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.