Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Hello, everyone.
I have read no less than a dozen Halloween books, and flipped through stacks of picture books, and excepting the two (well, one and a half) recipes I've already posted, I can find NOT ONE book that has anything for the holiday excepting store-bought candy.  There are some great Halloween books out there, don't get me wrong, but they're all either about costumes or about candy, so... sorry, my friends.  I'll try harder for next year.  Suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Francine's Bat Wing Brownies

Arthur the Aardvark is one of the most fun kid lit characters I can think of.  He's a little bit of a goody-two-shoes, but for a picture book character, he's a lot of fun, and definitely not boring.  And because the series of books was out for about two decades before the television series started, I think I can use these on the blog.  I will not, however, be doing anything with Dora the Explorer.

Anyhow.  Arthur's Halloween, written and illustrated by Marc Brown, is the story of Arthur, an aardvark who is afraid of Halloween.  He doesn't recognize anybody in his class - even the teacher has been replaced by a giant robot! - and nothing is the way it should be.  And why on Earth would anybody want to touch eyeballs, even if they are just peeled grapes?  Arthur doesn't even want to go trick-or-treating, because it's too scary. 

It all turns out okay in the end when Arthur and his sister meet a "witch" and find out that she's really just an older woman whose house is in disrepair because she can't take care of it easily.  He's such a nice aardvark, he even promised to come help her around the house on the weekend.  I love a happy ending.

Before all this, though, while they're at school, Arthur's friend Francine brings in a special treat, that Arthur is too nervous to enjoy - Bat Wing Brownies and Blood Punch!  The Blood Punch in this photo is just cherry Kool-Aid, but the brownies... now, those are special.

Francine's Bat Wing Brownies
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease an 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  If you want to make a larger pan of brownies, you will need to double the recipe; this isn't one of those where they say to use a small pan but it can fit in a big pan and be thinner, as they aren't that thick to begin with.
2. Mix together the melted butter and white sugar.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the rest of the ingredients, and mix that together.  Pour into the prepared baking pan.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are firm. 

To make them into bat wings, I contemplated a cookie cutter to get a real bat wing shape, but I figured that Francine's poor hard-working parents would have enough to do without cutting brownies into individual bat shapes, so I found another way.  I cut the brownies into rectangles and then bisected the rectangles to get two right triangles.  I then put a dot of decorator's gel on the inner points for spooky red bat eyes.  Serve with Blood Punch and you're all set!

The Happy Golden Popcorn Balls

Halloween is just around the corner, and I have been remiss in not providing holiday-related goodies.  So in the next three days, I'll see how many I can pop out, and I promise to plan ahead for Thanksgiving.

Now, I have been trying my best not to only write about sweets, but since this holiday abounds with candy, and I can't very well put up a recipe about peeling grapes and calling them eyeballs, healthiness will have to wait a few days.

One of the things I like about Halloween is the popcorn balls.  My sources tell me that popcorn balls are not a Halloween-only thing - when the Ingalls family makes their popcorn balls, it's at Christmas time - but I only ever see them in the fall, usually with wrappers illustrated with spiders, besides the fact that they're in the treat bags of the kids in It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, so they count as Halloween in my book.  And that, children, is a run-on sentence.

Speaking of books, popcorn balls play a big part in the Christmas traditions of the Ingalls family in Laura Ingalls Wilder's These Happy Golden Years.  This book was not my favorite of the Little House series, because I liked the young and impulsive Laura, and this one has her teaching at a school and getting ready to marry Almanzo, but that didn't stop me from reading it a few times.  I loved this book series, particularly Little House in the Big Woods.

The book, the eighth in the series, was set in the 1880's in or around what is now DeSmet, South Dakota; it's a semi-autobiographical series, based on the author's real life but not necessarily true all the way.  In the spirit of this, I made mostly-true popcorn balls; that is, I didn't use the molasses that the book specifically says that the Ingallses used, because I don't like the flavor of molasses all that much.  I used a recipe that makes the popcorn more caramel and less treacle instead, though I did pop the popcorn on the stove-top like Mrs. Ingalls did when she made them with Laura, Carrie and Grace.

Laura's Popcorn Balls
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  Add 1 tbsp. of oil and two unpopped popcorn kernels to a large pot or saucepan, and heat over medium-high until the kernels pop.  Add a 1/2 cup of kernels to the pot and cover.  Shake the pot over the burner in a back-and-forth motion constantly until all the kernels have popped (by this, I mean you'll be scraping the pot over the burner, as it needs to stay near the heat).  Move the popped popcorn to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining kernels until all the popcorn has popped.  NOTE: If you don't want to pop the popcorn on the stovetop, use three bags of unflavored or natural microwave popcorn.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup over medium high until melted together, and bring to a boil.  Add the condensed milk and simmer until the mix gets to the "soft ball" stage of candy making, or roughly 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Stir in the vanilla.
3. Pour the mixture - which is now caramel, by the way - over the popcorn and stir with a spoon to coat.  Once the mixture is cool enough to touch, butter or cooking-spray your hands and roll them into balls, in the same way that you would pack a snowball.

NOTES: Two cups of unpopped popcorn makes a very large amount of popped popcorn, and I needed three large bowls to hold it all, which I poured the caramel over as evenly as I could divide it.  You can cut down on the popcorn if you want your popcorn balls to be more caramelly.  Also, please note that if you leave the popcorn alone until it is fully cool, it won't be very easy to roll into balls, but it is still quite tasty as caramel popcorn.  This recipe made me 25 4-inch popcorn balls and a zip-top freezer bag full of caramel popcorn.

 These are awesome.  If you don't want caramel popcorn, there are lots of marshmallow-based popcorn ball recipes out there, too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Series of Fortunate Puttanesca

I admit, my title is somewhat misleading, as there is no series involved here.  But how else was I to explain both the dish and the title in one fell swoop?

