Saturday, December 19, 2009

Nana's Anise Cookies

A guest post from my friend V, who continues the family tradition of making these Italian Christmas treats each year. They have a very strong licorice flavor!

3 eggs
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp anise extract
1 TBSP baking powder
2 1/2 c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and extract. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Roll cookies into shapes with hands. Bake at 350 for approximately 10 minutes until light brown.

1/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp anise extract
water if needed
nonpareil sprinkles :)

Dip the cookies into the icing and then into nonpareil sprinkles.

Air-fried Pork Chops

This is a guest post from my friend V:

I had thin sliced pork (7 slices to the pound instead of 4), so it came out a bit dry. Next time, I'll remember to cook it less :) I used Trader Joe's Garlic Aoli Mustard (no Dijion) and it tastes really yummy!

1 pound pork loin chops
24 tsp (1/2 cup) Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Canola oil spray

Slice pork into four 4-oz. portions.
Thickly coat pork chops with Dijon mustard (you may not need all of the mustard). In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and seasonings. Dredge pork chops in crumbs. Arrange pork chops on a wire rack set on top of a sheet pan. Spritz bread crumb coating with a little bit of oil spray. Place under broiler and cook on both sides until coating is brown, about 5 minutes on each side.

Monday, December 14, 2009


This is my most requested holiday goodie. Is it a cookie or is it a candy? Who cares!

  • 3 cups rice crispies
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 regular-size jar of peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/4 bar paraffin wax (usually sold near the jello, candles, or canning supplies in supermarkets)
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the rice crispies and powdered sugar. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and peanut butter together in the microwave and stir into a soupy mess. Pour the melted mixture over the cereal mixture and combine, mixing with your hands or the stand mixer on low speed, until mostly uniform. (Do not try this with a hand mixer!)

Chill this mixture, then roll into walnut-sized balls (I use a melon baller for this step), and place on wax-paper-lined cookie sheets, and chill again. Meanwhile, chop up the paraffin into little bits, and melt the chocolate and paraffin together (use the microwave or a double-boiler), stirring until smooth and liquid.

Using small tongs, dip each peanut butter ball quickly into the chocolate, turning to coat, and then return to the wax-paper-lined trays and chill once more to set the chocolate. Store in a sealed container in a cool place, or in the fridge.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Maple Granola

This stuff is seriously delicious. It's calorie-dense, but full of healthful things like nuts and dried fruit. It's certainly much better for breakfast than store-bought cold cereal.

I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown's granola. My version takes out the coconut (I'm allergic), and adds more kinds of nuts. For the dried fruit, you can use anything approximately raisin-sized. My favorite is dried blueberries, but they are expensive. I've had yummy results with craisins (dried cranberries), regular and golden raisins, and dried apricots chopped into raisin-sized bits. I often mix several fruits to make up the amount.

I buy my nuts, seeds, and dried fruit at Trader Joes, whenever I can get there. Their nut prices are much cheaper than most other stores, and the quality is great. TJ's is also my best-price source for real maple syrup, which is an absolute requirement here. Don't even think about using that fake-maple pancake syrup. If you desecrate my granola recipe with that junk, I will hunt you down!

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw slivered or sliced almonds (I prefer sliced when I can get them)
1 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional)
2/3 cup REAL pure maple syrup
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup dried fruit, in pieces approximately raisin-sized

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon (if using).
In another bowl, combine the maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 non-stick or foil-lined sheet pans. Toast in the preheated oven 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes.

Remove granola from oven and dump into a large bowl. Add the dried fruit and mix until evenly distributed. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in a cool place.

Delicious in a bowl of milk as breakfast cereal, or eaten dry as a high-energy snack any time of day.

What do Librarians Love to Read?

I love to talk about books. I love to listen to other people who love books talk about books. It kind of goes with being a librarian, I suppose. So, I really had a great time at our Library Staff Book Club tonight. For a change of pace, we did not all read the same book and discuss it this time around. Instead, in honor of the upcoming holiday season, we each brought a holiday treat to eat or drink (Alesha, I have GOT to have that hot chocolate recipe!!!), and one or more of our favorite books. They could be books we'd give as gifts, or simply books we love to read.

Sue G., retired Children's Librarian and lately of the Caldecott committee, was our invited guest speaker. She talked about excellent picture books, and got to share the most books:
Show and Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Book Illustration by Dilys Evans
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin
Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin
When Marian Sang by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Olivia Helps with Christmas (and other Olivia books) by Ian Falconer
Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

Then the rest of the club shared the books they'd brought:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book by Terry Jones
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Chaucer's First Winter by Stephen Krensky

Jill H.:
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Dinotopia: a Land Apart from Time by James Gurney
Dinotopia: the World Beneath by James Gurney
Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara by James Gurney

On Christmas Eve
by Margaret Wise Brown
The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot
Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

Ash by Malinda Lo
The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Mary Lee:
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore (and the gorgeous pop-up version by Robert Sabuda)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Frank

Tears in the Darkness by Michael Norman
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Pop-Up Adaptation) by Robert Sabuda
Peter Pan (Pop-Up Adaptation) by Robert Sabuda

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans

I'm Just Here for the Food by Alton Brown
Rash by Pete Hautman

Jill Z.:
Sweet Revenge (& others in the Goldy Bear series) by Diane Mott Davidson

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton