Monday, December 31, 2012

Cookie Monday: Mom's Famous Sugar Cookies

Alright guys. I did it. I made my mom's famous cookies.

My mom has been making these sugar cookies for decades. Like she'll make them for auctions and fundraisers and people's parties. Not only are they tasty, but she decorates them really well. I, as you know, am lacking in my ability to decorate food. But I was determined! I decided that the last Cookie Monday of 2012 needed to be epic!

AND WHAT IS MORE EPIC THAN YODA?!

Once I had decided which cookies to make, I had to decide what shape I'd cut them out as. My brother just gave me a Star Wars cookbook that came with cookie cutters, so I decided to make a bunch of Yoda-shaped cookies.

Baking the cookies was easy. Frosting the cookies was okay. Decorating them was damn near impossible. A lot of people today said they were adorable, but I feel like they look ridiculous. In a great way! But totally ridiculous. I'm also just so proud of myself for making the cookies taste just like my mom's.

cookie

I can't post the recipe because it's a secret. Sorry :(

Monday, December 24, 2012

Emeril's Burgers & More

My parents came to visit this weekend for early-Christmas since I work in healthcare and wasn't going to be able to visit CT for the holiday this year. I already knew I wanted to go to brunch at Trapp Door with them on Sunday (which we did), but I wasn't sure what to do for dinner on Saturday. I asked my mom, and she said, "Let's go to the casino!"

sands

There are a lot of restaurants at the Sands Casino, which is about 15 minutes from my house. I've already eaten at the primary Emeril's Chop House, but he has two more in the Sands: an Italian restaurant, and a burger restaurant. We decided on the burger one. It's the least expensive, and also the most Dad-friendly. FYI: "Burgers And More" = BAM = Emeril's catchphrase. I had a fun time introducing my parents to Yuengling (one of my favorite beers, happens to be regional) and then we ordered food. Bless their little hearts for letting me take pictures of their food before they ate it. Seven years of this blog has trained them well.

menu

So first my mom and I ordered fried artichokes, which were amazing and came with a spicy chipotle sauce. So good. Oh my gosh. I wish I'd gotten like six orders of it.

artichokes

My dad decided to order the chicken tortilla soup, a special, instead, which he described as "phenomenal." It is not often that my dad gets this excited about food, so this soup must have been truly excellent. I was unable to try it since it was chicken. Boo.

soup

Since it's a burger restaurant, obviously we all ordered burgers. Nothing will ever ever top the lobster burger I had at Central in DC several year ago (NOTHING. EVER.) but that's ok. I ordered the veggie-portobello burger, described on the menu as "grilled portobellos, balsamic onions, sweet peppers, avocado, olives, spinach, and basil-garlic mayo." It came with "BAM" seasoned fries that were wonderful and amazing. My burger itself was a little bit underwhelming but I liked it. I wished I had ordered the crab cakes though :(

veggies

Actually what happened with the burgers is that my mom wanted the veggie burger but also the salmon burger ("grilled Atlantic salmon, kicked up slaw, vine tomato, avocado, sweet bell peppers, and red remoulade sauce"). So what we did is cut our burgers in half and share. I honestly didn't love her burger but I think it's because she got the salmon medium and I feel like it's too fishy when it's not over-cooked (my standards for fish are terrible). She didn't love her salmon burger either. We both agreed mine was better.

salmon

My dad, ever the carnivore, got a basic cheeseburger (8 oz prime grass-fed beef) with chorizo baked beans on the side. Again, he was massively impressed with his dinner. I think the thing I learned is that the basics here are probably the best.

meatburger

AND THEN DESSERT, obviously!

I got a pecan sticky bun with locally-made vanilla ice cream on top. It was alright. I wished it had been warm, and I wished it had been more of a "sticky bun." It really was more like a cinnamon bun with some caramel on top.

stickybun

My mom got a crumble-topped apple pie (which I still can't eat!) and loved it.

pie

All in all, it was a really good meal. Very yummy, and not nearly as expensive as the other restaurants in the casino. I would definitely go here again, but I would definitely order differently.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Spaghetti Pie

I haven't made dinner for another person in a long time. My best friend Erica moved out a few months ago, and I've cooked for her and my brother when they've visited, but not a whole lot. Usually when they visit we go out to dinner. Usually when other people are involved in dinner at all, we go out to dinner. So other than baking mad amounts of cookies, I usually cook only for myself.

Yesterday I decided to make dinner for a friend, and that was terrifying because I desperately did not want to disappoint. Thus, I picked my old standby: Spaghetti Pie. Sure, it has soy and not meat. But it's the best, and a solid recipe, and something I know I'm good at making, so I made it. It went over VERY WELL. I barely have enough for leftovers, which is awesome but also kind of sad because I could probably eat this every single day forever if given the opportunity.

Thanks, Spaghetti Pie!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cookie Monday: Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

I have to give credit to my coworker D for this week's choice of cookie. This is how it went:
J, quietly talking on my unit at the hospital: "So what kind of cookie are you making on Monday?"
Me: "I don't know yet --"
*Sounds of someone running in the hall*
D: "PEANUT BUTTER MAKE PEANUT BUTTER LAUREN"

And then just to reiterate, he posted a recipe on my FB later that day to convince me to make them. I didn't use his recipe (it's HERE, if you are wondering) but I did make peanut butter cookies for Cookie Monday. I used a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens because I had just gotten their 100 Best Cookies special. No chocolate chips, no extra peanuts (and NO SHORTENING, I refuse to use shortening) - I wanted a straight up peanut butter cookie that has the definitive hashmarks on the top. And that is exactly what I got!

I doubled the recipe and got a little over six dozen cookies. I also made a gluten-free recipe for PB cookies, which you can find HERE. I was really happy with the result and my coworkers seemed to be as well. Including D, who ate 9.

cookies

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
BHG

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Granulated sugar, for rolling

1. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. If necessary, cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional granulated sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten balls by making crisscross marks on top. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Yield: 3 dozen

Tip
Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Cookie Monday: Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

When I decided to make peanut butter cookies for this week's Cookie Monday, I remembered three coworkers who can't have gluten and/or dairy (eggs ok) and I wanted to make sure to include them. Apparently peanut butter cookies are pretty easy to free of gluten and I found a bunch of flourless recipes. I eventually settled on this recipe from a blog. I can't remember why I picked this one. I think it's because I didn't have to refrigerate the dough. HAH.

I was honestly expecting my foray into gluten-free baking to be a disaster, with gummy icky cookies. I've eaten some terrible GF cookies before and I didn't want to be a contributor to that. But these were WONDERFUL! I actually tested later to see if people could tell the difference. Most people agreed they were very good. The main difference is that they are softer and peanut butterier (?) than the ones with flour, which makes sense.