The first book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was published in 1999, making it a bit too new for me to have read as a kid.  Also, since I don't have children or younger siblings, and am not working in a school yet, it's not like I have other people in the house who would be reading the book.  It wasn't just laying around for me to pick up.  But given my love of children's literature, after I saw at least five children reading this series within the span of a week, I had to read it.  And yes, as a would-be (will-be!) librarian, I have every reason to have read this title, but this happened roughly seven years ago, when I had no reason at all.

In any case, I read The Bad Beginning (the first book in the series), and really enjoyed it.  And then when a friend of mine asked me if this blog was desserts-only (I do have a sweet tooth, don't I?), I sat down and thought about food from books that isn't coated in sugar.  The first thing that came to mind was, "hey! Didn't Lemony Snicket make puttanesca?"  Indeed, he did.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these books, let me sum up.  In the 13 books of the series, orphans Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire go through, as you would expect, a whole series of unfortunate events.  Some parents dislike these because they're so unhappy, and people do get hurt and occasionally die... but, even from reading the back cover of the book, you can tell that the author takes a fun look at even the sad things in life.  Some of the issues that the children face in book 1, for example, include "itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast."  (This marks at least the third appearance of kid-lit porridge.)  I appreciate that the horrible things in life are taken in stride with the generally annoying, and the children do seem to get through everything in good spirits.

In this book, the three orphans are forced to make dinner for the nasty, greedy Count Olaf and his theater troupe.  Given little money and no supplies, they looked up recipes and found one for puttanesca, which is, as Klaus explains, "an Italian sauce for pasta.  All we need to do is saute olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, chopped parsley, and tomatoes together in a pot, and prepare spaghetti to go with it." 

I love that the author explains what the hard words mean ("capers, which are flower buds of a small shrub and taste marvelous"), so readers can learn something new without having to use the dreaded dictionary.  When I was a kid, I hated to be told to go look up a word I didn't know; it would ruin the flow of the story, and I'd more often than not skip over a word and guess at the definition.

Anyway, I admit that I personally dislike olives, capers and anchovies, but this blog is not just for me, and the magic word here is "puttanesca," which my uncle loves - serendipity to have found the reference! So, thanks again to Uncle Hawk, who not only made this, but ate it so I didn't have to.  And to top it off, it's his very own recipe!

Baudelaire Puttanesca
 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tin anchovies
1 3.5-oz. jar capers
1 can whole olives
1 28-oz. jar crushed tomatoes
1/2 jar tomato sauce, any variety
2 tbsp. garlic
herbs to taste

1. Open the tin of anchovies and chop the fish into very small bits.  In a large frying pan, add the olive oil and the chopped anchovies, as well as the liquid from the anchovy tin.  Drain the liquid out of the jar of capers and add the capers to the pan.  Drain the olives and add them, too
2. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often and breaking up the anchovies and olives if you like.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, and whatever herbs you like (oregano, basil, or parsley would be nice) and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce to low and simmer until ready to serve.

As I said, this is my uncle's puttanesca.  He doesn't usually cook from a recipe, so I watched over his shoulder while he made it, and wrote it all down.  I have the following notes for you:
* If you like, you can chop the olives into pieces, or use chopped olives to start out with.  Uncle Hawk says he enjoys the olives whole, because then you get a whole bite of olivey goodness instead of just a small piece.
* Depending on how salty you want your sauce, you can add the juice from the caper jar and olive can, or add one of those instead of the liquid from the anchovies.
* The amount of tomatoes and tomato sauce also depend on whatever mood you happen to be in that day.  The less sauce you add, the thicker the sauce will be; tomatoes add chunkiness that tomato sauce does not.

Since this is cooking and not baking, this recipe can be a great jumping-off point for your personal likes and dislikes; add mushrooms, or chicken pieces, or take out the capers if you like.  If it were up to me, I'd take out the olives, capers and anchovies and add peppers, onions, broccoli and carrots, but that makes this dish a primavera and not a puttanesca, so it doesn't go quite as well with the book. 

Charlotte's Web: Wilbur's Ancient Jelly Roll

Wow... that jelly roll looks dusty, doesn't it?  Old, and dusty and leaking?  Well, it had just been made when the photo was taken, but if it looks old, that's ok, too.

We've all read E. B. White's Charlotte's Web, haven't we?  Who couldn't love Wilbur?  He's awesome!  And he gets so excited when he eats - hey, just like me!  Even slops sound good with the descriptions we're given.  On one memorable occasion, our piggy friend eats "leftover pancakes, half a doughnut, the rind of a summer squash, two pieces of stale toast, a third of a gingersnap, a fish tail, one orange peel, several noodles from a noodle soup, the scum off a cup of cocoa, an ancient jelly roll, a strip of paper from the lining of the garbage pail, and a spoonful of raspberry jello."

Is it me, or does that sound oddly appealing?  It's like a combo platter - a little breakfast, a little dinner, a little dessert... The ancient jelly roll always sounded so fancy to me, and when I had jam to use up (see the previous post about Bread and Jam for Frances) my friend Allen reminded me that Wilbur had one at slops.  Perfect!  (And thank you, by the way.)

I contemplated cotton candy cobwebs, and placing doughnut pieces and an orange peel on the plate for the photo, but I think the powdered sugar "dust" worked well enough to imply the age of it.  There's no need to put garbage with the food, after all, since we will be eating it later... though this project does make me want to make Templeton's Smorgasbord at some point, and I know that's mostly garbage.  Now, if I can only find a good way to make half a funnel cake.

Anyway.  I got this recipe out of the New York Times International Cook Book from 1971, which was actually owned by my great-grandmother before it was passed along.  My aunt and uncle actually cooked this one up for you, so all thanks are due to them for its yumminess and photogenic-osity. 

