Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ginormously Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! Though I had every intention of keeping up with the blog and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, I came home to find my parents' internet connection moving at the speed of well, dial-up. Even with DSL, something was clearly off and internet surfing took a backburner to make time for eating. Seriously, I realize everyone talks about holiday eating, but with our two families in the same city, we took holiday eating to a new level. Two-dinner-a-day habits are hard to break. My stomach feels empty if an hour has gone by without a feeding.

Huge Chocolate Chip CookiesAs you can imagine, it feels good to be back home and getting back to a more normal eating schedule. I've increased the veggies in my diet, tried to return to running and limited myself to three meals a day (down from 5-6!) Even with my new healthy outlook, I certainly still make room for ginormous chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookie DoughAfter indulging in days of Momma's Asian delights, I had a hankering for good ol' chocolate chip cookies. I spent a few minutes drooling over Tastespotting's cookie gallery and settled on the cookies made by Easy Peasy. Her cookies looked huge, soft and well, perfect. I used mini chocolate chips (my new obsession) and about 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips to shake things up. Michelle measured out about 1/2 cup dough for each cookie. Wanting to have cookies to take to work (and prevent us from eating them all) I used a 1/4 cup of dough for each. My cookies were still huge!

Giant Chocolate Chip CookieI. Love. These. Cookies. These were so fabulous and sinful. If you're not feeling overindulged yet, I suggest you get yourself into the kitchen and make these. Dieting should be addressed after the New Year! :)

Enjoy the rest of the holidays!! It'll be sad when we get back to full work weeks, huh? :)

Giant Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Easy Peasy

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (we all know cinnamon makes everything better!)
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted cooled until warm
1 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chip
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk dry ingredients together; set aside.
3. With electric mixer, beat butter & sugars until thoroughly combined.
4. Beat in egg, yolk and vanilla until just combined.
5. Add dry ingredients; beat at low speed until combined. Stir in chips.
6. Measure 1/4 cup of dough and roll into ball. Holding dough ball in fingertips of both hands, pull into 2 equal halves. Place dough halves together, ragged side up. Place formed dough onto cookie sheet with about 2 inches in between (the cookies will spread).
7. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy.
8. Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking and place on wire rack to cool.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Iced Lemon Rounds

Though I don't believe I've ever won a sweepstakes, raffle or maybe even a bingo game, I seem to have great luck with blog giveaways. Thanks to Katie, I won a wonderful Holiday Cookie Cookbook, right in time for a Christmas potluck.

Iced Lemon RoundsPerusing through Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season really left me drooling. Among Viennese Crescents, Baci Brownies (with a Nutella swirl!), and Swedish Dreams, I wasn't quite sure how I'd pick a recipe for my Christmas party until I came across these Iced Lemon Rounds. Though not the most Christmasy of cookies, I had all of the very simple ingredients and alas, my decision was made!

Iced Lemon RoundsThese cookies are buttery, lemony, tender and sweet. Though they may not be your typical holiday cookie, you'll love how easily they come together. I'd say the Iced Lemon Rounds are a perfect solution for a last minute treat. Sprinkle some green or red crystal sugar on the tops and you have yourself a festive cookie! Hubby argued against this with the thinking that holiday sprinkles just don't go with lemon. OK. You decide :)

These were a big hit and we didn't have any leftovers. The original recipe states these make 47 cookies. Not wanting to roll and scoop dough all day, I only made a half recipe but ended up with about 15 cookies.

Thanks again for the great book, Katie!
Holiday Cookie Cookbook
Iced Lemon Rounds
Courtesy of
Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

3. Beat softened butter in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add sugars and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs, followed by lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Gradually add in flour and mix until just incoporated.

4. Scoop about a tablespoonful of dough and roll with your hands into a ball. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten to about 1/2 inch thickness.

5. Bake for about 13-15 minutes until cookies are pale on top but golden on the bottom. Allow to cool on a wire rack completely.

6. To make the icing, whisk the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and milk until combined. Spread the icing on the cooled cookies with a table knife. Let the cookies stand on rack until icing sets.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pumpkin 'n Spice Cinnamon Streusel Buns

Yet again I find myself with a huge can of pumpkin, just waiting to be thrown into a treat. It's clearly the perfect excuse to continually make, bake and cook us sweets. I have been browsing around for temporary health insurance and though I'm not a smoker and have no pre-existing heart condition, should I confess my daily consumption of desserts to the powers that be? Uh probably not. I wonder if addiction to desserts counts as a health condition.