I didn't do anything to change this recipe other than halving it because I only needed one dozen. These were good and I would make them again for my GF friends!

cookie

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Simply Gluten-Free via Pinterest

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar plus more for rolling the cookies in
1 large egg, beaten lightly with a fork
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking liners.

2. In a large bowl mix the peanut butter with 1 cup sugar. Stir until well blended. Add the egg, baking powder and vanilla. Stir well. Pour some additional sugar in a small bowl. Take 1 tablespoon the dough and roll in a ball. Roll the dough ball in the sugar and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

3. Take a dinner fork, stick it in the sugar and gently press down each dough ball to flatten, then turn the fork 90 degrees and gently press again, making the traditional hatch markings of a peanut butter cookie.

4. Bake for 10 minutes. Take out of oven and let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling.

Yield: 24 cookies

Couscous with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Edamame

A couple nights ago I figured I wouldn't make any dinner at all because I was tired and lazy and wanted to order pizza. But then I discovered that I had all of the ingredients to make Couscous with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Edamame, which has been one of my favorite staples since I first made it three years ago. I made the full recipe and have taken it for lunch the past couple days. I love it so much!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup

Last night I made some Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup from Moosewood. I thought I'd try making this soup again, following my own tip to just mash the potatoes versus pureeing it. I didn't actually mash it; I just pureed about half of it with my immersion blender. It was alright. I wasn't as impressed this time and probably wouldn't make it any more times.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Homemade Crunchwrap Supremes

I cooked dinner! I made Homemade Crunchwrap Supremes. This is the second time I've made this and it is still delicious. Oh my gosh. Love.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cookie Monday: Deep Chocolate Mint Cookies

It is December, and therefore it is time for minty things. I decided this weekend that I wanted to make my mom's chocolate mint cookies for Cookie Monday. She's made them every Christmas since I was a kid. They aren't a secret recipe; they came off the back of a Nestle Tollhouse bag, back when they were still making straight-up mint morsels. The "mint morsels" they make now are a combination pack of dark chocolate and weird green minty chips. Those are what I used this year in this recipe.

I've made these cookies a lot of times (first posted here in 2006!) and every time I've had to use some kind of new mint chip. Trader Joe's has some mint chocolate chips. Hersheys makes a mint-creme-filled Hershey kiss that might work in a pinch. I was panicked at the store on Saturday until I found the right ones.

I'm not normally one to tweak cookie recipes, but I decided to be adventurous this time. The recipe technically only makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies, and I needed 9 dozen. So I quadrupled the recipe (yup, quadrupled), added a little bit of extra baking soda to make them puff up more, and then made small tablespoon-sized balls of cookie dough. The cookies were smaller than my mom's are, which was perfect because I did indeed manage to get 9 dozen cookies out of it. I still have a few left, but most of them are gone! Hoorah!

ETA: Also: I never melt chocolate chips in a double-boiler. Just put them in a bowl in the microwave, set it for 30 seconds, stir, and repeat until they're melted. It works just fine as long as you keep an eye on it. This does not work for fake white 'chocolate,' because it gets all gummy and weird. Just in case you were wondering.

monday

Deep Chocolate Mint Cookies
Nestle / My Mom

1 1/2 cups Mint chocolate morsels, divided
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (5 1/3 Tbsp) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Over hot (not boiling) water, melt 3/4 cup Mint Morsels; stir until smooth. In small bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in melted morsels, egg, and vanilla extract. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup mint morsels. Drop by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls unto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies are puffed. Let stand 5 minutes on cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Squash & Leek Lasagna

Since the hurricane, I never bothered to really restock anything. I had no produce, I had no snack foods, I had no beverages other than coffee and a 2L of sprite. I wasn't mowed down by the hurricane. I've just been a terribly lazy, overly anxious person. And when I'm anxious, you know that means I subsist on coffee, sour patch kids, and takeout.

NO MORE, I tell you. NO MORE. I mean, I did buy the world's largest bag of Sour Patch Kids at the store last night. And another 2L of Sprite to make Dirty Shirleys. And another 2L of grape soda because my friend talked about it so much that it made me want it. BUT BESIDES THAT. I bought real groceries. Added to the stuff I stocked up on from Trader Joe's at my parents' over Thanksgiving, I'm set for making real food. I am going to try so hard, you guys, SO HARD.

Now. Before I went to the grocery store, I made myself dinner. It was OKAY. Just okay. And because mine turned out "just okay," I'd have to say that this is a very solid recipe that I would recommend, solely because if mine came out okay, then anyone else's will be a million times better.

You see, because I hadn't gone to the grocery store, it seemed I was lacking in ingredients. I also had previously purchased really lazy ingredients, like frozen pureed butternut squash so I wouldn't have to grate it myself. I did have leeks in the refrigerator because I'd gotten them at Trader Joe's. And probably the biggest problem, that I discovered once everything was already in saucepans, was that I was out of milk.

You know, one of the major ingredients in this.

Luckily, I had a box of almond milk left over from the hurricane (so I could eat cereal!). Thankfully, I had a box of the plain flavor and not vanilla, like I normally get. Hm. So I used that... and discovered I only had three cups of it. Crap. I added a cup of vegetable broth instead, because seriously what else was I supposed to do? No one will be shocked to know that this concoction did not thicken and set up like milk would have done. It was watery, but it poured over the noodles just fine. Then I glopped thawed butternut squash puree on top and it was all just a big mess.

But it ended up alright! And if that disaster can end up alright, then anything can. Truly, I prefer this squash lasagna instead: Roasted Butternut Squash with Rosemary & Garlic. But I'm glad this one managed to pull through despite my incompetence. Hoorah!

lasagna

Squash & Leek Lasagna
Eating Well

If lasagna is just a layered noodle casserole, there's no reason to stand on ceremony. Here's a vegetarian, autumnal version with butternut squash, leeks, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

10 ounces lasagna noodles -- preferably whole-wheat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large or 5 medium leeks -- pale green and white parts only, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups nonfat milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 pounds butternut squash -- peeled, halved, seeded and grated using the large-hole side of a box grater
6 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano -- grated using the large-hole side of a box grater
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain; return the noodles to the pot and cover with cool water.

3. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the leeks; stir well. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk in a slow stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in thyme, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Remove from the heat.

4. Assemble lasagna in the prepared baking dish by layering one-third of the noodles, one-third of the sauce, half the squash, one-third of the cheese, half the remaining noodles, half the remaining sauce, all the pine nuts, all the remaining squash, half the remaining cheese, all the remaining noodles, all the remaining sauce and all the remaining cheese. Cover with parchment paper then foil.