Wilbur's Ancient Jelly Roll
3 tbsp. butter, melted
4 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar, plus extra for rolling
3/4 cup sifted flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. confectioner's sugar, plus extra for dusting later
3/4 cup jelly or jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Brush a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with edges) with half the melted butter.  Line the pan with a large sheet of wax or parchment paper, letting it hang over the sides of the pan.  Brush the paper with the remaining melted butter.
2. Break the eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the salt and 3/4 cup of sugar.  Beat until stiff "or until the mixture forms a ribbon and falls back on itself when the mixer is lifted from the bowl."  (I took that directly from the book, as I wasn't sure how to say that in any better way.)  Fold in the flour and vanilla.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it smooth with a rubber spatula.
4. Bake for 15 minutes.
5. Sift together the confectioner's sugar and white sugar.  Lay out a clean dish towel or cloth and sprinkle the sugar mixture over it.  Once the cake is done, when it is still warm, loosen the cake from the pan and lift out using the parchment or wax paper; turn it out on to the towel and peel away the paper.
6. Sprinkle the cake with sugar and quickly - but gently!! - roll it up like a jelly roll with the towel inside.  Let this cool for 15 minutes.
7. After the wait time is up, carefully unroll the cake and spread the jelly as evenly as possible on top.  Roll the cake back up (without the towel inside) and let it cool completely before cutting.  Lightly sprinkle with confectioner's sugar "dust" and decorate in any way you like.  There are times like these when I sincerely wish that I had a feeding trough to serve out of.  Yes, sometimes I'm a little strange.

Our cake didn't crack, but if yours does, please remember that whipped cream makes a lovely topping that hides many flaws, and the roll is supposed to be ancient anyway.  And if all else fails, I bet it would be really good in a parfait.

I have a confession to make.  I have never had a jelly roll before, and I didn't think I'd like it as much as I did.  I found this to be very tasty, and it wasn't too sweet.  I think it would be especially good with whipped cream, since that would add a creaminess that I love in desserts that just wasn't present here.

In my research, I found a recipe that would fix that problem by making the following addition: before spreading the jelly, spread a layer of a mix of 8 oz. of cream cheese beaten with 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Then spread the jelly on top of that and roll it up as planned.  I'd love to try this, but I have a whole list of other recipes to make, besides the Christmas cookies that are already starting to fill the freezer, so I'm going to rely on you, faithful friends, to try it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jam for Frances

First and most importantly, my apologies for not having posted for several days.  Life has been a little busy, but things should be back to normal now.  So, on with the show!

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban, is one of my all-time favorite books.  For the uninformed, this is the story of Frances, a young badger, who only ever wants to eat bread and jam.  Her mother makes her a lovely soft-boiled egg, but she doesn't like the way it's wobbles on the spoon.  Or the way sunny-side-up-eggs look at her.  Or how sunny-side-down eggs "just lie on their stomachs and wait."  (This book is the reason that I never remember that sunny-side-down eggs are actually called "over easy.")

Frances may not eat eggs, or string beans, or veal cutlets, or anything else, but she will eat and enjoy some bread and jam, and sing about how happy it makes her, too.  At least, at first.  As the book progresses, and her parents only ever give her bread and jam, she realizes that she would like the option of eating other foods, and learns that she does enjoy things like spaghetti and even hard boiled eggs. 

But before we get to the food-tolerance lesson part of things, she is a jam-loving, jump-roping badger.  And this jam is for her.

Jam for Frances
2 cups of sugar
1 large lemon
1 1/2 pints of strawberries
1 small package of blackberries (about a cup)

1.Put a small plate in the freezer for later.  Take the zest off the lemon and put it in a saucepan.  Be careful to only get the yellow zest and leave behind the white pith.  If you can, use a zester or a grater, as large chunks of zest will not be tasty in the end product.
2. Juice the lemon into the pot, and pull out all the seeds.  This should leave you with a hollow-ish, naked lemon.  Note: it doesn't really matter which order you juice or zest in the end product, but I juiced first and the lemon was slimy and the rind had a lot of give, so it made zesting difficult.
3. Add the sugar to the pot with the lemon juice and zest, and cook over very low heat for about ten minutes, or until all the sugar has dissolved into a syrup.  It will look, at first, like there is not enough liquid, but it will be ok.  Stir often; it will help.
4. While the sugar and lemon is cooking, cut the tops off the strawberries and cut them in halves (large berries can be quartered).  After the ten minutes are up, stir in the strawberries and blackberries.
5. Cook the berry mix over low heat for about 20 to 25 minutes; the berries will have given up a lot of their juice, and the mixture should be slowly bubbling.  Keep the berry mix cooking until a few drops on a very cold plate (the one from the freezer) gel right away.
6. Put into canning jars right away, and either seal in a warm-water bath or put in the fridge and enjoy.  It makes about two cups of jam.

This is a soft-set jam with no added pectin.  I like pectin-added jams and jellies, which are firmer, like the ones you buy in the store, but I wanted a totally natural jam for Frances, like her mother might make for her.  The I adapted this one from an Ina Garten recipe that I found on the Food Network website.  And if I may toot my own horn for a moment... holy crap, it's really good.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Captain Underpants: Stinky Taco Surprise

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey is, let's be honest here, an awesome book.  I took it out of the library to read for my Children's Literature class and strongly recommended ("insisted" is such a negative word) that my aunt and uncle read it, too.  Despite initial hesitation - scatalogical humor is not to their taste - both of them read and enjoyed the book.  I caught my aunt laughing out loud when she saw that our main characters - George and Harold - were having Stinky Taco Surprise for lunch.  (And they both loved the Flip-O-Rama pages.)

