Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"I help you!"

Trying a new chocolate chip cookie recipe seems kind of silly. The Toll House recipe is pretty rock solid – why change? I guess I was feeling a little stir crazy – sick kids, no to do list to me means let’s do something different. This recipe has been sitting in my “to bake” file for a bit. Melted butter meant I could whip these up anytime since I didn’t need to soften butter (which often turns into melted butter when I’m in a rush).
I didn’t make these as big as the recipe called for – but they were just right. I used my 2 tablespoon ice cream scoop, scooped out the dough and refrigerated them over night.
The next day was just me and my sick little man – who was on his way to recuperating from croup and a double ear infection. He wanted to “help” – oh dear heavens. He was busy snacking on cereal when I baked the cookies. I used the bottom of a glass to flatten the cookie somewhat instead of my hand – the first batch of cookies came out – oh they looked and smelled amazing. I let them set and put them on the wire rack when they were cool enough not to fall apart when taken off the baking tray. A few minutes later I heard “Here Mommy, I help you!” Oh, you sure did Nicholas! He used his cup and smashed one of the just baked cookies, and handed me the cup. Maybe soon he and Bronwyn both will be in the kitchen out baking me!
So thank for both kids feeling better – Ms. B had strep – again at the same time. These cookies – are a winner. TRUE true winner! Don’t wait until you have sick kids – just make and enjoy them.
Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookie
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 large eggs
3 cups chocolate chips (use your favorite kind)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Place oats in a small food processor or blender and grind until they turn powdery. Place them in a medium sized bowl and whisk in the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Stir together melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth. (No mixer needed – just use a wooden spoon or spatula!) Stir in vanilla, lemon juice, and eggs. Stir until smooth, then stir in flour mixture. Mixture may be slightly lumpy because of the ground oats. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Scoop 1/4 cupfuls of the dough into balls and place on the cookie sheet. You do not need to space them; this is just for chilling. Cover well with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or overnight before baking.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cookies well spaced on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Slightly depress each ball with the palm of your hand.
Bake for 13-17 minutes. Do not over bake – these are best a bit under done.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Family eats left overs 5 nights in a row - survives with a cleaner refrigerator

New recipes are an adventure for me – for my family they are something to be wary of.
“What’s that?”
“It’s too creamy.”
“I want yellow noodles”
“I’m not hungry anymore.”
To be honest – my family is pretty much amazing in the mealtime department. Most everyone is kind and does not say mean things. Sometimes I’ll ask Bronwyn if she likes something, she’ll say, “it’s not my favorite, but it’s OK.” Hey, I’ll take that. Some people have a horrible time at the dinner table with their kids. They fight every day through dinner.
I made this pasta when my kids weren’t feeling their finest – and you know what? They ate it. You know what else? They ate it as left overs too. Nicholas ate it about 3 times as leftovers. Hey... don’t judge... just because we had one week with 5 nights of left overs, it happens. At least we were eating them.
This pasta recipe is a good one – I left out the cream cheese because of Mr. “Too Creamy” and really... it didn’t feel like it needed it.
I’m thankful for my champion kind eaters. As long as I remain kind to them and don’t make them eat zoodles – I like our current agreement.
Garlic Mozzarella Margherita Pasta
1 lb spaghetti or pasta of choice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 onion, chopped
6 Roma tomatoes, chopped divided
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried basil, salt
1/4 tsp EACH pepper, red pepper flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 oz. cream cheese, softetned
1/4 cup loosely packed basil, chopped
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
fresh basil, chiffonade

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions in generously salted water. Remove 1 cup pasta water before draining.
Melt butter in olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Increase heat to medium and add onions and HALF of the tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 2 minutes (it will be thick).
Turn heat to low then slowly whisk in chicken broth, then milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Turn heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Stir in spices and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted, followed by cream cheese until melted.
Stir in remaining tomatoes and fresh basil. Stir in pasta until well coated, adding additional reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste.
Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and additional basil if desired.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Magic and Bliss of a Label Maker

So I saw this fleeting photos on Facebook one day. Someone had used a label maker and labeled all the tops of their spices in a drawer. Genious. Pure Genious! We have a giant drawer full of spices. Our kids used to empty that drawer and we’d pray none of the tops would come off. This means the drawer was a giant mess of bottles of all sizes, shapes, and color.
This idea is one of the reasons I bought a label maker... and to label the dog. We’ve thought about actually doing this a few times. One day – I committed! I hauled out the label maker and started pulling spices out of the drawer. Andy was overwhelmed by the process but offered to help. In less than 30 minutes we had all the spices labeled and organized – it’s awesome. Do you need Garlic Powder? BAM! Right there! Oh, some Poppy Seeds? Over there. It’s been a month (or more by now) and we still smile every time we open the drawer. Trust me – it’s the little things in life that can make a big difference.
All of this to say – I made this amazing Zucchini Cheddar Bread, it had lots of spices in it and they were easy to find. Why? Because they are all labeled of course. We are beginning the amazing abundance of zucchini season so it’s good to have a few recipes in my arsenal. This one is a great savory option for zucchini, you can even leave the skin on if you are daring. You can even label it... if you dare.

