Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This was not a combination I thought I'd be so in love with.  But they're wonderful.  A good chocolate flavor, but not overpowering, a perfect texture and oat goodness from the oatmeal and a sprinkling of coconut really come together in a soft, chewy cookie.  And I used coconut oil for the first time.  I think it really enhanced the coconut flavor in the cookies--in a subtle and good way.  Coconut is not one of my top flavors, but these cookies were a perfect chocolate/coconut combination and I think the oatmeal really helped cut the intensity of either flavor.  While Dave, Madaline and I enjoyed these cookies, Ernie was simply delighted by them.  I made several other things the weekend I made these and apparently everything else paled in comparison.

It's Foodie Pen Pal time again and I was tasked to send a package to Barbara at Summer Sensations. If you want to know more about Foodie Pen Pals or join in the fun of getting a package full of fun stuff from a fellow foodie and sending one of your own to another foodie, visit Lindsay's blog at The Lean Green Bean.  When I asked Barbara her favorite cookie flavor, she immediately responded coconut and chocolate chip.  I'd remembered seeing a recipe from Maria at Two Peas and Their Pod just a few days earlier and that sealed the deal on sending a sampling of these cookies tucked into Barbara's package.  I was the lucky recipient of a package from Donna, who is a blog reader from Annapolis, Maryland.  I had to chuckle when I opened the lovely package.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Homemade Seasoning Mixes

It never ceases to amaze me how simple it is to make at home some of the packaged mixes that you pick up a the grocery store.  When I posted the Bacon Ranch Broccoli Slaw last month, I got a few questions about the ranch seasoning mix in the photo, since it was in a mason jar and not a branded package.  So today we're looking at making a couple of my kitchen staples from the other kitchen staples in my pantry: ranch mix and taco seasoning.  These are two things I use all the time, seeing as Dave and I eat Mexican food all.the.time. and I like to use the ranch mix in different crock pot meals or even just stirred into a container of sour cream for an easy veggie dip.  These two versions replicate their store-bought counterparts and serve a couple of purposes.  You likely have all the ingredients in your pantry already, so it's going to be cheaper for you to make them at home than drop a buck or more for one serving of each of these (there's about a 1/4 cup of each mix in a store-bout packet).  And, if you know how to make it at home, there's no need to run to the store when you realize you have all the ingredients for a recipe...except the seasoning packet.  (You've been there.  I have, too.  It sucks.)  And finally, you can control the quality and freshness of the spices and herbs going in, which also lets you tailor it slightly to your taste.  Want a taco seasoning with more kick?  Use a spicy chili powder.  Done and done.

These recipes from Jamie at Self Reliance by Jamie got pinned ages ago, but I had a big jar of both mixes to use up, so I didn't make them until recently.  And on occasion I'll still use Penzey's Taco Seasoning because it's got a slightly different texture and season to it, these are my go to options when a recipe calls for a packet of the stuff.  It's cheaper, it's easy, it's likely fresher, and it's nice to know exactly what's in the packet (and what's not).  You can scale the ingredients to make bigger batches if you tend to use a lot of it.  Just store in an airtight container, label, and be the cook who made the entire dish, including the seasoning, from scratch!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream

I promised you I would do something delicious with those cookies.  And here it is.  Creamy, delicious homemade vanilla ice cream studded with chocolate cookies that would give any other cookies and cream ice cream a run for it's money.  I made this while Dave was away on a business trip.  It was the first day of a week-long trip.  I emailed him to tell him that while I made ice cream and it was freakin' awesome, there may not be any when he got home because I might need to eat it all (I was good--there was plenty left to share with him by the end of the week).  The custard for this ice cream cooked up beautifully and the ingredients were so simple.  This is the kind of recipe that convinces you to buy an ice cream maker if you don't already have one or to go hunting for the one you own but haven't used in ages.

When the World Peace Cookies failed on me, I knew the only thing they'd be good for was cookies and cream ice cream, but I was uninspired and couldn't bring myself to make it a priority.  And then Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker slapped me in the face with this gorgeous recipe and practically forced me to make it immediately if not sooner.  Seriously, I think she posted the recipe at the beginning of the week and by the end of the week I had this wonderful treat.  Rarely am I inspired by a recipe to make.it.right.now.  But resistance was futile.  And I had ingredients in my fridge and cookies in my freezer that called out to be crumbled into a delicious frozen dessert to counter the hot summer weather.  Although my ingredients were light cream and skim milk, I still used them and would you believe the results were still undeniably creamy and just as good as I imagine their heavy and whole counterparts would be?  Another slight change is that when I added the cookies, I took about 2-3 cookies and crushed them to finer crumbs rather than chunks.  I stirred these crumbs into the ice cream base before layering them in my container alternating with the bigger chunks.  I just love that speckled look of cookie crumbs taking over the lovely vanilla ice cream.  If you haven't made homemade ice cream yet, start with this recipe.  It's easy and the results are magical.  You'll never buy store-bought cookies and cream ice cream again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