I had to make Stinky Taco Surprise.  There was no question.  So I needed to figure out exactly what would be in such a dish that made it so stinky.  (Yes, my friends, these are the questions that keep me awake at night.)  Onions, of course.  But that's not enough.  What else smells so strongly?  Bad fish?  Unsafe for consumption.  Feet?  That doesn't even make sense.  Garlic?  In tacos? Well, maybe, but not what I was looking for.  At last, I had it - stinky cheese!

I made the tacos the usual way, but instead of cheddar and lettuce, I used red onions and smelly blue cheese.  And they were wonderful.  I guess that's the surprise - smelled iffy, but tasted great (okay, that's a cop-out.  I seriously considered adding bacon as a surprise but it just didn't need it).

I have to say, I feel silly telling you all how to make tacos.  Like you don't already know.  And obviously, this can be customized to suit your personal tastes.

Stinky Taco Surprise
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 package taco seasoning, and whatever else it says on the package you need (such as water)
Taco shells - the one pound of meat made me 6 average-sized tacos
1 onion, sliced
Blue cheese crumbles
Additional toppings, such as lettuce, tomato, or pico de gallo

1. Brown the ground beef and drain; prepare taco seasonings as directed on the package.  (Note: I usually make my own taco seasoning, since it's cheaper and has less sodium to do it that way.  If anyone is interested in that recipe, let me know and I'll post it.)
2. Fill the taco shells with taco meat and add onion slices, blue cheese crumbles, and additional toppings.  For the photo, I used pico de gallo because it's pretty and I enjoy it, and it was my dinner after I took pictures.  If you think it's easy explaining that "I can't eat right now, I need to photograph my food first," chances are that you haven't done it recently.
3. Enjoy with whatever side dishes you like.  I had Spanish rice with mine, and it was very tasty.

As a variation, this would be quite tasty as a Frito Pie.

I suppose this post was not so much the recipe for stinky tacos as the idea to make them, but that's ok.  Not everything I do will be exciting.  Indeed, much of my life is rather dull.

On a somewhat-related topic, I'm wondering what people think of giving Captain Underpants to students.  I have always been of the school of thought that, if you give a person a book they enjoy, then they will enjoy reading, and that's a good thing.  Even if you personally don't like the book, you realize that other people do and that's that, right?  For example, I am the biggest anti-fan of Twilight, but if I see a student returning the book, I'd chase them down and give them New Moon.

I recently learned that a classmate of mine has a different philosphy; she doesn't allow her students to read Captain Underpants or Shel Silverstein poems or anything like that, because they're not valuable academically.  "If you let your kids read Shel Silverstein," she told my class, "they'll never want to read any real poetry."  I didn't say anything because it confused me to no end.  What do you think?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Little Red Hen Bread

"Hey, everyone!" said the Little Red Hen one day.  "I have some grain here.  Who will help me plant the grain?"
"Not I," said the dog.
"Not I," said the pig.
"Not I," said the goose.
"Not I," said the Kat.  "I'm kinda in the middle of a project here."

"The grain has grown into wheat!" said the Little Red Hen one day.  "Who will help me harvest the wheat?"
"Not I," said the dog.
"Not I," said the pig.
"Not I," said the goose.
"Not I," said the Kat.  "I'm just getting over a cold, and it's wet and muddy out."

"The wheat must be milled into flour!" said the Little Red Hen one day.  "Who will help me mill the wheat?"
"Not I," said the dog.
"Not I," said the pig.
"Not I," said the goose.
"Not I," said the Kat.  "Seriously, can't you just buy a bag of flour like a normal person?"

"The flour must be baked into bread!" said the Little Red Hen one day.  "Who will help me bake the bread?"
"Not I," said the dog.
"Not I," said the pig.
"Not I," said the goose.
"Aww, what the heck," said the Kat.  "I have this great recipe for honey wheat bread I've been wanting to try out..."

Little Red Hen Honey Wheat Bread
2 tbsp. white sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup water (may not be needed)
1 egg, beaten

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar into the warm water.  Make sure the water is tepid-warm, not hot, not cool.  Stir in the yeast and let it sit until it appears creamy and bubbly, about ten minutes.  (This is called "blooming the yeast," by the way, and what it does is wake up the freeze-dried yeast so it starts to make bubbles.  Skip this step and you have flatbread, which is all well and good, but not really what we're after here.)
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the milk, vegetable oil, whole wheat flour, 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, the salt, and the honey. Mix well.
3. Add in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time.  If the mixture is crumbly and will not hold together, add the water a little at a time until it forms a ball.  You don't want sticky, but you don't want it to crumble, either.
4. Either use an electric mixer's dough hook for about 5 minutes OR turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic-y, about ten minutes.
5. Oil or no-stick-spray a large bowl and place the dough in, turning it over so it gets oil on all sides.  Put the bowl in a warm place and cover it with a slightly-damp cloth for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in volume.  (Note: the oil and the damp cloth keep the dough from drying out on the outside.  The world won't end if you skip this, but it tastes better if you don't.)
6. Grease a loaf pan.  Place the dough on a lightly-floured surface and punch it down.  Form it into a loaf and set it in the pan, covering again with a damp cloth to let it rise for another 40 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 so it's ready when your dough is done rising.
7. Brush the loaf with the egg (this will help it to brown - butter would also work).  Bake it for 30 minutes, covering with tinfoil mid-way through if the top is getting too brown.
8. Let the loaf rest for a few minutes before cutting into it, as it may otherwise not set right. 

This bread is pretty tasty as-is, but if you want to sprinkle, say, some sesame seeds on top before baking, that would be a nice addition as well.  You can also use this dough to make rolls, which would be nice, but be sure to adjust your cooking time.