I have a whole bevvy of pumpkin recipes to share, but in between the sweet potato buttermilk rolls, homemade apple butter, and somewhat orangish turkey soup I didn't want anyone to get the idea that I was obsessed with orange foods. Quite the contrary - orange is my least favorite candy flavor. Hmm, though maybe one of my favorite fruits. I'm so confusing.

In any case, I made these delectable cinnamon rolls for our breakfast last weekend. They're warm, gooey, not to sweet and full of spice (as a result of adding lots o' cinnamon to the filling and dough!).

These are much easier than a previous Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Roll recipe I posted, though they're not nearly as sinful. This is a lightened recipe that gets the job done and satiates a cinnamon bun hunger, but if you're really looking to ward off the health insurance companies, try this guy.

Oh, and if you're anything like me and also looking to use up some pumpkin, this recipe only uses a 1/4 cup. Guess I'll just have to make some more desserts!

Check out Yeastspotting for some great inspiration!

Pumpkin 'n Spice Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup pumpkin, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Nonstick Cooking spray

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare the buns, dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour, pumpkin, milk, butter, sugar, salt, and spices; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. If using a Kitchenaid, knead with a dough hook until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); while kneading, add enough of the remaining 3/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky). Otherwise, knead by hand on a lightly floured surface.

Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place , free from drafts for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size. Press two fingers into the dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.

Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar mixture. Roll up the rectangle tightly, starting with a long edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Cut roll into 12 (1-inch) slices. Place slices in a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bake the rolls at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking in between until smooth. Drizzle glaze over buns. Serve warm.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread...Revealed!

Congrats to the recipients of the Amish Friendship Starter: MaryBeth from Dunkin Cooking, Aleisha, and The Blonde Duck from A Duck in Her Pond! Hope you enjoy the bread and can pass along the starter to your friends.

Alexandra asked if I had the recipe for the starter and I sadly let her know that I didn't. The premise of the Amish Friendship Starter is that only the Amish know how to "start" it so you must receive it from a friend. Well, I'm 99.9% sure that a nice Amish lady wasn't the originator of the starter I received, but well...I suppose you never know.

Fast forward a couple of days, and I fortuitously happened upon a Friendship Starter Cookbook at our library's book sale. I couldn't believe it! Now I have a whole bevy of recipes to bake with my starter.

And without further adieu, here's the recipe for the Amish Starter:

Amish Starter RecipeSince I received my starter from my niece, I can't guarantee this recipe, though I'd like to give it a try. I'll be sure to post the results of any other baked goods I experiment with. Finally, here's the recipe and "feeding" instructions for your starter:

Starter Feeding Directions
DO NOT use any type of metal spoon or bowl for mixing. Don't refrigerate the starter

Day 1: Do Nothing
Day 2: Mash the Bag
Day 3: Mash the Bag
Day 4: Mash the Bag
Day 5: Mash the Bag
Day 6: Add to bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Mash the bag.
Day 7: Mash the Bag
Day 8: Mash the Bag
Day 9: Mash the Bag
Day 10: Do the following:

Pour entire contents of bag into a non metal bowl. Add 1.5 cups flour, 1.5 cups sugar and 1.5 cups milk.

Measure out four separate batters of 1 cup each into gallon size ziploc bags. Keep one starter for yourself and give the other 3 to your friends, along with a copy of the recipe.

Cinnamon Amish Friendship Bread
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
To the remaining batter in the bowl (we measured about 2 cups) add:

3 eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 large box vanilla instant pudding

Grease 2 large loaf pans or 1 large and 3 small loaf pans.

In a small bowl, mix an additional 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with 1/2 the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Pour the batter evenly into the loaf pans. Sprinkle the remaining mixture on top. Bake 1 hour. Cool.

Look at the other fabulous vintage cookbooks I found at the library sale. The sale consisted of all the books you can fit into a bag for a dollar! What else can you buy for a dollar these days?

Amish Starter RecipeOh, and look at Betty Crocker's makeover:

Amish Starter RecipeHope you had a good weekend!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Free to a Good Home!

