Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Peanut Butter & Chocolate (Again)

Have you all figured out my favorite food combo yet?  Here we have a ridiculously easy recipe that I haven't made since July, when I made a giant batch of the dough to sell in the final month at Entree Vous (Shout Out to Ann!).  Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies.  As we were going up to have dinner with my dad and stepmom and CJ can't eat gluten, I like bringing up a treat that we can all enjoy together.  This is the perfect little cookie to take somewhere if you have A) hardly any ingredients on hand and B) 20 minutes before you have to leave.  They take less than 5 minutes to mix up and less than 10 minutes to bake - perfect.  Oh, and if you only have the 5 minutes, the dough is crazy good all on its own! :)

EZ PB Cookies

1 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 Cup Chocolate Chips or Mini M&M's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ingredients through salt.  Mix in chocolate chips or M&M's.  Drop by Tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until edges are just turning golden.  Let cool on cookie sheets 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire rack or paper towel to cool completely.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Butternut Squash Ramblings...

I love butternut squash.  Probably within the last 3 or 4 years I have "discovered" this gourd.  It is funny to me, even just the name.  Butternut - how can you go wrong there?!  Squash - Um, really?  That word seems better suited to describing the act of walking through a muddy field.  Either way, I have yet to mess up anything with this as a primary ingredient.  I love chopping it up, roasting it with bacon (mmmm....bacon....) and tossing it with cheese ravioli or tortellini, currants, toasted walnuts and a little parmesan cheese.  I love it roasted (with bacon...) and pureed into soup.  And now, a new favorite recipe, which will definitely be used again (and again, and again!).  I found it in Better Homes and Gardens October issue, and though it has the unfortunate name of "Butternut Squash Bake," which only conjures up images of tuna noodle casserole for me, I had most of the ingredients on hand and thought I'd give it a shot.  Yum yum yum.  Okay.  Hold on.  I need to preface it by saying that I tweaked the original recipe (their picture is much prettier) a bit... by roasting the squash with bacon.  I know, not called for, but it really helped propel this recipe into the "stellar" category!

Butternut Squash & Bacon Bake

1 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
5 slices of bacon, uncooked, chopped into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. dried extra-wide noodles
3 Tbsp. Butter, divided
6 shallots, chopped
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 8-oz. carton mascarpone cheese (cream cheese can be substituted)
3/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 Cup Panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a bowl toss the squash, olive oil and bacon.  Place in a large baking pan or cookie sheet with sides.  Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes, until lightly browned and tender, stirring twice.  
2. Meanwhile, in Dutch oven cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain; set aside.  In same dutch oven melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter.  Add shallots; cook and stir over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes, until tender and butter just begins to brown.  Stir in Lemon Juice.
3.  Add noodles to shallot mixture.  Stir in mascarpone, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper.  Stir in cooked squash and bacon, being careful not to mash it.  Transfer to greased 2-quart baking dish. 
4.  Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter.  Combine with breadcrumbs, remaining Parmesan and Parsley.  Layer over the top of the noodle and squash mixture.  Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gotta Love Wisconsin!

Well, today was a great day with tons of food and fun with family.  Justin and I drove up to Minocqua today  with my aunts Ruth, Jean and Phyllis, and met up with Aunt Martha and cousins Elizabeth, Rebecca and Emily for Beef-a-rama.  Beef-a-rama is hard to describe to someone without it sounding like the craziest thing on the planet.  Store owners along Main Street each make a beef roast for a city-wide cook-off, and at the same time put out snacks for people who come for the craft fair and store sales, and the general moochers (us) who don't really buy anything, just eat the free snacks.  Mid-afternoon there is a Parade of Beef, where the store owners march their roast, typically with a themed float (pirates, hawaiian, halloween, whatever) down to the lake-front park where the roasts are carved up and sold in sandwiches.  It really is something else.  But lots of fun.  After our fill of snacks, we went to Martha & Ron's cabin in Hazelhurst on Bear Lake and ate some (okay, A LOT) more - homemade crab ragoon, hot dogs, brats, homemade french fries, birthday cake (happy birthday to Martha, Elizabeth, and Rebecca!), rice krispie roll-ups, peanut butter fudge crunch, etc etc.  All of it delicious.  Definitely a fun day!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Looks can be deceiving!

