Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Soft and Fluffy Peanut Butter Cookies


Cookie time!

I remember, very clearly, the first time I realized that baking wasn't just tossing some ingredients together and throwing them in the oven. I was young, in elementary school I believe. Third or fourth grade. My childhood best friend and I decided to make some peanut butter cookies. In what kind of house are third graders allowed to pull everything out of the cupboards and turn the kitchen into a demolition zone? A house where my friend's mom ran a boutique out of the downstairs of their house, that's where. 


My friend and I had the fantastic idea to mix flour with some milk to make a batter. Yes, when you are in third grade flour and milk sound like cookie dough. I wasn't even aware ingredients like butter, baking soda, salt, and, not to mention, SUGAR were in cookie dough. We then took the flour mixture and wrapped it around balls of peanut butter. As in, balls of peanut butter plucked straight from the jar. I remember at the time feeling excited and expecting amazing cookies. We stuck them in the oven for about 5 minutes.

What we had when we were done was oh-so gross. Squishy, doughy balls of nastiness were what we had. All that plus a blob of thick peanut butter in the middle. We tasted them, and I think we were afraid to admit defeat. "Not bad!" I told my friend. "Hmmm." she replied. The moment I will never forget is the moment that my mom came to pick me up. She pulled into the drive, and immediately had 2 very enthusiastic children running up to her car.

"Mom! We made cookies! You have to try them!" I excitedly chattered to her.


And try them she did. Her face was, and still is, unforgettable. The memory can still make me laugh. Her face said, "What the hell did I just put in my mouth??" To her credit, I don't remember her spitting out her bite. I'm fairly certain she didn't finish that cookie, though.

This is the moment I realized baking is harder than it looks. I was teased about those cookies for years. I'm still teased about them today. Luckily for you all, I've come a long way!


This batch of Peanut Butter cookies is a lot more technical than flour, milk, and peanut butter. Thank goodness right? However, this is a really, really easy cookie to make. The dough took me about 20 minutes to throw together, I took a shower while the dough chilled, and then I was ready to bake. It was a really fast process, and if you are looking for an easy, tasty drop cookie recipe to share, you've found it! I actually made this batch for my dad, since I never got around to making cookies while he was here. I shipped these yesterday, so these cookies are literally crossing the country as we speak. They may be traveling across your state as you read this. There's a good chance, it is 2700 miles from Kentucky to Oregon. 

Not to say these weren't taste tested. I do taste-test every batch.


Don't worry Dad. I only taste-tested what was necessary :)

Happy Tuesday friends!


Ingredients (makes 2 dozen cookies):

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Mix in peanut butter. Mix in egg. Mix in vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour through salt. Whisk to combine. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, mix until just combined. Cover, and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray. 
4. Using a 1-tbsp cookie scoop, drop cookies onto cookie sheet. These cookies don't spread much so I baked 12 to a sheet. Slightly flatten the cookies after dropping them. 
5. Bake in oven for 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Cookies will look slightly undone, but will set as they cool. Leave on cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before storage. 

Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.

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Linked to: Treasure Box Tuesdays

Friday, September 26, 2014

Zucchini and Brown Rice Casserole


Bring on the fall recipes! I'm full of them lately :)

But today, I want to talk cats. You know, the 4-legged, furry kind. I was a cat kind of girl growing up, but somewhere along the way things changed. I think it was when I moved in with the hubby, and so began the era of little dogs. And I love dogs. I love their intelligence, their quizzical eyes, and the way they follow you adoringly through the house, looking for any opportunity to steal some pets. Dogs fit perfectly into my lifestyle. They may chase my birds but they certainly would never have the gumption to catch one. And even if they did, they have pretty blunt teeth and nails. Cats? Cats on the other hand... I just envisioned birds and feathers flying if a cat ever wandered into my yard. I just didn't think a kitty would fit in my lifestyle.

Enter Samuel.

I sat out on the patio last night for an hour, and Sam sat on my lap. Purring the whole time. And the birds came out of the woodwork. After about 20 minutes of sitting quietly, the turtle doves descended. Then came the cardinals. And then a few finches. They all waddled along the ground about 20 feet from us, chirping and scratching for seeds. I watched Sam closely, not sure if he would try to stalk them or what he would do. He did... nothing. Just sat there and accepted his scritches behind his ears. I was pleased. When I put him down, he went straight to his food bowl. And when I came inside, he went in his little house we made for him. 