5. Bake the lasagna for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling and lightly browned, 30 to 45 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving (or follow make-ahead instructions).

Servings: 12

Make Ahead Tip : Bake, let cool for 1 hour, cover with parchment paper then foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat, covered, at 350°F for 1 hour, then uncovered for 30 minutes more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Round-Up

It has taken me forever to post this, mostly because I am tired and don't feel like posting lately. I haven't been cooking, I didn't have Cookie Monday because I was off from work yesterday, Armetta's Pizza is my friend, and I have just been very busy. So. Sorry.

For Thanksgiving, I was trapped in Pennsylvania and my coworker very generously invited me to spend the day with her family. It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of tasty food to be had. Her mom knew I don't eat meat so she made a lot of vegetable side dishes. It was awesome.

Pictures from Actual Thanksgiving:
thanksgiving

thanksgiving

thanksgiving

Then I went to work on Friday, and then I went to Connecticut on Saturday for Second-Thanksgiving with my own family. Unlike other years, I had no desire to cook or make anything new. We had our old standbys, and some storebought pies, and that was totally acceptable. Maybe next year I will feel adventurous and try new things again.

Pictures from Second-Thanksgiving
thanksgiving

thanksgiving

thanksgiving

And of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without Thanksgiving Breakfast:
thanksgiving
{Last year's post about Thanksgiving Breakfast is HERE}

Onward and upward, and hopefully I will cook more around Christmas. It is cookie season, after all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chickpea-Noodle Soup

This is from the Veganomicon and is specifically described as being "comfort food" (see description with recipe). If by "comfort food" we mean "food that is disgusting and that I do not ever want to eat again," then they are exactly right. Oh my gosh. There are too many things going on here, fusing too many different types of cuisines. It is not delicious. It had a weird aftertaste. It will never go in my mouth ever again. I did not like this at all. Ugh I'm so disappointed.

crap

Chickpea-Noodle Soup
Veganomicon, page 139

This is a great soup for when you're feeling under the weather and need something tasty to slurp on while you watch TV and pity yourself. But don't let that dissuade you if you feel fine and just happen to want a nice, comforting bowl of soup.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 cup peeled, thinly sliced carrots (or chopped baby carrots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in your fingers
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
1/3 cup brown rice miso
6 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked dried chickpeas, or 1 (15 oz) can, drained and rinsed
6 ounces soba noodles

1. Preheat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions and carrots in the olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and herbs, and saute for another 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the mirin (or just a splash of water). Add the 6 cups of water and the chickpeas. Cover and bring to a boil.

2. Once the broth is boiling, break the soba noodles into thirds and throw them in. Lower the heat to medium so that the soup is at a low boil. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the miso and stir until it's incorporated. Taste and adjust the salt, and add a little extra miso if you would like a stronger, saltier flavor.

Servings: 6

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thai Fried Quinoa

Here's the thing about Pinterest: when something looks good, we all pin it. It doesn't mean it's a good recipe, but it gets pinned and passed around and everyone ooh's and aah's over it. This is what happened with this quinoa recipe, which incidentally is from the same food blog as another mediocre quinoa recipe I tried. The chickadee's blog is awesome and she takes lovely photos. But there's something to be said about being honest when recipes blow. I'm not saying her. Maybe when she made it, it was amazing. Maybe she is better at cooking than I am, or had better ingredients. But when normal people cook food, it oftentimes does not turn out as we had hoped, and that is important to acknowledge.

So as you might have gathered, I made this quinoa recipe and it blew. Like there was nothing good about it. The entire thing was awful. Not even salvageable, just awful.

quinoa

Thai Fried Quinoa
Iowa Girl Eats via Pinterest

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup frozen peas
1 8 ounce can pineapple tidbits
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 eggs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
Chopped peanuts (optional)

1. Place rinsed quinoa in a saucepan over high heat. Add coconut milk and chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, place a lid on top, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat and spray with non-stick spray. Add green onions, ginger, and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly as to not burn the garlic.

3. Add peas, pineapple tidbits, and cilantro and cook for 1 additional minute.

4. Push the ingredients to the sides of the wok to create a clear space in the center. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl, then pour into the wok. Stir with a spatula until the eggs are scrambled, then stir to combine with the rest of the ingredients.

5. Add cooked quinoa, soy sauce and lime juice to the wok, and stir to combine. Cook for an additional minute or two, or until the quinoa begins to crisp up. Serve with optional chopped peanuts on top.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cookie Monday: Crisp & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Throughout the past week, I had several people request chocolate chip cookies for this week's Cookie Monday. While an easy fallback is Nestle Tollhouse, you know I like to try new things. I'd originally planned to make these: Chocolate Chip Flying Saucers, but the reviews weren't great and I don't have time for mediocrity. I quickly found another recipe from Martha Stewart that promised a crisp edge with a soft and chewy interior. And you know what? That's exactly what it made.

cookie

I doubled the recipe as usual, and instead of making ginormous scoops for ginormous cookies, I made tablespoon-sized scoops and reduced the baking time to 12 minutes. This worked out perfectly, and I managed 8 dozen cookies versus the 40 I would have gotten if I'd used the huge scoop. Again I came home with zero cookies! Among the comments I received as feedback were, "I normally am not a chocolate chip cookie kind of guy but I love these," "These are the best chocolate cookies I've ever had, except for the ones at KFC and Perkins," and "*expletive.*" Hoorah!

So basically the concensus is this is a pretty solid recipe for an excellent cookie. I would strongly recommend everyone make them!

cookie

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Martha Stewart

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 ounces unsalted butter -- softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; beat until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.

3. Using a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop (about 3 tablespoons), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden around edges but soft in the middle, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

Yield: 20 (or 40 per batch if you are Lauren)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mushroom Potpie

When I became a vegetarian (15 years ago, this month!), I ate a lot of potatoes but I also discovered frozen vegetable pot pies. Just like chicken pot pies, just without the chicken. They were yummy and tasty and I'm sure helped with my transition to eating more vegetables. I still buy them every once in awhile from the grocery store.

This little potpie is very basic, and while it's called a mushroom potpie, it really has a LOT of other vegetables in it. You also can't really go too wrong with things involving puff pastry, because even if the dish itself sucks, you can just eat all the puff pastry. Win-win.

pie

That being said, this was not my favorite thing I have made. It was good, but it wasn't as good as I had hoped. I made the full recipe because I was hoping to take it with me for lunches this week, but I really am not feeling that. I don't know. I was kind of disappointed by this. I wouldn't make it again.