Are you a loving and caring cook? Will you mash me and feed me and care for me like your own? If so, let me know if you'd like to be the lucky recipient of a bag of Amish starter and a copy of this fabulously butter and flour stained, vintage-y looking recipe.

Amish StarterLike the chain letter of breads, Amish Friendship Bread is a great bread for the holidays or to coerce your friends into baking. It's also wonderful if you're a lover of cinnamon, sugar, or streusel toppings (pointing a finger at myself). After caring for & feeding your starter for about 10 days, you quadruple it, divide it up and bake yourself a ridiculously good cinnamon coffeecake type bread. You can bake several small loaves but we decided to make one ginormous cinnamon monstrosity. Pass along the starter to friends and the chain continues. It's all good fun until you use up all your precious baking supplies. This project requires a lot of flour and sugar!

Amish Friendship Bread
** The giveaway is closed, but click here for a recipe to make your own***

If you'd like to be a recipient, just leave a comment by tomorrow morning (Wednesday). I have a few of these to give out. Just for kicks, let me know your favorite dessert to pass along to friends!

I believe there are other uses for Amish starter. I'll experiment and keep you posted!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup

Though I claimed it could never happen, I think I'm finally burnt out on Thanksgiving turkey. We've had turkey in just about every shape and form last week from sandwiches and paninis to turkey enchiladas to this delicious Mexican Turkey Soup. Hmm, I'm still eating the soup for lunch, so I suppose I haven't banished turkey from my diet quite yet!

Mexican Turkey Soup
I sometimes have to ask myself what I'd do without my fellow bloggers. For one, I didn't realize I was paying such exorbitant prices for my TP. Thank you, my friends for alerting me to the fact that I may be the only sucker in the country buying those $15 six roll multipacks. I'm usually a better bargain hunter, I swear.

Secondly, I'd probably be serving us plates of boring leftover turkey night after night if I hadn't seen all of your inventive uses. Take for example, Lori's Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup chock full of corn, green chilies, carrots and cilantro. See how creamy it is? There's no cream in the soup! I give Lori (the Recipe Girl) all the credit - she's a genius!

Mexican Turkey SoupThis soup is nicely spiced, filling and easy to throw together. I can't wait to make the soup again though I may try with chicken and perhaps add some rice.

Creamy Mexican Turkey Soup
Courtesy of The Recipe Girl

1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped (I omitted)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken or turkey stock or broth
1 can diced green chilies, drained
2 cups milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
2 cups shredded turkey
¾ cup corn, fresh or frozen
3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (only used 1/4 cup b/c that's all I had left!)

1. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add chiles.

2. In a bowl, whisk together milk, flour, salt, chili powder and cumin. Increase heat to high and whisk milk mixture into soup. Stir until thick and bubbly, about five minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add turkey, corn, cilantro and cheese; stir until cheese is melted and soup is hot, 5 to 10 minutes.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

It's not often that toilet paper is discussed on food blogs, but there's just something that's been perplexing me for awhile now. Does anyone else feel like toilet paper is the new gas? Well, OK that sounds funny. But with gas prices falling, I don't feel like crawling into a hole and quietly mumbling nonsense to myself every time I see the dreaded gas light taunt me. Unlike curbing my car for unnecessary trips, there's just no getting around needing to buy toilet paper for the house. Uh, and it's really expensive when you think about what you're getting for your money. People talk about conserving gas all the time but why has no one mentioned conserving toilet paper?

Sweet Potato Buttermilk RollsWell, in the spirit of penny pinching and today's earth shattering confirmation of our recession, here's a great way to use up all those leftover sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving's sweet potato pie. I found this fabulous recipe on Nicole's Pinch My Salt, an equally fabulous blog full of mouth watering goods.

These Sweet Potato Buttermilk Rolls are gorgeously colorful, fluffy and (believe me) easy to make. Oh, and they're delicious too. What more could you want from your carbs??

Nutrition, of course. Packed with sweet potato's vitamin A, you've got yourself a healthy carb to feel good about & enjoy with all that turkey haunting your refrigerator.

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Rolls
The rolls keep pretty well, and we have been making turkey sammies daily since Thanksgiving. Since Nicole does such a wonderful job with the recipe and is so kind and talented to provide step by step photos, I'll just send you over to her for my new favorite bread recipe. I almost didn't change a thing, but decided to add a little more sugar than 1/4 cup.

