Friday, June 5, 2020

Chocolate Monster Makes Mouths Happy

I used to think cookies with all sorts of “stuff” in them weren’t great, I have turned a corner somewhere along the line. These Monster Cookies? Are.amazing. Like for real, amazing. Maybe I haven’t had great cookies for a while or maybe they really are just ‘that’ good. We needed some fresh delicious cookies in our house – and these fit the bill! A bunch of M&Ms, some chocolate chips, peanut butter, oats, and oh so delicious! These aren’t a huge batch so they are easy to whip up and you don’t end up with a million cookies – but honestly if you did – that seems like a good thing. If you are weird, I guess you could add raisins, but I’m not. You could add nuts too but I think things just the way they are here… it works for me, I hope they work for you too.

Monster Cookies
1/2 cup butter softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup peanut butter I prefer creamy but crunchy will also work
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup M&M's plus more for tops of cookies
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips plus more for tops of cookies
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper or silicon baking mat.
Place the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.
Add the egg, peanut butter and vanilla to the bowl and mix until combined.
Add the flour and baking soda to the bowl and mix until just combined. Stir in the oats.
Add the M&M's and chocolate chips to the bowl and gently fold them into the dough.
Make 2 tablespoon sized balls of cookie dough and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet pan. You will need to bake the cookies in batches.
Press a few M&M's and chocolate chips onto the top of each cookie dough ball.
Bake for 11-13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough. Cool all cookies completely then serve.
Store any leftover cookies in a sealed container for up to 5 days, or you can freeze the cookies for up to 2 months.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Burnt Nuts and Junk Falling From The Sky

So here we sit – March 13, 2020 – full time working and full time homeschooling – all of us in the house together managing the best we can. I sincerely hope by time this posts that all of this is a distant memory – but who knows. Last Thursday I was wandering through the grocery store on my lunch calmly gathering my groceries for the weekend and following week while those around me were clearing out shelves of various items – bottled water and toilet paper. I stumbled upon a bag of sliced almonds! I remembered I had a recipe with almonds and these would likely be perfect. I started looking around wondering if I was under reacting, because it sure felt like that. The next day few days the news got worse and worse until COVID-19 basically shut down our state. So there we sat… at home on a Saturday, nothing to do, all our plans canceled – it was as if the weather outside mirrored our moods, it was raining, snowing, crapping from the sky in the least pretty way possible. Snow in March isn’t pretty people – it’s just not. Bronwyn and I decided to bake this Danish Puff. My kids love baking but not really the eating of it. She wanted to like it – but she just didn’t. That’s OK – we enjoyed the time together and Andy and I sure enjoyed this Puff. I also totally burned the almonds while trying to roast them in the pan. Ugh… I see them burn them all the time on TV and think how dumb. Hey look Erin! How dumb! There you go.

Danish Puff (Almond Kringle)
For Pastry:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
For Topping:
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter*
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs

For Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
1 to 2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup chopped or sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare Pastry:
Combine 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup butter in a medium bowl; blend with fork until mixture is the size of coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle water over mixture and mix.
Gather pastry into a ball, then pat into bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
Prepare Topping:
Bring 1 cup water and 1/2 cup butter to a boil in a medium saucepan.
Remove from heat, then add almond extract. Beat in 1 cup flour, stirring vigorously to avoid lumps.
When dough is smooth, add an egg and mix until incorporated; repeat process with remaining eggs.
Spread topping evenly over pastry.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until topping is crisp and brown. Let cool completely on a baking rack.

Prepare Glaze:
Place powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time; stirring until completely smooth. Add more water only if needed. (The glaze should be easily spreadable, but not runny.)
Spread glaze over cooled kringle. Sprinkle with nuts.
Cut kringle into squares and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Soft Pretzels Save the Day!