Hmm... I have all this bread now, and nothing to put on it...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Besty-Tacy Unfrosted Cake

I've had my first real request for this blog: from the Besty-Tacy books, could I replicate Mrs. Kelly's unfrosted cake?  Well, I tried.

First off, I went to the library and got Besty-Tacy and Besty-Tacy and Tib by Maud Hart Lovelace, the first two books in a series that I'd never read before.  Having read the first two, I'm really surprised I'd never read them before, because they're right up my alley.  (While I was there, I also picked up Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield, which I had also never read.  How did these slip past me?)

Anyway, after I read the books, I found that the only real description given of the cake is that it's unfrosted and good to take on picnics.  I was thinking to myself, what kind of cake would be good without frosting and not too crumbly to take on picnics?  Maybe lemon cake.. but lemons weren't readily available to people in Minnesota at the turn of the century.  Apples, on the other hand, were all over the place.  I found a good apple butter cake recipe with a brown sugar and cinnamon topping and middle, and thought that, perhaps that was just the thing. 

I'm not sure how accurate this recipe is to the time period, but it is a good solid unfrosted cake.  If this doesn't fit your mind's-eye picture of what this cake should be, let me know and I'll try again, but for now...

Mrs. Kelly's Unfrosted Cake
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup apple butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup wheat germ or rolled oats
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs, beaten

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray or grease one 9x13 inch pan or one bundt pan. 
2. Prepare the topping by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and chopped nuts.  Set aside. 
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
4. Blend together butter and sugar; add eggs and beat well. Add the apple butter, vanilla, and wheat germ or rolled oats, and mix to combine. 
5. Add the sifted dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream, mixing well after each addition. 
6.  Pour half the batter into the pan and sprinkle half the topping over the top. Pour remaining batter and top with remaining topping. (Note: If you use a bundt pan, you'll want to reverse the layers, so the topping is on the bottom when baking, which is the top when you flip the cake out.)
7. Bake for 40 minutes. 

I know this is a longer and more detailed recipe than  usual, but it isn't difficult, and I think it's worth it in the end.  This recipe did come out pretty sweet, so I think you could cut down on the sugar in the topping and still have a good dessert-quality cake. 

I hope I did Mrs. Kelly's unfrosted cake justice.  I considered making Everything Pudding, but I didn't want to deal with the cleanup, so we're going to leave that one out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chicken Soup With Rice

It's been so cold outside lately that I thought a nice warm bowl of soup would be nice to warm up with.  And what better way to start off the chilly season than with Chicken Soup With Rice by Maurice Sendak? 

If anyone is not familiar with Chicken Soup With Rice, I urge you to head on over to YouTube and watch the animation of it, with the story sung by Carole King.  Basically, it's a little boy who sings about the months of the year and how his favorite dish - chicken soup with rice - fits into the grand scheme of things.  In June, for example, chicken soup with rice is used to perk up wilting flowers, and it (in bowls, of course) decorates a Christmas tree in December. 

I had originally thought to make this a nice, neat, relatively healthy recipe, until I looked at the pictures in the book again and talked to a few friends who told me that chicken soup with rice is wholly unacceptable unless it was creamy chicken soup with rice.  It doesn't look especially creamy in the illustrations, but I suppose that's open to interpretation.  And it tastes pretty good that way, though, yet again, it is not healthy.  And it has a few more ingredients than I usually use.  But who wants directions to make a salad, anyway?

Chicken Soup With Rice
2 tsp. olive oil
3 cups chicken meat - 4 thighs or 3 breasts should do
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups uncooked brown rice (note: don't use minute rice! It mushes into the soup)
1 tsp. chicken boullion powder
2 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups milk, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pot (one of those big spaghetti pots),  heat the olive oil and sautee the chicken.  After it is cooked, remove it from the pot, cut the chicken into soup-sized chunks and set it aside.  I used chicken thighs because that's what I had on hand.
2. Put the onions and celery into the pot and sautee until its soft and partially translucent.  Add the broth, bouillon, water, and rice, and heat on medium until boiling, then reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter or margarine. Slowly add the flour, stirring often, to make a roux. 
4. Add 4 cups of milk to the roux, 1/2 cup at a time, while constantly stirring. Add this and the chicken to the rice mixture and return the rice mixture to the stovetop over low heat. 
5.  If the soup seems too thick, add some or all of the remaining 2 cups of milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste and allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. 

This soup will be pretty thick - almost like a stew.  I didn't add either of the extra two cups of milk, and I don't think it needed it.  It's creamy, kinda like a pot pie filling.  As I said, my use of minute rice backfired a bit, since they dissolved a bit into the soup, but it's still delicious.  I would celebrate a snowman's anniversary with this soup.

Oh, and one more thing.  No matter how good it smells, let it cool down before you eat it.  I burned my tongue.

Ice Cream For Samantha

When I told some friends that I was going to be writing this blog, the one of the first responses I got was, "Are you going to write about the American Girl books?" As a kid, I loved the American Girls - four books to a series, each series highlighting a girl from somewhere in the United States at some point during its history. They were interesting, and fun, and those of us who grew up with them, love them.

When I started reading them, the girls were Samantha (from 1904), Molly (from 1944) and Kirsten (from 1854). Then Felicity came out (from 1774), and it was a huge deal. (Well, to me, it was.) My sisters and I had several of the books, and we got the catalog that had the dolls in it, even though we never had the dolls.  The company has now grown exponentially, and there are books about the friends of the original girls, books about girls I've never even heard of, and books about modern girls, and dolls you can customize, and self-help for pre-teens, and... gah! So much! American Girl, I love you, but how am I supposed to catch up?

