Friday, October 9, 2015

My absolutely favorite cookie of all time

I really love cookies... Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, pumpkin, peanut butter, Oreos, red velvet crinkle, and most recently, chocolate-chocolate-orange cookies from the creative genius of Landon and Trina Ivey. But my absolutely favorite cookie of all time is my mom's homemade oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and Craisins.

The recipe is found inside the lid of the classic Quaker oats box... so first, buy some oats! And then follow that recipe, but then tweek it in the Mama-Chandler way:

Use only half the amount of cinnamon
Do NOT use raisins. Instead...
Add 1 c of Craisins, or Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Medley
Add 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

I cannot begin to describe to you the happiness and comfort I feel when I smell these guys coming out of the oven, or when I eat one (or one dozen!) and savor the perfect blend of flavor.

What is your absolutely favorite cookie of all time?

Monday, October 5, 2015

All About That Bread

(Disclaimer: Sorry, but there is nothing gluten-free about this post.)

Happiness is...
A warm, fresh, homemade baguette
The smell making your mouth water
and your stomach growl
Crusty and floury on the outside
Soft and chewy on the inside
Generously thick slices, 
with thick layers of butter
Each bite is a taste of home,
of family,
of comfort, 
of love. 

Yes, homemade bread is so great, I wrote a poem about it. Here's how my Mom makes it amazing:

1 c water
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp bread-machine yeast

Put all the ingredients in the bread machine in order, and set the machine on the "dough cycle." When the dough is finished mixing, take it out and roll it in flour, and form a 12-15" log. Place it in a floured banneton, and cover it with oiled plastic. Let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Then gently transfer it to a greased cookie sheet. Slash the top several times with a sharp knife. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 min.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Young Family Heavenly Hash

Today's recipe comes loaded with memories of my mom's family reunions in Ohio, when her father's huge family would come together in the church basement at long tables, where there was plenty of food, and plenty of her Grandma Young's homemade pies. But one special dish stood out at those reunions... one of my Grandpa Jack's favorites... Heavenly Hash. 

My Grandpa Jack Young hand-wrote this recipe for my mom's collection:

In case you can't read it, here's the recipe:

2 small packages lemon Jell-O
1 pt whipping cream
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can pecans

Make the Jell-O. Cut Jell-O in 1" squares after it sets. Whip the cream real stiff, then sweeten. Drain the pineapple and don't use the juice. Put Jell-O in mixing bowl, pour whipped cream over it, then put the pineapple on, then spread the pecans on. Mix very lightly.

"Heavenly Hash" sits in that grey, fuzzy line between "side dish salad" and "dessert," and can conveniently play both roles. It is incredibly light and fluffy and sweet, and is actually very pretty to behold. And it continues to be a family favorite!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Momma Chandler's Chicken Noodle Soup

Today when I asked Mom for her Chicken Noodle Soup recipe, she just tapped her head and said, "It's all right here." Apparently, it is an old family tradition, which my Grammie taught my mom, and my mom has slowly adapted and perfected over the years, as my brothers and I have grown up. I think those are my favorite kind of recipes!

So, here's the ingredients that Momma Chandler uses these days: 

2 chicken breasts
1 onion
4 celery sticks
2 chicken boullion cubes

(to taste):
parsley and sage (homegrown and dried)
sea salt 
ground black pepper

1 package of extra wide egg noodles

Put the chicken in the crock pot and cover it with water. Cut up the onion and celery and add them to the pot. Then sprinkle in the herbs and spices. (Mom goes light on the salt, since you can always add more later.) Let it cook in the crock pot all day. 

Then use a colander to drain it, and save the broth in a large sauce pan. Cook the noodles in the broth. Shred the chicken, and add it to the noodles. 

Feel free to adapt the ingredients and amounts to your family's preference. Mom said she did it this way when we were growing up, because we got the benefits of the vegetables without having chunks of the vegetables in the soup (a great idea for children!).

It's healthy, kid-friendly, easy to make, and delicious. So delightfully savory and comforting, it will warm your hands, your heart, and your home, especially on a cool rainy fall day! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

All things pumpkin

Nothing says "autumn" like a beautiful, bright orange pumpkin. Last week, Mom and I visited Trader Joe's (the Disneyland of grocery stores), and they had colorful signs everywhere, promoting all their pumpkin products - harvest salsa, harvest granola, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin loaf, etc. The joy of pumpkin-ness was everywhere! They had a big bin of pumpkins, too, and Mom got one for a really great price. When she took it to the register, the cashier said, "Wow, that is one bodacious pumpkin!" I love TJ employees, and I couldn't have complimented that pumpkin better myself.