World Peace Cookies

Confession: These cookies did not bring me peace.  In fact, they made me want to punch walls.  I don't know what I did, but I couldn't get this recipe to turn out right.  The dough was so crumbly, which I expected from a sable cookie, but this was pretty bad.  So of course when I cut them they just fell apart.  Which of course made them hideous (you know how I love pretty cookies--I hand selected the ones for the picture above.  Most were a crumbly mess.)  And to top it all off, as much as I love chocolate, these cookies were a fail in the taste department too.  The richness of the dark chocolate was completely voided by the dry texture from the cookie, even though they weren't overbaked.  I don't understand. This was just one of those kitchen debacles that has no reason other than it happened on a day that ended in "y."

Since this recipe is ubiquitous on the web, I'm not going to share were I got my version from.  I will tell you that I googled "world peace cookies" and this recipe matched at least 6 others on the web.  I just don't feel right crediting someone for my inability to get the same results even though I followed their directions exactly.  However, I do think I can salvage these into something else.  While I work on that, leave me a comment if you can tell what I did wrong or to share your experience with these cookies!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tequila Lime Marinated Chicken

I love grill season.  Well, for us grill season is year round or unless there's so much snow on the deck we can't find the grill. But there is something awesome about grilled meat in the summer.  Plus I feel like we use more marinades and made more interesting food on the grill in the summer than in the winter.  In the winter it's just throw some steaks on the grill and make sure they're cooked so you can get back in the house.  But this Tequila Lime Marinated Chicken is awesome.  Lots of flavor going on in that marinade and it all blends beautifully while it's cooked on the grill.  And to top it off, once you put the meat on the grill, you can cook the reserved marinade to make an awesome sauce like nothing else you've had before.  The tequila shines, but is still cut by the lime and the slight heat from the chili powder. It's quite a combination and we used the sauce as a vinaigrette for our salads.

For our wedding shower, my Mom bought Dave a couple of cookbooks. This recipe comes from Marinades and Rubs: 40 Tantalizing Recipes to Stimulate your Palette and Add Sparkle to Your Meals from the Love Food Collection.  It's easy and accessible, with ingredients you likely have on hand.  I whipped this up before work one morning and let it sit all day.  When I came home, Dave had the chicken grilled perfectly, boiled down the leftover marinade and together we built these killer salads.  We will certainly use this again--maybe this winter when we're in need of a little summer sunshine.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Watermelon Lime Sorbet

The heat of summer has even the most dedicated cook swearing off the kitchen.  If it can't be prepared without turning on the oven or stove, it's quite possibly not worth eating (at least at the moment).  So what's a blogger to do when she wants to create a post to share but doesn't want to start a battle between the oven and the air-conditioner?  Make a frozen treat!  Even if it does require a little stove top cooking, these fruity, sweet treat is totally worth making.  And possibly worth a little brain freeze to enjoy.  The lime flavor gently cuts the sweetness of the watermelon, but still lets the fruity flavor shine through.  And a frosty dessert is always a win in the July heat.

I got into the habit of picking up a watermelon whenever they were on sale this summer.  I'm so glad I did because they've been exceptionally sweet.  While I haven't grown tired of munching on chunks of fruit, when this recipe came into my Pinterest arena, I knew I'd be making it right away.  Shaina from Food for My Family did an adorable thing by scooping out the pulp of the watermelon and freezing the sorbet in the rind so that she could create sorbet slices.  While cute, it looked like a lot of work for just us to enjoy at home.  Although I may try it for a party in the future.  Shaina's recipe is great and  I did adjust the sugar a touch since the watermelon was plenty sweet, but otherwise it's straightforward.  It you're looking to cool off, look no further than this tasty, fruity sorbet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cookies & Cream Bars - No Bake

Soft, chewy and chocolatey.  I think that's good enough, don't you.  I love the sweet creaminess from the Oreo cookies and how chewy they are.  Simple and delicious--and no bake, perfect for summer.  These bars are essentially made like Rice Krispies Treats, subbing in cookie crumbs for the cereal.  My friend Kate had a birthday last month, so I knew I needed to send her some treats.  She loved these bars, texting me the morning of her happy day proclaiming she had Cookies & Cream Bars for breakfast. 

