Monday, October 28, 2013

Cookie Monday: Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last Cookie Monday of October, so it was time to do another pumpkin cookie!

My coworker and I were talking at length the other day about pumpkin in baked goods. The concern, demonstrated in the Pumpkin Snickerdoodles I made a few weeks ago, was that pumpkin seems to disappear when it's combined with flour. We tried all kinds of things. My coworker's mom even got in on it, trying to make things pumpkin-y. It just doesn't seem to work. Pumpkin flavor disappears and the spices are what you notice.

This cookie recipe is a pudding cookie, and I'm mildly ashamed to admit that the pudding mix replaces not only the spice but also the pumpkin. There is no pumpkin in this recipe at all. And the saddest thing about it? It tastes more pumpkin-y than anything else I've made. Sigh. So good though!!!

The other change was that I ran out of flour in the middle of baking and had to add a little bit of whole wheat pastry flour instead of the AP. I don't think this affected the taste or texture, and it probably was a pretty good mistake!

pumpkins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies
Chef-In-Training via Pinterest

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 small pkg. pumpkin spice instant pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 cups flour
1-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, brown sugar and sugar together in a large bowl. Add in dry pumpkin spice instant pudding mix and beat until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour and baking soda and beat until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Roll dough into 1" balls. Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

Yield: 3 dozen

Pumpkin-Beer Pie

My gentleman brought home a big bottle of Sam Adams Fat Jack pumpkin beer and, while drinking it, decided it needed to be involved in a pie. He googled how to include beer into a pie and then settled on a variation of the pie recipe from the pumpkin can.

His initial plan was to just reduce the amount of sweetened condensed milk, but what he ultimately decided to do was heat up the pumpkin and about 2 oz of beer in a saucepan on the stove. It helped to cook things down and blend it together. Then he followed the recipe as directed and then stuck it in a Pillsbury crust. It baked beautifully, didn't crack at all (effing genius, this man is), and was very yummy. He did a great job!

pumpkins

Friday, October 25, 2013

Spinach & Artichoke Melts

So this week I successfully made a meal plan, made a grocery list, and then actually made the food. This is the first time in a very long time that I have done this. I only picked three meals, and I had one alternate meal just in case one fell through. I started with two tried-and-true recipes that I've been making for years. One was my mom's recipe for Great Tostadas. I used to eat it all the time as a child and it is good, easy comfort food. I don't think my gentleman liked it as much as I do, but he also was eating it a few hours after I made it.

The much more popular recipe was my favorite Baked Potato Soup. Over the years, I stopped baking the potatoes and just microwave them before adding them into the soup. It's just so much easier. I made some real bacon bits for the gentleman's soup and he LOVEEEEDDDD it. It was my first time making it for him - it was my first time making this in probably over a year, actually.

Then I picked a new recipe to try. I found this on Pinterest, of course. It's a very simple recipe for a quick spinach-artichoke dip, spread onto some bread and grilled in a pan. Perfect. Gentleman pan-fried some thin strips of chicken to put on his and reported really liking it, despite a general aversion to most spinach-artichoke dips. So that is a success! I doubt I would make this again, but it was a fun little adventure.

sandwich

Spinach and Artichoke Melts
Half-Baked Harvest via Pinterest

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup (about 5 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (6.7 ounce) jar grilled artichoke hearts or you can sub marinated artichokes, chopped
1 chicken breast, grilled and sliced thin (optional)
8 slices thick sourdough or tuscan bread
Butter, for spreading

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in flour until it makes a paste. Cook over medium-low heat for a minute or two, then pour in milk. Stir and cook one minute, if your paste gets too thick splash in more milk.

2. Add cream cheese, mozzarella, parmesan and pepper. Stir until cheeses are melted. Stir in the greek yogurt until smooth. Chop artichokes and spinach and add to the sauce. Stir to combine. Dip will be thick, just use some muscle and stir in those veggies!

3. Heat a skillet (or griddle, etc) oven medium-low heat. Butter the outsides of every bread slice, then spread a good amount (any where from 1-3 tablespoons) of the spinach and artichoke dip on the inside (the non-buttered side) of each slice. If using, top one slice with the sliced grilled chicken. Top off with another slice of bread, buttered-side up. Cook until each side is golden and crisp and cheese is melted, then gently flip and do the same.