One of the many pumpkin recipes that have become tradition in our home is Iced Pumpkin Cookies. Mom actually got this one from a website: They are SO soft and savory-sweet and comforting... Great with milk, cider, coffee, or tea, in the morning for breakfast, lunchtime, afternoon tea, evening dessert, TV munchies, or midnight snack. So... basically, anytime. I've eaten a ton of them this week.

When it comes to baking, it is usually important to follow the directions... But Mom likes to create her own versions of recipes, to make them Chandler-unique. So for this recipe, instead of making a glaze, she just uses the original measures of the ingredients (without adding extra milk) and makes creamy icing.

I personally think the icing is the best part!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

One in a million

Shepherd's Pie is an old family favorite. Traditionally, Mom makes it with ground beef and raisins, but the beauty of this dish is that as long as there's beef on the bottom and potatoes on the top, you can dress it up however you want. Add in peas, carrots, onions, peppers, mushrooms, or currants... add the cheese of your choice to the potatoes... There are about a million ways to make it!

This week, Mom tried a new version, which she got from my sister-in-law, Amanda, and it's called the "Tavern Shepherd Pie." What made it unique was that the meat mixture is actually a pot roast and carrots, which you put in the crock pot and slow cook all day. Add to it a package of pot roast seasoning and a cup of water, and your whole house will smell amazing! Then in the evening, you let the roast fall apart and spread it in a dish. Make some fluffy mashed potatoes and mix in some cheddar cheese, and generously pile it on top of the meat. Then put it in the oven at 350 F, and let it bake until golden brown.

And there you have it - an easy, hearty, delicious meal to share with your family on a cool autumn evening!

We didn't include any specific measurements in this recipe, because it's more of an inspirational concept. We encourage you to get creative with it, and include your family's favorite ingredients, and come up with your own special version of Shepherd's Pie.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcome, Autumn!

This is the first official day of fall, so we are celebrating by rebooting our cooking blog! In the summer, we do a lot of fresh garden veggies and grilled dishes (not to mention ice cream!). But when the weather gets cooler, Mom breaks out the apron, dusts off some old family favorite recipes (often hand-written on 3x5 cards), and warms up the oven. So this season, we will post about the legendary Spoon Drop Inn fall specials - some are new, but most have been around for as long as I can remember.

When you think of the fall season, what comes to mind? Is it brilliantly colored leaves? Pumpkins? Cozy sweaters? Bonfires? Gilmore Girls? Allergies? Back-to-School sales? For me, all I can say are just two delicious words: Apple Dip. And that is why it is our debut recipe:

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. salted peanuts (finely chopped)

Use a mixer to beat the cream cheese, brown sugar, and vanilla together. Then stir in the peanuts. Keep refrigerated until you use it. 

And how is it used? Well, we get a bushel of our favorite crispy apples, slice them up, and then generously scoop/dip/slather on the Apple Dip! It's so good, you may just find yourself eating it straight out of the bowl with a spoon, or raiding your fridge for anything you can possibly find to pair with it. Yes, it is that amazing.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Playing Favorites

This morning, Mom and Dad had planned to go out for breakfast, but when we got up, this was the scene outside the window: 

So, being obviously snowed in, Mom decided to seek inspiration for a special breakfast from her trusty BCC, where she found what Betty claims to be "Favorite Coffee Cake." Not sure what makes it "the favorite" or who got to determine that it was "the favorite"... Possibly Betty's daughter? I personally think Mom should call all her recipes "the favorite."

Favorite Coffee Cake (p. 55 of the BCC): You can bake it in a round layer pan or a square 2" deep pan. It had a special topping, a mixture of brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter. And to make it a Chandler family favorite, Mom added roasted pecans. And of course it's best served warm. 

It was delicious, thick and fluffy, just like the surprise snow fall we woke up to this morning. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Blondie + Peanuts = mm-mmmm-good!

Yesterday, Mom and Dad and I stayed home, wearing multiple layers of clothing and eating multiple bowls of hot soup. "If the weather continues to stay this cold," Mom said, "I won't have any choice but to do more baking!" Well, it's still cold and is steadily getting colder, so today the oven was the best source of warmth and comfort.

