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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Angel Unawares, Serial #17 and Strawberry Crumble

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Yep, we made it.

It must really be spring if the Pick Your Own Strawberry Farm down the road is beginning to mark out the parking area and dust off the tables and benches. I noticed the first blossoms on the plants a few weeks ago, and my mom always said “thirty days from bloom to berry”–so we can’t be far from the succulence and sweetness of fresh-picked local strawberries.

So to get you in the mood, we’re posting this Strawberry Crumble recipe. It’s super easy and super quick and oh so delish! And it bakes and serves in the same container–a Mason jar that practically exudes the flavors of down-home cooking. This recipe makes one generous serving, but feel free to double it or more to share this treat with friends. They’re bound to love the Mason jar touch, and like what’s inside the jar even more.

If you’re in the Deep South or California, you can use fresh-picked berries for this recipe. The rest of us will have to buy ours at the store. But don’t worry, the pick-your-own version are coming our way. And when they get here, you’ll have a great recipe ready to put them to use!

strawberry crumble for one

Strawberry Crumble

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons oats

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

strawberry crumble for 1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, add the butter, flour, oats, 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Mix the ingredients with a fork until the butter is broken up into pea-sized pieces and is incorporated throughout the dry ingredients.

In another small bowl, add the sliced strawberries, 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar, and vanilla extract. Toss the strawberries until they are evenly coated with sugar and vanilla.

In one regular-sized mason jar, press half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the jar. Top with strawberries, and finish with the remaining crumble. Place the jar on a cookie sheet or shallow baking dish to catch any spills, and bake for 30 minutes or until crumble is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 1 crumble.

strawberry crumble

{Adapted from Dooley Noted Style}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #17 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #17, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #17, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #16 and Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls

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Kick the Can–these warm evenings and late sunsets have me thinking about playing Kick the Can in the old neighborhood. You know, gather a gang of kids together after supper and put an old coffee can in the middle of the yard and designate someone as “it” (he was always the dorky kid nobody liked) and everybody else runs and hides and the “it” kid has to try to find everyone and call them in without anyone kicking the can and freeing all the captives. That was a fun game.

And you’re no doubt wondering what the heck Kick the Can has to do with Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls? Well, I’ll tell you–Home Base! In Kick the Can everyone starts out at home base and sooner or later ends up at home base–either as a captive or at the end of the game if it gets too dark or the dork kid gets tired of being “it” and goes home crying. You always end up back at home base.

And that’s what chocolate mixed with peanut butter is to the dessert fanatic–HOME BASE! You can wander afield with your lemon bars or your pumpkin truffles or your butterscotch pudding or your exotic linzer torte squares, but sooner or later you’ll end up back at peanut butter and chocolate. And that’s what these Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls are meant to do–return you to home base.

Angels Unawares, Serial #16 is also about returning to home base. The entire serial is from Angie’s blog written from the Iraq warzone. She too is looking for home base, but is wondering if it’s a place or something different, something more. She could probably use some of these Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls. They’d cheer her up at least, and might even help her find her way to a new and better home base.

chocolate dipped peanut butter candies

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Balls

3 heaping Tablespoons peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)*

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup powdered sugar

3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup)

optional: candies to decorate with (I used Peanut Butter M&Ms)

peanut butter chocolate candies

In a small mixing bowl, add the peanut butter and room temperature butter. Mix these ingredients together until smooth and blended. Slowly add the powdered sugar, and mix until the dough is thick, no longer sticky, and forms a ball. If the dough is still sticky, add 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar at a time until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the peanut butter balls on a plate and put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm up.

When the peanut butter balls are firm, put the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the chips at 50% power for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir the chocolate chips. Repeat the process until the chips are nearly all melted, careful not to burn the chocolate. Remove the chocolate from the microwave and stir the chips until they are all the way melted.

Roll one peanut butter ball at a time in the melted chocolate, making sure to cover the entire ball. Place the peanut butter candy on a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat the process until all of the peanut butter balls are coated. Return the candies to the refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes or until ready to serve. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes 8 candies.

*If you use natural peanut butter that has the oil separated, you will need to add additional powdered sugar. Stir in one tablespoon of powdered sugar at a time until the mixture is thick enough to form a ball and is no longer sticky.

easter candy

{Adapted from She Wears Many Hats}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #16 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #16, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #16, text © Jeffrey Anderson



Angels Unawares, Serial #15 and Banana Caramel Smoothie

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We want to say “Hi” to spring!

Now there are a lot of ways to do that–go for a long walk or a jog on a warm afternoon, take a picnic lunch to the park, plant some flowers in the yard or some seeds in the garden, or maybe just grab a book and lay out on the deck. Ahh, feel that sunshine!

But here at Reading and Recipes we want to say “Hi” with a simple but delicious treat that will pair up with any springtime activities. This Banana Caramel Smoothie has a spring-like brightness and fruitiness with just a touch of sweetness in the caramel. It’s for the most part healthy (that’s good, as we want to get trim and fit for all those outdoor pursuits) with a little indulgence as reward for making it through the long prior season. I’m not even going to mention his name.

(You’re in the doghouse, Mr. Season Before Spring! Hey, how do you know I’m a man? Because you’re a lazy pain in the butt who hangs around for too long, that’s how! Oh, yeah? Well maybe I’ll come back and lie around on the couch for a few more weeks. Fat chance–changed the locks! See you next year, chump!)

Sorry about that tirade. It’s been a long season before spring. Got to go make me a Banana Caramel Smoothie to get in a better mood.

banana smoothie

Banana Caramel Smoothie

1 banana, sliced into small pieces

1 cup milk (dairy, soy, almond, or coconut milk will all work)

1/3 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

2 Tablespoons caramel sauce plus more for garnish

Handful of ice cubes, optional

banana caramel smoothie top

Add all of the ingredients to a blender. Blend until the mixture is thick and smooth. If the mixture is too thin, add a couple of ice cubes and blend until the smoothie reaches your desired thickness.

Pour the smoothie into a tall glass and garnish with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Eat immediately.

Makes 1 smoothie.

banana caramel smoothie

Click below to listen to or read Serial #15 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #15, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #15, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #14 and Mini Cookie Cake

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Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday dear R&R, Happy Birthday to us!

Guess what? Yes indeed, it’s the 1st birthday of Reading and Recipes. Yay! This is our 53rd post, so fifty-two weeks ago today, we made our first post–Wyoming, Part I and XXL Triple Chocolate Cookie. For those of you who want to mark your calendar, our actual birthday is tomorrow, April 4, because a year has fifty-two weeks plus one day. I know, it’s complicated–let the math geeks worry about it.

What we’re focused on here is sweets and stories! And just as we’re not content with one kind of hobby on our website, for our birthday we’re not going to have just one kind of dessert. Instead, we’re going to mix two desserts together in this fun and oh-so-pretty Cookie Cake! Ain’t it cute?

It’s a simple concept–take your favorite cookie (preferably a recipe that’s soft enough to cut but firm enough to keep their shape when layered atop one another) and your favorite complementary frosting (soft enough to pipe but firm enough not to squish out of the layers) and start piling on the layers, making sure you stop before you hit the ceiling.

Think of the possibilities! Remember when you were a kid (I know–yesterday) and your mom would ask you on your birthday what kind of cake you wanted and what kind of frosting? Well, this approach just increased the number of combinations by like five million. You could have a different one everyday for a year and not exhaust the possibilities–but then you’d be three hundred sixty-five birthdays older and we wouldn’t want to speculate on how many pounds heavier. So maybe just try this version now and hold off on another variation till next year, or at least next week.

Now if we can just figure out where to put the candle? Oh yeah, it’s on the cover of the novella Birthday Dinner, which starts here if you want to take a look.


 mini cookie cake

Mini Cookie Cake

1 small batch of your favorite cookie recipe*

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons shortening

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

a very small pinch of salt

1-2 teaspoons milk or cream

individual cookie cake

Bake the cookies and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and shortening. Once these ingredients are mixed together, slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing into the butter/shortening after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, salt, cocoa powder, and one teaspoon of milk, and beat into the frosting. If the frosting is too thick, mix in one more teaspoon of milk.

Place one cookie on serving plate and pipe the frosting in a circular motion, starting on the outside and working your way in, onto the cookie**. Top the frosting with another cookie, and repeat the process until the last cookie is placed on top. (I used 4 cookies, but use as few or as many as you’d like depending on how many your recipe makes.) Pipe more frosting on the top of this cookie, and place a few chocolate chips in the center. Carefully move the cookie cake to the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours, preferably over night. Remove from the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 1 mini cookie cake.

*I used our Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I baked these cookies for a couple of minutes longer so they’d be more crispy. Make sure your cookies aren’t too soft, or the cake will not stand straight.

**If you don’t have a piping bag or piping tips, you can use a Ziplock or sandwich bag. Spoon the frosting into the sandwich bag. Cut a very small hole at one of the corners (you can always cut a bigger hole if the first cut is too small, but you can’t make the hole any smaller once it is cut). Squeeze the frosting towards the cut corner, and begin pipping the frosting onto the cookies.

cookie cake

{Adapted from Created By Diane}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #14 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #14, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #14, text © Jeffrey Anderson