Saturday, August 30, 2014

Storm Front Book Review

I saw this book in the new book section of the library and quickly grabbed it.  Storm Front: A Derrick Storm Thriller by Richard Castle was not a book that was even on my list to read but I knew that I needed to read it.  I really enjoyed all of the books with Nicki Heat and love the show Castle on ABC (it is great in case you haven't seen it before, then you need to watch it).  I was excited to have another Richard Castle book in my pile of books to read.





In the book, high-level bankers are being tortured and murdered all over the world and found with all of their fingernails removed. The killer was caught on a surveillance camera and is a man with scars and an eye patch. Derrick Storm was brought in by the CIA to assist because the man is Gregor Volkov, Storm's old nemesis. Storm is working to chase down Volkov and make sure that no other bankers are tortured while trying to figure out why the bankers are being targeted.  With the help of a beautiful and mysterious foreign agent, Storm discovers a plot that could destroy the global economy bringing with it untold chaos and the time he has to stop it is running short.  With the help of his dad, former FBI agent, and friends that Storm calls on, he is able to chase down Volkov and try to overthrow his plan.  Check out this book and see if Storm is successful in his mission.

It took me awhile to get into this book and I am not sure why.  I read it a little every day but I can't say that it was a page turns as others with Nicki Heat were for me.  I think that the writing was good and the characters were good so I am not sure if it was just my mood or the heavy subject matter.  I read a little bit and went to bed but was never trying to stay awake a little longer to read a few more pages like I am with other books.  It was a good book and I am glad that I read it but I felt like it was the second book in a series that I missed the beginning.  I am not sure why because after I looked up the book, I found that it was the first in the Derrick Storm series but looking more into it I see that the first few books were only e-books soon to be published three short books in one book which I will be getting as soon as it is available in the library.  It was a good book and I would recommend reading it but it wasn't my favorite.  I am going to wait for my mom's review to see if I am being too tough on it but hope that you read it and enjoy it.  Please let me know what you think!!!  I have reserved the second book in the series to see how I like it so obviously it wasn't that horrible.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Ultimate Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Crisco Baking Sticks

I have tried so many chocolate chip cookies over the years and my husband just doesn't like the good cookies!  He prefers a cake like cookie and not the crispy or chewy texture of the normal chocolate chip cookies.  I have been trying lots and lots to find one that we all like.  I think that I should give up but it is very fun to eat all of the experiments.

I checked that we had all  of the ingredients for my experiment...Umm, I mean recipe.  I did have lots of everything so this seemed like a good recipe that I would make over and over.  The test of any good recipe is if they are ingredients that I keep on hand all the time.  If it takes a special trip to the store, I am probably not making it.


I got my recipe card that was from the inside of the Crisco package from before which I saved.  I was excited that it took a little different ingredients then the normal cookies and there was plenty of all of it in the house.


I started by adding the butter flavored Crisco and the brown sugar to the bowl.  Doesn't the Crisco look like butter in the bowl?  The great thing about the stick is that you can measure just like you do butter so it is really easy to use with a quick cut and it stays in the cupboard.


When the Crisco mixed with the brown sugar, it was a little thicker and less fluffy then the normal creaming of the butter.  It almost looked like peanut butter.


I added the milk, egg and vanilla.  This called for a lot more vanilla then my normal recipe but I followed the directions and was surprised that it wasn't overpowering.


When these few liquid ingredients were added, the batter became a little fluffier looking instead of just like peanut butter.  It wasn't exactly like my normal cookie dough but it was still looking like cookies.


Adding in the dry ingredients and it looked just like cookie dough that I normally would make so I was starting to feel a little more confident that they would turn out.


I measured my heaping cup of chocolate chips.  My son saw the bag and wanted to try some but I hid them far enough back on the counter that he couldn't get them so that I would have enough for the recipe.


I mixed in the chips with the dough and then took off the blade.  I made the dough in the morning and didn't have time to bake the cookies but I knew that I didn't have time to make both in the afternoon so I started by making the dough and then covering the bowl and putting it in the fridge to sit while we went to do other activities during the day. 


