Saturday, August 27, 2011

Old Faithful

            No, I'm not talking about the geyser at Yellowstone National Park.  I'm talking about my chocolate chip butterscotch chip cookies.  We made these cookies last night for Steve's employees because they won quality for the week again.  (Yay!)  I'm bribing them with cookies for the second time. I wonder if they'll figure it out this time...
           The cookies are Old Faithful because I've been making a version of this recipe since I was 13.  Every time I make these cookies, old memories come flooding back.  The memories flood back in bits and pieces.  Asking my mom what we should do since we're one stick short of butter.  Going to my neighbors to borrow some flour because we're out and I didn't realize until after the eggs and sugar were in the mixing bowl.  Dad asking how long it would be before the cookies would be done after I put the first pan in the oven.  Kat and I accidentally tripling the salt and having to triple the rest of the recipe to fix it.  Counting all of the cookies from the triple batch even as people ate them.  (There were over 100 cookies.  The original recipe is a double batch already.)  Dad coming inside and saying "I smell cookies" and walking to the kitchen to swipe a few.  The last pan of cookies always burning because I would forget to set the timer or let them brown on the pan too long.  Using a small cookie scoop to get the perfect cookie.  Using Mom's Pampered Chef cookie spatula.  Dad suggesting taking the cookies out of the oven a minute sooner and letting them brown on the pan to get soft cookies.  Making a mess in the kitchen because I'm 13.  Leaving a ton of dirty dishes because I'd use a different measuring cup or spoon for each ingredient.  Adding butterscotch chips to my cookies because I saw my cousin Liz do it.  Adding in white chocolate chips just for fun.  Mom showing me how to level off the flour and sugar with a knife to get the right amount.  Kat doing laundry while I'm baking.  Mom explaining that brown sugar needs to be packed into the measuring cup always.  Dad saying "I better taste test a few to make sure they're ok" and me playing along with it.  Maureen's horror at finding out that we dumped all of the ingredients in and mixed them that way.  Discovering that baking when I'm upset makes me feel better.  Making Steve the cookies for his birthday two months into our relationship because I had no idea what else to get him.  Making cookies the first time away from home and discovering that mixing them by hand is a lot harder than using Mom's KitchenAid mixer.
            All of these memories from a single cookie recipe.  I cherish this recipe for what it has given me and what it will give me in years to come because as you can see it's not your average cookie recipe.  It's the key to memories.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cheesecake Rangoons...Raviolis

          Two weekends ago my little sister Darcy visited.  Darcy is leaving for college and needed to get supplies for her dorm room.  Friday evening we went to HuHot at Darcy's request.  At HuHot, there was a table tent featuring their desserts.  One of the desserts was cheesecake rangoons.  It looked so delicious but none of us had room for dessert after our meal.  We never get dessert at HuHot because the buffet is so filling and this time we ordered egg rolls too.  I told Darce that we could probably make those.  How hard could it be?  Our last stop shopping was Fareway to pick up the cheesecake ingredients.  I got the Jell-o no bake cheesecake dessert.  I wasn't sure how the traditional cream cheese recipe would hold up in a fryer.  I was going to use some pastry wrappers that Steve had bought practically a year ago but they don't puff up.  We decided against them and Steve ran to Hy-Vee to get new pastry wraps.  The first couple cheesecake rangoons were too big.  Darcy started making them and magically they were better.  She used a smaller section of the pastry sheet and the same amount of cheesecake filling.  

Steve was in charge of the fryer and I went back and forth.  We sprinkled sugar on them fresh from the fryer.... it was so yummy.  The smaller rangoons looked more like cheesecake ravioli so we switched between Asian and Italian desserts!  The cheesecake raviolis tasted great with cherry pie filling (is there anything else to eat cheesecake with?!).  They do taste the best fresh from the fryer rather than the next day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Food for the Children

             As most of you know, I'm somewhat of a sap.  Not a make-a-huge-scene-in-public kind of sap but a cry-at-weddings-movies-commercials kind of sap.  Our local food bank has a program called The Backpack Program: Food for Kids.  There are backpack programs all over the nation but each is run a little differently according to the parent organization.  In Sioux City, volunteers make up the bags of food.  The Sioux City school district notifies the food bank of the number of children in need at each school served.  This program serves 6, soon to be 5, schools in the Sioux City area.  (Soon to be 5 because 2 schools are combining not because of lack of need.)  Each bag contains nutritionally sound items such as a fruit cup, granola bar, pudding, peanut butter crackers, etc.  The program does not focus on calorie content because the focus is about the children's hunger and providing shelf-stable child-friendly food.  The food bank does send an extra bag home if there is a younger sibling not attending school.  The logic is "If the 6-year old is hungry, the 4-year old is probably hungry too."  Every Friday bags of food are delivered to the schools for needy children.  These are children that normally qualify for free or reduced lunches at school and the school has identified as in need.  The food bank does dictate that the program be carried out to respect the dignity of the child.  This means that the bags are handed out very discreetly.  The bags are not handed out in front of the class.  It is up to the school how this will happen.  One of the schools has a backpack club.  An announcement is made over the intercom that the Backpack Club is meeting and the needy children go to the designated area.  There they receive their food bags.

            This amazing program does need help with funding.  The director of the food bank projected that $122,000 was needed for last school year and more will be needed for this school year due to rising food costs.  Roughly 50% to 90% of the children in the Sioux City school system use this program.  The percentage varies based on each specific school.  I'm proud to say that my employer is helping a little.  Our employee committee is holding a fund-raiser and the director spoke at our All-Staff meeting.  At three stations in the building are 2 jars.  One jar is empty; one jar has wrapped candy.  The premise is simple: Put a donation in the empty jar and take a piece of candy from the candy jar.  One of the jars is at my desk so I've contributed a little already.  We started yesterday and the jar at my desk already has over $12.  The program is running for 2 weeks so I'm really hoping we can help with the costs.  The director stressed that while food donations are nice, monetary donations are better.  The program needs pallets of food at a time for this program.  It's much easier for the food bank to meet the children's need with monetary donations than with food donations.  (But please keep donating food so the needy in general will have something to eat!)  The food bank director said that when the program started she spoke to the principals of the local elementary schools.  One of the principals said to her "If you start this program, you will have to keep it going because the kids will count on it.  Don't let them down."  So I'm asking all of you to take a look at the website for The Backpack Program: Food for Kids and consider donating to this program.  This program is not a touchy-subject program.  There are no moral lines being crossed.  It's about feeding kids simple as that.