(I did a very bad job of scooping it out of the pan so it's a mess. I'm sorry.)
pie

Mushroom Potpie
Real Simple, November 2011

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms -- (such as cremini or button) halved, or quartered if large
4 carrots -- cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 celery stalks -- sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion -- chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
1 sheet puff pastry -- (half a 17.3-ounce package) thawed

Heat oven to 400° F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the broth and peas; bring to a boil.

Transfer the mushroom mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Lay the pastry on top and cut several vents in it. Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Servings: 4

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cookie Monday: Toffee Almond Sandies

Ugh you guys, Cookie Monday is probably my favorite thing ever now. I brought in 6 dozen cookies (SIX. DOZEN.) and I came home with none. I gave them all away! All day long! It is SO MUCH FUN. People are happy with cookies. And some people are then made happy for the rest of the day because they missed lunch and I just helped boost their blood sugar. And it gives me an excuse to talk to random people, and I make new friends, and everything is just the freaking best. And apparently people are reading this blog now, which is both scary and entertaining. I've had a solid ~200 daily readers (which I'll never understand) for about 5 of the 7 years I've had this blog, and this is the first time it's really started increasing. Totally bananas.

On to the cookies.

Since last week was brownies, I determined that this week should not be chocolatey. I usually lean toward chewier cookies, but I do really like pecan sandies (which are hard and crumbly), so this seemed like a fun (and easy) adventure. Make sure you get the toffee bits, NOT the pieces with the chocolate on them. The toffee doesn't really stay solid, either. It kind of melts a little bit and ties the cookie together. The almonds are a nice exchange from the pecans. I don't know. It's just a really good cookie. I had very positive feedback, so that's pretty fantastic. Definitely a recipe to keep!

P.S. It seems like there is a lot of butter and oil in this, but when you realize that I managed to get 7 1/2 dozen out of this recipe, suddenly the amounts don't seem bad at all. I did a Weight Watchers calculator for my friends and it came out to like 1 point for 2 cookies. Not bad at all.

sandies

Toffee Almond Sandies
Taste of Home, Feb/March 1998

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped almonds
1 6-oz package English toffee bits
Additional sugar

In a bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add oil, eggs and extract; mix well. Combine flours, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in almonds and toffee bits.

Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheets and flatten with a fork. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned.

Yield: 6-7 dozen

Friday, November 09, 2012

Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, and Pepita Tacos

I've talked before about how I organize and store my recipes in Living Cookbook. I have about eleventy billion recipes, some of which I've made and some of which I want to try. When I say I would make something again, it goes int my "worth keeping" folder. If I actually DO make it again, then it gets filed into the make-again categories. I was looking through one of my folders last weekend to make my meal plan and found this recipe for Chickpea, Spinach, Feta, & Pepita Tacos in the "make-agains." I'm pretty sure I've only ever made it once, and it was only okay. So I decided to try it again and if it was truly worthy of keeping, then super. But it wasn't. It was just boring. So now I can delete it and clear the way for more new recipes!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Warm Salad of Millet and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts

This is one of those excellent dishes you can make, refrigerate, and take for lunch the next day. And eat for dinner the next day. It makes use of the wonder that is Roasted Brussels Sprouts (which I swear are amazing). I couldn't find millet so I subbed in quinoa. No problem there. I really liked this a lot. I would make it again.

PS I know, it has the most pretentious name. That's ok. I forgive it, because it is so yummy.

millet

Warm Salad of Millet and Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Walnuts
Vegetarian Times, October 2012

1 1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
5 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil, divided
3/4 cup millet
2/3 cup toasted chopped walnuts
2/3 cup chopped dried cranberries
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 475. Toss Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl, and season with salt, if desired. Arrange sprouts in single layer in 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Roast 20-24 minutes, or until brown and tender, stirring once. Cool 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add millet, and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden. Add 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer millet to large bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Fold brussels sprouts, walnuts, cranberries, and parsley into millet.

3. Whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, syrup, lemon juice, and lemon zest in bowl. Stir into millet mixture, and season with salt, if desired.

Servings: 4

Monday, November 05, 2012

Cookie Monday: Salted Caramel Brownies

Homemade fudgy brownie layer? Check.
Homemade caramel layer? Check.
Fancy french grey sea salt? Check.

What's not to love?

I made a huge pan of these and cut them into teeny tiny little squares, then set each square into a mini cupcake tin. This allowed for easy distribution at work. Feedback is that these were excellent. People who do not normally like caramel stated that they really enjoyed them, and people who had never had the combination of salt and caramel were pleasantly surprised. Success! I'm so happy.

Making the brownies was very simple, but be forewarned that the dough is VERY dry. Don't panic. That's how it's supposed to be. It doesn't turn into a dry, cakey brownie. It stays fudgy and amazing. I promise. The caramel cooks very quickly and sets very quickly, so make sure you pour it and smooth it very quickly or else it will be all streaky. It isn't like a regular caramel - it's much more like a praline type caramel-icing. But it does harden up a bit and is very yummy. Not overly sweet, either. And then of course the sea salt! I used my favoritest from Penzeys but you can use any good-quality sea salt. It's what really ties everything together!

Ugh these were just so good. I would definitely make these again.

brownie

Salted Caramel Brownies
Cooking Light, September 2011

Brownies:
3 3/8 ounces all-purpose flour -- (about 3/4 cup)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter -- melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking Spray

Topping:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk -- divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate -- coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare brownies, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Scrape batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

3. To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.

4. Combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.

Servings: 20 (depending on how small you cut it)

Trapp Door Gastropub

My friend and I were sitting at a conference on Friday discussing dive bars in my new area of the Valley, particularly ones that have excellent food and/or ambiance. This led to a googling, and that led to the discovery of the Trapp Door Gastropub in Emmaus. It isn't a dive bar, and it has a fancy brunch menu. But what really sold us was the fact that they have a bloody mary bar. Seriously. A whole mix-your-own bar. (I'll get to that in a minute.)

So naturally this immediately led to making reservations for brunch on Sunday. Five of us went, and though the wait was pretty long for our food, the drinks and food were all delicious.

vodka

Of course, I ordered the bloody mary. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of salts, hot sauces, homemade pickles, horseradish mixtures, pepper, etc, I just started adding all kinds of random stuff til it tasted just right. I think this concoction consisted of a L-O-T of sriracha sauce, horseradish, celery salt, homemade habanero sauce, and a lot of pickles. I know. So weird. It doesn't even matter. It was amazing. Couldn't even taste the vodka. So much love for this. I miss it. I yearn for it. I would like to drink it every day. I shouldn't do that.