When everything in your little world gets canceled - life gets kind of sad. That's what our weekend was last week. As of this writing (on March 18, 2020) we've been quarantined for COVID-19. While we currently have no signs or symptoms the state shut our schools down, and so many other things down. Well.. that meant all of the fun activities we’d planned for the weekend with the kids with church were all canceled, and as the hours progressed – more and more cancelations came through. Bronwyn was get at the tipping point of falling apart. On a trip to the doctor (for a general consult -she wasn’t sick) she asked me, can’t we just make soft pretzels? Yeah? Why can’t we? That would be great! So Sunday, we decided our cruddy Saturday of sadness, rain, snow, gloomy weather inside and out was going to change. What would change it all? Soft Pretzels.
Sunday midday the boys braved the insanity of the grocery stores, while the girls put together pretzel dough. Oh what a soft and beautiful dough this is. We let it rise then we made pretzels… Not weird shaped things – like legit pretzels – the folded arms and everything. Bronwyn and I were honestly shocked how well we did. We baked them while we ate our lunch – then mmmm enjoyed them as a dessert. Andy and I dipped ours in a bottle of cheese because we are animals – and I refuse to make cheese sauce anymore, but so very good. I took an extra walk in the afternoon after Bronwyn and I took Bernard for a hike, just so I could eat another pretzel.
Enjoy this one – I have a hunch through our undetermined stay indoors – we’ll be making another batch. I hope my flour doesn’t run out… that’s one thing I can’t seem to find. Maybe everyone else is making bread and pretzels – or… probably not.

Soft Pretzels
1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons active dry or instant yeast (1 packet)
4½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
Coarse salt (for sprinkling)

Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl until the sugar and salt have dissolved, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes. (Alternately, you can mix the dough with a wooden spoon until it comes together, then need by hand for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and just slightly tacky.)
Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; set aside.
Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot (a Dutch oven works perfectly for this). Bring the mixture to a boil.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other twice and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the prepared baking sheets.
Gently lower the pretzels into the boiling water, 2 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash or melted butter (see notes) and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake until dark golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. Soft pretzels are best eaten fresh, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Things NOT to make in the crockpot

Meatloaf does not belong in the crockpot.
"Baked" potatoes - maybe do.
Ok, end post.
Well... I was planning to have a meatloaf on the night of Bronwyn's big musical performance at school. My folks were coming and meatloaf seemed "safe" as far as fussy food requests go. I just saw a recipe online where they put the meatloaf IN the crockpot and surrounded it by potatoes to "bake" on top. The timing was perfect, the idea was great! All I'd have to do is steam some beans and bake some rolls.
I made my normal meatloaf recipe - which I really like. Plopped it in the crockpot with foil-wrapped potatoes and on the heat for the day. I was nervous... uncooked ground beef in the crockpot seems... weird somehow. I was worried it wouldn't be cooked, even have a backup plan to run out and get hot dogs from the hot dog place down the street.
Well, I certainly didn't have to worry that it wasn't done. It was done, DONE, SO OVERDONE. We all were very thankful for ketchup - no one had seconds. It was - so bad.
So here's my meatloaf recipe - just bake it in a 350 oven... don't crockpot it - it's just gross. The potatoes were great! But not so great they overcame the meatloaf... whomp whomp. Not all meals can be great. Thank goodness tonight's is a proven winner.

Meatloaf that doesn't normally suck - unless you crockpot it
2 pounds of ground beef
1 diced onion
1 egg
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup milk
Mix together, form into loaf, bake for 45 minutes (or until done) serve and enjoy. Don't put it in a crockpot... that's a bad idea.

Friday, May 22, 2020

American Delicacy

I have a sneaky way to get your kids to eat healthily... add tater tots to whatever you are making. Tater tots are just happiness in a little potato puff... that's what Aldi calls them - puffs. We love Tater Tot Casserole - I've made it endless times for the freezer, all we need to do is toss the tots on, bake and we are good to go! Since we are rocking a healthier lifestyle with less red meat, I leaned this version up a bit. Added ground turkey, the lighter version of cream of mushroom soup, even light cheese. Guess what? It was delicious. My family ate - a LOT of it - mostly because it was delicious. Bronwyn was inspecting possible mushroom sightings... well she was right... we told her she won the flavor prize for getting mushrooms! She thought we were crazy and wasn't so sure - but she ate those bits anyway... they come from the soup you add. But... adding more would be a delicious addition to this American delicacy. Yes - delicacy!

Tatertot Casserole - Lightened Up
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can fat free condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas)
1 cup Low Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 lb. Tater Tots

Heat oven to 375ºF.
Brown meat with onions in large skillet; drain. Spoon into 2-qt. casserole sprayed with cooking spray.
Mix soup and milk until blended; pour over meat mixture. Top with remaining ingredients.
Bake 45 min. or until tots are golden brown and casserole is heated through.
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