Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blueberry Muffin Recipe: Blue Moon

Blueberry muffins are so refreshing in the morning!  And they really aren't that hard to make.  In fact you can even use this recipe for banana and apple muffins, but the blueberries combine with the very dense, thick batter perfectly!

Blueberries are a great fruit.  My family has five blueberry bushes in our backyard!  They do not grow superbly in the Midwest but they do grow with a lot of the right mulch and fertilizer!  Our crop for two years has been about a cup!  So it's a good thing frozen blueberries are always available!

Speaking of blue, here's "Blue Moon" sung by Frank Sinatra.

Blueberry Muffins

½ cup Land O’ Lakes butter                       
2 cups flour                              
1 ½-2 c. frozen blueberries
1 c. sugar                              
1 ½ tsp baking powder        
2 eggs                                    
½ tsp salt

4 Tbl sugar                 
1  tsp nutmeg             
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves   

Set out butter and eggs to come to room temperature.

Lay frozen blueberries on paper towels in single layer in order to let them thaw and drain off ice particles.

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs.  Beat until mixture is light yellow. 

Measure flour.  Add baking powder, and salt to flour.  Stir flour mixture into butter mixture gently.  The mixture will be dense and thick.

Add half of the blueberries to half of the mixture.  Barely stir in blueberries.

Spoon combined mixture into muffin tins lined with cupcake papers.  (I like to use the large cupcake papers in the regular size muffin/cupcake tin so that I can fill them to the top of the rim of the tin.

Combine topping ingredients.  Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of topping on each muffin.

Bake at 350 degrees for 14-22 minutes.  The variance in baking time is due to how full the cupcake papers are filled.  Cupcakes are done when they are firm yet a little bit moist in the cracks on top.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Graduation Flowers: I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling

I love lilies, especially white lilies!

For graduation, I got a beautiful bouquet of white lilies and orange burst flowers (I made that name up), plus a sleek, tall vase!  As much as I love bouquets with lots of colorful and varied flowers, white lilies are definitely my favorite.  I fell in love with their simple beauty years ago.

This is a short--but sweet--blog post about falling in love!  Today's song is "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling" sung by Louis Armstrong.  It's a great tune!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

End of the Semester Homework Clean Up: Stormy Weather

I don't think there is a student on the face of the planet who doesn't love selling back textbooks and throwing away homework at the end of a semester.  I, for one, relish tossing what I won't ever refer to again.  On the other hand, I do file what I want to keep!

Throwing away homework does not mean I don't love my classes.  I do.  I just love the sense of completion when I can throw away class notes that I'll never look at again!  And, yes, I do recycle!

I am a saver so I tear out the used pages of notebooks and save the unused portions for future use!  In other words, I salvage partially used notebooks the next semester or I use them as lyric books for either writing original lyrics or memorizing jazz standards.

Anyway, it was a great feeling to sort through my notes today!  By cleaning out and organizing, I remind myself that I have a little bit of control over my immediate environment!

Regarding environment, the spring weather has been really strange and unpredictable of late.  So here's the jazz standard "Stormy Weather" sung by Etta James.  I think I should add "Stormy Weather" to my chart books so I can sing it at my next jazz performance.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rugby: You Win!

Today was the Rugby Victory Cup Semifinal!  After recording my last vocals today, I was able to catch the last half hour of the game and see BYU's rugby team win!

A couple of years ago, I started going to rugby games because frankly, the game is fascinating to watch!  I have even been acquainted with a few players who were in my classes.  I really do love to watch rugby games.

I don't understand all the rules.  These are a few things I do know about rugby: (1) the ball can only be passed backwards; (2) points are scored only if the ball touches the ground across the end line; and (3) the word "scrum!"

With today's win, I'm rooting for BYU to win the championship game against California-Berkeley next week!

So in honor of BYU's rugby team winning today, I've highlighted "Alright, Okay, You Win" sung by Peggy Lee even though I have shared it before.  But I LOVE this song and feel that "winning" needs to be highlighted often!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Recording Vocals is the BEST Way to Celebrate Graduation

This is me doing vocals last year...I didn't take any photos today...
Yesterday was commencement and today each college had its own convocation.  You might wonder what I was doing during my convocation since I didn't walk?  Recording vocals, of course!

I've almost finished all the vocal tracks for my Jazzy Christmas to You III coming out this fall and vocal tracks for some future projects.  I love getting so much done!

So the next stage will be the mixing and mastering!

I realized today I've never highlighted the classic "Fly Me to The Moon" sung by Frank Sinatra.  Since the song lyrics talk about singing, I felt it was appropriate!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Graduation Day and My Secret Love...

Today is Commencement!  I have finally graduated with a degree!  I now hold a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Brigham Young University.

I opted not to walk so I don't have a photo of me in a cap and gown but you can imagine what I would look like a blue tent!  Now that doesn't mean I didn't celebrate--which I did in my own way.