Anyway. In several of the books, the authors mention cooking; Molly makes Boston brown bread, Kirsten makes St. Lucia buns, and so on. In Happy Birthday Samantha, our title character has a birthday party with pink peppermint ice cream. It shows up at the beginning of the story, at the party, but the batch is ruined by the annoying neighbor-boy, Eddie. Samantha goes to visit family in New York City, though, and she finally gets her ice cream there - again, pink peppermint. It's her favorite.

So, in honor of Samantha's birthday (which is in the spring in the book, but let's not be too picky, here), I made some pink peppermint ice cream. This recipe is adapted from the French Vanilla ice cream in the Ben & Jerry's cookbook.

Pink Peppermint Ice Cream
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 drops red food coloring
Enough crushed-up peppermints to make about two cups

1. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Whisk in the sugar, a little bit at a time, and then continue for about a minute after all the sugar is added.
3. Pour in the vanilla, cream, milk, and food coloring, and whisk that together until everything is blended.
4. Transfer into an ice cream maker and freeze according to your manufacturer's instructions.
5. About half-way into the freezing time, add  the peppermints.  If you crushed them like I did (in a zip-top bag, with a hammer), you'll have pieces of all different sizes and a fair amount of peppermint dust that should blend right in.

Samantha has her ice cream frozen into molds, but there wasn't room in the freezer for a bunch of molds, and I wasn't sure how it would take to a mold made for jell-o, besides my being lazy, so I just put it in a large tupperware and scooped it out as needed.  Judging by the trouble I had getting a good photo, that's probably a good thing - this is a very soft ice cream due to the high sugar content. 

I am lucky enough to have family who not only indulges my odd quirks of needing to randomly cook something from a story, but also has the fun kitchen tools I need to make things like ice cream on the spur of the moment. If you don't have an ice cream freezer, run a Google search on: "how to make ice cream" and you will find methods that don't need the ice cream freezer, such by using two zip-top bags or two empty coffee cans.

And yes, I will make both St. Lucia Bread and Boston Brown Bread at some point in the future. And just about anything else. If anybody has any requests or comments, please feel free to leave a comment, or send me an email at

And lastly, thanks to my aunt, who crushed the peppermints with the hammer for me while I was whisking the rest of the ingredients together.  You're the best.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If You Give A Mouse A Cookies

Yes, I know... "A Cookies" is grammatically incorrect.  "But it works, mate."

If you haven't guessed already, these treats are from the classic If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff, and illustrated by Felicia Bond.  In this story, for those who have not yet read it, a young boy gives a mouse a cookie.  But of course, you know what's going to happen if you give a mouse a cookie, right?  He's going to want a glass of milk.  Naturally; who wouldn't?  But our mouse doesn't stop there.  The progression of requests - a domino effect that makes the little boy in the pictures exhausted from running around all day - gets siller as the book goes on, and ends - spoiler! - with the mouse wanting another cookie.

I love the logic in this book, warped as it may be, and that it's a never-ending circle of silly if you, the reader, are careless enough to get it started.  I love the happy little mouse, and the look on his face when he realizes that he needs a haircut.  And his little overalls always give me a little squeak of enjoyment when I pick this book up, probably because I always forget that he wears overalls.

(Ms. Numeroff and Ms. Bond have also teamed up to bring us If You Give a Pig a Pancake and If You Give A Moose a Muffin, among others.  I'd love to gush about how I enjoyed them, but to tell the truth, I haven't read them yet.  They're on my list, I swear.)

For these mouse cookies, I've chosen to use a recipe given to me by my friend Christina, which she calls "Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies," or simply, "Those Awesome Cookies That My Friend Makes."  (Yes, she got them from her friend.  I have no idea where this recipe originally came from.)  Christina said, when I asked if she minded my using her recipe, "Good choice! Those will be perfect for that book."  But she did add the stipulation that, in the photo, there is a glass of milk, thus staring the vicious mouse cycle.  (I gave him the straw, too.  I couldn't help myself.)

If You Give A Mouse A Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature (take them out of the fridge a few hours before, or use the warm water trick we discussed in the Amelia Bedelia cookies post)
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and set aside.
3. Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to blend.
5. On low speed, add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until just blended--do not overmix!  Stir in the chocolate chips.
6.  For mouse-sized cookies, I used a small ice cream scoop (a melon-baller size) to drop dough onto cookie sheets.  You can use a larger size for larger cookies without making any changes to the recipe.
7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown.

I've been nibbling on these cookies as I write this, and I find that, like the mouse, I keep wanting more.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sal's Blueberry Cobbler

It was only a year or two ago that I learned that Robert McCloskey, author of Make Way for Ducklings (which is the state book of Massachusetts, by the way), is a sort of regional flavor.  McCloskey wrote eight books and illustrated 10 others, and statues based on Make Way for Ducklings are a must-see when in the Boston Public Gardens.  My mother read us his books at the same time as Dr. Seuss's, so I always assumed that everybody knew him... and yet, any time I ask somebody who isn't from New England if they've read his work, they say, "who?"  Which is a cryin' shame, if you ask me, because these books are a treat. 

But this post isn't about Make Way for Ducklings at all.  In fact, it's not even based on a recipe from a book - it's inspired by a book.  Ok, I know that's kinda cheating.  But after you taste this, I think you'll forgive me. 

Blueberries for Sal is a story about a little girl named Sal and her mother, who go blueberry picking on a hill.  Sal's mother tells her to put the berries she picks in her bucket - "plink plank plunk" - so they can save them for winter.  On the other side of the hill we find a mother bear, who tells her cub to eat as many berries as she can to fatten up for winter.  At one point, Sal and the bear cub each end up with the wrong mother, which is very scary for all involved, but - spoiler! - they're all ok in the end.  Sal and her mother go home and make jam.  But as I said, I didn't make the food in the book, since I'm saving jam for another story.  I made blueberry cobbler instead.  With bears in it.