Two friends ordered omelettes (yum!) but my camera didn't take a good picture of those. We also had an order of beignets (little fluffy doughnut-like pillows in a framboise sauce). Amazing.

Janet got Eggs Benedict, which came on fancy brioche.

benedict

And I got huevos rancheros, sans chorizo. SO GOOD. Oh my gosh. I was just the happiest.

rancheros

All in all, this was wonderful. I'm glad we found it. It's so close to my house, so I hope to take future guests there for brunch - and perhaps even venture out for dinner or drinks sometime. Especially another bloody mary.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cookie Monday: Halloween Spritz Cookies

Sorry I didn't post this on Monday! The hurricane hit and I lost power. Everything was fine here though! No flooding or anything. I did it all by myself! I am a champion! Everyone's power has slowly been coming back on, and everything is disorganized and a mess, but in general things are okay.

SO on to the cookies.

Every Christmas, my mom makes these little green Christmas tree cookies with her cookie press. She has to make like a thousand of them because my family and I eat them so quickly. Simple and buttery with a slight almond flavor, they're kind of like soft little shortbreads. One year my mom wasn't home for Christmas so we didn't have the cookies and it was like the world was ending (this was only 2 years ago, haha). I bought a cookie press at that point but totally forgot to ever use it. I was looking on pinterest the other day and discovered that my particular cookie press has a pumpkin-shaped attachment. And thus, I knew what I had to make for Cookie Monday this week: my mom's spritz cookies.

As with everything my mom is 'famous' for, her 'secret' recipe turned out to be a Betty Crocker recipe. I found it on the BC website. My mom usually decorates her trees with a little bit of corn syrup and some sprinkles. Since I was making pumpkins (using food coloring to make the dough orange), I decided not to bother with sprinkles. Perhaps next time!

cookie

I'd like to say the cookies were as great as the ones my mom makes, but they aren't quite there yet. Everyone liked them at work, but I think I could have done better. I WILL definitely make these again! This is really the penultimate spritz cookie recipe and I will always fall back on it.

cookie

Holiday Spritz
Betty Crocker

These delightful cookies can be made in various colors for any holiday or occasion - ready in about an hour. Perfect dessert for any party!

1 cup butter or margarine -- softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
A few drops food coloring -- if desired

1. Heat oven to 400º. Beat butter, sugar and egg in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Stir in remaining ingredients.

2. Place dough in cookie press. Form desired shapes on ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until set but not brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool completely.

Yield: 4-5 dozen depending on shape

Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Arugula Pesto

I have no idea what day I made this. Sunday? I think I made it on Sunday to use up some of the food I had in the refrigerator before the hurricane. (My power was out Monday to early Wednesday morning, so I lost most of the food in my refrigerator.) This was easy enough to make, but it was so boring. It was kind of bland and not even as pretty green as it was in the magazine photo. I wouldn't make this again.

pesto

Broccoli & Tortellini Salad with Arugula Pesto
Eating Well

1 medium clove garlic
5 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts -- divided
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts -- divided
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 9- to 10-ounce packages fresh cheese tortellini -- preferably whole-wheat
5 cups small broccoli florets

1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

2. With the motor running, drop garlic through the feed tube of a food processor; process until minced. Turn it off and add arugula, cheese, oil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, lemon zest and salt. Process, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture is fairly smooth; leave the pesto in the blender while you cook the tortellini.

3. Cook tortellini in the boiling water until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes or according to package directions. Place broccoli in a colander and set it in the sink. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta-cooking liquid, then pour the tortellini and the rest of the cooking liquid over the broccoli in the colander. (Pouring the hot pasta and cooking liquid over the broccoli “flash-cooks” it, leaving it bright green and tender-crisp.)

4. Add the reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid to the pesto in the blender; pulse to combine. Transfer the tortellini and broccoli to a large bowl. Toss with the pesto. Serve sprinkled with the remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts.

Servings: 6

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shakshuka

Okay. You know I love eggs. And lately I've been really loving baked- and poached-egg things (see: this, this, this, etc). Obviously I had to try this one, too. I thought the recipe seemed really boring, but it wasn't! The tomatoes cooked down and almost kind of caramelized. It was really great. I poke the yolk and bake the whole thing until it's not liquidy anymore because I HATE RUNNY YOLKS SO MUCH but it still worked so well with everything. I really liked this a lot and I would make it again.

shakshuka

Shakshuka
Vegetarian Times, June 2012

This poached egg dish is an Israeli favorite in restaurants and home kitchens. You can prepare the sauce in advance, and then reheat just before cooking the eggs.

1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/3 cups)
1 red bell pepper, diced (1 1/3 cups)
1 jalapeno chile, chopped (3 tablespoons)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
8 Roma tomatoes, diced (4 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, optional

1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, and saute 7 to 9 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and cumin and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover, and cook 2 minutes. Uncover, and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Stir in tomato paste, and cook 1 minute more.

2. Reduce heat to low. Make 4 cavities in mixture with spoon. Break 1 egg into small dish and slip into cavity. Repeat with remaining eggs. Cover, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until egg whites are set. Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

Servings: 4

Creamed-Spinach Gratin

To go with my dinner on Friday, I also made this creamed spinach. Spinach is a powerhouse green, full of lots of vitamins and important things, so it fits in well with my attempts at eating better things again. Cream cheese, not so much. I know! But at least this is from Cooking Light. It adds tomato on top to make it more "holiday"-ish, since it's from one of their holiday cookbooks, but the tomato is a nice addition. I didn't love this. I wish I'd thought to add garlic to it, and it had kind of an odd texture, but it was alright. It's been nice warmed up. I still don't think I'd make it again though.

spinach

Creamed-Spinach Gratin
Cooking Light, November 1997
Also in Cooking Light Holiday Cookbook

10 ounces fresh spinach
Cooking spray
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup tub-style light cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sliced tomato -- (1/4-inch-thick)
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Remove large stems from spinach. Tear spinach into 1-inch pieces; place in a colander. Rinse spinach under cold water; drain. Set aside.