While 6000+ graduates, friends and family were at Commencement in the Marriott Center, I went to J Dawgs, a local hot dog hangout.  I found out JDawgs was crazy busy this morning, in fact all week.  I just happened to stop by during a less busy time today so my stop was short.  Fast service is the norm actually.

I love these hot dogs--and I generally don't even like hot dogs.  If you ever come to Provo, UT, you can't leave without enjoying a J Dawg!  Try either the beef or Polish (which is beef with spices)!  You choose the toppings from the list: yellow banana peppers, onions, sauerkraut, jalapeƱos, and the "secret sauce!"

The savory tastiness and deliciousness of a J Dawg is the "secret sauce."  I don't really know what the secret sauce has in it to make is so good because it is, well, a secret!  So I immediately thought of the song "Secret Love" sung by Doris Day for today's song!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Cloud Cookie Recipe: A Spoonful of Sugar

My Peanut Butter Cloud Cookie recipe is adapted from a Hawaiian Cookbook given to my family when I was 13.  These cookies are literally the best peanut butter cookies ever.  As you can see from the picture, I don't like the crosshatch fork marks on the top.  I prefer letting the cookies flatten on their own during the baking process!

This is an altered double recipe, so I wouldn't recommend halving it.  It makes about 70 cookies, but trust me, you'll need that many.  As with all the recipes I make, these cookies are freezer-friendly!

I specified the butter and peanut butter brands that I use.  If anything, the peanut butter makes the greatest difference.  I used to use crunchy peanut butter, but creamy works best.  I like the flavor of the Adams Natural Creamy peanut butter.  I'd recommend pouring off a little of the oil before stirring it into the peanut butter.

Today's song is from Mary Poppins, "A Spoonful of Sugar" sung by Julie Andrews.  There's a lot of sugar in these cookies, but well worth it!

Peanut Butter Cloud Cookies

1 cup Land O' Lakes salted butter
1 1/4 cup Adams Natural Creamy peanut butter (very important to use this brand)
1 cup sugar, plus another 1/2 cup for rolling
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract (don't substitute imitation)
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter, use a full tsp)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place parchment paper on uninsulated cookie sheet.  Set aside.

Cream butter and peanut butter until light in color.  Mixture will look grainy from the natural peanut butter.  Gradually add 1 cup sugar and powdered sugar.

Beat in eggs and vanilla.

In a separate small bowl, stir dry ingredients together.  Gradually add to creamed mixture.

Shape into one-inch balls and roll in sugar.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake 10-12 minutes.  Cookies will look shiny in the cracks even when done.  Remove cookie sheets from oven letting the cookies cool on the sheets for 1-2 minutes then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Note: these cookies brown extremely fast on the bottom so don't leave the cookies in the oven too long.

Makes about 70 cookies.  I make very small cookies, so if you make bigger cookies, you'll get about 50 and bake them a little longer.

Variation: To make "blossom" cookies, place an unwrapped Hershey's Kisses or Hershey's Baking Melts on each cookie during the last minute of baking time.  To store, place cookies on cooled baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen.  Then layer cookies between waxed paper in a food container to prevent cookies from sticking to each other.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

At Last: The World's BEST Rice Krispie Treats!

World's Most Flavorful Rice Krispie Treats!
Rice Krispie Treats are simple to make.  Our family recipe is a variation on the standard recipe.  You might not think it would make that much of a difference, but it does!

Rice Krispie Treats made the Chaston way are the gooiest, most flavorful ones I've ever eaten!  Try this recipe.  You won't be sorry!  Erik even took them to his final project presentation for a business innovations class today.  They were a hit!

Today's song is a bit of a stretch.  When I don't associate rice with food, I think of weddings.  And when I think of weddings I think, naturally, of love.  So here's Etta James singing her classic "At Last."  I love rice for food and at weddings...and in the Chaston Rice Krispie Treats!

Rice Krispie Treats (The Chaston Way!)

4 T. Land O Lakes butter
16 oz. (1 bag) tiny marshmallows
5-6 cups Rice Krispies (brand name)

In microwave safe glass bowl, melt butter for about 15 seconds.  Do not completely melt or boil the butter.

Add marshmallows to butter.  Heat for 30 seconds and stir marshmallows and butter together as much as possible.  Heat again for 15 seconds and stir until very smooth!  Marshmallows will keep melting as you stir to get the mixture smooth. 

Pour 5 cups of Rice Krispies into marshmallow bowl, stirring to combine.  Make sure Rice Krispies are coated.  Add last cup if mixture is too gooey!

Put parchment paper in 9 x 13 pan.  Spray with Pam.

Dump mixture into pan.

Spray hands with Pam and gently push down to even out surface.

Let set.  Cut into 15 pieces.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cracked Black Pepper Cheese...Bread!

Cracked Black Pepper Cheese Bread
I love cracked black pepper cheese bread!  Actually, I used to get it at a fresh bread store years ago and decided to make some since I have never found any in Utah!