I am on the search for the best brownies with the best frosting.  I have to admit I am a bit partial to brownies with frosting.  Yummy, gooey frosting.  This year after the Walk Wisconsin 1/2 marathon they offered the BEST frosted brownies.  As in, every time I think of them I am oh so close to just calling the organizers and finding out who donated them, and then begging that person to give me the recipe.  I KNOW I will end up breaking down and doing it soon, I might as well get it over with.  Because this recipe I used this evening was a gigantic letdown.  They sounded promising while making them (after all, they were called BEST Brownies with Creamy Frosting).  They looked promising when they were done.  But then, one bite later, and I became angry because of the giant waste of ingredients it was.  Granted, it only made an 8-inch square pan, but still.  How much does a cup of flour cost - 3 cents?  Wasted.  In the end, I spent the next twenty minutes making Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Crunch and the evening was salvaged.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

So full.....

Julie and I went out for lunch at Christian's Bistro with our friends the Rickerts. Storm's pose sums up how I felt afterwards. So full.....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lollipop Heads... Part 2

Okay, so these cake pops were as close to a failure as a success can be.  And actually, thinking back, everything went pretty well, except for the drawing of the faces, which turned into a nightmare.  The "FoodWriter" markers I got from Michael's were really the main sticking point - because the didn't Write on the Food.  Isn't that their whole purpose for existing??  And if they don't do that, what is the point of their continued existence??  So they will be returned tomorrow and instead I ended up getting black candy coating and piped the faces on, which didn't turn out as well as I hoped but oh well (see Points 1, 2 & 3 from yesterday's post).  But in the end, they aren't half bad for my first time making 'em.  And they taste terrific, so that is a definite plus.  So we'll see.  I'm not rushing out to buy more lollipop sticks and candy melts in order to make more tomorrow, but they are pretty funny for a fun occasion.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lollipop Heads... Part 1

Here are the funny (slightly distrubing?) treats I'm making to take to the kids tomorrow night in Student Ministries.  Really, what 13-year-old boy will be able to resist biting into that smiling face??  I was almost going to take it a step further by making the inside with red velvet cake, but held myself back and decided to stick with good ol' chocolate.  As there are plenty of putzy steps to these little guys, I decided to bake up the cake tonight.  Yes.  That is a box mix.  Yes.  That is a can of frosting.  Point #1: They're putzy.  Point #2: They're for kids who will eat them in two bites. And Point #3: THEY ARE LOLLIPOP HEADS!!  Lay off.  If you want them for your wedding, I'll make a Chai Spice Cake and Cardamom Buttercream frosting from scratch before dipping them and drawing the cute faces on! ;)  I'll be sure to post the results (great for lessons on the French Revolution) - good or bad - tomorrow!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

LAZY - and fine with that!

Here, Storm embodies how our day was spent:

Yep, Pastor Dan gives a great sermon this morning on putting actions behind our words, and instead we are choosing to adhere to one of Pastor Brian's earlier sermons about observing the Sabbath! :)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

And the winner is...

What do you all think?  

This little building is downtown Stevens Point, on Second Street facing the Farmer's Market.  I think we have jumped through all the hoops (financing, inspections, our offer has been accepted, etc), and if all continues to go smoothly we'll close and officially own it on October 1st.  We would work on the interior a bit, installing a commercial kitchen, and would hope to have it up and running next spring/summer.  
The winner of the naming contest is my cousin Allison, with her entry of "A Dash of Delicious."  With an honorable mention going to Jenn King with Decadent Desserts, as we would use that in the "subtitle."  Thank you so much for all your ideas and suggestions - crazy funny and serious alike!!  
We'll be sure to keep you posted with any developments as they happen! 
(And please pray for us!)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Anoint my head

David got his head anointed with oil, which is cool, I guess, if you don't mind the idea of dumping Canola oil in your hair, but if I was ever anointed I want it to be with what I affectionately call "choco-butter fancy delight". It took all my will power not to just grab a straw and start sucking that concoction down as fast as I could.

