Friday, April 29, 2011

Minty Dog Treats

Dogs like treats.
Dogs like people.
Sometimes people do very nice things for each other, and dogs like to be included.
Today is one of those days.  On the campus of nearby Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, AKA the vet school, the American Cancer Society is holding its annual Bark for Life event from 5 to 7:30, to raise money and awareness.  I'm already pretty aware of cancer - way more than I wanted to be - and I definitely love dogs, so I baked these tasty cookies for the hardworking participants.

They've got mint for fresh breath, parsley for joint pain and garlic to support the immune system while making things unpleasant for fleas.  There's whole wheat flour and oats, with just a bit of oil, so they're not going to pack on the pounds or fill your pet up with processed who-knows-what.

Also, they're Gunnar-tested and approved.

Many thanks to the folks at for the recipe.  I typically use dried mint and parsley, in half the amount their recipe specifies.

1 T veg. oil
1 C water
2-1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C oatmeal
1 T dried spearmint
2 T parsley flakes
1/4 t minced garlic

Just mix it all up in your mixer or by hand. Turn the oven on 350.  Roll the dough out on a floured surface like you're making Christmas cookies, to the thickness your puppy likes (Gunnar prefers crispy but will not turn his nose up at thicker treats - just not too heavy or they don't dry nicely for storage).  Cut into desired doggy-related shapes and place on lightly sprayed pan to bake for 35 minutes or so.  I usually turn the oven off at this point and let them sit for an hour or more.  Again, the crispier they are, the longer you can store them, up to a month in a container on the shelf or longer in the freezer.  They smell strangely wonderful, too.

Today I doubled the above recipe and got a little over 6 dozen.

OK, I left a cat in the picture.  He was feeling left out.  Here are some more dogs.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cookies and a Movie

As a student of Buddhism, I allow that change is one of life's certainties.  But here's another - a savory, nostalgic, cinematic certainty.  The Star-Lite Drive-In.

Having occupied its niche of the Blue Ridge since 1953, with bright neon sign, bulky metal speakers and retro snack bar standing guard, the Star-Lite is getting ready to start another season.

In support of the upcoming Memorial Day opening weekend, loyal Facebook fans gathered recently for the 2nd annual clean-up day.

Since a previous engagement also known as my paying job prevented me from attending, I baked these cocoa-rich shortbread stars to fuel the volunteer spirit.

The recipe is from Hershey, of course, and has just a few ingredients, being a shortbread cookie.  I had to wonder at their designation of advanced skill level, though. It's definitely easy and could be even simpler by baking in the traditional shortbread round!

Cocoa Star-Lite Cookies

1 stick of butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-3/4 C plain flour
1-1/4 C conf. sugar
1/2 C cocoa

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Cream the butter and add confectioners sugar and vanilla, betting until creamy.  Add cocoa, blending well before gradually adding flour, stirring until smooth.

Roll out onto floured surface, about 1/4" thick and cut into shapes.  The butter in shortbread precludes having to grease the pan.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until firm.  Cool slightly on baking pan before moving to wire rack and cooling completely.  I got 2 dozen stars from this recipe and enough dough into the freezer for an easy round sometime in the future.

Now that clean-up day is done and Memorial Day will be here before you know it, make plans to take your kids, your sweetie or your BFF out for a movie under the stars.  Bake some cookies, pack a picnic, or plan to hit the snack bar for the Best Chili Dog You Will Ever Eat, along with fresh popcorn, hot fries and a soda.  If that doesn't tempt you, look at the prices:

When I was a kid, Mr. Beasley, whose daughter Peggy now operates the Star-Lite, would always greet us at the gate.  He seemed to look over our family of 6 and come up with what he thought was a fair total.  Even in my young mind, his multiplication always landed in our favor. Some years later, my little brother spent a hot summer there, throwing dogs together at an unimaginable pace.  Folks still slip in during the film, just to get supper and be on their way.

