Thursday, April 28, 2016

One product, many uses - Country Crock Make It Yours Challenge

Baking is  something I started developing an interest only over the past few years and it has definitely become a more frequent thing to have the wonderful smell of something baking in our home since my little girl decided she loved baking (over the past couple of years!).

My 10 year old girl loves spending time with me in the kitchen and is always earmarking pages on cookbooks (specifically baking related) with recipes she wants to try out and her library bag is invariably filled with books on baking. So it was no wonder that we had to try out a couple of our favorite recipes as a twist on the #MakeItYours challenge from CountryCrock when we received a free sample of Country Crock - thanks to Influenster and CountryCrock.

A quick review of the product itself first:
This was maybe the second time I was using this product - the first time being years ago.
Pros: It was better than I expected - perfectly spreadable at all times, even straight from the refrigerator - it was great on toasts, and with pancakes too! It is buttery, lending itself easily to all my recipes - I used this for a twist on the #MakeItYours recipe inspired by a rainbow tie-dye sugar cookies recipe I had done with regular butter earlier as well as for a much loved banana bread. They were both enjoyed. The cookies turned out more chewy than crispy - had expected slightly crispier cookies - but they were definitely yummy. The banana bread was delicious and not very different from the time I used regular butter.
Cons: Well, it is not butter! and it is a little salty for my tastes (though others at home loved this as they need that additional zing of salt!).
Overall: A product I would buy again and store in the refrigerator as a backup for those days when I run out of my regular butter or I just need spreadable butter on toast rightaway!

The County Crock Make It Yours recipe is here. And below is my twist on the same - my twists in italics below.

  • 1 cup Country Crock® Spreadable Sticks or Tub, cold from the refrigerator
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk used 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • food coloring mixed to portions of the dough and mixed up to create a tie dye effect.
  • sparkly sugar to add on top of the cookies
  • marshmallows, M and Ms, mini Oreos cut in halves to add as mix-ins
Directions: (from the original recipe directly)
Preheat oven to 375°. Mix Country Crock® Spread, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, egg, egg yolk and vanilla in large bowl until well mixed. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda until blended. (Dough will be soft and creamy.)
Add your favorite mix-ins in any combination, and mix until every spoonful of dough has some of the delicious mix-ins.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls on ungreased baking sheets 3-inches apart.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges are lightly golden. Cool 1 minute on wire rack; remove from sheets and cool completely.
Add toppings and decorations.  

Including a photo of a few mini cookies I made with the dough in a mini muffin pan :) They turned out crispier than the rest but aren't they cute?

As for the banana bread, the recipe is straightforward and makes for a super moist, delicious banana bread.
What is needed:
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup butter (I used the Country Crock original spread)
3/4 cup coconut sugar (oh, I am in love!)
2 cups all purpose flour (I instead used Trader Joes multigrain mix (my favorite one to use) and slightly reduced the baking powder/baking soda)
1/2 cup yogurt (you can use 2 eggs instead)
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinammon
1/2 cup raisins (and or walnuts/cranberries/chocolate chips - as you wish)
1 tsp salt (reduced the salt to 1/2 tsp as the Country Crock butter I used in this instance was salted)

How to:
Preheat the oven to 325 F
In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, add the butter, the yogurt, vanilla, milk to this and mix well till creamy.
Add the sugar to this and mix well.
Now add the remaining dry ingredients one by one - baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and lastly the flour - and mix till it all well.
Add the raisins (and/or other items) and stir
Pour in a greased 9 in by 5 in loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Serve warm with vanilla icecream

Monday, February 29, 2016

Love, Laughter, and Leap Day!!!

Today is Leap Day and everywhere I look, I see advertising for Leap Day specials - some offering special deals for items at $2.29 (buy one, get one for $2.29) and many others for 29%.  Oh well, so now Leap Years have one more day for 'special sales' in addition to the others we already have. Is it good or bad? Well, not sure about that but I certainly am enjoying the uniqueness of this - for my DD, this is the first Leap Day that she can now put in her memory box (she was only 6 the last leap year - 2012). And the National Day Calendar decided to keep it easy for today (happening only once in 4 years) - so today is National Leap Day (of course!!) so leap your way to fun and get some exercise in the process. It also happens to be Rare Disease Day (and I guess that kind of makes sense too and hopefully these rare diseases stay that way).