I use the silpats and cookie sheets that I use for all my recipes.  If you don't have them or haven't used them, they are great.  It is like reusable parchment paper.  I hate wasting parchment paper for making cookies but they are non-stick and keep the cookie sheets nice and clean while being easy to clean off.


The cookies were nice and firm and easy to scoop. The cookie scoop that I normally use is the medium cookie scoop which makes the perfect sized cookie for the final cookie.


The cookies came out of the oven nice and brown.  They were a little gooey when they first came out buy quickly set up to be crispy around the edge.  I thought that they were really nice.  My husband thought that they were a little greasy when they were hot out of the oven but after they rested they were really good.


I made these again and doubled the recipe because we ate them way too fast the first time.  I added a little extra flour in to the mix about 1/3 of a cup probably for good measure.  I baked them for 11-13 minutes and they were perfect.  My husband and I agreed that they tasted a lot like the cookies from Giant that he loves (and maybe missed a little).  I enjoyed the nice crunch but chewy texture.  This might be our new cookie and I only have a little butter Crisco left!!!  Oh no!

I wonder if these would be good to freeze the batter or not!!  Well, I don't think that the next batch is going to last long enough to matter but I hope that you check out these new and tasty cookies to see what your family thinks.

The Ultimate Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 stick Crisco® Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • OR 3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 oz. or 1 cup package semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

  2. Combine shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

  3. Drop by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: How To Watch TV for Free

I can't tell you how many people think that I am fibbing when I tell them that we don't pay for television.  Now don't get me wrong, we like our television shows but we don't have cable or Dish or any other paid televisions.  We don't pay for Hulu Plus or Netflix.  We don't rent movies at Red Box.



We have an antennae on roof that came with the house and we get all of our major channels with it.  We watch some other shows on the iPad with free apps.  There are more free apps every time we turn around so I thought that it would be good to mention.  There is an app to see the ABC, NBC and CBS online but they are often changing the policy on the newest shows and when they are available.  If you want to pick up some old shows and start a new series, there are lots of choices based on what is on that channel. 

Our newest find is the HGTV app!!!  You can find the app in iTunes here.  We have been watching lots of different shows and enjoying this new to us app.  My son's favorite is the Flipping the Block where there are four couples that are remodeling a town home in a row.  It is super fun to pick your favorites and see if they win the challenges.  My husband has been enjoying the Property Brothers.  I have just been enjoying watching the shows that we haven't seen in years.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!


There are a few other apps out there but we haven't tried all of them.  Do you have any ideas on what free apps are out there that are fun to watch??  Give us some more ideas and share your favorites.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kid Wednesday: Three Dimensional Shapes Learning through Making a Poster

My son got really bored one day and requested activities when I had none planned so I had to make up a plan very quickly.  Luckily I had planned to do this one but I really wasn't ready.  I love Teachers Pay Teachers and found lots of fun activities to do on the website.  This was one that I was still holding on to and hadn't done.  I loved it so much that I started following her store and checked out all of her other fun activities so make sure you do too!!

We went to find a big piece of paper to start with.  I got some painters tape to hang it on the wall so that we didn't damage the paint.  I started by cutting all of the papers and mixing them up.  My son looked at the papers on the table and I delayed him by telling him to pick a color marker and outline the shape on the page.  That gave me just enough time to attach the categories to the top of the paper.


He picked the one that he wanted to start with and put all of the names on the paper first.  We went through a lot of glue sticks in this in case you can't see how much glue he had on the first few shapes.


After putting on the names of the shapes, he was excited to put on the sides and jumped around to put up the one that he read next on the sign.  Then came his favorite column which was the real things to make the kids understand how the shapes relates to real things that they see every day.


The one that he liked was the marshmallow, paper towel roll and glue stick...for some reason this made him laugh.


He was pretty excited about the final poster and was super excited to show it to his father when he came home.  We have the poster rolled up so that we can pull it out whenever he wants to check out his handy work.