3. Place a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add spinach; cover and cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Add cream cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Uncover and cook an additional minute or until cream cheese melts. Spoon spinach mixture into a 1-quart gratin dish or shallow casserole coated with cooking spray. Arrange tomato slices in a single layer on top of spinach,and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Servings: 6

Sandy's Eggplant Patties

In an attempt to eat more produce last week, I arbitrarily picked this recipe as a main dish to make myself on Friday. I had it with Creamed Spinach Gratin. It was also a excuse for me to buy a box of Ritz crackers, which are delicious but not nutritious. This came together really quickly, but the proportion of eggplant to cheese seemed off. Not in a bad way necessarily, because the cheese toasted on the pan which was wonderful, but it was just odd. I ate these but didn't love them, and I wouldn't make them again.

eggplant

Sandy's Eggplant Patties
Penzeys catalog

Sandy was a friend of Mary's mother who was well known for this recipe. Mary reminisces, "When my sister began making eggplant patties when her kids were little, she convinced them the patties were made of meat so they would eat them, knowing they wouldn't touch them if they knew they were made of eggplant!"

1 medium eggplant -- (about 11/2 lbs.) ends removed, peeled and cubed
3 1/4 cups round butter crackers -- (about 48) crushed, divided
2 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg -- lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh parsley -- (or 2 tsp. PARSLEY FLAKES)
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
1 garlic clove -- minced (or 1/4 tsp. PENZEYS MINCED GARLIC)
1/2 teaspoon KOSHER-STYLE FLAKE SALT
1/4 teaspoon PENZEYS FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the eggplant and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well. Place in a mixing bowl and mash until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the cracker crumbs, the cheese, egg, PARSLEY, green onion, GARLIC, SALT and PEPPER. Shape into patties. Place the remaining cracker crumbs on a rimmed plate. Coat the eggplant patties in crumbs on both sides. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. The oil should sizzle when a small amount of batter is dropped into the skillet. Add the patties, 3-4 at a time; don't crowd the pan. Shake the pan a bit to keep the patties from sticking. Carefully turn after about 2-3 minutes, when the bottoms are golden. Cook the other sides until golden, about 2-3 minutes.

Yield: 8-12 patties depending on size

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Irish Creamy Fudge

Yesterday we threw my coworker an elopement shower, pot-luck style. I know she loves Bailey's Irish Cream - one of her cats is even named Bailey - so I wanted to do something with that. There was already going to be a cake and a pie, and I didn't want to duplicate that, so I picked something totally different: fudge.

It isn't really fudge because there isn't any chocolate in it, but I don't know what else to call it because it still sets up like a fudge. All you really have to know is that it is the consistency of fudge but tastes like a nice shot of Baileys. It's pretty magical. I barely got a photo of it before it was gone. Everyone said it's amazing. I think I will have to make this again for holiday gifts!

fudge

Irish Creamy Fudge
Anna Olson: Sugar on Food Network Canada

1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup light brown sugar -- packed
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Irish Cream liqueur
2 1/4 cups icing sugar -- sifted

Grease an 8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides. Stir evaporated milk, brown sugar, white sugar, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, and cook until 238 °F (use a candy thermometer to gauge). Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and Irish Cream and scrape into a bowl or mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed or electric beaters, add in the icing sugar in three additions, mixing well after each addition. Scrape fudge into prepared pan and let cool completely before slicing.

Yield: 2 dozen

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi

I'm usually pretty hesitant about cooking with gnocchi. Something about the texture often doesn't work for me, so I tend to avoid it. But this recipe called for sauteeing the gnocchi prior to cooking it, so that intrigued me. Oh, what a difference! It was actually really enjoyable and delicious. The whole thing reminds me a little bit of the butternut squash thing I made for Thanksgiving a few years ago. It's really good. I invested in some "balsamic glaze," which came in a squeezy bottle to make decorative patterns and flourishes on food. Hah. I used Craisins instead of currants, but that was the only real change I made. I really liked this a lot. It also reheated very well. I would definitely make this again.

gnocchi

Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi
Eating Well, Sept/Oct 2010

Currants add a surprising touch of sweetness to this simple sauté of chickpeas, spinach, squash and gnocchi. We prefer the texture of shelf-stable gnocchi, but if sodium is an issue for you, opt for frozen instead. Serve with a glass of chardonnay.
Note: Balsamic vinegar reduction, simply balsamic vinegar that is cooked down until thick and syrupy, is sometimes called balsamic glaze or balsamic drizzle. Look for it with other vinegars in well-stocked supermarkets. Or make it yourself: Bring 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, 10 to 14 minutes. (Watch the syrup carefully in the last few minutes of reducing to prevent burning.)


1 pound frozen or shelf-stable gnocchi
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced peeled butternut squash or unpeeled delicata squash -- (1- to 2-inch-long slices)
1/2 cup sliced shallots -- (1-2 medium)
2 cloves garlic -- minced
14 ounces vegetable broth
2 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups fresh spinach -- coarsely chopped
15 ounces chickpeas -- rinsed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar reduction or 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar -- (see Note)

1. If using frozen gnocchi, cook in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions. Drain, rinse and pat dry. (If using shelf-stable gnocchi, skip this step.)

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, squash, shallots and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in broth, currants, sage and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring, until the squash is almost cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add spinach, chickpeas and the gnocchi and cook, gently stirring, until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes more. Serve drizzled with balsamic reduction (or balsamic vinegar).

Servings: 4

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cookie Monday: Big Softie Ginger Cookies

Cookie Monday is turning out to be very successful! It makes me happy. It is one of the most precious things in the world, like a tiny little lamb smiling, to see a super-angry doctor suddenly smile when given a cookie. I pondered today with a colleague what the collective weight gain of the hospital will be after a few months of this. I don't care. Cookies are delicious, baking is fun, and it's a win-win for everyone. Cookie Monday 4EVER.

So while making this, naturally I doubled the recipe again. However, I ran out of flour. I had about 4 cups of white flour, and then I added 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Fine. There was absolutely no difference in anything. What did I gauge it against, you ask? Well, the cookies are from The Hunger Games Cookbook, which shockingly continues to produce the best recipes of all time. They are very similar to my super-famous sugar cookies from the same cookbook. The cookies baked exactly the same way. They look like they are still very soft and underbaked, but they're done. Trust me. And they didn't spread, even though it seems like they should. Regardless, this recipe produces delicious, soft, lightly spicy cookies that are not oversweet, even though they're rolled in sugar. Everyone seemed to really like them! These were excellent for October! I would definitely make these again.

ginger cookies

Big Softie Ginger Cookies
The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, page 178

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/4 cup molasses
4 tablespoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt.

3. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, and the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then stir in the orange juice and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Chill dough for 1 hour in refrigerator.