After allowing to rest for a mere hour, the dough easily doubles. Make sure it's ready by poking two fingers and making sure the indentation doesn't go anywhere (tip courtesy of Nicole).

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Rolls
Shape into an a round ball and cut dough into equal portions. Roll into cute balls.

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Roll DoughSprinkle with flour and bake until golden brown!

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Roll Dough
The rolls keep pretty well but taste amazing when popped into the toaster oven for a few minutes. For anyone still tentative on baking with yeast, I used the sometimes hard to find SAF Perfect Rise yeast. It doesn't require proofing and has never failed me. I can sometimes find it at Trader Joe's though they'll have it one day and the next they won't!

For more tasty bread inspirations, visit Yeastspotting!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Greek Spiced Baked Shrimp with Lemon Orzo & Broccoli

I like to think of myself as trend-aware. Though I'm not necessarily swayed by the latest trends, I at least know of their existence. Remember when those onesie leotard shirts were in style? Yea, I was there.

Well, I must say that I've been absolutely blindsided by the Twilight Series phenomenon. I thought Twilight was a brand new release until I realized there are four other books in the series. Whoops. Wanting to participate in water cooler chatter, I finally bit the dust and started reading the first. I can't say I'm overly impressed or understand the hype quite yet, but it's still early in the book.

Meanwhile, another trend that I am a strong believer in has graced the kitchen yet again. There's something about the combination of feta and shrimp that just does it for me. Sort of like how women everywhere are swooning over Edward Cullen. Yea, just like that.

Paired with lemony broccoli and lemon orzo, I find myself absurdly content: the house smells wonderful, the food in front of me tantalizing, and I am eating shrimp. It doesn't get much better. Some people like sexy vampires, I like shrimp 'n feta.

Cinnamon and allspice add a nice spice to the dish and provide an alternative to the many shrimp and feta recipes floating around the internet and my own blog.

I decided to pair the shrimp with a side of steamed broccoli, tossed in lemon juice and garlic. Already having lemons out, I also tossed the orzo in a mixture of olive oil, lemon and pepper. Since the sauce from the shrimp is very flavorful, the lemony taste serves only as an accent and doesn't overpower the meal.

Good luck with all your Thanksgiving preparations! I spent my usually lazy Sunday ironing linens and vacuuming. I hope the remainder of my prep work is a little more stimulating :)

This is my entry into Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Daphne this week.

Greek Spiced Baked Shrimp with Lemon Orzo
Adapted from Gourmet & Martha Stewart

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil
Pinch of sugar
1 1/4 pound large peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 teaspoon old bay seasoning
salt & pepper
2/3 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons chopped dill

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Cook onion and garlic in oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in spices and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes with juice and sugar and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Season shrimp with Old Bay, dash of salt & pepper, then stir into tomato sauce. Transfer to a 2-quart shallow baking dish and top with feta. Bake until just cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve sprinkled with dill.

1 lemon
1 cup uncooked orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
salt & pepper

Peel a few long strips of lemon peel; thinly slice peel. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and lemon peel. Cook until orzo is al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.

Add lemon juice, oil, and scallions to orzo. Toss and season with salt and pepper; Serve with shrimp.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homemade Spiced Apple Butter

Sorry I've been a little MIA lately. After returning from a fabulous & fun girls' weekend in Vegas and starting a new job this week, I'm a little worn out. Amidst planning a Thanksgiving feast, I hope to spend the weekend relaxing and procrastinating and most enjoyably, catching up on all the goodies on my Google Reader!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have a virtual apple orchard growing on our countertops. A few weeks ago, hubby and I decided to escape from this very un-Fall-like warm weather and visit Julian, a mountain town about an hour from San Diego. Hubby had never been apple picking (gasp!) so I dragged him out there to visit Raven Hill Orchards. Remembering the huge apples of my apple-picking youth, we were dismayed to find that the apples were tiny. TEEENY TINY. I suppose that's what you get for visiting at the end of apple picking season. We plucked away regardless, but now I'm stuck with a bushel of very sweet yet small apples. Aren't they cute? (they look 10x as large in this picture than reality)

orchard apples
Not knowing what to do with such small apples, I decided to make apple butter. Here are my baby-sized apples simmering in apple cider...YUM:

orchard apples
Because most of the recipes I found called for a certain amount of normal sized apples, I used this recipe as a guide, using apple cider instead of apple juice and adding spices by sight.