Mom dug out an older magazine clipping of a recipe she's never made before, but was apparently saving for an especially chilly day. From Family Circle , October 2009, on p. 14 came a delightful dessert, Peanut Butter Blondies.

Now, it's important to note that the Chandlers enjoy the "funny pages" of the newspaper more than any other page, so when I think about this dessert, I can't help but wonder, What would happen if we crossed Blondie with Peanuts??

Aaaand... voila! We get something fun and sweet and good to share with the whole family and more: 

2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c shortening
1 c peanut butter
1 lb packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 c chopped peanuts

1 lb confectioners' sugar
1/2 c peanut butter
1/2 c shortening
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c hot water

Heat oven to 350 deg. F.
Coat two 13x9x2" pans with cooking spray.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking power, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat shortening, PB, and brown sugar on med-high for 3 minutes.
Add eggs and beat 3 minutes more.
Add vanilla.
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture.
Stir in peanuts.
Divide batter between the two pans.
Bake at 350 deg. F. for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Let cool slightly.

Beat confectioner's sugar, PB, shortening, salt, and vanilla.
Add hot water a little at a time.
Beat until smooth.
Spread over blondies while still warm.

I must say I absolutely LOVE this dessert! And I'm pretty sure I could eat the frosting from a big bowl with a spoon, it was so amazing. And Mom loves that the recipe makes two big pans of it, so you can have one for your family and give the other away. If you're a fan of peanut butter, I highly recommend you try this out!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Kale Chips

Our "produce lady," Wendy, gave Mom a bag of kale yesterday at church. We haven't really done a lot with kale at The Spoon Drop Inn, so when Mom asked for ideas, Wendy recommended "kale chips." 

Here's Wendy's Kale Chips Recipe
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. 
Wash and dry kale thoroughly. 
Remove stem/ribs and tear leaves into potato chip sized pieces. 
Rub leaves lightly in olive oil. 
Lay pieces on a wire cooling rack atop a foil lined cookie sheet. 
Sprinkle with garlic salt (or powder) and grated Parmesan cheese. 
Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until leaves are tender and edges are crispy.

Today it's cold and cloudy, with a chance of snow this afternoon, so there's chili in the crockpot, homemade bread in the oven, and a fire in the fireplace. It seemed like a good time for us to try this great healthy, tasty little snack - easy to make, and easy to eat. Thanks for the kale and the recipe, Wendy!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sweets for the Sweet

My mom made my very favorite cookies of all time this weekend... and I think it's because she loves me.

The original recipe is found on the lid of the Quaker Oats container: Quaker's Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They're called "vanishing" because they're sooo good you can't stop eating them until they are gone. But Mom has made a few alterations to the recipe, which I think make these cookies even more irresistible. The recipe calls for 1 cup of raisins, but instead, Mom uses 1 cup of Craisins and 1 cup of chocolate chips. It also calls for 1 tsp of cinnamon, and Mom only puts in 1/2 tsp. Here's how she does it: 

1/2 c plus 6 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

3 c Quaker Oats
1 c Craisins
1 c chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 F. 
In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. 
Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. 
Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. 
Add oats, craisins, and chocolate chips; mix well. 
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. 
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. 
Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. 
Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

As with any cookie, they are best when they are warm and gooey, right out of the oven... but I eat them any time, day or night. Try them out with your family, and see how quickly they vanish!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Golden Croquettes

We have another special recipe from Southern Living to share with you today! Again,from the Feb 2015 edition, on p. 94 - Salmon Croquettes with Dill Sauce. I absolutely love salmon, so this was a treat for me, and the dill sauce was surprisingly rich and creamy, and was a perfect companion for the croquettes. Flaky, fishy, and delicate, this dish brought a waft of summer breeze with it, which is most welcome in February, when winter is beginning to lose its charm. 

Dill Sauce: 
1 1/2 c. fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tsp. fresh lemon juice
Pinch of ground red pepper

Whisk these ingredients together in a small bowl. 

Salmon Croquettes: 
2 (14.75 oz.) cans of salmon, packed in water
2 c. finely chopped celery
4 large eggs, beaten
1 c. finely chopped onion
1-2 tsp. table salt
1-2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil 

Drain salmon; remove and discard skin and bones. Flake salmon and place in medium bowl. 
Stir celery, eggs, onion, salt and pepper into salmon. 
Shape mixture into six 4-in. patties (about 3/4 c. per patty). 
Cook patties in hot oil in a large skillet over med-high heat 5 minutes on each side until golden. 