Good thing I didn't. Don't want to end up like this:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I made this recipe about a week ago, and selfishly hoarded the cookies and recipe, planning to save them all for us.  I actually even doubled the recipe, which means I had a HUGE LOAD of some of the BEST cookie dough in my freezer begging to be shared every time I opened the door to get ice.  And then an occasion came along that I didn't really have time to make something new up, but yet it still had to be something BIG, yummy, and worthy of selling for cash.  Pastor Jordan asked if I wanted to offer something to the students on Wednesday nights, as a homemade alternative to the current pre-packaged and preserved offerings from Sam's Club.  I quickly agreed, and pulled out THE dough.  THE dough that I used up all the chocolate I had in my house for last week.  Milk Chocolate, Semisweet Chocolate, Bittersweet Chocolate, Chips and Buttons.  When I took the cookies into church, the women in the office were eyeing them up like, well, like women eye up chocolate.  I wonder if any of the cookies made it to the students! ;)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What happens when I don't bake...

Nope.  Sorry.  No cookies.  No brownies.  Not even bran muffins.  

Instead I occupied my day with craft time.  This was a very complicated, multi-step project for the person wishing to temporarily store their used coffee grounds in a piece of art.  Step 1: Peel label off of peanut butter jar.  Step 1.5: Wash out jar (optional).  Step 2: Cut three pieces of ribbon, preferably ribbon from the clearance basket at the craft store.  Step 3: Glue ribbon onto jar.  Step 4: Write something witty on it, neatly spaced between the ribbon.  Ta Daa!  

I know, I know.  I'll stick with baking!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oldie but a Goodie!

For this evening's small group treat, I decided not to mess around with a new recipe and pulled out a classic that is always a hit - Chocolate Sandwich Cookies.  The name is rather underwhelming, but as we have already established - I am not creative in that area.  This is a recipe that my mom made years ago, and since then it makes an appearance at most family functions, church picnics, and evenings with friends.  Make them.  Love them.  Just try living the rest of your life without them!   

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
For the cookies:
2 boxes Devils Food Cake Mix (Betty Crocker ONLY)
4 Eggs
2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ingredients for cookies until smooth (batter will be very thick).  Roll dough into 1" balls and place on cookie sheets, flatten slightly.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies are just set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on sheets 1-2 minutes before removing to cooling racks.  Cookies will flatten as they cool.

1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter
8 oz. Cream Cheese (reduced fat works okay, but not fat free)
1/2 tsp. Salt (only if using unsalted butter)
3-4 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Cream together butter, cream cheese, and salt until smooth.  Slowly add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.  Add vanilla, beat frosting for several minutes until light in color and very smooth.  Frost cookies (completely cooled) to make sandwiches and enjoy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Okay, so after a pretty bad baking bust yesterday (nope, not even going to talk about it!), I managed to redeem myself this afternoon with some pretty stinkin' tasty brownies.  And not just any brownies, but spiced up brownies, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.  These are definitely some wonderfully fudgy brownies, rather than cakey, but that was just fine with me.  The cinnamon, cardamom, and smoked paprika (I didn't have chipotle) give just a hint of something different.  I was a little worried that all you would be able to taste was the spice, but it really is just a fraction of a flavor, something to make you go, mmmm.... what is that???  Right before you take another bite... and another... and one more!  Add a Packers win to the afternoon and an evening with the Kings - definitely a great day!

Friday, September 12, 2008

8 inches

Last night I decided I had had enough of this long hair business.  Actually, about a month ago I had had enough of this long hair business, but because it had taken so much time to grow out (4 years!) and other people seemed to like it (thank you), I kept it.  However, as other people don't have to deal with it, go through massive amounts of shampoo and conditioner to keep it clean, and massive amounts of ibuprofen because of the headaches it causes, I pulled into the hair salon this morning (sans appointment) determined to be rid of it.  As Claire cut a substantial eight inches off, I thought I might feel some regret over cutting it off.  I didn't.  Not an ounce.  I was overjoyed when she was done.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Travis Cooks Day!

Travis did an excellent job of feeding us today.  Bright and early he went to the grocery store and picked up doughnuts for breakfast, and then put together a vegetarian chili in the crockpot.  We were tortured by the wonderful smells all day long!  He then put together two types of muffins - cheese muffins and cornbread muffins (sorry, no link - just my own recipe!) to go with the meal.  Everything turned out great, and Justin and I certainly appreciated Trav's work in the kitchen! 

