Monday, December 22, 2008

Peanut Butter Balls

These delicious peanut butter candies are sure to be my downfall this Christmas season.  I made enough to share, and now I am snowed in, and they are disappearing fast, if you know what I mean.  If you would like to try them, you will have to make your own.

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 Tablespoons margarine
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • parchment paper

Stir together the powdered sugar, peanut butter, and margarine until it is well mixed.

Shape the mixture into 1 inch balls (you may want to butter up your hands so they don't stick) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Let balls stand for 20 minutes until dry, or better yet, put the whole tray in the freezer if there is room.

Melt the chocolate you will use for dipping.  I tried a make-shift "double boiler" approach:

But it isn't necessary.  If you are doing this with your kids, just pop a glass bowl of chocolate chips in the microwave, and call it good.  That way they aren't standing over hot steam.

Dip the balls into the chocolate to coat.  I used a metal skewer at first, and then gave that up and just dropped them in and fished them out with a spoon.  Whatever works for you, go for it.

Let the excess chocolate drip off, and place the chocolate covered ball back on the parchment paper.

Let stand until dry, and then store any extras tightly covered in a cool dry place.

Thanks to Debi for another easy Christmas candy recipe!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Day!

Looks like I will get a chance to do some more Christmas baking, because I got a snow day today. Yipee! Here is a picture of Dioji helping me celebrate:

Stay tuned for more Christmas sweets...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Homemade Pecan Rocha

The Christmas season is re-kindling my love for food and baking.  Thank you to those who have encouraged me to return to blogging.  This post is for you.

Here is a close-up of the delicious pecan rocha that Debi taught me how to make yesterday:

Doesn't it look divine?  To me, it tasted just heavenly.  Of course, I hadn't had anything carmel for some years (due to the fact that store-bought carmel has milk in it, and it never occurred to me that carmel was a thing that could be made at home, milk-free) but my other co-workers seem to agree that it was very tasty.

It was really easy to make... 

  • about 1 sleeve of saltine crackers
  • 1 cup margarine (or butter)
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 12 oz bag of mini chocolate chips (or more, to taste?)
  • finely chopped nuts (almonds if you're traditional, or whatever you like)
  • sheet of parchment paper to cover your baking tray

Cover the bottom of your baking tray or 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper, and then lay the crackers out on top - being very careful not to overlap the crackers.

Melt the margarine in a small pot on the stovetop, and add the brown sugar.  Boil for 3 minutes, being careful not to let it burn.  Pour this carmel-y syrup over the crackers.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.  Place in a preheated 350* oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Spread the melted chocolate chips with a spatula to form a chocolate-y crust.  Sprinkle the nuts on top, and press them into the chocolate a bit so that they will stay.

Allow the candy to cool, and then break up or cut with a knife.

Then the only question that remains is, will you share?

Happy baking!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Belated Halloween Cake

Hello again, blogging friends!

Here is a pic of me with our Halloween cake.  Bryan made it and decorated it.  I think it turned out really nice.

That is really all the food-news I have from recently.  I've been using my slow cooker more lately, making homemade soup and other dishes.  But I haven't been packing cute lunches.  

I am thinking about doing another gingerbread house for the upcoming Christmas season.  We shall see.

I will try to come up with something worth posting here again soon, ok?

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Salad

I always feel that salads are sort of cheating, and not really bento... but it is my lunch and it was packed all in one container - so we will just go with it.

Can you spot all three types of meat in my salad? Pig, cow, chicken... I've practically got the whole farm in there!

And I love adding seeds to my salad. It feels festive, like a trip through the salad bar at the local buffet place. Leave me a comment and tell me: what do you like on your salads to make them special? (I always need good ideas!)

Happy Bento!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teriyaki Chicken Skewers

This summer I have had the chance to try my hand at barbecuing (usually Bryan's domain). Most recently I grilled up some teriyaki chicken skewers with pineapple. Here they are all lined up on the grill:

I love the little blackened bits!

Bryan and Dioji kill time before dinner:

The lunch I packed for the next day. Yum!

Happy Bento!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Colorful Lunch

After the last extremely bland-looking bento, I knew I had to kick it up a notch or two. So I stepped out into the garden and came back with some color:

Salad contains:

  • romain lettuce, spinach, carrots, cucumber & celery (from the grocery store)
  • borage flowers and leaves & tomatoes (from the garden)
  • sprouts (grown on my counter-top)
Up close you can see how fuzzy the borage leaves are:

I wasn't impressed with the texture. And though I've heard the flavor described as akin to cucumber... I couldn't distinguish it.