Talking about the National Day Calendar, this started a tradition for me with my DD a few weeks ago now (sometime in Dec 2015 actually). When I started running out of jokes and riddles (or rather, forgetting that I am repeating the jokes and riddles for her) for including in a note with her lunch each day, I decided to write about how each day was being celebrated. I check the National Day Calendar and pick the celebration which will appeal to her and be most appropriate and make that part of her note. And now, her friends ask her each day - "What is today?" They have had fun discovering and learning and being surprised at some of them (me included!).  For example, did you know that February 4th is National Thank a Mail Carrier Day. and National Periodic Table Day is on the 7th of February. We also have a Toothache Day, Do-a-Grouch-a-Favor day while my DD really loved knowing that there days set aside for Peppermint Patties, Chocolate Mints and almost every other beloved dessert! 

As I looked at poetry forms for the letter G (this week’s letter for ABC Wednesday), I discovered one new form (the grook and it is a delight) and revived my love of another form (the ghazal) by attempting to write it. 

The grook is a short aphoristic poem form invented by the Danish poet and scientist Piet Hien. Some say that the name is short for "GRin & sUK" ("laugh & sigh" in Danish), but Piet Hein said he felt that the word had come out of thin air.The poems were meant as a spirit-building, yet slightly coded form of passive resistance. The grooks are characterized by irony, paradox, brevity, precise use of language, sophisticated rhythms and rhymes, and an often satiric nature. The Archimedes Lab website has a few of Hien's grooks and do head over there after this post - they are simply 'to be read'.  

This is my attempt at one - though it might not really meet the spirit-building requirement :)

Time Conundrum
Amazing how time zooms by
like a ball downhill
When engrossed in what thrills
But it can also stand utterly still
Totally so
When what you are doing is a chore.
The second form I am exploring is the ghazal. With my father's love for music, I grew up listening to music - various forms of it, be it Indian classical forms like the Carnatic from South India or Hindustani from the north, music of the Beatles and ABBA, Indian film music in many languages (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada among others), as well as bhajans and ghazals.  Listening to ghazals definitely soothed one and this music seems perfect for those quiet evenings and nights. 
When I looked at poetry forms, I rediscovered the ghazal - and here is my attempt to write one.

The ghazal is composed of a minimum of five couplets—and typically no more than fifteen—that are structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous. Each line of the poem must be of the same length, though meter is not imposed in English. The first couplet introduces a scheme, made up of a rhyme followed by a refrain. Subsequent couplets pick up the same scheme in the second line only, repeating the refrain and rhyming the second line with both lines of the first stanza. The final couplet usually includes the poet’s signature, referring to the author in the first or third person, and frequently including the poet’s own name or a derivation of its meaning.

This is my attempt at the ghazal - again, a little away from the traditional - but as close as I could get.
Fingers gliding over black and white
Do fill my ‘mother’s’ heart with delight.

‘thank you, mom’, also ‘you are the best’
these words dispel darkness – they are Light.

A hug, a smile, a peck on the cheek,
All these are the grandest gifts – no fight.

Each tiny little accomplishment,
each word of praise, I’m proud all right!

A handmade gift (all done in secret)
With a sweet note on it does delight!

Tiny fingers once curled around mine
Hold LadyInRead in pride upright!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Finding poetry....

For the letter F for ABC Wednesday, I toyed around with the idea of Found Poetry - it seems like it should be simple enough considering the words to be used in the poem are already there - in the text of whatever prose, poem, or other source chosen. But it is not as simple as that: to actually create poetry out of these found words is a task that requires a few things:
  • one, choose the words that catch your attention 
  • two, group them together just right so they catch your attention all over again
  • three, they resemble a poem of some sort (even if free verse - another poetry form that begins with the letter f). 
 While looking at examples of found poetry,  I noticed that some seem to retain the order of words exactly as in the original text, while others use the words and move them around to create their poem. Still others create works of art on the pages of the 'found poem' using the found/unused words and those add another dimension to this poetry form. I fiddled with each of these for the past few days in my quest to create a decent found poem and I do not think I succeeded here.

So, while I found many interesting texts, pages, and more with words that I found and seemed just perfect, I found it very difficult to give them form. But this is what I came up with (and I am going to continue trying, for myself, to come with something more) - from Chapter 17 of the book 'Number the Stars' by Lois Lowry - one that I really enjoyed reading and was very glad to have picked up.

When Freedom Gleamed
Churchbells rang, people wept
In every window, eyes bright
Flowers on a numbered ground
A memory, discolored, but still with hope
Hope - tended and polished,
Brought music to sound,
People as neighbors, as friends
Singing, dancing

 and the text's image/MS Paint version I came up with