a new project!

January 18, 2011

Hi friends,

I know that I haven’t been updating this site frequently. Things have been so busy! I’m currently working on a new project, which has been taking up a lot of my time. I will post here and let you know about it as soon as it’s ready!

Please stay tuned!

truffles (raspberry, peppermint, etc.)

January 18, 2011

As I said in my last post, I made lots of truffles to give to family members for Christmas. What I love about this recipe is that it’s so easily adapted to make different types of truffles.

Adapted from All Recipes.

>>Yields around 60 truffles



  • One 8oz package of cream cheese (reduced fat works fine)
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry or peppermint extract (or whatever flavoring you want). You may need to add extra extract to taste. *Note: If you don’t want 60 truffles of one flavor, divide the truffles and add smaller amounts of extract to each batch, to taste.


  • One 12oz bag chocolate chips, melted
  • Depending on what type of truffles you make, you could sprinkle powdered sugar, crushed peppermint candy, ground nuts, coconut, melted white chocolate, etc. on top


1) In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and confectioners sugar.

2) Add the melted chocolate and the extract. Beat until smooth and the chocolate is completely integrated.

3) Cover the bowl and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour, or until the mixture is hard enough to roll into balls.

4) Shape into one-inch balls. Dip each ball into the 12oz bag of melted chocolate chips. I used a fork and a spoon, passing the truffle back and forth to allow the access chocolate to drip off. If the balls get too warm/sticky and hard to dip, place them back in the refrigerator until they harden again.

5) Place each truffle on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle the truffles with the topping of your choice.

oreo truffles

January 18, 2011

The oreo truffle is pictured here with a peppermint and a raspberry truffle.

I made dozens and dozens of truffles for my family for Christmas. The Oreo ones were my favorite! I also made raspberry and mint truffles.

Adapted from this recipe.

>>Yields approximately 40 truffles


  • One 8oz package of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
  • One package (1lb, 2oz) Oreo cookies
  • One 12oz bag of chocolate chips, melted


1) Place the entire package of Oreo cookies into a food processor. Blend until finely crushed. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumbs (these will be sprinkled on top of the truffles).

2) Mix the remaining Oreo crumbs with the cream cheese until they are thoroughly blended.

3) Shape into one-inch balls. Dip each ball into the melted chocolate chips. I used a fork and a spoon, passing the truffle back and forth to allow the access chocolate to drip off.

4) Place each truffle on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Before the chocolate hardens, sprinkle the Oreo cookie crumbs you set aside on top.

5) Refrigerate for an hour, or until the outsides of the truffles have hardened.

garlic parmesan bread

December 6, 2010

While my loaf was a little lumpy and not so pretty (I’m still not sure why I tried to shape the loaf and bake it on a cookie sheet instead of putting it in a loaf pan), the delicious flavors more than made up for it. This recipe is adapted from a bread machine recipe I found online.


  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (you could use honey instead)
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 cups bread flour (in a pinch, you could use all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast


1) Add all the ingredients together in a food processor. (You could do this by hand.) Mix (or knead) until the dough is smooth and elastic.

2) Let the dough rise for one hour in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp dish cloth so the dough doesn’t dry out.

3) Knead the dough briefly for 1-2 minutes. Let it rest for 30 more minutes.

4) Preheat oven to 375.

5) Shape the dough into a loaf and cook on a greased baking sheet, or put the dough into a greased loaf pan. Cook for approximately 25 minutes, or until the loaf is light golden brown.

soft pretzels

December 6, 2010

These pretzels are great hot out of the oven. They are not so great reheated or eaten the next day (they became soggy). The recipe makes 10-12 pretzels. I’d recommend refrigerating or freezing the dough and making pretzels as you want them.


  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4-5 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 4 cups hot water


  • Kosher salt


  • cinnamon/sugar mix  (1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon)


1) Put the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 1/4 cups warm water together in a small bowl. Stir and let the yeast and sugar dissolve. Let sit for approximately 10 minutes.

2) In a large bowl (or a food processor) mix together the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 4 cups of flour. Add the vegetable oil, baking soda, and hot water. Kneed the dough (or keep mixing in the food processor) until the dough is smooth. If kneeding by hand, this will take around 10 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add additional flour. You may have to add up to a cup. If the dough is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time.

3) Grease a bowl and place the dough inside. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp dish towel to prevent the dough from drying out. Leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size, or about 1 hour.

4) Preheat the oven to 415 F.

5) In a large bowl dissolve 1/2 cup baking soda in 4 cups hot water. This mixture will be used to dip the pretzels in (it will give the pretzels their brown outsides).

6) When the dough has risen, kneed briefly for 1-2 minutes. Divide the dough into 10-12 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into pretzel shape.

7) Dip each pretzel in the baking soda/water mixture and place on a greased cookie sheet.

8) Coat each pretzel with either salt or the cinnamon/sugar mixture.

9) Bake in oven for approximately 8 minutes, or until pretzels are browned.


October 19, 2010

Today one of my 9th grade students came up to me in the middle of class and said, “I just wanted to say thank you, Ms. Richardson. I know a lot of times students complain about how much work we have and forget how lucky we are. Thank you for creating exciting lessons, reading my work, and giving me great feedback! I really, really appreciate it….And, um, yeah!”

I’m still smiling.

brownies with white chocolate chips

October 11, 2010

In this recipe, the brownies aren’t too cake-like, but they aren’t totally fudge-like either. I adapted it from this recipe. This makes an 8″ square pan. If you want to make a 9×13″ pan, double the recipe.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 bag white chocolate chips


>>Preheat oven to 350

>>Grease an 8″ square pan

1) Melt the butter.