Like any good friend trying to figure out what the birthday girl would like, I stalked her Pinterest board...and found a recipe that I had pinned.  Which was perfect, because I really did want to try these treats from Sweet Pea's Kitchen.  Christina had a really good idea for these bars and I'm thinking of taking it further, perhaps using Nutter Butters for a full on peanut butter chewy bar.  But this time around, I stuck with the original only adjusting to use Double Stuf Oreos.  I think they extra cream from the cookies balanced the intensity of the chocolate very well.  If you need a treat for a summer gathering but are loathe to turn on the oven, make it easy on yourself and whip up these bars.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bean & Cheese Burritos with Crock Pot Refried Beans

Lovely refried beans from scratch, made in the crock pot no less, and a delicious bean and cheese burrito perfect for lunch.  Easy, delicious, and wholesome, knowing everything that's going into these recipes, what's not to love?  Super filling and full of flavor, this a is a great recipe.  You can make it in two parts, starting the beans a head of time and either freezing or refrigerating them until you are ready to make the burritos.  Or make just the beans and use them for some other fun recipe, like a warm bean dip or as a side for enchiladas or some other fun dish.

Through a weird twist of fate, I was again assigned to Heather from Fit Mama Real Food for this month's Secret Recipe Club.  Since I posted Heather's hummus in May, she has welcomed her beautifully adorable Hunter.  But before he came along, Heather loaded her freezer full of quick meals for her and her husband to help keep them fed and happy while caring for their new little bundle.  While I thought about going back to some of Heather's recipes that caught my eye last time I spun through her blog for Secret Recipe Club, I stopped at Heather's post on stocking her freezer because she posted a refried beans recipe.  Not only that, but she posted something to do with the great big quantity of beans (freezer burritos!) and I knew Dave and I would love these.  You know our devotion to Mexican food and I thought these burritos would be perfect lunches for me to take to work or easy for Dave to grab and heat up when he has a busy day working from home.  So it's a two-for-one post thanks to Heather's perfect bean recipe and her excellent way to consume those beans!  I thought these were perfect as is, but definitely adapt the burritos to your liking (maybe a little less beans and toss in some shredded chicken). 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Butterfinger Cookies

I like candy and I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite candy bar.  It would have to have chocolate, but I wouldn't be able to choose between a caramel and nut filling, a soft chocolate nougat, or a crunchy peanut butter center.  But no matter what kind of candy bar I choose, my favorite way to enjoy any kind of candy is to pair it with my absolute favorite treat: cookies.  So these cookies are  true treat, with a texture that mimics the Butterfinger candy bars as well as lots of peanut buttery yumminess sprinkled throughout.  They have a crunchy texture and lots of flavor--a perfect summer picnic cookie.

When I saw this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, I went out of my way to pick up a bag of fun sized Butterfingers.  I really liked the way this recipe came together and thought Maria did a really good job creating the perfect cookie based to feature the chopped Butterfingers.  I made the mistake of pulsing my mix-ins in the stand mixer rather than stirring by hand--don't do that!  I was concerned about crushing the cereal and chopped candy bars, so they didn't get distributed throughout the dough as well.  I ended up needing to go in a stir by hand anyway, so I should have just done that from the beginning.  These crispy cookies come together pretty easily and taste amazing.  Grab some Butterfingers and get baking!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crock Pot Banana Bread

It's summer.  It's hot.  You'd like to be a good little baker and whip up a tasty banana bread for your family or to share with friends, but, like I said, it's hot.  Turning on the oven is about as appealing as snuggling under a blanket in wool pajamas right now.  What to do?  Well, you could use your crock pot.  I know, the idea of using a crock pot to bake is mind-blowing (my mind was totally blown), but it absolutely works and the result is a perfect bread with a moist crumb, baked through and without the wet, sticky crust you might think would happen.  There's good flavor in this bread, which could be adapted by adding nuts if that makes your heart sing.  I brought this to a meeting at work and shared leftovers at home.  Madaline just about fell off her chair when I told her I made it in the crock pot and she's been patiently waiting for me to post the recipe!

I found this recipe on Pinterest from Maggie at Smashed Peas and Carrots and just had to try it.  It comes together just like any quick bread.  Only the baking method is different.  I did add a bit of cinnamon and baking spice to the batter for an extra flavor kick.  It didn't occur to me at the time, but a teaspoon of vanilla would likely go a long way too.  I also attempt to create a crust on top using cinnamon sugar.  What I didn't realize was that as the bread bakes in the crock pot, it bakes over the top of itself, so the cinnamon sugar topping ultimately became a tunnel of cinnamon sugar inside the bread itself, which was definitely not a bad thing.  In fact, it's give me some ideas for future crock pot bread with tunnels of flavor inside.  You have to try this, if for no other reason than to impress your friends that you baked tasty bread in the heat of summer without ever turning on your oven.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Turkey Enchiladas with Corn & Chile Sauce

As I've said before, Mexican food is a favorite in our house.  We generally have it at least once a week, but it will often make more than one appearance on the weekly menu.  And these enchiladas are definitely a favorite among our many Mexican dishes.  The turkey is perfectly spiced and you can adjust the heat to your liking by varying the chili powder and salsa. Rolled into tortillas with cheese and topped with a perfect sauce, you'll love how flavorful these are.  The sauce deserves it's own time in the spotlight--it's just so good.  Corn, chiles and cilantro play well together in this creamy sauce that you'll want to eat by the spoonful.  But I recommend actually putting it on the enchiladas and then going to town.