The resulting apple butter is sweet, spicy and an all around treat. I will most likely be making this again soon as we still have a ton of apples to make and making your own apple butter is much easier than I had anticipated. The apples are merely sliced, not peeled, shaving a nice chunk of time from the prep & cooking time.

homemade apple butterServe this atop some fresh biscuits or on a turkey sandwich and you'll be in heaven!

If you're interested in canning your apple butter, try using this complete kit from Ball.

Homemade Apple Butter
Adapted from Michael Smith
Apple Butter

Approximately 10 crisp apples (I used a mix of Jonagold, Empire. Fuji and Red Delicious) - Don't peel apples as this adds to the flavor.
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of apple cider
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until apples break down and become very soft.

Using an immersion blender or a normal blender, puree the apples. Return to pot and continue to simmer until apple butter is thick.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Too Lazy To Scoop so I Made Barookies

Thanks for the comments on the pancakes! Well, now I know who to come to next time I need an ego boost. :) I suppose the perfectionist in me is still searching for the God given talent of making a batch of pancakes all the same, perfectly round shape and size. How do they/you do it?! Please don't tell me the Perfect Pancake Maker really works.

Well, that same perfectionism haunts me when I make cookies. I try so hard to make each cookie the same perfect round ball that it takes me F O R E V E R to make a big batch of cookies. I think it's about time to invest in a cookie scoop, huh?

The other day hubby and I were craving cookies like two pregnant ladies. Also feeling like a pregnant lady (no, I'm not!), I was too lazy to even fathom making rows of perfect little cookie balls, so I decided to transform our favorite cookies into a bar. And throw some apples in there because we have an orchard growing on our counter top.

There's something magical about bar cookies, maybe because I like my cookies thick and chewy. Bar cookies also take the guesswork out of "are they done yet?" as they tend to crisp up nicely around the edges and firm up in the middle.

Best of all, I don't need to spend my afternoon scooping out little cookie dough balls. Just throw the cookie dough (you haven't already eaten) in a baking pan and you're done!

These bars are nicely spiced with sauteed apples, apple pie spice and cinnamon. The raisins are plumped by soaking in boiling water and the end result is just a yummy, Fall dessert to enjoy. Come to think of it, I'm off to go eat one myself!

Oatmeal Apple Raisin Barookies (Bar+Cookie)

1 1/4 cup raisins
about 1.5 cups boiling water
1/4 cup thinly chopped, peeled apple
pat of butter, cinnamon & brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp apple pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease an 8x8 inch pan.

Place raisins in a large heatproof bowl. Pour enough boiling water over raisins to cover. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and then drain well.

In a small nonstick skillet, melt a pat of butter over medium heat. Add apples and continue to stir in butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Stir until combined.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in egg until combined then stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, apple pie spice and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the quick oats and drained raisins. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges are starting to brown and the middle is set. Let cool in pan before cutting into bars.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Remember the huge can of pumpkin I purchased? From the same ginormous tin, I have made a veritable bounty of pumpkin goods: pumpkin scones, pumpkin chip muffins, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Finally, after fearing that I may have overdone the pumpkin obsession, I had just a few tablespoons left and decided to make pumpkin spice pancakes for breakfast.

Of all things that I enjoy cooking and eating, I've never been able to master pancakes. Think of the big, fluffy perfect pancakes served at your favorite breakfast joint. Mine? Well, not usually so fluffy and perfect.

I spotted this perfect Martha Stewart-tweaked recipe on Baking and Books. I further tweaked the recipe by trading out and adding some spices. Though the pumpkin taste wasn't overwhelming, I was still happy to have made fluffy pancakes that almost look pretty! The house smelled wonderfully spicy and delicious.

Finally, thanks to Brea from The Boyd Team for giving me the Kreativ Blogger award. I feel so honored! Her blog is a playground of her adventures in remodeling her house, FANTASTIC shopping deals, and tips on saving money. She can cook, too! What a lady :) Thanks again!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Baking & Books

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pumpin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg
Extra butter for cooking and serving the pancakes
maple syrup / confectioner's syrup

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add wheat germ, nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together the milk, canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and the egg.

Fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup, or with confectioners sugar.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baked Costa Rican Style Tilapia with Tropical Pineapple Rice

What to do now?

After a greuling year of campaigns, political controversy and economic despair our country is left with hope and the promise of a new day. We've lived and breathed this monumental, historic race and now new & old political junkies everywhere are left with a politics hangover. For months, I have replaced my usual web browsing with an ardent obsession with political blogs.

Where I once read with my morning cup of coffee, I found myself typing into my browser first thing each morning. I sat glued to CNN, waiting and watching to see what would happen next. The long, hard fight is not over for President-Elect Barack Obama but now that the election is over, what do I do?

Cook and bake! Now that I can pull myself away from CNN, I'll be spending more time in the kitchen. For those still glued to see what unfolds next for our new President, here's a quick and easy meal to throw together. Keep me up to date. I need a break. Here's some photos pre-oven:

I first saw this recipe for Baked Costa Rican Style Tilapia with Pineapple Black Bean Rice on Simply Delicioso, Ingrid Hoffman's cooking show. It was the first episode of hers that I'd ever seen, but I instantly knew I needed to make this tropical fish. As the name spells out, tilapia is baked with a delightfully sweet and spicy rice accented by pineapples, salsa and black beans. Pop it all in the oven and you're left with a sophisticated, yet delicious and healthy meal.

I loved the rice so much that I'd definitely consider making rice this way again to serve with other meals though next time, I'd drain some of the excess liquid from the rice, pineapple and salsa mixture before baking. If you decide to cook this, I'd make sure to chop up the pineapple very finely and use a tasty salsa with a lot of spice! I was lucky to have a jar of homemade salsa on hand thanks to a lovely gift so the salsa added a lot of good flavor.

Baked Costa Rican Style Tilapia with Tropical Rice
Adapted from
Ingrid Hoffman
1 cup short grain brown rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I used orange pineapple mango juice)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups homemade salsa
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
2 limes, thinly sliced


Combine the rice, chicken broth and a dash of salt in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 50 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. If using white rice, follow package directions.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, oil, 2 tablespoons of cilantro, the garlic, and sugar; season with salt and pepper. Add the tilapia fillets to the marinade, turning to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

Stir together the cooked rice, salsa, beans, pineapple, and remaining 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in a 2 or 3-quart baking dish. If there is a lot of liquid, drain some since you'll be adding the marinade. Remove the tilapia from the marinade, reserve the marinade, and lay the fish fillets over the rice mixture, overlapping if necessary. Pour the reserved marinade over the fish. Shingle the lime slices over the fish. Bake until the fish flakes easily, is opaque, and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Blondies

I hope everyone is well rested, ready to vote tomorrow & of course, stay up to watch the results! Lucky me, I voted early by mail so I hope there were no mail mishaps preventing the delivery & count of my oh-so-important ballot. Hubby has to go wait in line tomorrow morning (sucker!). Hopefully it won't be too bad despite all of the media footage of snaking, long lines. Oh, he is also one of the 8% of Americans still undecided 3 hours until election day. I told him to flip a coin. I jest.

peanut butter chocolate chunk blondies
On another note, I feel as if I'm being watched. Hear me out. Every time I go running, I feel as if the masses are "checking me out." And by "checking me out," I'm not talking about sauntering into a bar with a cute outfit on and grabbing attention. I'm talking about sweaty me, running, breathing laboriously, trying with all my energy to finish a run.

For the 3rd run in a row, I got at least one "looking good!" from a passerby. Uh, what is it?!

Sometimes I panic. Did I forget to wear a shirt?! Is something popping out of my sports bra?! Do I look like I'm about to die? Can they hear my stomach sloshing? It baffles me.

I ran with a girlfriend last week and as we're running, she casually mentions,
"you know, everyone we pass seems to be watching you."
"Maybe it's because you're exotic looking."
Me: Uh, everyone in California is Asian, don't you know?