Since it was just Mom, Dad and I, we only made half the recipe, and shaped four smaller patties. And she added sweet potato fries and a cucumber salad on the side. 

By the way, don't you just love the word "croquette"? It came from the French word croquer which means "to crunch," which is exactly what things fried in oil tend to do. I think it sounds sort of royal, especially when the recipe says they are to be "cooked until golden." Golden Croquettes... sounds like a sort of national treasure, doesn't it? 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

You say "collops," and I say "scallops"...

Returning to the BCC for a classic family home-cooked dish today, we made Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. The recipe on p. 299 says to follow the recipe on p. 435 to make scalloped potatoes or creamy scalloped potatoes, and then you add cooked ham between the layers of potatoes.

We opted for the scalloped (not creamy) potatoes, because that's the way my mom's mother made it. In Mom's words: "You just layer the sliced potatoes with flour, butter, salt and pepper, and then pour milk over it, and cook it!" And she had some ham left over from Christmas that she put into the mix.

For a bit of culinary history, you may be interested to learn that the term "scallop" is typically used in reference to the seafood, or to the rounded edges of pie crusts and things... neither of which is relevant in scalloped potatoes. The term "scalloped potatoes" actually came from the old English word "collops," which meant sliced foods. In Ireland, this particular dish was called "Potato Collops." So, it seems that some silly American must have just gotten confused or tongue-twisted, and mispronounced it at some point, and now we have a delightful little meal that has nothing to do with scallops and everything to do with collops! Oh well, potayto, potahto... collops, scallops... let's call the whole thing off and just enjoy eating this tasty food!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

To warm your heart

Today's recipe came from my favorite sister-in-law, Amanda. It was originally a Beef Tortellini Soup, but this time Mom altered the recipe slightly to make Chicken Tortellini Soup, served with homemade French bread (the bread recipe is available on special request!). It really is a wonderful way to feel warm and cozy on a cold winter day... which I know many of you up North could use this week! It cooks for a looong time, which will make your house smell incredible in the afternoon to welcome the family home from school or work.

Combine the following ingredients in a crock pot and cook on LOW for 8-9 hours:

2 chicken breasts, cut up
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. sugar
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cans chicken broth

About 25 minutes before serving, add:

2 cups frozen tortellini
1 tsp of basil

At the bottom of the recipe, Amanda wrote: "This is probably one of my favorite soups of all time. Perfect when it is cold, and even better with fresh bread. Comfort food to the max!" And we couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Back with a Bundt

Hi everyone! Sorry for the long lull in blogging activity. Let me assure you, our silence was not due to a lack of cooking. But most of what Mom has been creating are not recipes from the BCC. So we've decided to return with a broader vision... referring you to recipes from all sorts of resources! We will still promote the BCC and direct you to delicious dishes from its pages, but we will also reveal recipes we found in magazines, on the back of napkins and receipt slips, from old-fashioned family recipe cards, and other cookbooks... yes, maybe even The JOY of Cooking. This will give us a little more creative culinary freedom, will expand our audience, and will give you more opportunities to share with us your own kitchen adventures. What do you make for your husband's sake? Send it to us so we can share the love!

Today's recipe came from the February 2015 Southern Living magazine, p. 106 - the Triple-Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake. Mom made it for Dad this week, just for fun. And boy, was it fun... to eat! I mean, come on... I know there is a hole in this cake, but there are also TWO layers of icing on top! I highly recommend it, maybe even as a special Valentine treat.

2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. unsweet cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
1 1/2 c. softened butter
3 c. granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temp
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. instant espresso
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. 60% cacao bittersweet choc. morsels

3/4 c. semisweet choc. morsels
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare the cake. Preheat oven to 325 F.
Flour mixture: Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
Egg mixture: Beat butter in a medium bowl on medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Gradually add sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears.
Buttermilk mixture: Combine buttermilk, espresso, and vanilla.
Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternatively to the egg mixture. Make sure to begin and end with the flour mixture. Beat on low speed after each addition.
Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels.
Pour batter into a well-greased, floured, 12-cup Bundt pan. Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake at 325 F for 75-85 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan, cool completely on rack.

Prepare the glazes.
Chocolate glaze: Combine semisweet chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at Medium 1-1 1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
Buttermilk glaze: Whisk together the sugar, 1 Tbsp buttermilk, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add more buttermilk, if desired.
Drizzle the warm chocolate glaze and then the buttermilk glaze over the cooled cake.

Makes 10-12 servings.