Sal's Blueberry Cobbler
4 1/2 cups berries (I used all blueberries; it goes well with the theme)
4 tbsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter (that's 3 sticks)
Handful of bear-shaped graham crackers

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, mix berries and sugar.  Set aside.
3. In another large bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Cut in the butter into this mixture with two knives (or squish with your fingers! Wash your hands first).
4. Press half the mixture into a 9x13, or two 8x8, pans.  Cover with berry mixture, then crumble remaining crumblies on top.  Sprinkle bears on top, or push them into the cobbler so they're swimming in gooey deliciousness.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until berries are bubbly and topping is golden brown.

I found a version of this recipe on, under the name "triple berry crisp," which obviously uses more than just blueberries.  I love that it has both a top and a bottom crust, because the crust is half the fun of a cobbler.  There is a lot of butter in this, so don't fool yourself that this is healthy because it has fruit... but for a special occasion, and for a taste like this, a lot of butter is ok.

And look how happy the bears are!  If I could swim in a pool of blueberry goo, I'd be happy, too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No-Frills Cheese Balls

One of my classmates in my Children's Literature class has been telling me to read Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes for a few weeks now, and I finally went out and picked it up at the library the other day.  I'm usually pretty wary of a book when people say that it's "one of my favorite books ever," mostly because it's rare that I'll actually enjoy it with such high expectations set.  But this book is an exception.  I love it.  The story is great, the characters are believable and fun, and the illustrations add a lot to the story.  That's one of the ways you know it's a great picture book: do the pictures take over the story and make the words unnecessary?  Can the words stand alone without any illustrations at all?  If the reading experience is richer with both pictures and words, they did a good job.

Anyway.  The story in Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse is fairly straight-forward. Lilly is a young mouse with a personality the size of Texas (a bit like Eloise or Olivia), and she loves school.  She loves her classroom and her building and the way the chalk squeaks and the way everyone gets their very own desk, and  mostly she loves her teacher, Mr. Slinger, who is the coolest teacher ever.  Without spoiling too much, I can tell you that Lilly is mean to her teacher and feels awful about it.  Along with an apology and a note from her parents, she brings her father's famous No-Frills Cheese Balls with her to school and gives them to Mr. Slinger.  Because she is sorry, all is forgiven.  And cheese balls don't hurt either.

I got the impression that the cheese balls were crunchy snacks, not soft balls rolled in nuts like you see at holiday parties.  I couldn't find a recipe for crunchy cheese balls, so I adapted a recipe for cheese straws to suit my needs.

No-Frills Cheese Balls
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water (may not be needed)

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Bring the butter and cheese to room temperature. 
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and cheese until it's a smooth mass.
3. Gradually beat in the flour and salt.
4. Add water slowly, as needed, until the dough is sticky and holds together.
5. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on a lightly-greased or parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the tops are just brown.  They will continue to cook for a few minutes out of the oven, so you don't want to make them perfectly golden brown in the oven, or they will be overdone in the end.

The taste of these cheese balls is remarkably like Cheez-Its.  The original recipe said that a little cayenne pepper sprinkled on top would be a tasty addition, but considering that Lilly is a very young mouse, I decided to leave it off my version.  She might not like it spicy.  Besides, I wasn't sure if pepper would count as a "frill."

I had it in my head, with this blog, to start out with relatively well-known books and authors, but even if every single person asks me, "what's that from?", at least I know I'm spreading the word on a great book (and the cheese balls taste awesome, let's be honest).  Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse isn't exactly obscure, but it isn't (yet) a classic, so I was on the fence about posting this one.  Let me know what you think, though, because I have so many great ideas from books that people may not have heard of, either that have been recommended, or that I found on the shelf at the library, or that I've read here or there.

And incidentally, if you haven't read any of Kevin Henkes's books, I envy the fun you're going to have when you read your first one.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Yes, my friends, the time has come.  As promised in my header, I have made butterbeer, and I am passing my recipe on to you.  (Speaking of the header - like it? My aunt made it for me.  Thank you!!)

For the uninformed, butterbeer is a drink that's enjoyed in Harry Potter's world, and is available at parties and in the town pub.  It seems to be mildly alcoholic, as it warms you up even when the drink is cold, and it could potentially make Hermione do things she wouldn't otherwise.  House elves love it.  J.K. Rowling has described the drink as "a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch," but the books don't give a heck of a lot of description on the drink, so it's up to the imagination of the chef.  I always envisioned it to be a butterscotch-like drink, not exactly a soda, but not really a beer.  Sweet, but not disgustingly so.

The first thing I did was look up "butterbeer" and see if it's a real drink, and it turns out that, historically, it is beer served warm and mixed with sugar and butter.  This doesn't sound at all like what I imagined butterbeer to taste like when I read the Harry Potter series, so I looked at some fan sites and found alternate recipes, including some that used root beer, butter and sugar, and some that used club soda and butterscotch syrup.  I read through them and got some ideas, then went out and got my ingredients and experimented. 

I find that my favorite recipe is very simple, as follows:

1 12-oz. bottle of cream soda (I used IBC)
2 tsp. butterscotch sundae syrup
1 Werther's Originals candy

1. Empty the cream soda into a glass.
2. Stir in the butterscotch syrup to dissolve.
3. Drop in an unwrapped candy and let it dissolve.
4. Chill and serve; or, for a hot butterbeer, microwave for 15-20 seconds.

That's it.  Stir it up a bit before drinking, since the syrup will settle to the bottom if left for several minutes.  It's very creamy even without any milk products directly added, and the color is a much more opaque apple cider color than cream soda alone.  To be blunt, it's beautiful.  I could stare at it for a while and be happy.