I've resigned to the fact that I must run funny. I like to imagine that maybe I run like a duck or with the grace of a 2 legged dog... who knows? I'm not being humble here. If I walked down the street half nude, I probably wouldn't get as much attention. **Sigh**

peanut butter chocolate chunk blondies
Back to Peanut Butter Chip Blondies. Check these out! I found this ridiculously easy yet delicious recipe on Bakingblonde's website. If you're ever in need of an idea for a sweet treat, head over to her site and you won't be disappointed. This is a true one bowl, no mixer needed dessert.

Though she suggests chopping up Reese's and placing them atop the blondies mid-baking, I sadly did not have any so replaced them with the remainder of my mini-chips. Now that it's post - Halloween I may need to try the Reese's version soon!
Check out her recipe here. I pretty much followed her recipe though I used chocolate chunks in the dough and sprinkled chocolate mini chips on top.

Oh, and if you're out on the streets & see me running, be a kind one and let me know what's so intriguing. :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Blondies

An easy to make, one bowl, no mixer needed treat ...

See Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Blondies on Key Ingredient.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ladies and Gents, we have a winner...and some biscuits!

Last night, I sat at my computer waiting patiently for the clock to strike midnight so I could pick the Gathering of Friends Cookbook winner. Without further adieu, the lucky winner and also host of one of my favorite blogs is #10, Lisa! Congrats! Lisa from Jersey Girl Cooks likes to share a big pot of spaghetti & meatballs or bbq in the summer with friends. After reading the many delicious things you all like to share with friends, I realized I need to get to know some of you better ;)

Enjoy the beautiful cookbook and thanks to Michelle from Gathering of Friends for helping out with the giveaway!!

biscuits and gravyLest I leave you without any food today, here's a shot of a recent "quick" breakfast. Not for those squeamish about calories, biscuits 'n sausage gravy are a favorite of hubby's and a delightful way to start the day. Comfort food makes everything better, don't you think? I wish I could say that I made these biscuits from scratch, but then it'd disqualify this from being a quick meal. And that'd be a shame.

We basically follow this recipe from Bobby Flay, though I add the milk in gradually to reach the desired consistency as I like things thick! I also only use 1 package of sausage and halve the rest of the ingredients. We're not gluttons here. :)

Happy Halloween everyone! Enjoy the day!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unspooky Banana Pecan Biscotti

It's almost Halloween and as much as I'd like to tell you that I have a cute & spooky creation to share with you, I just don't. Sorry. But, if you're looking for some inspiration check out this creation or this one.

Amazing, huh? Ok, back to me.

banana pecan biscottiI love Halloween. I really do. Candy. Witches. Costumes. Pumpkins. ...all the best things in life. However, I have none of these for you today. Just some very unspooky Banana Pecan Biscotti. Though I've made banana biscotti before, I figured I'd try a new recipe just to shake things up. On a random side note, how lucky are Trick or Treaters out on the west coast? Growing up in the Midwest, I still remember being devastated because I had to trick or treat with a coat on and a scarf wrapped around my neck, clearly ruining my Strawberry Shortcake costume. It's still warm and sunny here so you can dress up as anything you want! I suppose kids here don't have sledding so it's an even trade.

For those of you who haven't made biscotti, it's an easy process though time consuming due to the long and slow baking process. It's fairly foolproof because if you overbake, you'll have hard cookies....which is sort of the point. :) All in all, it's wonderful to have biscotti to dunk in your morning tea or coffee and we can't get enough of these!

I added some extra spice (surprise, surprise) and cut the amount of pecans used in half. Sometimes biscotti are too nutty for my tastes. This was a delicious recipe with a mild, sophisticated taste. The Banana Bread Biscotti I baked awhile ago were more of a dessert, while these were a better accompaniment to a steamy cup of tea or coffee. The dough was a little dry, so make sure to measure your flour lightly. We also like our biscotti a little thick so we didn't quite end up with 2 dozen as the recipe calls for.
banana pecan biscottiToday's the last day to enter the cookbook giveaway so get in while you can!

Banana Pecan Biscotti
Adapted from Cooking Light

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 large very ripe banana, mashed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Combine banana, oil, vanilla, and egg in a medium bowl; stir in flour mixture and pecans. Dough may be dry so use hands to combine.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; shape dough into 2 (8-inch-long) rolls with floured hands. Place rolls on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; flatten to 1/2-inch thickness.