Here is the rest of my lunch, in bento form:

Grapes fill the top tier, and my own concoction of tomato-basil-garlic-chicken-pasta fills the bottom.

Happy Bento!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Friday's Bento

Where are the veggies? Where is the fruit? I need more color!

Embarrassingly simple bento contains:

Don't worry, I made it to the grocery store yesterday afternoon - so more colorful bentos are on the way. In any case...

Happy Bento!

Friday, September 5, 2008


I promised earlier to show you some pictures of other plants that have grown themselves in my garden this summer.

I am ecstatic about the number of tomatoes I am getting without doing anything aside from watering!

But will they ever turn red? I'm waiting...

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Garden-fresh Bento

Here is my bento from today:


  • turkey sandwich w/ tomatoes from my garden
  • more garden-fresh tomato slices
  • mini banana muffin
Here is the section of my garden that yielded today's tomatoes. The plants in back were given to me by my dad, and the little starts in front were planted (very late in the season) by yours truly.

Happy Bento!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back to School Bento

Yesterday was my first day back to work. And so I started the new school year right by making bento lunches for my husband and I. Here is Bryan's:

It contains:

  • ham sandwich
  • grapes
  • two crescent rolls
  • two homemade chocolate chip cookies
Just for fun, I foraged in the garden to find something fresh for my bento lunch. Here it is:

Can you find the home-grown radish in the following bento?

My lunch contains:
  • PB&J sandwich
  • grapes
  • trail mix (left over from a hike with my dad)
  • very small radish
  • junior mints (a treat from my mom-in-law)
Happy bento!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Homemade Frosting

Remember this?

If you are thinking your cake looks a bit forlorn, like the one above, you probably haven't frosted it yet. Let's get to it.

Gather up:

  • powdered sugar
  • butter or margarine
  • some milk-like liquid
  • vanilla extract
  • food coloring (optional)

Start with the wet ingredients. Don't use very much to start. You can always use more, but never less (and it doesn't take much)!

Add some powdered sugar. Use your hand mixer to mix it up until it looks spreadable but not too runny. This isn't rocket science. Don't stress exact amounts.

If you want your cake to look extra fun, add lots of crazy food coloring like I did:

Spread on your cake. Display...

...and then consume.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Chocolate Cake

About a week ago, for a friend of mine's birthday, I made my first from-scratch cake. It actually happened quite by accident. I was walking through the kitchen, a few things fell into a bowl, and out of the oven popped a cake! (Okay - it wasn't that much of an accident. What really happened was...)

Bryan went into the kitchen to bake a cake. There was no box of cake mix to be found.

"Look again!" I insisted, standing on tip-toe.
"I can actually see above this shelf." said my 6"1' husband, "We don't have any."

The wheels of my brain are turning furiously. With his right foot in a cast, Bryan can't drive right now, and I loathe going to the store. I was also remembering that during my last 27 fling boogie when I dove into my recipe stash, I had kept a recipe for chocolate cake because I really wanted to try it. Well, what was I waiting for? Here was my chance to avoid the store and make a cake I could be proud of!

"I can make one."
"Oh, you mean from scratch?" he looked surprised.
"Yeah. If I can bake bread, I'm sure I can make a cake." Now he looked cautious. That settled it, stubbornness set in as if he had just said "No, I don't think you can make a cake" and I was now determined to do this.

(My husband was really trying to be a nice guy - I'd like to point out. He knows that I take it pretty hard when things go wrong in the kitchen - and we had four guests coming over for dinner that night. The same six of us who endured the bean fiasco, incidentally.)

So I headed for the cupboard and fished out the recipe a co-worker had given me nearly a year ago. (By the way, thanks Heather!)

Heather's Chocolate Cake
  • 1 cup margarine, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup Dutch processed cocoa, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups HOT water
Let's get started!

In a mixing bowl, cream margarine and sugar.

Add the eggs,

one at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.  Stir in vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients;

add alternatively to the creamed mixture with the hot water.

I must add, at this point, that your batter is likely to look much runnier than this, because I got so caught up in taking blog pictures that I accidentally left out almost half of the water the recipe called for.  Oops!

Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans (or one 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan)

(I only have two round pans, so I also made a batch of mini cup cakes.  They were super cute.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes

before removing from pan to cool completely.

After cakes are completely cool,

frost with desired frosting.
 She suggests caramel frosting.  

Stay tuned to see what frosting I made instead... as well as the finished cake!