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Archive for October, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Pie As leaves start taking their final bows and nights become longer, fall’s spectacular show appeals to our senses more than ever. Acorns make music as they fall from tall oak trees and drop to the ground. Autumn leaves paint fiery displays of color on bright blue backdrops of sky. Familiar smells of favorite spices set the stage for the holidays. With a little over three weeks until Thanksgiving, now is a great time to test out new fall recipes. Imagine a fluffy and lightly-spiced pumpkin cream pie – one that even non-pumpkin-eaters will like and one that can be prepared in advance. That’s my idea of a fall showstopper!

Pumpkin Cream Pie
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

INGREDIENTS
For the Crust:
1-1/2 package graham crackers (about 15 Cookie Sheets)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted

For the Filling*:
1 box (3 oz. box) Vanilla Pudding (Cook and Serve variety)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons whiskey, optional
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup additional heavy cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Extra graham cracker crumbs, for garnish

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Grind graham crackers in a food processor (if you don’t have a food processor, place them in a large Ziploc and pound them with a rolling pin). Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan until nice and firm. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warm and “set.” Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely.

3. In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and cream. Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick.

4. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, if using. Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Place lid on pot and set aside to cool. When cool enough, place pot in the fridge to cool completely.

5. When mixture is cool, remove from the fridge. In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and brown sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy. Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined. Pour into cooled crust.

6. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve with graham crackers crumbled on top.

Serves 8

Linnell’s Notes:
1. This recipe called for 15 graham cracker “cookie sheets” which I assumed meant 15 double sheets or the sheets as they come out of the bag. This was way too much, so the author’s definition of a sheet must be half of that. I used part of the leftover crumbs for the garnish.

2. *In the photo of the pie on The Pioneer Woman I noticed the pie looked a bit shallow, so I decided to double the filling ingredients. A 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée was a bit more than what a doubled amount would have been, but I went ahead and used the whole can. Didn’t make sense to let a small amount of pumpkin go to waste. Extra filling filled four individual ramekins and was called pumpkin mousse!

3. The next time I make this pie, I will try sprinkling a tiny bit of finely chopped candied ginger on top along with the graham cracker crumbs – just for a special interest.

Enjoy!

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Frank Ocean quote In the yin and the yang of life, dark cannot exist without light. Joy surrounds us everyday, but some days we relish it, some days we ignore it, and some days we have to dig deeper to uncover it. On a day-to-day basis, many emotions can overwhelm and mask the joy. But as dark, as sad, as pained, or as impassive as we feel, we must strive to find the yang in our lives – the light that keeps us going, the gratitude for what we have, and all the joy that exists in our lives.

#1 – Finding the Key to Empowerment
Singer Alicia Keys wrote an inspirational guest editorial on What It Means to Be Empowered. Here’s an excerpt, but you’ll want to read it in its entirety:

To be empowered to me means finding our own way every day– learning more about ourselves so we can be honest and bold in our choices and actions, and not let anyone deafen the voice that whispers within us to help us find our direction. Trust yourself! No one knows you better than you and it’s truly a beautiful thing!

#2 – The New Old
pumpkins made from old sweaters More ideas for upcycling, but his time it’s all about sweaters! Whether old, out-dated, or too small, you’ll want to hang on to some of those sweaters after you see these 30 Easy and Cuddly DIY Ideas for Recycling Old Sweaters.

#3 – Circle the Cat
How hard can it be to block a “cat” from jumping off a rectangle of green dots? Pretty darn hard! I played this addictive Circle the Cat computer game a few times with zero success. If you beat the game, let me know how you did it!

#4 – With A Little Thread . . .

Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam play structure

Photo by Masaki Koizumi

Crocheting is not just for old ladies! Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, a Japanese fiber artist, noticed children jumping on one of her pieces of artwork and decided to take that concept to another level. Using her crocheting skills, she created a colorful, large-scale, play structure for children. See more of her incredible structures here.

#5 – Starlight
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Find joy this weekend.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Matthew Drag.

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Buffalo Chicken Dip

Watching the great Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, and the Alou brothers play baseball at the infamous Candlestick Park, ranks among my favorite childhood memories. Back in the day when it was deemed safe for children to be out and about the city all by themselves, my cousins and I would catch San Francisco Muni buses to go watch Giants games. Because of the unpredictable weather at Candlestick, we either froze in the damp overcast or toasted in the bright sunlight. But bags of peanuts, tasty hotdogs, boxes of Cracker Jack, and chunks of Bazooka Bubble Gum more than made up for any discomfort we experienced.

To honor the great Giants players of the past and the current National League Champions, I present a dip that’s worthy of a Giants World Series party. It’s even the right color – orange! So . . . LET’S GO GIANTS, LET’S GO!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
As featured in How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:
2 – 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1 cup Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce
3 cups shredded chicken
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese*

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese, ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing, and buffalo wing sauce. Using a hand mixer, mix until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.

