Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The first time I had pumpkin cookies was a couple years ago when I was filling in for one of the custodians at night, and someone had a plate of them out in her office with a "help yourself" sign, so I did. They were amazing and I decided I absolutely needed to find out how to make them. I got the recipe from Cooks.com.

I usually double the recipe so as to use up the entire 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips which, as my community group could tell you, makes a lot of cookies.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

butter
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. canned solid pack pumpkin
1 egg, beaten to blend
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (6 oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter baking sheets. Cream 1/2 cup butter with sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Blend in pumpkin, egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into medium bowl. Add to butter mixture, blending well. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto prepared sheets. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies on wire racks. Store in airtight container.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Banjos & Daughters

For my Creative Nonfiction class last year we had to write a collection of essays on one topic/theme. I chose my pregnancy since I was going through it at the time and no one else in the class had had the experience. Here are some excerpts from my essay about a festival we go to every year that's coming up again this weekend. I may post some of my other essays; I don't know. I'm not the best writer but it was fun to record some of my thoughts during pregnancy.

Banjos & Daughters

For at least one weekend out of the year, I revert back to childhood. I can actually forget the stress of work, classes and other responsibilities. The usual frustrations are lifted off my shoulders, as light and airy as a pink paper parasol.

The Johnny Appleseed Festival is a tradition for my family. It’s a two-day event that is held the third weekend in September, and I've never missed one. Even though I'm now married and live three hours away from my parents, we still make the trip up every year. Each time, we stroll the park munching on the same wonderful pioneer-type food cooked in iron kettles over an open fire or grilled to perfection: ham and beans, buffalo or pork burgers, chicken and dumplings, and huge chunks of piping hot cornbread. We browse the country home d├ęcor before deciding that it’s not our style, search the antiques for that perfect something we didn’t know we wanted, and peruse the handmade jewelry while watching unsupervised children brandish wooden swords and pop guns.

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I love it because it's familiar, it's home.

My dad, aunt and uncle are members of a folk band called Rosewood that performs every year. I like to be there to support my dad; he’s an amazing musician who can play most anything with strings.

I’ve always felt close to my dad. We have the same quiet disposition, the same desire for harmony. We understand each other without having to say anything. We are the only two members of my immediate family with hazel eyes instead of brown. It’s important to me to go to the festival, sit on uncomfortable bales of straw in front of the stage and listen to Dad play. It feels exactly the same as it did when I was a kid, proudly watching my daddy, except that now I'm bigger and he has more gray.

I knew the experience would be different this year, for the sole reason that I was pregnant. And I was right – this time around, we viewed the festival not as a carefree couple but as parents-to-be. We discussed what it will be like to carry around an eight month old girl next year and wondered if we would tire out more easily. We watched pushover fathers buy their daughters brightly colored paper parasols that looked out of place for this festival, more Asian than early American, and we saw our future.

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Rosewood played toward the end of the day. I watched small children dance around in uncoordinated circles to the instrumental jigs and wondered if my daughter would one day dance with them, or if she would be like me, too shy to try anything in front of people. When the band was done, we packed up Dad's bass and autoharp, along with the banjo he built with his own hands, and drove back to my parents' house.

After eating too much of my mom's lasagna (I can blame the baby now), Damon and I got back in the car and headed home. It’s always difficult for me to leave, even though I’ve lived away from my family for ten years now. I’m a homebody at heart who got tossed into another life in another state. I’m a sap who cherishes these visits and can’t wait to share them with my little girl, to hold her on my lap so the straw doesn’t scratch her legs while we watch her grandpa play.

As we drove away from the setting sun, we didn’t have much to say. Damon leaned back in the passenger seat while I quietly stared ahead and wondered what color her eyes would be.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I've seen a lot of recipes on people's blogs lately, so I thought I'd add one. I love this one for fall (as well as pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, which I can't wait to make soon!). This recipe is from a friend, professor and poet, Julie Moore. I made it today because my in-laws are here, but Damon's dad can't eat it because he's allergic to soy. I didn't realize until after I had it mixed that vegetable oil is soybean oil (doh!). Daughter-in-law fail. Anyway, if you're not allergic to it, it's super tasty!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 Tb. baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups (12 oz.) chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in oil, eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Stir in zucchini. Pour into 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes (toothpick test).



Now I just need to figure out what to do with my leftover buttermilk - maybe scones!