There is a lot of education in such a simple task.  The shapes are not the regular one dimensional shapes that kids learn first but neat three dimensional shapes.  Make sure you check out the great free file on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

My son has been really interested in three dimensional shapes since watching an episode of Peg + Cat.  If you want to check out more of the Peg + Cat activities and games, check out the website here.  There are lots of things to do to follow up with shapes and math ideas.  Hope you enjoy this fun activity and try it for yourself.  Make sure you download it now to have when you are ready!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wicked Business Book Review

I finished the previous series and I thought I would read a single book instead of starting the next series I had in my pile.  I picked out Wicked Business: A Lizzy and Diesel Novel (Lizzy & Diese​l) by Janet Evanovich which I found at the library when I was looking for something fun to read in the new section while my son was reading to my mom.  It was a great opportunity to read some great new books!!


In the book, Lizzie is working with Diesel again to find next stone and solving lots of mysteries along the way.  A Harvard University English professor, Gilbert Reedy, is mysteriously murdered and thrown off his fourth-floor balcony, while in search of the perfect love.  Lizzy and Diesel take up his twenty-year quest for the Luxuria Stone, an ancient relic believed by some to be infused with the power of lust which the professor was trying to also change to work to find true love. Following clues contained in a cryptic nineteenth-century book of sonnets from the magic shop that the professor had, Lizzy and Diesel tear through Boston catacombs, government buildings, and multimillion-dollar residences, leaving a trail of robbed graves, public disturbances, and more trouble.  It was funny to follow the path of the clues that lead to the next clue while they were trying to outrun and out think the bad guys!!  See who wins in the end when you pick up this book

I loved it!  As all my other books by Janet Evanovich, I enjoyed the characters and the story.  I have to say that this is a book that you could never take seriously so as long as you are not looking for the next great American novel, this will entertain and keep amused all the way through.  Janet Evanovich is a great writer with great characters who you learn love.  I can't wait to read another book in this series (or any of her series for that matter). While the characters get themselves into big messes, they always work to get themselves out of the mess that they are in through the book.  This was no different because there was so much going on with all of the searching for the stone (again).  I hope you check out this great series by Janet Evanovich the next time you go to the library or bookstore!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Menu Plan Monday 8/25



Monday- Chicken Paninis and Edamame
Tuesday- Chicken Nuggets and fries
Wednesday- Leftovers??
Thursday- Open House at son's school with Cookout
Friday- Buffalo Chicken Pizza and Cheese Pizza (or Pepperoni)
Saturday- Tacos with spicy saffron rice and corn bread
Sunday- Olive Oil Spaghetti with peasant bread

We have company coming over the weekend so we are trying to have some yummy treats that we haven't had in awhile including some pizza with the cheese that I just bought at the last sale at Harris Teeter.  I also want to make my new peasant bread recipe for my cousin which is really yummy.  Here is hoping that we have a yummy week and take this week to start on next month's menu because I haven't even printed it yet.  It is going to be a busy month with the start of school and everything else going on to get ready for school.  There are plenty of things that we are trying to fit into the end of summer so we will see how much I can do and still make it home to have a yummy dinner.  How is your end of summer going?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Treat Yourself Book Review

I was looking through some new books that looked interesting through Blogging for Books but I decided to peek over and look at the cook books.  I think that I have a horrible weakness for cookbooks because I was super excited to see all of them.  I couldn't pass up Treat Yourself: 70 Classic Snacks You Loved as a Kid (and Still Love Today) by Jennifer Steinhauer!! Who can turn down that cover....only note is that it doesn't come with all of the baked goods it shows in the pictures so you do need to make them yourself!