4. Place the 4 tablespoons white sugar in a small bowl. Shape chilled dough into gumball-sized balls, and roll them in the sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 2 dozen

Sunday, October 21, 2012

French Lentil Soup

I've fallen back into the trap of candy and coffee for dinner, with Cali Burrito thrown in every once in awhile, and this has to stop. My refrigerator is now filled with fresh produce. I must get back into this habit. It's hard though. Anyone who reads this who lives nearby and wants a home-cooked meal, I now have an open-door policy for dinners. You are welcome to come eat food any time. Ever. Just let me know before you show up. OK? Maybe this will help me cook every night. And cook healthy things that aren't Nutty Bars. I'm in my new house. I have no excuse.

Last night I made this French Lentil Soup, and my house still smells amazing from it. It smells like warm kitchens and autumn and rosemary. I ate an entire loaf of garlic bread with it. That's not a healthy decision, but it was a delicious one. The soup itself is not as good as the cookbook indicates that it is, but part of that is probably due to the fact that I could not freaking find lentils de puy. I no longer live that close to a Wegmans and was too lazy to drive to the closest one (I know they have them there) so I just used basic browns. It was alright. A little watery. The wine was a good addition. My grocery store sells pre-made bouquet garnis so that was a nice time-saver. This was good for an October night but I doubt I would make it again.

lentils

French Lentil Soup
The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld

This is not just a regular lentil soup. The lentils may be small, but the flavor is big. It's easy to make, and the fresh herbs and reduced red wine scent your kitchen most deliciously as it cooks. It's an absolute favorite in my household. You can substitute brown lentils, but the French lentilles de Puy make this hearty soup surprisingly light.

1 cup French lentils, sorted and washed
Bouquet garni of 5 fresh thyme sprigs, 3 rosemary sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 5 flat-leaf parsley stems
6 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into small dice (2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, drained, or 2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups thinly sliced chard leaves (half the leaves of a 1-pound bunch)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

1. Place the lentils in a medium pot. Add the bouquet garni and water. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Discard the bouquet garni.

2. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes and saute over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and begin to brown.

3. Add the red wine, turn up the heat, and cook for a few minutes, uncovered, until the wine is reduced by about half. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Cook a few minutes more, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

4. Add the tomato mixture to the pot with the lentils along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer a few minutes to marry the flavors. Adjust the salt to taste.

5. Add the chard leaves, rosemary, and thyme and turn off heat. Let the chard leaves sit in the soup for five minutes before serving. The hot soup will wilt the leaves sufficiently.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rumpledethumps

Last night I really did not feel like cooking, but I made myself do it anyway. I made a big casserole dish full of Rumpledethumps (ye olden recipe for rumbledethumps is here). I'm glad I did because now I can take it for lunches this week and not have to think about it. Hooray!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces Cookies

Working in healthcare, I have discovered the following fact: people work better when they are happy. And cookies are one of the easiest ways to make someone happy (for the most part). The past few weeks I've brought in a lot of goodies, which not only is fun for the people who eat them but also gives me a reason to bake the hell out of my kitchen. Cooking is one of my favorite things in the world! But what am I going to do with 4 dozen cookies?

Take them to work. Obviously. And thus I've decreed that Mondays are now Cookie Mondays.

So for today's cookie, I did a little poll on Facebook and determined that something peanut buttery would be a good idea. These cookies have shown up on Pinterest a bunch of times and seemed intriguing. Plus, the cookie batter involved pudding mix, which I've never used before. Might as well try!

So I increased the recipe, made a bazillion cookies, and brought them into work. As usual, I came home with zero. They got a very good response. I'm super happy.

Of note with this recipe: the original called for dried banana chips to be thrown into the batter, which sounds disgusting and totally unappealing. I left those out. I used sugar-free vanilla pudding mix, because really you don't need more sugar. Also, make sure that your cookies are in some sort of round shape when you bake them because they do NOT spread and just sort of stay in whatever weird lumpy ball you've created on the pan. Anyway: I loved these. Everyone else seemed to love these. Definitely hanging on to this recipe!

cookies

Peanut Butter Reese's Pieces Cookies
Adapted from BruCrewLife and Pinterest

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small box vanilla instant pudding
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup Reese's Pieces

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and pudding mix and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, and honey and beat again. Slowly add the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. Stir in the chocolate chips, and Reese's Pieces by hand.

Drop by tablespoon onto a baking sheet, leaving 2 inches in between each cookie. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes. Cool on pan for 3-4 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes about 36 cookies.

Egg and Potato Sandwiches

I love eggs. I love potatoes. Cheese is wonderful. This basically cooks kind of like a frittata. I managed to make the whole thing while I was simultaneously baking cookies for work (to be posted in a moment). Delicious, simple, would make again.

tato

Egg and Potato Sandwiches
Food Network Magazine

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium russet potato -- peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large Italian frying pepper -- (Cubanelle) seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium onion -- thinly sliced
Kosher salt
6 large eggs
4 cups baby arugula
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
4 seeded semolina rolls -- split and toasted
4 slices sharp provolone cheese -- (optional)

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potato and cook, tossing, until browned and beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the sliced pepper and onion and season with salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the potato is cooked through and the pepper and onion are browned but not completely soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl and season with salt. Reduce the heat to low and give the pan a moment to cool. Pour in the eggs and cook, stirring constantly, until just set, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Toss the arugula with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and the vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt. Fill each roll with the scrambled eggs, cheese, if desired, and the arugula.

Servings: 4

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Homemade Crunchwrap Supremes

Over the years, I have really improved my eating habits (aware that my current candy obsession does not support this claim). I used to eat a lot of fast food, and I don't do that anymore. It's very, very rare. I also try to avoid chain restaurants and instead eat at smaller local restaurants, but that's more for economic purposes rather than health (Pennsylvanians love butter).

Taco Bell is my downfall. If I think of all the fast food I've eaten in the past year, besides the one time when I ate Mcdonalds' fries (I was very, very drunk), Taco Bell is probably the only one I've actually eaten at willingly. And Sonic but that doesn't count. But HOW could I NOT try their Doritos taco - avoiding that is impossible. (It was actually pretty gross. Oh well.) People often ask me, "How do you eat food from Taco Bell? You are a vegetarian." The answer is that they will make nearly anything in a vegetarian fashion. When I discovered this, I started getting the crunchwrap supreme, one of their amazing inventions, made with beans instead of meat, and life was wonderful. IN MODERATION OF COURSE.

It's been a long time, though. I don't eat there much. When I found this recipe on Pinterest, I had to try it. I expected it to be the worst. I used jarred chile con queso (cheese sauce, but NOT the Tostitos brand - use one that doesn't have trans fat in it) because that's closest to the weird gloppy cheese they use in the Taco Bell version. And I had to bake the corn tortillas for closer to 10 minutes before they got crispy. But OH MY GOSH, these were so good. So, so good.

