Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANZAC Biscuits

Today is ANZAC Day. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corp. From what I understand, ANZAC Day seems to be very similar to Memorial Day here in the USA. We've had family visit both Australia and New Zealand and my father-in-law introduced us to ANZAC Biscuits. Biscuits here in the USA are cookies. These are awesome and easy to make - and very forgiving, as I found out over Christmas. Everything I could do to mess up these cookies, I did. I was doing too many things at once and kept messing up the ingredients. First, I doubled the butter (because I'm used to making Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies and I let autopilot take over). Then, because I was force to double the recipe, I had to use molasses and sugar to make up for my shortage of brown sugar. They still turned out great. Then again, what else can you expect from a biscuit/cookie born out of war-time shortages.
There are various accounts of how ANZAC biscuits originated. Some say they were made by soldiers who made what they could with what they had. Others say they were made by the women back home who wanted to send sweets to their soldiers, but had to work with war-time rations (and the biscuits had to survive the long trip without going bad). Regardless of how they originated, they are a favorite treat in the Australia and New Zealand area and at our house. I hope you enjoy them as well.
ANZAC Biscuits
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats (regular oatmeal) uncooked
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp golden syrup (or honey)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 tbsp boiling water

Combine the flour (sifted), oats, coconut and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter and Golden Syrup (or honey) in a saucepan over a low heat. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter and Golden Syrup. Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spoon tablespoon of mixture onto a greased cookie sheet leaving space between biscuits to allow for spreading. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and seal in airtight containers.
Personal Note: It isn't authentic, but if you don't like coconut, you can substitute chopped nuts.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Arbor Day!

Happy National Arbor Day!  J. Sterling Morton founded National Arbor Day in 1872.  It is celebrated on the last Friday in April.  However, individual states celebrate it at various times depending on the best time to plant a tree in that area.  To learn more celebrating Arbor Day, tree replenishment programs, and to receive 10 free trees, visit the Arbor Day Foundation's web site.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

Amish Friendship Bread is making the rounds again.  I actually love it when I receive a bag of starter.  I think last time I was able to keep it going for about 2 months, just trying out new flavors and ideas.  I love to make adjustments to the recipe and, since I have this blog now, I thought I'd share those with you.  I'll keep adding to this post as I try new variations.  If you have one that you would like to share, please feel free to let me know.  I'd love to try your suggestions.
Amish Friendship Bread
Basic Instructions, received with a bag of starter:
Day 1: Do nothing
Day 2: mash the bag
Day 3: mash the bag
Day 4: mash the bag
Day 5: mash the bag
Day 6: Add to the bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and mash the bag
Day 7: mash the bag
Day 8: mash the bag
Day 9: mash the bag
Day 10: Follow the directions below:

Pour all of the bag into a bowl. Add: ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ cup flour, 1 ½ cup milk. Mix.
Measure 4 batters, 1 cup each, into 1 gallon ziplock bags.
Keep one for yourself and give the others out with copies of this recipe (tell them what day it was).

Baking directions (do this every 10 days if you keep a starter for yourself)
Preheat to 325
To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:
3 eggs
1 cup oil or melted butter
½ cup milk
1 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 box instant pudding (any flavor)
1 cups raisins and/or nuts (optional)
Grease 2 large loaf pans and dust with cinnamon sugar.  Pour in mixture and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.  Bake for 1 hr, cool until loosens from sides.
  1. Use chocolate pudding and nuts/mini-chocolate chips instead of raisins.
  2. Use White Chocolate pudding and craisins instead of raisins.  Omit cinnamon and cinnamon sugar (Thanks Monica!).
  3. Use instant sugar-free pudding instead of regular (baked in less time).
  4. Use vanilla pudding with nuts and raisins.
  5. Make muffins instead of loaves of bread.  Each loaf makes about 12 muffins.
  6. Replace 1/2 cup oil with 2 mashed bananas.
  7. Replace 1 cup flour with 1 cup whole wheat flour.
  8. Use white chocolate pudding, and 1 cup chopped pecans.
  9. Replace 1/2 cup oil with 1/2 cup applesauce, reduce sugar to 1/2 cup.
  10. Use white chocolate pudding and 1/2 cup pecans.
  11. Replace 1/2 cup oil with 1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt.
  12. Use vanilla pudding and 3/4 cup blueberries - I used small, Canadian (like Maine) blueberries that I found in the freezer section at Trader Joe's.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