My friends, you have no idea how long this recipe took me (Well... let's be honest.  Maybe an hour?).  I used cream soda.  I used apple cider (it sounded good to me, and it was, but it was unnecessary).  I contemplated ginger ale.  I tried with just the syrup, with just the candy.  You get the point.  I even made my uncle try a bunch of the variations because I know my sweet tooth is much harder to please than most people.  What I'm saying is, I hope you like it, because, while it is simple, I'm not just resting on my laurels here.  Butterbeer is serious business!

Also, while I initially made this as a cold drink, it was pointed out to me that butterbeer is generally served warm, so I stuck mine in the microwave, and let me tell you - I can't decide which way I like it better.  It's like butterscotch hot chocolate, without the chocolate.

While my version is non-alcoholic, I assume that butterscotch schnapps would be a tasty addition, or substitution for the syrup (I've never had it and don't know the consistancy of schnapps, so I can't venture a guess, but I do love the word schnapps. Schnapps!).  Or maybe some rum would go well.  I'll leave that to you, or for another day when I just happen to have all the ingredients on hand.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Amelia Bedelia's Tea Cake

Like I said, I love Amelia Bedelia.  I promise every post won't be about her cooking, or even involve unusual foodstuffs, but I couldn't resist this idea.

In Amelia Bedelia Helps Out, also by Peggy Parish, Ms. Bedelia is asked to make a tea cake for tea at Miss Emma's house.  (It is unclear who Miss Emma is, because our heroine works for Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, but I assume she's a friend of the family.)  This book is also special because Amelia Bedelia is working with the company of Effie Lou, her neice.  I know it's not the point of the book, but I can't help but wonder what the heck "Effie" is short for.  I wondered when I read it, and I'm still wondering now, and I've yet to come up with any ideas.  It's distracting me from the task at hand.

Right.  The task at hand.

In the book, Amelia Bedelia is asked to make a tea cake, but she has never heard of it, so she improvises.  She mixes batter for a regular cake, and empties a tea bag in with the spices.  I also added nutmeg, and the resulting flavor is somewhat like chai, which I love.  The loose tea leaves in the batter give the whole cake a faint but noticible tea flavor, and though the black flecks resulting are not pretty, they don't do any harm.

Also.  Despite the fact that illustration clearly shows that the tea cake is a layer cake, I've made the executive decision to make my version a pound cake, because I personally think that pound cake works better with tea both in taste and in the fact that it doesn't crumble as easily and mess up your white cotton gloves and lacy dress.  (That is what you wear to a tea party, right?  I haven't been to one since I was four and the tea wasn't so much tea as it was water in a plastic pot.)  I did keep the pink frosting, though, and added sprinkles for that festive touch.

I adapted this recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Complete Step-By-Step Cook Book from 1978.  If you plan to pick this book up, I'd like to tell you that the food tastes much better than the photos lead you to believe.  One more note before we proceed:  You will definitely want to use an electric mixer for this cake, as there is a lot to mix, and creaming butter by hand is no fun (trust me, I've done it). 

Amelia Bedelia's Tea Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tea bag (I used vanilla caramel black tea)
 Pink frosting and sprinkles (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x3x5 loaf pan.  Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature.  (Note: My great-grandmother always said this gives the eggs room to expand.  I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but she always did it by putting them in a bowl and pouring warm water over them, and letting them sit a few minutes.)
2. In a bowl, beat the butter at medium speed with your electric mixer until creamed and fluffy, pushing the butter through the beaters with a rubber spatula if necessary.
3. Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about six minutes.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating about a minute after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5. In another bowl, stir together the flour, salt, nutmeg, and the contents of the tea bag.  Add this gradually to the wet mixture and beat until blended.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula; the cake will dome on its own.
7. Bake in the center rack of your oven for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool at least 10 minutes in the pan before taking the cake out.
8. If desired, frost with pink frosting and decorate with sprinkles.  Enjoy with milk or tea.

Additional notes: Though I followed AB's advice and dumped in a tea bag, I have to wonder what the cake would have tasted like if I brewed the tea first and added it in with the wet ingredients.  I'll experiment and post a note if I can come up with a tea-cake-with-tea-in-it recipe that I like.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amelia Bedelia's Chocolate "Chip" Cookies

I freakin' love Amelia Bedelia.  From the time that she dressed the chicken by making it a little suit to wear, she was my favorite.  And I love the way she fixes everything with food... though, you'd think that, since she's such a wonderful cook, she'd know that "trim a steak" doesn't mean to decorate it with ribbons and lace. 
My favorite of the Amelia Bedelia books is Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping.  At the end of it, she makes what she calls Chocolate Chip Cookies - chocolate cookies with potato chips in them!  I can't help it.  I've always wanted to make them.  And so, 20+ years after I first heard about them, I finally did it. 
I found a few potato-chip-cookie recipes online, but nothing like what I pictured Amelia Bedelia's cookies to be like - chocolate cookies with potato chips - so, I made my own recipe, which is loosely based on one in the family recipe book.  Here it is:

Amelia Bedelia's Chocolate Chip Cookies

 1 package (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 individual-size bags of potato chips (I used kettle cooked - plain flavor, please!)

1. Preheat oven to 325.  Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
2. Combine the chocolate chips and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds; stir.  Repeat as necessary until the chips are melted and mixture is smooth. 
3. In a different bowl, beat the eggs and the vanilla until blended and frothy.  Add sugar; beat until thick and light.  Add the chocolate and beat until well blended.
4. In a third bowl, mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and beat until blended.  Crush the potato chips into smallish flakes (not powder), and stir in.  The dough will be soft and sticky. 
5. Drop by tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 14-18 minutes or until cookies are firm to the touch.  Cool on cookie sheets for two minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

As odd as this sounds, these cookies are amazingly addictive.  I love them.  I hope everything else I make tastes as good as I thought it would when I first read about it.