4. Slice and serve.

Yield: 4 sandwiches, with leftover dip

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cookie Monday: Espresso Double-Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Nothing particularly special to report here. I picked these cookies because they would be easy to make on Saturday night since I was going to a wine festival on Sunday. I doubled the recipe and I halved the size of the cookies so they would be normal-size instead of 3" diameter like Ms Martha makes in her recipe. I ended up with about 60 cookies. They're very chocolatey and good. The espresso seemed to be noticeable only to the people who don't drink coffee. No one reported a caffeine buzz from it. I doubt I'd make them again though. I think I can do better.

cookies

Espresso Double-Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Martha Stewart

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsalted butter -- (1 1/2 sticks) softened
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg -- plus one large egg yolk
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate -- coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together espresso powder, vanilla, and a tablespoon of water; set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and yolk; mix until incorporated. Add espresso mixture; mix well, scraping down the sides of a bowl with a spatula. At low speed, add flour mixture in small batches, mixing until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer, and stir in chocolate chunks.

4. Using a 2-ounce ice-cream scoop, scoop heaping balls of dough and place 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are set, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool completely before removing cookies.

Yield: 18 3-inch cookies, or 3 dozen normal-sized cookies

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Greek Pasta with Shrimp

GUYS GUYS GUYS

I made a recipe.

Like, I had an idea of what I wanted to make for dinner, but I couldn't find a recipe that quite fit it, so I made one myself.

It was delicious. It also reheated really well (minus the shrimp - eat all of those asap).

I loosely based this on Spanish Shrimp with Garlic and on this greek pasta recipe from Pinterest. But then I just sort of went with what I had in the pantry.

I felt like it should be served with pita bread but all I had was frozen garlic naan so I brushed it with some olive oil and sprinkled oregano on top. Worked perfectly.

Sorry this is all in approximations and is poorly-written. I've never made anything up before.

pasta

Greek Pasta with Shrimp
By me!

Shrimp
Olive or grapeseed oil
10-12 frozen shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails off, thawed
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Oregano

Pasta
3/4 pound rotini or other pasta
2 roasted red peppers, chopped (or fresh? Mine were from a jar)
1/4 cup olive tapenade
1/2 cup chopped red onion
15 oz can chickpeas
1 cup feta cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

Dressing
You could use a Greek salad dressing. Or!
2 tablespoons Greek seasoning (I use Penzeys)
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil

To make the shrimp: Heat up the oil in the pan. Throw in the bay leaf and the garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the shrimp. Let them cook about 4 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with oregano. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

To make the pasta: Cook the pasta as directed. Rinse and drain. Then throw all the other ingredients into the pot with the pasta and stir it up.

To make the dressing: Whisk all the ingredients together, or pour the dressing out of the bottle over the pasta.

Top the pasta with shrimp and garlic. Ta-da!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Preparing for Winter

I finally got myself to the local farmer's market to stock up on vegetables for the winter. My goal was to get as many vegetables as possible, prepare them, and freeze them in order to use them throughout the winter. I got an enormous haul for very little money - I spent $40 total, and that included an $11 jar of raw honey (my favorite! Honey-in-a-bear be damned!).

freezer

Now, I only have a little bit of experience preserving food. I've frozen fresh peas, strawberries, and blueberries after picking them from a farm in Maryland, and a couple years ago I diced up and froze a ton of honeycrisp apples. But for the most part, I had to look up how to prepare all of the vegetables. I found different tutorials for each vegetable I froze, so I'm going to link you to all of them. The website I liked the most was Hickery Holler Farm. I liked her microwave method. It made the vegetables and greens less soggy than if I blanched them.

freezer

So, in addition to the 10 boxes of girl scout cookies I still have left from last winter (shut up), I now have:

*Corn on the cob
*Three colors of bell peppers (red, green, & purple)
*Rainbow carrots
*Yellow squash
*Zucchini
*Roasted poblano peppers
*Cabbage
*Kale (and this one)
*Broccoli

(I linked each vegetable to the tutorial I learned from.)