3. Fold in shredded chicken and 1 cup of shredded cheese.

4. Pour into a baking dish. Top with 1 cup of shredded cheese.*

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until dip is warmed through.

6. Serve with tortilla chips, bread, sturdy crackers, and celery sticks.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Instead of buying chicken breasts and cooking them, I was lazy and purchased a rotisserie chicken and shredded the meat. Other versions of this recipe call for using canned chicken.

2. When this came out of the oven, small pools of oil sat on the surface and I blotted them off.

3. Next time, I will try adding blue cheese crumbles instead of blue cheese dressing. I think this would intensify the blue cheese flavor and cut back on the oiliness of the finished product.

4. *Also, the problem with baking shredded cheddar cheese on top of the dip is that as the dip cools the cheese hardens and creates a cheese crust that gets in the way of the dip. Next time I will omit the cheese topping and will mix in less fatty shredded mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar.

5. The heat in this recipe can be adjusted by adding a little more or a little less of Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce.

6. Makes enough for a small gathering of snack-craving people.

Enjoy!

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Oooo . . .

how dark it was . . .

how dread it was . . .

walking the road

to the end of the town . . .

for the halfway tree . . .

the Ghost-Eye tree . . .

was feared by all . . .

the great and the small . . .

who walked the road

to the end of the town . . .

Rounding the bend and seeing the Ghost-Eye tree, that I had imagined many years ago, those words from a children’s book fluttered back into my consciousness. Deep-cut bark created a pattern reminiscent of some exotic animal skin, while twisted gnarly branches became sinewy “arms” that, in a moment’s notice, could reach out and snatch someone. Old branch scars bulged out like “eyes” keeping watch.

When my children were young, I would dramatically read them the tale of The Ghost Eye Tree by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. They loved the scary story of a little boy and his sister who were forced to walk past the dreaded Ghost-Eye Tree in order to fetch a pale of milk on the other side of town. I always told my children it was just make-believe, that there was no real Ghost-Eye Tree. But standing in front of this tree, I realized I was wrong. The Ghost-Eye Tree exists in my imagination because someone planted the seed about it, but my imagination took it a step further and applied it to reality. The notion that minds can convert things in our imagination into reality is powerful. So much of progress and change stems from seedlings in our imaginations. Keeping our minds open to possibilities is what makes the impossible possible.

#1 – Make A Difference
Make a Difference Day Everyday is an opportunity to change lives and to make a difference in this world. But imagine a day when a nation collectively strives to make a difference. On October 27th join others around the nation and participate in Make A Difference Day: National Day of Doing Good. Click here to search for a Make a Difference Day event near you. It does not matter whether what you do to help is on a large or small scale. It just matters that you’re making a difference.

#2 – Virtual Choir


Using his imagination and creativity, composer Eric Whitacre gathered over 2,000 video submissions on You Tube and engineered them into a virtual choir. These beautiful voices from around the world sing together in perfect peaceful harmony.

#3 – Inspired Writing
Short Story Ideas When was the last time you sat down and wrote something for the sheer enjoyment of writing? A document for work or an expository piece for school certainly does not qualify on this count. Go to Short Story Ideas and click on the button that says “Inspire Me!” Three random words will appear in a small white box. Using those words as a source of inspiration, start writing. If you need more inspiration or a different type of inspiration, click on any of the headings in the toolbar at the top. For example, if given the first line, “It was never going to be an ordinary day” or if given the setting, “A bus stop is the location, money is the root of all evil is the theme. A fur coat is an object that plays a part in the story,” what would you write about? Let your imagination flow. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect or well-thought out. It will not being graded or looked at by anyone else but you, so write because it’s fun, challenging, and good exercise for your brain!

#4 – Advice To Your 15-Year-Old Self
Arianna Huffington Advice Using your imagination, go back in time. Go back to when you were 15. What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self? What things do you wish you’d known back then? In honor of the International Day of the Girl, CNN collected these inspirational thoughts and reflections from remarkable women around the world. Read each of their Things I’d Wish I’d Known.

#5 – Speak Your Truth
“Speak your truth even if your voice shakes. By being yourself, you put something beautiful into the world that was not there before. So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.”
Marc and Angel Hack Life

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Severed Finger Cookies

Long dirty fingernails punctuate irregularly-shaped fingers. An extreme paleness gives them a ghostly appearance, while thick red puddles form around their severed ends. Strewn across an old chopping block, the fingers suspiciously point to a nearby meat cleaver and to a handwritten note that says, “For Dessert.”

Severed Finger Cookies
Recipe from Rachel Ray Magazine

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Raspberry jam

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Mix in the sugar, egg and vanilla, then mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Using your hands and working quickly, roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a finger shape. Place the fingers about 3 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Stick a sliced almond on one end of each for the fingernail. Use a table knife to make three crosswise knuckle marks in the middle of each cookie.

3. Bake until lightly golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, cook the jam over low heat until it reaches a saucy consistency. Once liquefied, remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl; dip the severed end of each cookie into the sauce.

Makes about 50 cookies

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I made the dough the night before, took it out the next morning, and let it sit on the counter for a little bit, until it was pliable enough to shape.

2. I covered my cookie sheet with parchment paper.

3. Sort through the sliced almonds before you begin and put “nail-worthy” ones in a small bowl. This will make the assembly of the “fingers” faster. Carefully press the sliced almonds onto the dough fingers. If you press too hard, you can break the almond slices. However, if you do not press them into the dough well enough, they fall off after the cookies are baked. A few almond slices fell off my cookies, but I just stuck them back on with a dab of jam. It created the look of “bloody cuticles.”

4. These are sturdy and not delicate cookies. They seemed a little dry to me, so the next time I make these, I will make the fingers a little smaller and adjust the baking time. Their texture makes them good cookies to dunk, though!

5. After 15 minutes in the oven, take a look at the cookies. The cookies won’t be golden at this point, but you do need to keep an eye on the thin almond slices. They can darken or burn quickly, so don’t set the timer for 25 minutes and walk away.

6. I used cherry jam instead of raspberry jam. I strained the jam for cherry chunks before heating it. I also microwaved the jam instead of putting it in a saucepan. It just seemed simpler to do that.

7. I put a wire rack over a piece of waxed paper. After dipping the severed ends of the cookies into the jam, I put them on the rack. Any sticky jam drops fell onto the waxed paper.

Enjoy these Halloween cookies!

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Sycamore tree bark

Photo by Linnell Chang

Giant leaves crunched under our feet as we walked along a pathway. “You should see these trees,” my mom said as we approached a grassy common area in her neighborhood. A row of tall sycamore trees dominated the landscape. Incredible patches of bark, resembling camouflage, covered their large trunks. They looked like an artist splashed paint on them. Taking my camera out of my pocket, I focused on the bark of one tree and while looking through the viewfinder, I spotted something interesting. A profile of a face and a neck, complete with an Adam’s apple, sat in the middle of my LCD screen. Blotches of reddish hair, a round eye, and a curve of a smile further defined the face. “Art within art,” I said to myself as I snapped the photo. Can you see the face?

#1 – Oh, the Possibilities!
Seeing the possibilities in things is a talent upcyclers possess. Awhile back on this blog I mentioned that I shred empty toilet paper tubes and add them to my compost bin. Well, there are more creative ways to reuse those toilet paper tubes! Check out these upcycling ideas from other bloggers:

Toilet Paper Roll Wall Art

Paint With Toilet Paper Rolls

Painting with toilet paper tubes

Toilet Tube Gift Boxes

Toilet paper roll gift boxes

Toilet Paper Jewelry Tray

toilet paper jewelry box

Seed Starter Pots

tolilet paper seed pots

#2 – Strength Training
Don’t see any reason why you should lift weights? Take a look at the 10 Reasons to Strength Train infograph and you’ll discover more than one reason why it’s important. strength training infograph

#3 – Clever Science
Science World Museum clever ad To reinforce the notion that science is interesting and exists everywhere and to entice more people to visit their museum, the people at Science World in British Columbia presented a clever series of billboards. Which billboard catches your attention?

#4 – Pumpkin Beverage Dispenser
DIY pumpkin beer keg Seeing is believing. Picture apple cider streaming out of a spigot stuck into a pumpkin. Sounds pretty fun. Although the directions Carve Your Pumpkin Into a Beer Keg mention beer as the beverage of choice, I think serving any beverage in your “pumpkin keg” will make fall entertaining more festive!

#5 – Seeing the Distance
“Always concentrate on how far you have come, rather than how far you have left to go. The difference in how easy it seems will amaze you.”
― Heidi Johnson

Have a lovely autumn weekend!

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Some people sing in the shower. I sing in the kitchen. So if you happened to walk past my house one morning last week, you might have heard a very off-tune version of this Baha Men’s song:

You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up
Put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up
You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up
Put the lime in the coconut; you’re such a silly one
You put the lime in the coconut and drink ’em both together

I couldn’t help but sing and bust a few “unique” moves as I whipped up a loaf of moist coconut banana bread. What a great combination of flavors: coconut, banana, rum, and lime. Don’t forget the rum, because, take it from me, it makes you sing and dance better!

Coconut Banana Bread With Lime Glaze
Recipe from Cooking Light, September 2003

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1½ cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1½ tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk to combine.

3. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla; beat until blended.

5. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.

6. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

8. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan.

9. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool bread completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 1 loaf, 16 servings

Linnell’s Notes:
This bread was moist and flavorful, but the next time I make it I will be sure to have all the correct ingredients on hand to see how the bread should really taste. I used light rum instead of dark. The dark rum would have probably added a fuller flavor to the bread. I did not have plain yogurt on hand either, so I substituted vanilla-flavored yogurt and omitted the vanilla extract. I’m not sure that this substitution altered the taste very much. I also replaced the 1 cup of sugar with Splenda just to see if I could cut back on the amount of sugar. It turned out fine.

ENJOY!

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