It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Family, Friends, Food, Fun. I love Christmas! Families gather around the world to revel in  the joy of the holiday season and family fellowship. Friends party and exchange gifts. Cards and family newsletters are sent to all the wonderful extended families. Lurking in the background of every event is the best food EVER. December is the month of candy making, bread baking, cupcaking, diet forsaking, tastebud waking, leftover taking, and overstuffed stomach aching. December is also the month of peppermint – drinks, candy, ice cream. For years, December was the only time you could find peppermint chocolate chips in the grocery store, which is why peppermint brownies were considered a Christmas treat. These brownies are a huge hit at any gathering.

Christmas Peppermint Brownies

Brownie:

  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 – teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1¾ – cups Hershey’s chocolate–flavored syrup
  • 4 – eggs
  • 1 – cup flour
  • ½ – teaspoon salt

Filling:

  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ – teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 – cups powdered sugar
  • 4 – drops green food coloring
  • 1 – tablespoon water

Frosting:

  • 9 – tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 – 10 ounce bag mint chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 13x9x2 pan. In a large mixing bowl with the mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, salt, vanilla, and chocolate syrup. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour. As soon as the flour is moist, turn the mixer on medium and beat the batter for 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the brownies for 30–40 minutes, until done. The brownies may look wet in the middle so use a toothpick to make sure they’re done. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature. It’s ok if the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan as they cool.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and powdered sugar. Beat in the water, peppermint, and food coloring until the filling is creamy and turns a soft green. Spread the filling evenly over the brownies, just to the edges. Refrigerate the brownies at least 2 hours, until the filling is set.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and mint chocolate chips, stirring occasionally. Do not boil the chocolate. When the butter and chips are melted, remove the pan from the heat and cool the chocolate for at least 30–60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread the frosting over the green filling and refrigerate the brownies until the frosting is set. Store the brownies in the refrigerator.

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Tasty and Beautiful Don’t Always Take a Lot of Time

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Isn’t this pork tenderloin beautiful? And it tastes, Oh Soooo Good! But then, pork tenderloin tastes good roasted with just salt and pepper. Today I preheated the oven to 325. Then I placed the tenderloin with salt and pepper in a roaster with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and a splash of diet Coke. That’s it! Push in the meat thermometer and cook to 170. About halfway through, I stirred the cranberry sauce and spooned it over the roast. Pair this with a salad and you have a whole meal, easy on the calories and your time. It may take a little over an hour to cook, depending on the size of your roast, but during that time you can get stuff done around the house, watch TV, or work on your taxes like me. Enjoy.

International Women’s Day – My Story

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We’ve come a long way, Baby! Even in my short 62 years, lifestyles have changed so much. I still remember the hassle of hose with girdles and garter belts, pantyhose, and seamed stockings. Way back in the olden days, women were required to wear dresses to school and work – and we were not allowed to go bare-legged so the solution was to wear some kind of hosiery everyday. We would stand behind trees as the winter wind whipped up our dresses while waiting for the school bus to pick us up. It wasn’t until my Senior year in high school that the dress code was dropped and we could wear pants.  What a relief. In the workplace, pantsuits were allowed, but some companies still required dresses. And you certainly could not show up for a job interview wearing pants. I still cringe just thinking about all those days strapped into uncomfortable underwear. Men have no idea what it’s like, and back then they sure didn’t care.

I grew up in the Midwest and when you say Illinois, people always think of Chicago, The Windy City. Next door to Chicago, is Milwaukee. It’s pretty windy there, too. I did some computer work for St. Joe’s Hospital. One Monday morning, I flew to Milwaukee, picked up my luggage, and headed for the taxi stand. I could see it was windy, so before I stepped out the door I gathered the edge of my dress in both hands, along with a suitcase, garment bag, and briefcase. Despite holding my dress in both hands, the wind whipped my dress over my face as I walked out of the terminal. So embarrassing! And to make it worse, the cab driver let me know everyone noticed. I never travelled in a dress again. My company continued to insist that I travel in a dress, even when I showed them an article written about travel guidelines suggesting women never travel in nylons. I found another job and that company doesn’t exist anymore – these two facts are not related.

In celebration of all women everywhere and their stories, here are some chocolate cookies that just melt in your mouth.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

  • 6 – tablespoons butter
  • 2 – tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 – 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ – teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 – 12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • ¼ – teaspoon salt
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1½ – teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 – eggs
  • ½ – cup flour

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, chocolate squares, and 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and set it aside for later.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and eggs for about 2 minutes. Blend in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. By hand, stir in the melted chocolate, flour, and chocolate chips in that order. Cover the cookie dough and chill until firm – at least a couple hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a melon–baller, drop balls of dough 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies 10–12 minutes, until puffed. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Shop My Small Business

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Friday, November 25, 2016, is National Shop Small Business Day. A business doesn’t get any smaller than an independent, self-publishing author. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, my cookbook would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen, beginner cook or seasoned chef. You can find Caveman Chemistry, Bringing Science Back into Cooking on lulu.com, coil bound or paperback bound. Take a look, I think you’ll like it.

The Cookbook is NOT All Sugar

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Yes, there are many dessert chapters, but the cookbook contains other recipes, too.  In the Midwest, we are known for our corn, casseroles, corn, Jell-O salads, corn, cheeseballs, corn, and desserts.  And corn.  We absolutely love our corn.  And it is oh-so-good eaten right off the cob – just pick, cook, and eat.  Wow!

If you don’t have access to corn right out of the field, there are many ways to prepare canned corn.  Here’s one of my favorite corn recipes.  I don’t have a photo, so just picture cornbread in your mind as you read and make the recipe.

Cornbread Casserole

  • 1 – 8.5 ounce box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 – 15.25 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 – cup margarine, melted
  • 1 – 8 ounce tub sour cream
  • 1 – 14.75 ounce can cream style corn

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x9x2 pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the corn muffin mix with the margarine. Stir in the corn and sour cream. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the casserole for 1 hour. This is the best cornbread casserole in the world. Double the recipe for potluck dinners and  it still won’t be enough.

A Cookbook Filled with Family Favorites and Age-Old Classics.

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I spent 30+ years in a cubicle, programming computers.  Late in my career, I began to notice that nobody cooked much anymore.  Everybody works now days and there’s so much to do after work that it’s just easier to head for fast food on the way home. These realizations inspired me to start writing down my family recipes.  Six years later, I had prepared and written up over 600 recipes that I had been collecting from family and friends over my lifetime.  All this cooking and typing made me want to encourage others to cook more or learn to cook and save all their family recipes, too.  I was inspired to learn more about the basic ingredients my family used and share that knowledge with my readers to help them feel more confident on their cooking journey.  And now Caveman Chemistry is ready for you.  Purchase my cookbook on http://www.lulu.com.  I know you will enjoy preparing and eating my family’s favorite dishes.

Valerie and Her First Book

Valerie and Her First Book