I plan to try to get to the farmer's markets a few more times before the end of the season and do some more freezing so we will have fresh vegetables all winter long. Hooray!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts

The cafeteria at work has been selling apple cider doughnuts, but I didn't feel like paying for one so I came home and made some myself. I love my recipe for Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts so I made a batch of those. I think the quality of the apple butter you use influences how they turn out, but they were still very yummy!

doughnuts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cookie Monday: 1 Year!

Thanks to my blog, I am aware that I've been doing Cookie Monday for work for exactly one year this week. With the exception of a few weeks when I was not at work on a Monday (Labor Day, the week I was in Vegas, etc), I've brought cookies every single Monday. And I haven't repeated any recipes! That was my personal goal - to make it a year without repeats.

collage

Well, the year was up, so I decided to ask my friends/coworkers which cookie I should make to celebrate. The unanimous decision was Unicorn Poop.

And so I made Unicorn Poop. Nine dozen! For some reason they were flatter than usual and not as swirly-poopy, but I think that was probably okay. If you're curious what goes into making each cookie, here's an idea:

unicorn

And then I roll them up like poops, bake them, and let them cool.

unicorn

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Monday was October 7, which was the first Monday of October. Thus, I knelt to the requests of my coworkers and made a pumpkin snickerdoodle for Cookie Monday. The recipe floating around Pinterest from RecipeGirl was bothering me because it didn't seem like it had enough pumpkin in it. The reviews I read supported this, so I looked elsewhere. I found this recipe, which uses more pumpkin. I will be honest - I was disappointed. I thought they weren't as cinnamon-spicy as I'd hoped despite all the ginger and cardamom and allspice and everything, and because they lacked the cream of tartar of an original snickerdoodle, they were a different texture than I'd hoped. But people seemed to like it so that's good. I wish there was a better recipe. If you find one, please let me know. Happy October!

snickerdoodles

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
MMM...Cafe

Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Coating
1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of allspice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree, then beat in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir until fully incorporated. Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liner. Mix the coating ingredients in a small bowl. Scoop equal dough balls and roll into the sugar mixture. Set on cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Dip the bottom of a flat drinking glass into water, then into the sugar mixture and use to slightly flatten the dough balls. Recoat the bottom of the glass in the sugar-spice mixture as needed.
Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until baked through. Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: 5 dozen

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts

It is fall now, so I felt inspired to make the apple cider doughnuts I made a few years back. I didn't have any apple butter. I went on a quest and came up with some apple butter... only to leave it on my desk at work. Boo. Not one to give up on an idea, I decided to make a different, new recipe for a baked doughnut.

Side note: I love my doughnut pan. Baked doughnuts have such a nice texture and are super easy to make. If you like to bake, you should buy one of these. They're cheap.

OK back to the food. So these are very tasty and very autumny. I used Penzeys Vanilla Sugar in the cinnamon-sugar mix, which was nice. I halved the recipe in order to make six, since we are just two people and do not need 12 doughnuts. I'm taking one to work tomorrow for a friend who's feeling down & out, but other than that this will be just enough for us. Yum!

doughnut

Pumpkin Cake Doughnuts
From King Arthur Flour

Doughnuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée(canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice(or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Coating
3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you don't have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won't be doughnuts.

2. Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth.

3. Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

4. Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well. If you're making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you'll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

5. Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. If you're making muffins, they'll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

6. Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

7. While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar. If you've made muffins, sprinkle their tops heavily with cinnamon-sugar.

8. Cool completely, and wrap airtight; store at room temperature for several days.

9. Yield: 12 doughnuts or 15 muffins

Cookie Monday: Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

I actually had a different idea in mind for Cookie Monday this week, but the desire to stay in my pajamas and work with the ingredients I already had in my home won out over the desire to go to the grocery store to get what I'd need. I had everything for this recipe except for the Mini Reese's Cups. To make up for it, I used 3/4 cup peanut butter chips and 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips. I think it worked out just fine. You can do whatever you want if you make these. The cookies are very soft and crumble really easily, so be aware of that. A lot of them stuck together in my cookie box when I took them to work. They were really good, though!

oatmeal

Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
From Better Homes & Gardens

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup Reese's Pieces
1 cup mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups -- (about 15)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large mixing bowl beat peanut butter and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour, the oats, peanut butter pieces, and peanut butter cups.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets for 3 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.

Yield: 60 cookies