I will definitely make these again. Sorry, Taco Bell. I never have to go to you again.

crunchwrap

Homemade Crunchwrap Supreme
Culinary Couture via Pinterest

6 large flour tortillas
6 small corn tortillas
1 pound ground beef, or refried beans
1 package taco seasoning
Sour cream
Nacho cheese, or shredded Mexican blend
Shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet (or heat up the beans), then add taco seasoning (according to package directions). Set aside.

2. Bake the corn tortillas in the oven at 400 degrees for a couple of minutes, until they are golden and crunchy.

3. Microwave the flour tortillas, one at a time (because they cool off quickly), for about 10 seconds to warm them up; this will make wrapping easier. You could also warm them up in the oven; just wrap them in aluminum foil and heat them up for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

4. Lay out the flour tortilla. Spoon some of the seasoned beef into the center of the tortilla. Top with some nacho cheese, or shredded cheese. Place the crunchy corn tortilla on top of the cheese/beef; spread a dollop of sour cream on top of it, then toss on some diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce.

5. Starting with the bottom of the tortilla, fold the edge up to the center. Continue doing this in a clockwise or counter-clockwise movement until all of the tortilla is folded over, and the filling is entirely enclosed. If your filling isn't entirely enclosed and you have an open spot, simply cut out a circle from another flour tortilla and place it on the exposed area, then wrap the tortilla again.

6. Spray a frying pan with cooking spray. Carefully place the Crunchwrap, seam-side down, in the pan. Press with a spatula and cook on medium-low heat, for about 3 minutes, until the bottom is nice and brown. Flip it over and cook for another 3 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chickpea and Greens Curry Soup

I really expected this to be super boring and really only picked it because I already had most of the ingredients available. I'd brought a ton of cans of beans and coconut milk and vegetable broth, because they never seem to expire and I had a stockpile in my basement before the move.

So with the lowest of expectations, I set this on the stove and went about the rest of my day. An hour later, I had some delicious, delicious soup. I was really surprised. Don't skip the yogurt, because it really is nice on top of it all. I enjoyed this and actually took some with me for lunch today, though I didn't get a chance to eat it (oh, work). I would make this again.

soup

Chickpea and Greens Curry Soup
Vegetarian Times, March 2011

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach, beet greens, mustard greens, or kale
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 medium tomato, chopped
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
1 15 oz. can low-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
8 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt, divided, for garnish

Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add curry powder, cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, nutmeg, and onion, and gently stir. Add spinach, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas, tomato, broth, and coconut milk. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 1 hour, skimming as necessary. Add cilantro, and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

Yield: 8

Veggie Gyros

I'm not going to pretend to be a Middle Eastern food aficionado, because I'm not. But the truth is that this is NOT a gyro. Just because you put something in a flatbread does not make it a gyro. This is, in fact, a fancified serving of falafel. Which is fine. I like falafel. But let's not pretend this is anything other than what it is.

So I was intrigued by the suggestions of toppings, including the "secret sauce." One of my favorite restaurants in the whole world is Amsterdam Falafelshop in DC, so this sounded fun. As it turns out, this was kind of meh. The secret sauce, despite the harissa, was not very exciting. I enjoyed my sandwiches but I wouldn't make this again.

Sorry this picture is so horrible. I couldn't find a good angle for it so you're left with this crappy one.
gyro

Veggie Gyros
Babble via Pinterest
All notes are from the original posting

2 pieces of white or wheat round flat-bread
Olive oil
6 falafel balls (you could also use seitan, tempeh or veggie burgers)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Pepper
1 small tomato, sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced – tossed in lemon juice
2 dill pickles
Tahini sauce

Secret Sauce:
2 teaspoons harissa OR non-spicy option: 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
Pepper

1. Thinly slice the onions and toss in rice vinegar. I like to let mine chill over night in the fridge to pickle a bit – but this step is optional.

2. Brush your flat-bread with olive oil and grill on until charred – I used a panini press.

3. Mix up your secret sauce

4. Prep your veggies: tomato, avocado, pickles.

5. Grill to warm your falafel balls – I pressed mine on the panini press with the flat-bread.

6. Assemble! Lay out a square sheet of tinfoil. Add the avocado, onions, falafel, pickles, tomato – drizzle some secret sauce over the filling as well as some tahini (or serve tahini on side) and close the flat-bread – wrap tightly in foil to secure. Serve!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Artichoke, Spinach, and Feta Stuffed Shells

I made these Sunday night but I waited to post about them because I wanted to see how they fared when faced with the Lunchbox Test. Definitely passed. These are great warmed up. You could easily make these in advance and warm them up the next day.

There are a bunch of different steps to making it, but I promise it's worth it. If you like spinach-artichoke dip, and you like pasta, you will like these shells. It's also interesting to make a stuffed shells recipe that doesn't involve ricotta. I really liked this a lot, though I would use less provolone next time. It definitely would be good for dinner guests! I would make this again.

shells

Artichoke, Spinach, and Feta Stuffed Shells
Cooking Light, December 2006

1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini peppers
28 ounces fire-roasted crushed tomatoes with added puree
8 ounces no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 cup shredded provolone cheese -- (4 ounces) divided
1 cup crumbled feta cheese -- (4 ounces)
1/2 cup fat-free cream cheese -- (4 ounces) softened
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 ounces frozen artichoke hearts -- thawed and chopped
5 ounces frozen chopped spinach -- thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves -- minced
20 cooked jumbo shell pasta -- (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat; cook 12 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; set aside.

3. Combine 1/2 cup provolone and the next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl. Spoon or pipe about 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese mixture into each pasta shell; place stuffed shells in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon tomato mixture over shells; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup provolone. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese melts.

Servings: 4

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

OK, I'm officially back in the swing of things with cooking. Baking on a Sunday? Check! Back to normal. I'm so happy.

So I had some overripe bananas and seriously considered making some banana bread... until I saw this recipe in my file. It's almost like banana bread with chocolate chips, but in cookie form. These are easy to make, difficult to screw up, and wonderfully delicious. Because they contain bananas (a fruit! potassium!), whole wheat flour, and oats, it is also easy to pretend that they are healthy. For that reason, I rate them excellent. I would definitely make these again.

cookie

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Martha Stewart Living, September 2006

Use a ripe banana, which has more concentrated flavor than an unripe one. In one batch of hearty cookies, find the flavors of two bakery classics: chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. Chopped walnuts and rolled oats add texture and more layers of taste.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter -- (1 1/2 sticks) softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana -- (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate -- coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts -- (about 2 ounces) toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, 12 to 13 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.

Yield: 3 dozen