: Cooking Pleasures magazine

2 c. crushed gingersnaps
6 T. butter, melted

3 (8-oz) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. whipping cream
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. amaretto flavoring or vanilla extract
2 medium firm tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T. packed light brown sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. finely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/4 c. butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom of 10-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. In small bowl, stir together all crust ingredients. Press into bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of pan; wrap outside of pan with foil. Bake 5-7 minutes, or until set.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Beat in eggs, egg yolk, cream, 2 T. flour and flavoring 1 minute or until blended.

In medium bowl, toss apples with 1 T. brown sugar and 1 t. cinnamon until lightly coated.

Pour half of the filling into crust; arrange apples over the filling, overlapping slightly. Pour remaining filling over apples. Bake 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir together all topping ingredients; sprinkle over cake. Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown and set 3 inches from edge. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Refrigerate overnight. Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle:A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

Drop what you're doing and go read this... now! One of the best books I've read in a while. It had been on my to-read list for a very long time, and my book club finally gave the kick in the butt I needed. What a great read -- I'm just disappointed I didn't pick it up sooner! review:

Jeannette Walls's father always called her "Mountain Goat" and there's perhaps no more apt nickname for a girl who navigated a sheer and towering cliff of childhood both daily and stoically. In The Glass Castle, Walls chronicles her upbringing at the hands of eccentric, nomadic parents--Rose Mary, her frustrated-artist mother, and Rex, her brilliant, alcoholic father. To call the elder Walls's childrearing style laissez faire would be putting it mildly. As Rose Mary and Rex, motivated by whims and paranoia, uprooted their kids time and again, the youngsters (Walls, her brother and two sisters) were left largely to their own devices. But while Rex and Rose Mary firmly believed children learned best from their own mistakes, they themselves never seemed to do so, repeating the same disastrous patterns that eventually landed them on the streets. Walls describes in fascinating detail what it was to be a child in this family, from the embarrassing (wearing shoes held together with safety pins; using markers to color her skin in an effort to camouflage holes in her pants) to the horrific (being told, after a creepy uncle pleasured himself in close proximity, that sexual assault is a crime of perception; and being pimped by her father at a bar). Though Walls has well earned the right to complain, at no point does she play the victim. In fact, Walls' removed, nonjudgmental stance is initially startling, since many of the circumstances she describes could be categorized as abusive (and unquestioningly neglectful). But on the contrary, Walls respects her parents' knack for making hardships feel like adventures, and her love for them--despite their overwhelming self-absorption--resonates from cover to cover.