High Five For Friday VII

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It’s Friday, its cold in Tucson (50 muhahahaha), and I’m eating steak for lunch.  Let’s get to it.

1.  Christmas!!!  I mean, is there anything else right now?  Are you all set to celebrate?  We are on a pretty lean budget this year so shopping was all set.  I mailed Christmas cards and cookies already.
2.  We went to see Anchorman II last night.  I knew that it had somewhat mixed reviews, but I could not pass up a chance to see my favorite, Kirstin Wiig.  If you approach the movie as plotless and just entertainment, you will be just fine.  There are so many great cameos in one scene, which almost made it completely worth it in itself!


3.  We found an amazing new (to us) taco place and we have already been twice in a week.  Oops.  If you are a southwest local, check out El Taco Tote.  They have a very extensive salsa and toppings bar with lots of little delights: radishes, cucumbers, cabbage, cilantro, pickled onions (!!!),  and  raw onions.  Plus every meal comes with a drink and they have the super fancy coke machine that has 100s (I have no idea how many, total exaggeration probs) of choices so I can have my beloved seltzer!

4.  With 2014 fast approaching, the compilations, lists and summaries of the year are popping up everywhere.  Google did a very nice job.

5.  I love the Muppets and they want to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful weekend and don’t forget to take a breath, enjoy a cuppa and break with the ones you love.


Slow Cooker Tips


Do you have a Crock Pot?  It is one of my top kitchen appliances.  It gets weekly use and we would not have eaten nearly as well as we did when I was in graduate school without it.  It is a busy cook’s best friend.  Today, I am going to give you some of my knowledge that I have gleaned of my years of use of a crock pot.  I am also going to give you some of our family favorites.

Which Slow Cooker to Purchase:

I have used the cheapest model and more expensive ones.  I am happy with the results of all of them.   Cooks Illustrated has a buyer’s guide on them, and I recommend that you use that as a guide, or just buy whatever is cheap at Target/Walmart/Amazon.

Crock Pot General Tips:

  • The crock pot doesn’t lose moisture so if at the end of the cooking time, you think it is has too much liquid, just crank the heat to high and leave the lid off for 20-30 minutes (or as needed, just make sure you are checking on it, you may want to stir it periodically).
  • On the liquid note, don’t feel weird when you are mixing a bunch of ingredients that are solid, especially if there is meat, because the meat will release a bunch of juices that mix with spices, etc.
  • Dairy is weird in the crock pot, it can separate, so it’s best to add it at the end.
  • Do not take the lid off during the cooking, it loses a lot of heat and it adds a lot of time to the cooking.  [As tempting as it is to peek.]
  • On the whole, crock pots are very forgiving.  Set it to whatever the recipe says and most cookers will automatically switch to warm at the end of the time [you need to double check your machine].  Don’t worry if you get home later than you planned.  If it is on warm, you are ok for food safety and it’s probably not overcooking.
  • Flavors mellow a lot in the slow cooker.  I have found I can put what I think is a lot of heat into the machine and at the end of a long cook time, the meal is much less strong.  With that said, I have had inedible bean soup that was way too spicy and I like to salt most dishes at the end of the cook time.

Adapting the regular recipes for the Slow Cooker

  • I have frequently used the crock pot in recipes where there is a long period of simmering on low heat.   I just do all the steps as prescribed and then throw the food in the slow cooker
  • I had a lot of success with this, especially The Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

Favorite Recipes

Other Resouces for Slow Cooker Questions
  • Real Simple has a great article on slow cooker food safety.  [The FDA used to have  a great resource on food safety and slow cookers.  I am a nerd and I read this when I first got mine.]
  • The Kitchn has a lovely little list of recipes and the comments are always full of fantastic tips from their smart readers!
  • Crock-Pot.com is a commercial website but full of reader submitted recipes and information on different uses.

Coconut Chocolate Toffee Cowboy Cookies


Cookies and Christmas.  It’s like football and dip.  Movies and popcorn.  Champagne and celebrations.  Good news for you, today is the reveal of the Great American Cookie Swap, so the internet is awash with fabulous cookie recipes to make your Christmas celebration complete.

The premise of the Great American Cookie Swap is pretty simple, donate a small amount to Cookies For Kids Cancer and receive the names of three lovely food bloggers (is that what I am?) to send a dozen cookies and receive 3 dozen cookies from three other food bloggers!  I received one dozen spicy oatmeal raisin cookies from Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe,  one dozen cornmeal and olive oil  biscotti from Cheryl at Crazy World of Cher, and Pfeffernussen from  Simply Sweet Justice.  YUM to all!

If you are compiling your “cookies to make” list, I encourage you to consider this Kicked Up Cowboy Cookie.  [Even though at this point in the season, the last thing you need is more ideas on what to make.  I’d take an elf to bake everything while I watch “Love Actually” on repeat.]  After eagerly waiting almost a year to participate in the Great American Cookie Swap, I obsessed over the perfect cookie to send.  I settled on this Kicked Up Cowboy Cookie because it can be a meal.  Oats, Coconut, Chocolate, and Toffee, what else do you need?!   These would be a perfect bake sale cookie too, there is nothing weird in there, just good stuff!

I made these the day before Thanksgiving (always wise to tear up the kitchen the day before a major meal) and basically had cookies for lunch.  Someone had to eat the ugly ones.  One relative had to evacuate the kitchen for fear of eating a full tray.  These are chewy and chocolatey, with enough salt to keep you coming back.  They come together quickly, all you need is some elbow grease to mix in all the ingredients.   These are barely adapted from Former First Lady Laura Bush’s recipe and they are award winning (in my opinion)!

Coconut Chocolate Toffee Cowboy Cookies

adapted from Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookie


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup toffee pieces

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups sweetened flake coconut


Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.

Gradually beat in sugars; beat to combine, 2 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each.

Beat in vanilla extract.

Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate chips, toffee pieces, oats, and coconut.  Refrigerate dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

For each cookie, drop 1/4 cup dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. 

Remove cookies from rack to cool.