I hope that you are all able to find a way to celebrate our planet and the many gifts it provides.  In honor of Earth Day, here is a list of inexpensive, easy things you can do to enjoy our planet and maybe give back while you're at it.
  1. Take a hike and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Be sure to take a trash bag with you to pick up any litter you find along the way.  We go on "Rainbow Walks" to look at all the incredible colors surrounding us.  
  2. Go canoeing, kayaking, or rowboating - it's peaceful and doesn't polute
  3. Go camping
  4. Find a place outside to enjoy a good book (anything will do but I've listed some related ideas below)
  5. Go on a picnic
  6. Visit a local garden/arboretum
  7. Plant a tree
  8. Start/work on your garden
  9. Learn about ways to calculate, reduce, and/or offset your carbon footprint
  10. Attend an Earth Day event
  11. Learn and practice the principles of Leave No Trace
  12. Watch Planet Earth or Blue Planet*
  13. Go see Disneynature's premier release: Earth
Do you have additional ideas?  I'd be happy to add them to the list.
Just remember:  "Take only pictures, leave only footprints"
*I also highly recommend The 11th Hour and An Inconvient Truth, but I was going for more upbeat activities in the spirit of celebrating.
Book List
  • 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth by The Earth Works Group
  • 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by The Earth Works Group
  • Serve God Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD
  • It's Easy Being Green by Emma Sleeth
  • Saving God's Green Earth by Tri Robinson with Jason Chatraw
  • Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pumpkin Cinnamon Bars

This is my puppy dog!  Okay, she's not exactly a puppy.  She is an adventure though.  She rolls in dirt (not mud - I love the rain!), digs under fences, walks the deck railing, jumps on the compost bin in order to jump over the fence, traps cute little bunnies in the garden (where she cannot get to them), seeks out love and affection, gets excited at the sight of a sheet being placed on the couch, curls up on the sheet and sleeps while we read or watch tv...  The list goes on and on.  We call her our little circus dog.  Name a beagle trait.  She has it.  My neighbor clued me in to her tree climbing, but yesterday I witnessed it first hand.  There was something outside the yard and she wanted it.  She can be one very determined dog!  The branch isn't strong enough to support her escape attempts, but she tries anyway.  This inspired a YouTube search for Beagle antics.
Following is one of the treats for our K9s that I promised to post awhile ago.  My mother-in-law found it in the November/December 2007 issue of Dog Living Magazine and passed it on to me.  It was fun to make together and our pups loved it.  All the ingredients are "dog safe".  For a list of foods that are dangerous for dogs, see this page on
Pumpkin Cinnamon Bars
6 cups whole oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
2 1/2 cups water (substitution for water can be soy milk, yogurt, apple juice)
Put all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  When mixed thoroughly, spoon mixture into an oiled or lightly sprayed 9x13 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 mintues.  Let cool 10 minutes and turn out onto a cutting board.  Cut into squares, as big or small as you wish.  Keep refrigerated in a zip-lock bag or plastic tub with a lid.  These will be good for 6 weeks.
Note:  Pumpkin can be substituted for unsweet applesauce, peanut butter (natural, avoid the salt and sugar), cooked sweet potatoes, cooked chopped vegetables (not onions).
Don't have time right now to bake treats for your pup?  My girl loves to hear the vegetable peeler at work because she's hoping for carrot peelings.  She also loves cranberries.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


A group of us at church have started Power Cooking together.  We go in together on food to buy in bulk and then we assemble/cook the meals together in the church kitchen.  It is a great time to socialize, share ideas, and work together.  Plus, we get to mess up the church kitchen instead of our own.  We do clean it up when we are done!  I liken it to an old fashioned quilting bee only we are preparing meals instead.  We also plan to put together some extra meals to go in the church's freezer for the pastors to distribute as needed.  I will be posting recipes that we use for future reference and for you to try if you are interested.
One of the meals we assembled last week was Chicken Souvlakia.  I found it in the cookbook The Grecian Plate.  This is a church cookbook assembled by The Hellenic Ladies Society at Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Durham, NC.  It was first published in 1984 and has been through 10 printings.  It was the National Winner of the Prestigious R.T. French Tastemaker Cookbook Award.  This is an excellent teaching cookbook if you want to learn more about Greek cooking and food culture.
The recipe we used is for Souvlakia and calls for lamb.  While I would love to use lamb, it tends to be on the pricey side and the marinade also works well for chicken, hence the change to Chicken Souvlakia.  For Power Cooking, we placed the chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag, added the marinade ingredients, and put it in the freezer for future use.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I am sure we will.
1 (3 lb) leg of lamb, boned (or 2 lbs chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Marinade Sauce:
1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 green peppers, quartered
1 large onion, quartered and separated into slices
12 cherry tomatoes
Lemon juice (optional)
Olive oil (optional)
Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place in a deep bowl. Combine all marinade ingredients in a jar; shake well. Pour over meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove meat; reserve marinade for basting, if desired. Skewer on a 12" metal rod the lamb, pepper, onion, and cherry tomatoes; repeat ending with lamb. Baste with reserved marinade, or beat a little lemon juice and olive oil together and brush on lamb and vegetables. Broil on broiler rack 3 inches from flame (or on the grill) for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Turn frequently. Serve with rice. Serves 6.
4/29/09 - This is also a great marinade for talapia!