Today, Karen Clark Nagy organizes the Star-Lite Facebook fan page, where you can get showtimes and movie information.  Check it out and I'll see you there this summer.  I might even share my cookies.  But not my hot dog.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mango Moufflet

Okay, this has to stop.

Just kidding.  It's only the beginning.  Which means one of us is going to be spending a lot more time in her walking shoes.

Mangoes were gorgeous and cheap this week - a sure sign of their juicy readiness.  Two of them got chopped up and stirred them into this happy (i.e. not unhealthy) recipe from Eating Well magazine.  Cinnamon and brown sugar played nicely with the piney sweetness of the tropical fruit, and pecans gave it crunch.

What's that in the middle, you say?  For a dozen muffins, an 8 oz. package of cream cheese got softened with the zest and juice of one lime and sweetened just a bit with powdered sugar.  These moufflets got only one middle layer instead of two because the mango chunks tended to make slicing a bit more challenging.  Again, piping is the easiest way to apply the filling.
Looking at the recipe, I was put off at first by their use of the dry ingredient "mix" but quickly realized it's just all the dry ingredients you'd usually assemble in a separate bowl. - and kind of handy if you're a do-ahead or Once-A-Month-Cooking kind of person.

1 batch of Quick-Bread Dry Mix (below)
2 large eggs
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups diced mango
1/2 cup chopped

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, (see Ingredient note) or whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Place papers in a 12-cup muffin tin.
Prepare dry ingredients/mix in one bowl.  Whisk eggs, buttermilk, brown sugar, butter, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl until well combined.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Add mango and pecans. Stir just to combine; do not overmix. Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Top with additional pecans, if desired.  Mine were ready in exactly 22 minutes and I think would bake just as well at 375, depending on your oven.
After cooling for at least 20 minutes, split them and pipe the cream cheese into the middle of your moufflet sandwich.  Then, take yourself outside for a lovely walk because, in case you haven't noticed, it's Spring!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Banana Pecan Moufflet

So, do you love to spread cream cheese on your banana bread too?  Have a bit more fun with it by piping sweetened cream cheese between layers of banana muffin!  I call this a moufflet because some believe that French word is the origin of our word, muffin, AND it reminds me of a muffaletta with all those levels of goodness. The real credit goes to my brother Ben, however, for suggesting the structure. Love ya - mean it!

I use the Williams-Sonoma banana-nut bread recipe, which my dad said reminded him of his mother's banana bread.  That being the family equivalent of a Michelin star, I added only cream cheese whipped in the mixer with lemon juice and sugar.

Later in the year, when my peeps are trying to find homes for their excess zucchini, I'm going to do the same thing.  In the autumn, it's like a mini pumpkin roll, all to yourself.  But more on that later.

Williams-Sonoma Banana-Nut Bread


6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 or 3 very ripe bananas (about 1 1⁄2 cups)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. salt
3⁄4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans
 or hazelnuts- I used some of my stash of southside Virginia pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. I put papers in 15 muffin tin cups.  You can also make this in a loaf pan and bake about an hour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the bananas and eggs and beat until smooth. Add the buttermilk and beat just until combined.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and nuts. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and beat just until combined. The batter should be slightly lumpy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  FYI, today I used self-rising flour as an experimental shortcut, omitting the leavening agents, and it worked fine.

Pour the batter into the muffin tins, only about 2/3 full, and bake 30 minutes or, as usual, until golden brown.
While the muffins cool for about 20 minutes, I put an 8 ounce package of cream cheese into the mixer and whipped it into creamy goodness.  To that, add about a teaspoon and a half of lemon juice and a 1/2 cup of sugar and whip some more.

Place a muffin on its side and, using a serrated bread knife, cut it into 3 disks, leaving the muffintop as the last third.
For me, piping was the easiest way to apply the cream cheese mixture and avoid crumbs.  Also, it looks kinda pretty from the sides.
I might even send some to my little brother.