Last summer, Dave and I visited our friends Kate and Andy (you remember Kate, she's the one who gave me this fabulous recipe).  Kate was kind enough to make us dinner and treated us to these delicious enchiladas.  Which Dave immediately fell in love with (I like them a lot too). So asked Kate for the recipe which she shared (I don't know where she got the recipe from), and then I made these right away.  And again before the week was out.  They really are that good.  I've often added a can of black beans to the turkey mixture (you'll notice I actually have a can of beans in the ingredients picture but forgot to add them to this recipe), just to bulk them up a bit and add another level of flavor.  Either way, this is a great recipe that's quick to put together. These enchiladas are a pretty frequent member of our dinner rotation and if you like Mexican, you'll be hooked, too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, so I know maple isn't exactly a summertime flavor, but did you really want me to wait until October to share these with you?  They are still delicious and have a soft texture, sweet maple glaze and a touch of maple mixed into the cookie paired perfectly with the nutty oats.  These were also in the package I sent to my Dad and my brother, but I kept a few back for Dave and I to enjoy. These would be great with a little cream filling for a variation on a oatmeal cream pie.  Yup, that soft and delicious.

I pinned this recipe of Valerie's from une Gamine dans la Cuisine because I knew Dave would enjoy the maple flavor and my Dad would love the oatmeal variation.  It's a perfect recipe and I was intrigued that Valerie ground the oats--almost to a flour--before adding to the dough.  I really wanted there to be some maple flavor in the cookies themselves, so in lieu of almond extract, I used maple flavor.  I also added a bit of maple flavor to the glaze.  My glaze was significantly thinner than Valerie's, but still quite tasty.  If you want a glaze that stiffens up a bit faster and doesn't just pour over the edges, try adding a bit more powdered sugar or starting with a 1/4 cup of half and half and adding more until you get the consistency you like.  These are a lovely version of a strong oatmeal cookie that you can adapt with different enhancements and add-ins, but I think the maple flavor is perfect enough.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Patriotic Rice Krispies Treats

Looking for something fun and festive to take to a last minute get together today?  These are just basic Rice Krispies treats dressed up in red, white and blue to celebrate today's festivities.  Cute and layered, these treats are sweet and crunchy.  Plus no bake is always a win on a hot day, right?

Among all the other festive Fourth of July recipes that have been circulating the interwebs over the last few weeks, these made the rounds and I loved them for their ease and great colors.  The first place I saw this recipe was from Lil' Luna.  Luna makes her treats from the traditional recipe, but divided the ingredients into thirds and colored one part red and one part blue.  I'm not sure how I failed at this concept, but I couldn't get my first layer to coat properly and I was concerned about my layers not smoothing out evenly.  So I improvised.  I increased the cereal by 50%, but doubled the butter and marshmallow components.  The result is a soft and chewy bar with a little extra sweetness that still puts a smile on your face.  I did get a little help from Dave adding in the food coloring so I could keep stirring, so this is a great recipe if you've got little helpers in your kitchen.  You probably have all these ingredients in your kitchen, so whip up a batch before you head to today's cook-out!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Boston Baked Beans

There's something about baked beans that just screams summer.  They are a backyard barbeque staple and perfect with just about any barbeque main dish.  Especially hot dogs.  Warning: these beans are so good your hot dog bun might just become a delivery vehicle for beans.  Sweet but still spiced and loads of smoky flavor from the bacon, these beans beat anything that comes in a can.  And yet they are still easy because you make them in your crock pot!  Beats heating up the kitchen on a hot summer day.  Throw this together in the morning before your cook out and go about the rest of your business, by the time the burgers and dogs come off the grill, these will be perfect and ready for your picnic buffet.

Stephanie, my source for all things crock pot over at Crock Pot 365, shared this recipe with adaptations for bacon or sausage.  She went the sausage route, but there's just something about bacon that just makes me (and Dave) smile.  Plus it's more traditional for Boston baked beans.  I used a 4 quart crock pot and pinto beans, rather than kidney beans.  My ingredients picture shows 2 big cans of beans, but the quantities listed are based on Stephanie's recipe.  But this can be easily adapted to make more beans if your gathering is large.  We make these beans often and you'll definitely enjoy these for your summer gatherings.