2) In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs.

3) Add the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda.

4) Stir in the white chocolate chips.

5) Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Plum tart

October 11, 2010

This is my dad’s famous recipe! It is so easy and quick to make, but delicious–sweet and tart at the same time.



  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Water (~1-2 teaspoons, if needed)


  • ~20 Prune plums (these are available in the fall)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar


>>Preheat oven to 375

1) In a food processor, mix the ingredients for the crust (butter, flour and sugar). If the crust isn’t holding together well, you can add water. Add at most one teaspoon at a time–it will quickly become too sticky!

2) Take the dough for the crust and press it into a greased tart pan.

3) Cut the prune plums in half. There is a line on the prune plum; if you cut along the line, it will be easy to split them and take out the pits.

4) Arrange the prune plums on the crust. I start along the outer edge, slightly overlapping each plum with the one before it.

5) Sprinkle a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar on top of the tart. My dad uses a 1/2 cup I used a 1/4 cup. It depends on how sweet you want it! It will seem like a lot of sugar, but the plums will absorb it as it cooks.

6) Cook the plum tart for the better part of an hour, around 50 minutes, or until the crust is lightly brown and the plums are hot and juicy.

7) Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

science fiction & dissent — Harrison Bergeron & Brave New World

October 5, 2010

This fall I’m teaching an elective English course to juniors and seniors called Science Fiction & Dissent. While there are so many things I could write about related to the course, there have been two activities so far where students have produced work that is too witty, fun, clever, and insightful not to share.

The first short story we read in the course was Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. In an effort to make everyone equally, the government issues handicaps to people who are gifted at something. Beautiful people wear clown noses; dancers have weights attached to their arms and legs; intelligent people have an earpiece that blasts loud music every so often so they can’t think clearly. After reading the story, students got into small groups to discuss the story and answer a set of response questions. I assigned each student a “handicap.” This ranged from having to loudly state “I love English!” every 60 seconds to having to read out loud with lots of passion and inflection. Two of my favorite “handicaps” were having to rhyme every answer and having to use alliteration. It was very difficult for students to work together in groups! The purpose of the activity was to get students to think about whether equality and sameness are the same thing, and to think more critically about the consequences of the handicaps in the story. It was so much fun!

A and M (A wrote rhyming answers and M used alliteration) gave me permission to post some of their responses online.

1) In “Harrison Bergeron” certain people are “handicapped,” and they have to carry around heavy weights and have loud noises blasted into their ears. Why do you think the government does this?

A: The government does this so everyone will have equal bliss. No one’s better than anyone else, nobody will ever get jealous. (Slur the last word.)

M: The great government gave these grave and grueling handicaps so everyone, everywhere would be equally endowed with “ehhh” talents.

3) Why was the killing of Harrison Bergeron so significant? Did Harrison have to die for the sake of society?

A: He had to die for people like me, so people like me can be set free, so I can be unique in society.

M: Harrison’s death distracted his dumb dad (and mom) from the dire disaster Diana [Moon Gompers] dealt to society. His woeful wound wound up working for the woman (Diana)  as the masses moved past their momentary monarchy led by Harrison.

4) At the end of the story, George says to Hazel, “Forget sad things.” To which she replies, “I always do.” Why is this dialogue, or conversation, so important to the story?

A: It shows how everyone there is a drone and nobody can act or think on their own. They’re all clones just as smart as stones, all full of bologn…a. (Balone…E).

M: Dad’s dumb, mom’s a moron. The dialogue’s significance is sullied by the spouses’ stupidity.

5) Do you feel that Harrison Bergeron acted heroically by going against the rules of the society? Why or why not?

A: He made the path for future generations, so great art and culture can come from each nation.

M: Harrison’s a hero for healing his hurt homeland hindered by the harmful, heinous government. He was heroic for acting against the angry abomination, aka the government.

(Don’t worry, we also had a more serious discussion about the story and these questions. Especially since at least one student had the handicap, “You think and write like a third grader.” Her answers were soooo funny too!)


The second activity I wanted to post on here is an assignment I had students do right after we finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I had each student create a Top 10 list about the book, in the style of David Letterman. They could pick any topic for their list. The examples I gave were the Top 10 Most Unconvincing Plot Twists and… (I can’t think of the second example I gave.)

Students’ lists included: Top 10 Stupidest Lines, Top 10 Realistic Brave New World Concepts, Top 10 Reasons Why Bernard had Alcohol in his Surrogate, Top 10 Sexiest Moments, etc. I think that my favorite, however, was Top 10 Worst Similes in Brave New World.

These top 10 lists were hilarious–we laughed so much–and are great because you could apply them to any novel your class reads!

apple peanut butter chip coffee cake

October 3, 2010

We have a lot of apples from apple picking, but I was looking to make something other than apple crisp. I based this cake off of this recipe, but made a number of changes. The original recipe calls these “brownies,” but it’s much more like a coffee cake.


  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 medium apples (maybe slightly less)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (this comes out really strong! if you’re not a huge fan of cinnamon, you could reduce)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 12oz bag of peanut butter chips (you could substitute walnuts)


>>Preheat oven to 350

>>Grease a 9×13″ pan

1) Peel the apples. Cut the apples into small chunks. My pieces were about 1/2″x1/2″, but I don’t think it’s too important.

2) Beat together the melted butter, egg, and sugar.

3) Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat until smooth.

4) Stir in the peanut butter chips and the apples.

5) Spread batter evenly over the pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes.

Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.