Ugly Cookies

100_2881Do you make pretty cookies?  At one time in my life I used to be jealous of those people who made pretty cookies.  And pretty meals.  And pretty everything else.

I do not make pretty cookies.

See evidence above.

What I do make, though, is tasty cookies.  Try these tasty little things out:

 

100_2875Cream 1 stick (8tbsp, 1/2 cup) of room temperature butter with 1 cup of white sugar.  Beat 1 egg and blend in with butter and sugar mixture.

100_2877(Why yes I made a double batch of these yesterday.)

Before moving on I would like to have a short discussion about eggs:

I used to not care about organic vs. non-organic, brown vs. white, or caged vs. free range eggs.  And to be honest with you, I may not have started caring until I noticed a difference in the taste, texture, and cookability (if that’s a word) of the eggs.  Your regular run of the mill white shelled eggs from the grocery store have hardly-yellow yolks that just don’t stand up in a frying pan.  They are harder to make over-easy, and, as I have learned, are not nearly as nutritious.  Brown, free-range, organic eggs have orange-yellow yolks that are mighty.  They hold together in a pan, and stand up to a good flip for a tasty breakfast.  The darker yolk color indicates a greater concentration of nutrients in the eggs.

So, friends, I am using brown, free-range, organic, and very local eggs.  They happen to come from a friend of mine.  I know these eggs. 🙂

Anyway.  Back to our cookies:

100_2878Go ahead and add in 1 cup of Nutella.  Yes, Nutella.

I told you you would like these.

Mix together, than add 1+ cups of all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda.  I needed just a bit more than one cup of flour to get a good cookie dough consistency.

Then just for good measure I mixed in 1 cup of butterscotch chips.  Because they were just begging to be added in.

100_2879Resist the urge to eat all of the dough.

That’s an important step.

Then wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least half an our.

Use a teaspoon to measure cookies and roll into balls.  Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

100_2881Nutella Butterscotch Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup Nutella

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup butterscotch chips.

 

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat egg separately, then mix in.  Mix in Nutella.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until a firm dough forms.  Fold in butterscotch chips.  Cover dough and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure cookies with a teaspoon, and roll them into balls.  Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack.

Allez cuisine!

For those of you that don’t recognize that phrase, that is the saying that begins the cooking competition on a television show called Iron Chef.
There is an original Japanese version that is too awesome for words. Then American television thought they could remake it.
It is much less awesome.
But I digress.
The MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group I belong to held an Iron Chef competition this morning.
And by that I mean: each team was given an hour, some very common ingredients, plus a meat, and one secret ingredient to create a main dish and a dessert to be judged by non-competing members.
I like to cook, so this competition was a blast for me.
Not to mention my team won.
I just wanted to share the winning meal.
I wish I could give you exact measurements and things, but when there are six women cooking by the seat of their pants, nobody is measuring anything. But I think you can get the general idea.

Asian Style Meatballs with a Creamy Pear Lime Honey Sauce

Meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
2 slices of bread (usually stale, but we used fresh today)
1 egg
1/2 chopped onion
ginger powder
chili powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with your hands.
Yes your hands.
Meat feels good on your hands. Squish it. Love it.

Form small meatballs (about 1.5 inches in diameter) and cook them on all sides in a frying pan. Use a little oil if you are afraid of stickage. But honestly, with ground beef, you should be fine.

Sauce:
1 pear, diced small
about 1/2 cup honey
juice and zest of one lime
1/2 cup (ish???) of plain yogurt

Cook pear, honey, lime juice, and lime zest of medium high heat to reduce a bit. Let cool and stir in yogurt.
**We were given regular old Dannon, but I think Greek yogurt would make the sauce a bit creamier.

We served these crazy meatballs over some white rice with soy sauce and garlic powder. The pear sauce was poured generously over the top of both.

Word of the Day: Nutella

Madeline has been learning new words every hour, it seems. She picks up two, three, and four syllable words on the first try, these days.  One of her new words today was “Nutella”.  Why?  Because we made brownies.

You’re welcome, Small Group friends. 🙂

I searched Pinterest for recipes with Nutella because I have a large jar and will eat it by the spoonful if I don’t put it into something.  I found this:

http://www.motherthyme.com/2011/08/nutella-brownies.html

This super simple recipe used a full cup of Nutella.  I was pleased.  And the brownies came out delicious.