It's still early, he's only been here a little over a week. But I have a feeling Sam the Cat may become a permanent fixture around here. Back to my childhood roots, perhaps? :) And maybe, while I'm outside sitting with the kitty, I'll have this perfect-for-two casserole in the oven.

I adapted this casserole from my Cheesy Eggplant and Orzo Casserole. I mean, I had zucchini on hand, I  had brown rice on hand, and these 2 cute cassoluet pans. Why not switch up the ingredients? Indeed, the casserole did not disappoint. The hubby and I scarfed it down with nary a leftover to be seen. There's so many vegetables in this casserole that you could consider this a one-pot meal. Or serve a salad on the side with some crusty bread and butter. Either way, you're in for some good eats.

Annnnd, we are already to the weekend! What a short week! Well, maybe for me since I started blogging on Wednesday again. Ah, the life of the unemployed :)

Have a great weekend friends!


Ingredients (serves 2):

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups Arrabiata sauce (I used Trader Joes's)
1 cup cooked brown rice (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tbsp parsley, minced

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly coat 2 cassoluet pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When warm, add onion, red pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini. Sauté for 4-5 minuets or until vegetables start to soften. Add garlic to pan, and sauté for 30 seconds. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to pan, stir to combine. Add Arrabiata sauce and rice to the pan, stir to combine.
3. Distribute half of rice mixture into 2 pans. Make a thin layer in the pan. Distribute about half of both cheeses over thin layers. Cover with the remainder of the rice mixture between the 2 pans. Cover with the remainder of the cheeses. 
4. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until cheese is starting to brown and getting bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
5. Sprinkle parsley over 2 pans. Serve immediately. 


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Garlicky Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

with pappardelle and baby bellas



Ah, the first food recipe in 2 weeks. It's been too long. 

Let's talk cherry tomatoes! My tomatoes came on like crazy in September. I've made HUGE batches of marinara, spaghetti sauce, and this Roasted Cherry tomato sauce. I had my eye on a cherry tomato cobbler, but that will have to wait. I couldn't resist shoving all those red and yellow beauties in the oven to bring out their sweet flavor. 


They roasted beautifully. 


My secret ingredient? Cheese rinds! Here's one of the packages I got in Lexington. I'm already halfway through the container, that's how much I use them. I love them. I can't even put my finger on the flavor they give the sauce, all I can tell you is it gives the sauce a certain umami. If you read my blog, you know I preach about cheese rinds. Good things come in small packages. 

So, now my garden is just about done. I'm so sad! I've already started plotting what I'm going to grow next year and all the wildflowers I'm going to plant around the garden for organic gardening. It keeps me from remembering we are about to go into a very cold and desolate weather system here soon. I do miss all my green, leafy, bushy plants growing on my patio. My herbs are still going strong, and I still have to harvest a few straggler tomatoes and jalapeños. But for the most part, it's fall here. 


And fall is the perfect time for a bowl of this pasta! It's true comfort food. Roasted tomatoes. Roasted garlic. Baby bella mushrooms. Thick and chewy pappardelle pasta. And who can resist a sprinkle of garden-fresh parsley? Not this girl. This sauce takes a bit of time, but I think it's so worth it. For you busy mom's (and dad's!) this might be a weekend recipe for you. It's also one that I don't think anyone would object to. And a great way to use up a ton of cherry tomatoes. I know a lot of you out there are stuck with those!

Have I convinced you to make this yet? I certainly hope so.

Part of getting back to my routine is getting back into running regularly. So hard after vacation! But, it's going to be a lovely fall day so once I'm outside in the fresh air, hopefully it comes naturally. Ugh, reality. I loathe you sometimes :)

Happy Thursday!


Ingredients:

1 head of garlic, top sliced off
3 lbs cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
4 cups water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1-2 cheese rinds
4 oz baby bellas, sliced
2 tbsp parsley, minced

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400º.
2. Wrap garlic in aluminum foil. Place in oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to sit for 10 minutes before using. 
3. Spread cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place tray in preheated oven, roast cherry tomatoes until they begin to collapse and burst (about 15-20 minutes). You can roast the cherry tomatoes with the garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add onion. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until onions soften. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the head into the pan. Discard used garlic head. Sauté for 30 seconds. 
5. Add wine to the pan. Let wine reduce more than half by simmering about 10 minutes. There should be very little wine left before moving on to the next step.
6. Add water, salt, pepper, red pepper, and cheese rinds to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for as long as you like. I prepare the sauce early in the day and let it simmer all afternoon. 
7. Remove rinds from the sauce and discard. Add mushrooms, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve over your favorite pasta, immediately. Enjoy!



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