Also - the name ideas have been pouring in, and you all are amazingly creative!  Keep 'em coming!!  Next week we'll give you our top five favorites for you to vote on! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Let the Names Begin!

As many of you know, I have been knocking the possibility of starting a dessert/cake type business around in my head.  As we have started down this path, THE question that keeps getting asked is, "What will it be called?"  The immediate answer is, "I have no idea!"  I am not very creative in this area.  We have been throwing around a couple of names amongst ourselves, but then we thought of all of YOU, many of whom are WAY more creative than us.  So here's your chance - PLEASE HELP US!  We're hoping to pick a name in the next week or two, so let's say, you have until Sunday, Sept. 21st to send a name idea (or as many as you can think of!) to us.  Either just add a comment with your idea, or shoot me an email: juliebgasper(at)yahoo(dot)com.  I would be focusing on special occasion cakes, cookies, desserts, etc. initially, but could see myself expanding into breads and such at some point down the road.  We'll announce the "winner" on Monday the 22nd.  And you better believe the winner is going to get something delicious baked for them! :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

We won't hear the phone ring...

Okay, so after weeks of talking about it, Justin and Travis (and Jim!) went out last night to Target and got Rock Band.  And now we have been doing diddly-squat except rocking out upstairs.  Justin has gotten minimal work done, I haven't baked a thing, and Travis only got a couple hours of writing in.  Here is a great picture of the group last night - Travis playing guitar, Maureen singing and Madie playing the drums (with Jenn helping a bit!).  In the picture I took facing them, they all have crazy red demon eyes, so I decided not to post that one! :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

By the way...

Here's what I made today: chocolatey peanut buttery yummyness.  Also known as Brownie Peanut Butter Cups.  

Also, I LOVE this idea.  The wheels in my head are a-turning!

Today! (We're going to America...)

Well actually, yesterday, we drove down to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois.  John and Sarah drove down from Weston and picked the three of us up at 6:15 am, and then we stopped in Madison on the way and picked up Luke and Niki.  We arrived at the park about 10:15 ready for a full day of running between and riding roller coasters.  John splurged on the Flash Pass option for all of us, which allowed us to "reserve" rides at certain times, so you can then jump right to the front of the line when your time comes up.  So instead of waiting in lines, we would ride one roller coaster, immediately reserve another one for 20-40 minutes in advance, and then run over to the next one, and so one.  The guys estimated they got in 2-3 times the amount of rides and saved 4-5 hours of waiting in lines with the passes.  Very neat.  The guys favorite ride by far was Raging Bull.  I think they ended up going on it 4 or 5 times!
Thanks, John & Sarah, for providing this fun day for us! 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rainbow Dinner!

What a colorful dinner we had this evening!  Bright yellow sweet corn, red-orange pesto parmesan chicken, and smashed purple potatoes!  I found this recipe and thought it would work out well with the leftover purple potatoes we had from the farmer's market.  They were very good (I'll try the recipe again in the future with red potatoes, as it was so simple and yummy!) and the whole meal was like a rainbow (a tasty, tasty rainbow)!  

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chai, Chai Again...

Today felt like Fall.  Much cooler, damp from rain showers, and cloudy.  This was a jeans and sweatshirt day - the first one since June.  This was a grilled peanut butter and jelly (plum apple butter) sandwich for lunch day.  This was a day to make something that smelled of cinnamon and spice to warm up and feel cozy.  This was a day for Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Glaze.  Well, tomorrow, and the next day, and most likely the next day, will all be days for Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Glaze.  This was another recipe from my new cake cookbook, Sky High: Irresistible Three Layer Cakes.  This was another home run recipe.  So much so that after the batter was made and poured into the pans and we each had a small taste from the scrapings in the bowl, it was determined that I had to make more just for us.  The cake was slotted to be taken to church for Welcome to Woodlands tonight, and I am not sure just taking two-thirds of a cake in would have been appropriate.  So as the cake was baking I made another half of the recipe and poured it in a muffin tin for cupcakes.  A chai latte is my favorite hot drink, and putting it in cake form, and then glazing it with a mixture of cream cheese, butter, confectioner's sugar, honey and fresh ginger is pure genius.  Kudos to Alisa Huntsman, Peter Wynne, and Tina Rupp.  They are my current food heros.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