Cheesy Garlic Zucchini Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup shredded zucchini
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup of finely chopped green onion
1 Tablespoon fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular size loaf pan (9x5 inch) or 4 small loaf pans.
In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and garlic powder. Whisk to combine. Add the zucchini, cheddar cheese, green onions, and dill. Stir together.
In separate small bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, and butter.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Gently stir together just until moistened.
Spoon into loaf pans and bake.
One large loaf should take about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Or bake 4 mini loaves for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cool completely or serve warm.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reunited and it feels so good!

Reunited and it feels so good! Wow, that’s cheesy like really cheesy – but it’s still true. We’ve been getting together with friends that live 2 minutes away from us (unless there’s a train or red light) again and we are loving it. Real people who love well. We recently got together again and I was on dessert duty.
I saw a recipe for this brownie bottom cheesecake and knew I wanted to try it and knew these were the people to try it for. I made the brownie the night before hoping to be able to do the cheesecake part the same night – but time was not on my side. Thankfully Andy had an early morning church meeting that Saturday so we could all get up early and I could make the cheesecake part. Did you see the sarcasm there? YAY early Saturday mornings. All.get.up – not just some… all. As I made the no bake cheesecake I worried because it was so sloppy. I put it in the springform pan lined with parchment paper and prayed that it would work. I started reading reviews of the recipe to make sure I hadn’t messed something up. Oh, I did, well not on purpose. I always use the 1/3rd less fat cream cheese – I call it nuf-da-cheese, yes I know it’s called Neufchatel. Apparently, other people used that and their cheesecake never set up.
I decided to not do the extra whipped cream on top worried over the possible soupy mess that would likely be happening. We arrived at our guests and I was worried. We stuck that cheesecake in the fridge ASAP. Somehow with these friends, we have lots of funny baking stories so we laughed and hoped. After dinner, we were ready to cut into it and amazingly it held its form! It was likely one of the best cheesecakes I’ve had! I’m not a super fan of cheesecake that is so dense it feels like you are eating a brick of cream cheese, this one was light and fluffy and the strawberries and brownie bottom made it even better. I would 100% do this one again and even use the Neufchatel – it says Light and Fit on the label – so it must be healthy right?

Strawberry Brownie Cheesecake

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

20 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 lb strawberries, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Grease a 9 inch baking pan, or line it with parchment paper.
2. Mix together the oil, sugar and vanilla extract.
3. Add eggs and mix until well combined.
4. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients to the egg mixture until well combined.
6. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly.
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs. Remove brownie from oven and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to finish cooling.
8. Once the brownie is cool, make the cheesecake. Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
9. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.
10. In a separate bowl, whip heavy whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.
11. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
12. Place brownie into a 9 inch springform pan. Line the sides of the with parchment paper that sticks about an inch above the sides of the pan to account for possible overflow.
13. Top brownie with cheesecake mixture and spread into an even layer, then put in refrigerator until firm about 4-5 hours.
14. Once firm, remove cheesecake from springform pan.
15. To make whipped cream for the top, whip heavy whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Add the powdered sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.
16. Spread whipped cream on top of cheesecake, then top with strawberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fancy cupcakes for a mundane work day

When holidays are on Tuesday – the work week gets weird. I tried to help that oddness by baking cupcakes for work for the Monday before Independence Day. I felt it was necessary to treat those having to work that day between days off. Also, I had a box of strawberry cake mix that was constantly falling out of the cabinet and figured I should just bake the silly thing and be done with it. Sometimes – that’s how I roll.
I decided that cream cheese frosting would be the best topping for strawberry flavored cupcakes for some reason. Most of the cream cheese frostings I’ve made are spreadable – not really pipeable. This one – pipeable. I was able to pipe it in – which honestly is SO much easier. Also when you are all done – and you just squeeze that thing right into your mouth and taste the yummy frosting goodness… wait I may have just said too much… Um… right – I mean… just don’t stick your finger in the tip – we’ve seen how that can end badly – with my finger stuck in the tip… anyway. Moving along to things I should be saying…
These cupcakes – awesome! The fact that Aldi came out with Lemon and Strawberry cake mixes for the summer – also awesome! Excited to try the Lemon now! And make more frosting…

Cream Cheese Frosting You Can Pipe
½ cup butter – softened
4 ounces cream cheese – softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk/cream

Whip butter and cream cheese until thoroughly mixed together. Add vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk. Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time. Add more milk for preferred texture.
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