Devil Dog Memories

img_4732Following Christmas and the new year celebrations I live a little on the edge of darkness. It revolves around the facts that during the last 5 years of William’s life (in the Navy) that I often only got to see him for brief periods during the holidays. I treasured those days and so looked forward to them. There are times I still feel he is just “away” and I will see him again. It’s a disappointment when the visit doesn’t actually happen. Camp LeJeune got the best of him in his final days and I resent that a bit. He should be here.

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A visit with long-time friends, Chrissy & William

So I close my eyes and ask for strength. My grandpa Matino greets me on the front porch of his house with his green alligator change purse. His old, calloused hands gently shake and the jingling of coins opens my eyes to a nickel in my palm and a kind smile on his face. “It’s enough to buy a devil dog down at the corner store.” At 7 years old I can stop in to Mr.Ortlip’s grocery before or after school, all by myself, and buy that devil dog or maybe some candy. It’s powerful. It’s sweet. It’s love and a kind reminder from my grandpa that I am stronger than I think at this moment in time. Just close your eyes. Take a deep breathe.

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It was very early 1900’s when my grandfather left Sicily and landed penniless at Ellis Island. The story goes that the Italian mafia attempted to entice him into “the family” by offering him a gun and a “job”. Scared out of his mind he boards the first train out of New York City and hops off an hour later when out the window he spies a sign for an Italian restaurant. “Ah, Italian people must live here.” Westfield, NJ was where my grandfather landed a job hauling coal and lumber by horse and wagon. By 1920 he was building his first home. My dad was born and I was raised in Westfield thanks to grandpa’s courage.

I wish I had that old green change purse. I wonder if one of my siblings or maybe a cousin inherited it and treasure it as much as I do. Who knew the power of a nickel? Some day, when she is older, I will give my grand-daughter “a nickel” every time I see her.

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Now for a sweet treat to bring back reality. It’s baking therapy 101. This recipe is pretty close to what I remember an authentic snack cake to be. The recipe was handed down to me from a patient’s mom many years ago. I googled it, but could not find an original source. I tweaked it a bit amping up the cocoa flavor with some salt, vanilla and espresso powder and changed a raw flour buttercream to a cooked flour version. The buttercream is kind of amazing even though the addition of shortening kind of freaks me out. I think shortening is used for its pure white color only.

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Just a couple of baking tips before we get to the recipe. First, I know you want to skip the sifting of the dry ingredients, but don’t do it. Not only does it aerate the mixture, but it also gets rid of lumpy baking soda and cocoa powder. No lumps allowed. Second, room temperature ingredients do make a difference for a light and fluffy cake. Finally, gild that lily with some melted dark chocolate or dusting of powdered sugar. Who says devil dogs can’t be fancy?

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Devil Dogs

2 cups all purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon instant espresso powder, optional

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup milk, room temperature

Heat oven 425F. Line baking sheets with parchment. In large bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder and salt; whisk it to blend and set aside. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add 1/3 of dry ingredients, at a time, alternating with half the milk beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl as needed. Spoon filling into a zippered plastic bag; seal bag. Snip off a 1/2-inch piece of one corner. Pipe batter into 3-inch logs about 1½ to 2-inches wide and 2-inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes. Cool. Turn half the cakes over and pipe or spread flat sides with cream filling. Cover with remaining cakes, flat side down. Makes 20 devil dogs.

Flour Butter Cream Filling

½ cup all purpose flour

½ cup milk

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup unsalted butter

½ cup shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat whisk flour, milk and salt until blended and no lumps remain. Cook mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it thickens, pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a smooth ball. Transfer dough to a bowl. Add powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. In another bowl, beat butter and shortening until blended. Add vanilla and beat well. Gradually add sugar mixture beating until mixture is smooth, thick and fluffy. 

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Good Grief Cook’s Best Recipes

What to Write? What to write? What to write? I got nothin’! So instead I will share YOUR top 3 favorite recipes from all my years of blogging. BTW-your favorites are for sure some of mine. May love always guide you in the kitchen.

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Sweet William’s Fancy Chocolate Chip Cookie

Not one bit surprised that the recipe that got me started writing made the list. Who doesn’t love a perfectly crisp chocolate chip cookie with a soft inside spiked with bourbon? https://goodgriefcook.com/2013/10/21/following-in-his-light-with-cookies/

 

chicken mole

Shredded Chicken Mole

I love this recipe not only for its easy great flavor, but also for inspiring me to learn more about food photography. This one made the foodgawker list and I could not have been more proud. Hope to graduate from my iPhone to a real digital camera in 2017. https://goodgriefcook.com/2015/04/30/building-relationships-flavor-a-give-away/

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Maple Smoked Pickled Pork Sliders

Last but not least is this porky goodness on a Hawaiian roll. It’s the contrast in temperatures, textures and flavors that makes this one a winner. https://goodgriefcook.com/2016/07/17/wills-meerkats-pork-sliders/

Gather the ones you love most as often as you can.

More Happiness in 2017

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Comfort & Joy & Snicker-Doodles

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May your joys always be greater than your sorrows.

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Baking cookies with Kiki is always a good time according to Annabelle. She really wanted me to share this recipe with you. It’s not your typical snickerdoodle, but that’s the way it goes around here.  It’s not like you need another cookie recipe, but this is what happens when I clean out the cabinets of two half empty jars of peanut butter and a freezer full of snicker bars that were leftover from Halloween. She thinks it is a great cookie for a holiday exchange. Get it? She is so smart already. Merry Christmas!

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Snicker-Doodles

  • Servings: 5 to 6 dozen
  • Print

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1-teaspoon baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1-cup peanut butter

¾ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

20 mini snicker bar candies, each chopped into 8 pieces

Heat oven 350F. In bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat sugar and peanut butter for 1 minute or until blended. Add sugars; beat 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. With mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients until just mixed in. Stir in chopped candy bars. Using a cookie scoop drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets about 2-inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until lightly browned.