While looking for something in the freezer, I discovered a chunk of parmesan that I had bought for a different recipe several weeks ago.  I also love spinach parmesan bread, but realized I didn't have any spinach so decided to find a recipe for cracked black pepper cheese bread instead!  I had some leftover asiago cheese leftover from making asiago bread and added that to the bread with the parmesan.  Now that I know I can make yeast bread without killing the yeast, I am fearless!

The recipe below is a combination of two recipes I found, and honestly, the more cheese the better!

So I thought today's song should take a detour from jazz to...Bread.  That's right, here's "Down on My Knees" by Bread.

Cracked Black Pepper Cheese Bread

   3 cups flour
   1/2 tsp active dry yeast
   1 tsp Kosher salt
   1 ½ cups warm water
   2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
   2 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
   4 oz Asiago cheese, cut into quarter-inch cubes
   4 oz Parmesan cheese, cut into quarter-inch cubes

Add yeast to warm water.  Stir and let sit for five minutes.  Put 2 cups flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Stir together.  Put olive oil in center of flour mixture.  Add yeast mixture.  Stir with a fork until combined.

Stir into dough.  Add one-half cup of flour.  Stir then knead. 

Add cheeses and mixture together.

Add last one-half cup of flour.  Knead.  The dough should be slightly gooey.

Let rise for an hour or until double. 

Spray large cookie sheet with Pam.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a 16-inch long log with a diameter less than 2 inches.

Cover with waxed paper and let rise for another hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-28 minutes.   

Let bread cool on rack.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Growing Love of Hamburgers: I Could Write a Book

I have to be honest.  I've never been a big fan of hamburgers.  I don't even know why.

I grew up in Iowa eating very good beef, but I just really didn't like hamburgers.  Now, I still don't jump for joy when I hear that "hamburgers" are on the menu but I have grown to like them.

Erik, my brother, makes a super duper seasoned hamburger with chili powder, garlic powder, hot pepper flakes, pepper and salt!  With a freshly sliced tomato and slivers of red pepper and onion all on 9-grain bread, a hamburger topped with cheddar cheese becomes a real meal that was once merely an unadorned beef patty!

So what's a song about a "growing love?"  First song I thought of is "I Could Write a Book" sung by Sarah Vaughan.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Cafe Rio: La Bamba!

Cafe Rio Burritos!
I love Mexican food (even if it's Tex-Mex).  And Cafe Rio always makes me happy!  I like to order a sweet pork barbacoa burrito with black beans "enchilada style" (smothered) in hot sauce!  I love spicy food and tonight was especially spicy!  And of course, I have to have chips and salsa!  Today was a studio day so we got take-out after our long day going through recordings.

So in honor of my favorite Mexican food, here's "La Bamba" performed by Ritchie Valens!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Soft Pretzels: And the Angels Sing

I love soft pretzels.  I'm SO grateful Super Pretzels have boxed soft pretzels in the freezer aisle!  Hot, salty, heavenly bread.  What's better than that on a cold, spring day?  (Yes, it's STILL cold in April.)

Now, I've tried to make homemade soft pretzels, but my attempt didn't turn out very well.  I'll still keep looking for that perfect homemade soft pretzel recipe!  I've even tried making pretzel rolls.  I have to keep working on those, too.

So since soft pretzels are heavenly and I wold love to sing about them, here's the song "And the Angels Sing" sung LIVE by Ella Fitzgerald!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pizza: That's Amore

Homemade pizza is so tasty...especially when it's really easy to make!

Today, in between studying, I watched Food Network and saw an episode of "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" where Anne Burrell made Grilled Pizzettas with Parmigiano, Prosciutoo and Arugula and with Taleggio and Puttanesca.

I adapted the original recipe which I included below!

Now, I've highlighted "That's Amore" sung by Dean Martin before, but what other song mentions pizza?!?

Stove Top Pizza Crust 
½ cup warm tap water
1 ½ teaspoons dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup white all-purpose flour
½ cup wheat flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar.  Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Stir together white flour, wheat flour, and salt.  Make a well in the middle.  Pour yeast mixture and oil in center.  Stir with a fork then knead.  Let rise for an hour or until double. Divide into five parts.  Roll into irregular shapes very thin.
Heat a fry pan up to medium heat.  Pan fry crusts on both sides, then set on cookie sheet sprayed lightly with Pam. Set out toppings everyone likes so that each person makes their own pizza.  Start with a cheese. Then put other toppings spread around the crust.  Top with a little cheese. 

Toppings I like: 
parmesan cheese
asiago cheese, chunked into tiny pieces
mozzarella cheese, shredded
onions, sliced
red pepper, sliced
tomatoes, chopped
black olives, sliced
hot pepper flakes
yellow peppers, sliced
pepperoni, sliced very thinly 

Bake in oven preheated to 425 degrees for 3-7 minutes depending on how crusty you want the pizza.  Just make sure the cheese is somewhat melted so it can hold the pizza together!