I promise I only tasted the scraps.

Click the link and head to Mother Thyme’s blog to see the recipe; I won’t copy her recipe here.  That’s plaguerism, folks.

The best part about making these brownies this afternoon, though:  making them with Madeline.

100_2438And letting her lick the spoon. 🙂

Pretty Purple Pesto Pasta

Or we could call this dinner with alliteration.

Just after I had my sad Food Waste Friday when I threw away some moldy basil, my mother-in-law bequeathed me with one of the most beautiful herb plants I have ever seen:  purple basil.  The leaves are much larger than traditional basil, but the flavor is basically the same, though not quite as strong as the traditional.  Now that I have access to live basil I won’t have to worry about wasting the fresh, clipped stuff in my fridge.  I’m thrilled!

In celebration of this gift, I made a pretty and tasty dinner with it.  I like to call it:

Pretty Purple Pesto Pasta

2 cups purple basil leaves

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmesan, asiago, or romano cheese

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 box uncooked pasta of your choice

 

First things first:  I put on a pot of water to boil for pasta.  This is how every good Italian meal really starts, isn’t it?

I began the sauce by peeling and chopping my garlic.  It helps me to get out a day’s frustrations; the screams of a clove of garlic cannot be heard.

I put those in the food processor, then rinsed and dried my basil.  I wasn’t too crazy about getting rid of all the water on the leaves, but I just didn’t want soaking wet leaves to clog up the food processor.  I then put them into my glass measuring cup (judgment welcome) to make sure I had enough.  Please admire with me the beauty that is purple basil.

I put the basil in the food processor, along with the balsamic vinegar and pulsed until everything was fairly well chopped up.  Then I drizzled the olive oil over everything and turned the food processor on to make the mixture form a paste.  Traditionally, one would drizzle the olive oil in while chopping, but my food processor flings things everywhere; the difference in method didn’t seem to affect my pesto at all.

This was the luscious purple goodness I had blended.  It was a bit soupy, but not enough to really coat any pasta.

By this time, my water was boiling, so I threw in about 1 tbsp of salt into the boiling water (because your pasta should cook in water as salty as the sea) and put my pasta in, stirring for the first few seconds so that it didn’t stick together.  I chose spaghetti for this particular dish because I just love long pasta.

When the pasta was cooked to al dente (literally “to the tooth” in Italian) I drained it, but reserved about 2 cups of the starchy pasta water with a cup placed next to my colander in the sink.

After placing a little bit of the pesto in the bottom of the pasta pot, I put the pasta back in the pot, then the remainder of the pesto on top.  I then put a little bit of the pasta water in the pot and stirred everything up.  There is no way for me to tell you how much pasta water you will need; it depends on how thick your pesto comes out and how well it can coat your pasta.  But start with a small amount and add little bits until you can toss the pasta and coat each strand with the purple goodness.

Once the pasta was mostly tossed and coated, I put in my grated cheese.  Because the pasta is still very warm it gets a bit melty and gives the sauce a very nice texture and flavor.  Toss to distribute the cheese.

Finally, I served my pasta in bowls with a few leaves of purple basil as garnish alongside some romaine salads.

If you don’t find yourself in possession of purple basil, you may use the recipe to make regular old green pesto.  Just use lemon juice in place of the balsamic vinegar.

Try this recipe and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Wait! You Made This???

I literally hear that every time someone tastes my bread.  Apparently bread is one of those foods that people are terrified to make themselves because they think it will either 1.  be too difficult or 2. take too much time.  I’m going to tell you that, honestly, it’s not that difficult to make a tasty sandwich bread and it doesn’t take too much active time*.

I start with these ingredients:

*(Please take note of my giant bottle of honey and 1 lb bag of dry yeast.  Clearly we are members at Sam’s Club :-D)

First, I put 2 1/2 cups warm water in my mixing bowl and add 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast.

While the yeast is yeasting, I put 1/2 stick or 4 tbsp of butter in a small pan over medium heat to melt it.