The book starts with a great introduction that I think that everyone can relate to because we all have memories that relate to food even if they are not the same as the author.  I know that I remember many childhood memories attached to my mom making banana bread and my brother and "trying" not to eat the whole loaf in one sitting.  My dad remembers his father eating tasty cakes and other treats and when he came home the little wrappers were all over his car.  There are always memories or holiday dinners or favorite foods that come to mind when I think about different events in the past.  Each recipe gives a little story at the

The book is separated into a few different chapters including the following:

Classic Cookies
Sandwich Cookies
Snack Cakes
Fruit Treats and Filled Things
Savory Snacks
Candy
Frozen Treats

There are a bunch of recipes that I know that I will try like the lemon coolers because my husband would like them.  There are others that look great that I know that I won't take the time to make like the thin mints but I can dream.  I am interested in trying the Chips Ahoy because I am always on a search for the cookies recipe that the whole family is going to like.  I also think that I might try some Nilla Wafers because I have a new piping bag that I have never used so I am excited to try a bunch of the cookie recipes.

The Sandwich Cookies look interesting but I know that I probably won't put in the effort to make them but I love the idea of the Nutter Butters because I love the cookies and the cookies look amazing.  I am not a fan of marshmallow so I will not make the mallomars but I might try the oatmeal cream pie because I loved those as a kid.  I really can't put any stock into why I liked it but I am sure the homemade version would be way more tasty.

The snack cake chapter is really interesting because there are so many regional snacks that I didn't have growing up.  I would try to make the donut holes in the book but they are not make with yeast so I am interested to taste the more cake like donut but I would probably do cinnamon powdered sugar because that is what we prefer on our donuts so they would probably have to be fried to stick to it or rolled in butter.  I also enjoyed the Star Crunch when I was in high school as part of my not nearly nutritious lunch so I think that I would make those for my son because I think that he would really enjoy them.  I had a bunch of caramels that I got to make a special cookie but I ended up eating all of them so I would have to make them soon after buying the caramels!

I look forward to trying the soft pretzels with my homemade pizza dough sometime.  It is perfect because the dough makes double so I can make one pizza and use the second to make another treat.  Soft pretzels would be a great after dinner treat (especially in cinnamon and sugar version) or save for the next day for a snack. I am also interested in trying the Ritz crackers and her Cheez-Its to see how different they are from the ones that I made previously.  The Fritos are going to be a special treat for me to make because they would be prefect to make for the top of the crunchy taco rice that we like even if they aren't the prettiest when they turn out but I can't wait to try them.

I was least interested in the candy but then I got to the Twix and thought that they looked amazing.  Of course I love Twix bars so why wouldn't they!  I loved the look of the candy dots but that seems like a lot of work to make your own but fun that you can.  The other chapter that seemed that I wouldn't like and I was surprised was the frozen treats.  I think that there are a few that I would try like the ice cream sandwiches or the creamsicles and pudding pops. 

My biggest disappointment came in this book because the items weren't all made from scratch.  The honey buns uses a box of hot roll mix.  The filling starts with marshmallow fluff which I don't normally buy and probably would have to go out of my way to get it which means that I probably won't make these treats without a lot more effort.  Obviously if the recipe calls for a store bought pie crust, you could make your own version but I don't know how homemade marshmallow fluff would stack up for these recipes.  I also don't have a clue what the hot roll mix is in order to make my own.  If I figure out how to make some of these recipes more from scratch, then they have more a chance of being made.

This book has great stories, great recipes and great pictures.  My aunt would call it great food porn because you can see all the pictures and not gain any weight because there are no calories associated with it.  I totally agree and this is a cookbook that you could read over and over with the great stories and I know that I will be.  I added it to the cook book shelf in the kitchen but it might be nice to keep on my bedside table to read at night.  It is a hard cross over when it has so much good reading and you can literally read the book from cover to cover like a novel.  I hope that you check out this book and the tons of great recipes.  If there are any recipes that you would like to try (and share the goods with me), you are more then welcome to come over and borrow the book.  Of course, I share opinions on which ones you should make but I can't wait to try lots of them.  I hope that you check out this book and some of the great recipes!!!  Even if you are just getting it for the reading, it is well worth the purchase to take a trip down memory lane of all of these childhood treats.