Bake at 350° for 23 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. With a serrated knife, cut each roll diagonally into 12 (1/2-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 250°; bake 15 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 15 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire racks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jap Chae (Korean Glass Noodles)

As I've now already made this dish twice, I figured I should share with all of you. Do you ever find a food item that you just need? ...even if you've already made it the week before? For us that little something, that perfectly delicious discovery is dang myun, Korean glass noodles.

Not to be confused with the more common Chinese vermicelli or cellophane noodles, dang myun noodles are impossibly long and have a entirely different color (greyish) and feel. For those that are into textures, these are glassy, thick, chewy (but only in a good way), translucent and thus, the color that you want them to be. Plus, they soak up sauces and seasoning quite nicely. Google Korean markets in your neighborhood and you should be able to find them. If not, try ordering them online here.

For my vegan friends out there, these noodles are made solely out of sweet potato starch & water so they're both vegan friendly and gluten-free! This dish is versatile and allows you to use your favorite veggies, meats or tofu in the stirfry. The first time around, I used tri-colored bell peppers, cabbage and carrots for a vegetarian meal.

The second time around, I added broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, shrimp and tofu for something a little heartier. Either way, it's a delicious meal.

I used the recipe from the Culinary Institute of America's One Dish Meals as a rough guide. As all good Asian stirfries, measurements aren't exact and sometimes, the noodle dish doesn't turn out exactly the same the second or third time around. They do look different, huh? I blame the different brands of noodles I used. I suppose that's the beauty of cooking!

I'm submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by The Cooking Diva this week!

Jap Chae (Korean Stir Fry Glass Noodles) - vegetarian version
Adapted from One Dish Meals

1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
18 oz package of Dang Myun noodles (Korean clear glass noodles which are different from Chinese glass noodles)
3 scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
canola oil
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup bell pepper sliced (red, yellow or green)
2 cups shredded green cabbage
1 cup carrrot, julienned
salt, fresh ground pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water. Allow to soften for about 20 minutes. Remove from liquid and cut off stems.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions. If said directions are in Korean, try this: boil a large pot of water and allow noodles to boil for approximately 5 minutes or until soft. You may need to cut them if they're too long. Drain and rinse with cool water.

3. Fry egg in a small omlette pan and cut into thin strips and set aside.

4. Combine scallions, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil,and sugar in a small bowl.

5. Heat canola oil in a large wok and fry the onions and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and carrot and stir fry about 3 minutes. Add cabbage and continue to stir fry for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add soy mixture and continue to toss vegetables.

6. Add noodles and stir fry until very hot. If noodles look pale or need more sauce, add soy sauce or fish sauce until taste is good. Add sliced eggs and toss. Serve hot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tired of pumpkin recipes?

...well, too bad. Here's one more.

Pumpkin Chip MuffinsIn California, the sunny days and warm temperatures do nothing to remind me of Autumn. Where are all the gorgeous red and yellow leaves, the cool fall breezes, perfect football weather...even the Halloween decorations?! Pretty much, my only reminder of Fall around these parts are the comforting stews, spicy breads and pumpkin recipes I've been spotting all over the blogosphere. So, to all you cooks out there, thanks for keeping me in touch with reality.

I purchased a huge can of pumpkin in an overzealous attempt to remind myself of my once favorite season in the Midwest. Ever since, we've been enjoying pumpkin after pumpkin after pumpkin recipe. I'm not sick of it yet.

These pumpkin mini-chocolate chip muffins are a byproduct of a loaf recipe I've been making for quite awhile now. I thought I'd vary things a little by making these into bite sized portions so I could pack them in hubby's lunch.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip MuffinsAdding in a packet of fat free vanilla pudding mix keeps the muffins moist. After reading the original recipe again, I believe you're supposed to add in actual pudding, but after baking several batches of the mistake, we think we'll keep it this way! You can also halve the recipe since this will make either 2 8x4 inch loaves or a lot of muffins.

For those on a healthy kick, raisins make a good substitute for the chocolate chips.

If you haven't already, don't forget to enter here for the cookbook giveaway!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins / Bread

2 cups sugar
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1 packet of fat free vanilla pudding mix
4 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mini chocolate chips (or raisins)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Make sure to measure flour lightly and not pack it in.

Combine flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. If mixture is too dry, add in a tablespoon of yogurt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray or greased standard muffin tins. For loaves, bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; or, for muffins, 15-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.