Next I’ll put in the sweeteners.  You’ll notice that I use some blackstrap molasses in my bread.  This ingredient has two purposes:  first, it tastes nice in small quantities, and second, it adds iron to the bread.  I would not suggest using only molasses to sweeten your bread, though; it can have a strong flavor in large amounts.  The recipe I use calls for 1/4 cup honey, so instead I use 1tbsp blackstrap molasses and 3 tbsp honey:

Then I’ll add 2 cups of flour.  Normally I use about half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, but I had used up all of my whole wheat flour before today’s adventure.  So both cups were all-purpose flour.  I also throw in 2 tsp of salt, just for good measure. 🙂

When the butter looks like this:

Then I pour the butter into the mixer bowl and mix with the dough paddle attachment on low until the ingredients come together.  (There may be a few lumps, but that’s ok.  They’ll work themselves out later.)  Your dough will look like this:

Then I add another 2 cups of flour.  Typically I use 1 cup of whole wheat and 1 cup of all-purpose, but again, we’re only using all-purpose in these pictures.  I mixed on low/medium low until that was incorporated:

then add enough flour to make a dough.  This is usually between another 2-3 cups of flour (so total count so far is 6-7 cups of flour.  Your dough will look pretty much like this:

Please notice that the dough is clinging to the mixer blade.  That is the sign that you have enough flour.

I sprinkle about 1/4 cup of flour on the counter and knead the dough on it for 5-10 minutes, then return the dough to the bowl.  I cover it with a damp kitchen towel for 1 hour.

After it has risen, I punch the dough down (yes, that’s literally what it sounds like):

and split the dough in half.  I grease two regular size loaf pans with butter.  I find butter greases the pans better than oil, and once the bread is done baking I am able to turn the pan and have the loaf slide right out.

Working with one half of the dough at a time, I flatten (or you could roll) the dough into a rectangle about the size of a regular sheet of notebook paper:

Than I roll the dough into a cylinder, starting with the shorter edge.

I pinch the edge of this roll closed, and then fold the ends of it underneath the dough itself and pinch that.  (The pinch helps the dough to form a solid loaf and not have random appendages.)

(

(Dough rolled up)

(Ends pinched to center)

I repeat this process with the other half of the dough.

I then cover my loaves back up with the damp kitchen towel and leave them for half an hour.

My risen loaves looked like this:

I bake my bread for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  And it comes out looking like this:

This bread is really tasty!  It’s soft, sliceable and great for sandwiches or toast.  Here’s the full recipe:

Sandwich Bread

6-7 cups of flour

2 1/2 cups warm water

1 1/2 tbsp yeast

2 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 honey/sweetener

1/2 stick/4 tbsp butter

Mix water and yeast in mixer bowl.  Melt butter.  Add honey/sweetener, salt, butter, and 2 cups of flour to mixer bowl.  Mix on low until combined.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix until combined.  Add the rest of flour and mix until dough comes together.  Turn dough out onto counter and knead for 5-10 minutes.  Put dough back in bowl and cover with a moist kitchen towel for 1 hour.  Punch down dough and separate into two pieces.  Grease two loaf pans.  Form a loaf out of each half of the dough by flattening out rectangles and rolling them up and pinching the edges and folding in the ends.  Cover loaves again with moist towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Enjoy!

Tomorrow’s adventure:  Some talk about things I’ve learned that breastfeeding does to your body.

A Tasty Idea

Delicious Salad of Awesome

This was my lunch yesterday.  You know you’re jealous.  Baby spinach (courtesy of Sam’s Club) with avocado, sliced provolone cheese and a homemade sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette was one of those recipes I think up on the fly to use up something I have in my fridge.  On Monday night we ate Pioneer Woman’s Grilled Chicken and Roasted Pepper Paniniand had some of the tasty sun-dried tomato spread leftover.  I wrapped it up in hopes that I’d find something to do with it or make the panini again soon enough that it wouldn’t go bad.  Well, I was in luck!  When I was throwing together my salad yesterday I remembered that tasty spread and thought “man, that tasty spread might just make a tasty salad dressing”.  Lo and behold, it did.  I tossed the spread back in the food processor along with a few splashes of red wine vinegar and some water and pureed until liquidy by still a bit chunky.  It coated my greens with a smoky flavor, plus left chunks of sun-dried tomato on top of my salad for my consuming pleasure.  This particular experience has led me to share this recipe:

Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

8 sun-dried tomatoes

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1-2 tbsp water

salt and pepper to taste

Place ingredients in a blender and food processor and blend/puree until desired consistency.  Pour over salad and enjoy!

Tomorrow’s adventure:  Cleaning interesting smells out of one’s vehicle.  Do onions really work?  To find out, tune in tomorrow.