The other day at the farmers market there was a table with a basket on it, which was full of zucchini.  Well, the sign said each zucchini was only 75 cents.  So who in their right mind just wouldn't purchase the biggest, most gargantuan zucchini available, right?  I knew I would only be making bread with it, so I was going for quantity, plain and simple.  I really should have taken a picture of the massive ZUCCHINI I picked out (see, I even had to write it in all caps, just to get the point across!).  It was bigger than some of the weights I use during BodyPump!  Last night the guys watched some weird Austrailian Western Irish film (I did preface that with the word weird) so I was determined to take that huge ZUCCHINI and make it into tasty tasty bread.  I got over 4 cups of shredded zucchini, so I made two batches of the recipe.  At the last minute Justin requested some muffins with it, So I made one batch with walnuts and used mini loaf pans, and the other batch without walnuts into muffins.   They both turned out wonderfully.  I had little doubt, as it had over two cups of sugar in each batch!  We have to make sure to feed our sweet tooth!  (Oh, and on that note - I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday - still no cavities - hooray!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Decisions Decisions!

I pretty much describe myself as a teeter-totter when it comes to decisions, in several ways.  I hate some decisions, but others just require a simple "yes" or "no".  I picture my 8 year-old self at the old Jail Park in Wausau, my butt firmly planted on that splintering yellow piece of wood, gripping the worn, red iron handles, and straining back to keep all of my weight on the ground, to keep from being rocketed into the air.  I don't like danger (failure), or the risk of danger (failure), or even the possibility of the risk of danger (failure).  I like to know all the angles of some decisions, to be thoroughly informed - to know that the person on the other side won't quick push back up, or worse - jump off, leaving me free-falling back to earth.  But if I'm completely trusting that other person, if all the details appear secure, I am all for launching myself up quite willingly and feeling that soaring - almost flying - sensation.  And once I make a decision I rarely waver on it.  All or nothing.  I don't like re-evaluating previous decisions, determining if it was the right decision, if it could have been done differently, etc.  What's done is done.  Keep moving forward (or upward, or outward - just not backward, please).  
Right now, I feel like I am that same little kid on that teeter-totter, knees bent and feet gripping the ground.  That twittery-nervous feeling in my stomach (seriously - I have that twittery-nervous feeling in my stomach), just before take-off.  I see myself warily looking across the plank at God, wondering if He's trustworthy.  Will this be a fun adventure?  Or will I plummet back to the ground, roll off, and fall on my face?  Will this be a time of building up, or a hard lesson in humility?  Either way, at least He's on the playground.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Nearing Summer's End

Labor Day.  Rather a bittersweet type of day in my opinion.  A nice long weekend, with an extra day to spend with friends and family, but also the signal of school back in session, leaves beginning to change, and the final days of wearing shorts for the year.  
This year's work-free day was quite busy.  Travis took Jennie (just a friend) to the airport very early this morning for her 6 am flight home.  We so enjoyed meeting her and having her stay with us this past week and hope to see her again (though it may be later than sooner, as she lives just outside Vancouver, BC!).  
Justin and I drove out to Rosholt this morning and I ran the 5K Labor Day Run at 9 am.  It was already very warm, and those rolling hills are a killer, but I was glad to finish it in a reasonable amount of time and always enjoy the race each year.  
Mom & Paul came down from Wausau for lunch and part of the afternoon.  We finished off much of our farmer's market finds - roasted green beans and potatoes, corn on the cob, and carrot sticks served along with shredded barbeque chicken - and a few final Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Crunch Bars (and my parents split the last piece of chocolate peanut butter cake - lucky ducks).
Later in the afternoon I tried another new recipe, for Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip muffins.  Very tasty.  Have you ever used cinnamon chips for baking?  I love them in scones.  Mmmm...scones...  I haven't made those in a LONG time, and now I have half a bag of cinnamon chips to use up - Great idea! :)  You'll see them posted soon enough!