Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Dirty" Rice

The first time I had “dirty rice” was in college when my Texan roommate made it from a Zatarain’s box. She couldn’t believe that I’d never had it. It was pretty spicy for me then, but I think my taste buds have gotten more acquired to spicy foods since I’ve been in college—I love spicy food!
So with the plentiful stock of turkey sausage I have in my freezer (thank you sale on Jennie-O), I thought I’d make my own homemade “dirty” rice. Since I’m not from Louisiana, nor have I ever been there, I doubt my “dirty rice” was authentic at all (that’s why I keep using “quotes” around “dirty”). But it was still tasty!

Normally “dirty rice” has chicken liver or giblets (gag me!), which give the dark “dirty” color. It also includes green bell pepper, onion, and celery and is sometimes topped with parsley or green onions.
Well, my version is a whole lot healthier, with brown rice, turkey sausage with the fat drained off, and a whole load of veggies. I used a whole package of sausage, because we were eating it as a main dish. If you’re making it for a side, I’d recommend using about half the amount.

“Dirty” Rice
[recipe by me]

2 cups brown rice, uncooked (or leftover rice)
3–6 links of hot Italian turkey sausage (depending on how meaty you like it), casings removed
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2–3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
2–4 green onions, chopped (optional)
Cajun seasoning (I used Cajun's Choice Blackened Seasoning)

Cook rice according to directions.
Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and cook turkey sausage, crumbling, until browned. Can drain off some oil if desired. Add bell pepper, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are translucent, about 5–7 minutes.
Add rice to skillet and stir to combine. Liberally add cajun seasoning, to meet your desired heat.
Serve topped with green onions.

Dirrrrrty rice, done pretty clean! ;)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pretzel M&M Cookie Bars

Last week I made Pretzel M&M Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod. They were good, but turned out flat. This week, I wanted to make these Chocolate Chip & Pretzel Cookie Bars (check those out—she tops them with melted chocolate and peanut butter, to taste similar to Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream) from Brown Eyed Baker. But I only had half the amount of pretzels I needed, so I was resourceful and added some Pretzel M&Ms, and they turned out yummy! Better than the cookies I made the week before, and not flat at all!

Chocolate Chip Pretzel M&M Cookie Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup mini pretzel twists, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Pretzel M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Using a mixer, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about one minute. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in flour, soda and salt, until just incorporated. Stir in the pretzels, M&Ms, and chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the pan and press it down evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in pan.

These were really good warm, but we liked them even better the next day, when they became chewy! Great with a nice cold glass of milk!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

The other night I wanted taco soup, but wanted to change it up a bit from the usual. It turned out a little broth-ier (totally not a word!) than usual, but was still plenty filling with beans, chicken, peppers and hominy (or corn). It was such a good flavor, a good change from regular taco soup—I was surprised how spicy/flavorful it was for how broth-y it looked! Definitely a winner! I started with this recipe, but changed it quite a bit, so here's mine.

Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

1 13 oz. can of chicken (or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 each red and green pepper, chopped
1–2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped (I used canned, 1–2 Tbsp)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
11 oz can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, (or diced tomatoes and 1/2 can of green chiles)
1 14-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-oz. can hominy, or corn, drained
1 Tbsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups chicken broth
Juice from 1/2 a lime
Toppings: sliced green onions, cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a soup pot. Add onions and saute 1 minute. Add all of the peppers and garlic, saute two minutes. Add spices and mix. Add tomatoes and mix. Add chicken broth, chicken, beans and bring to a simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add lime juice and let simmer just a few more minutes before serving.
Top with desired toppings and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two Potato Salad with Spinach

I like sweet potatoes and yams, so this recipe, originally from the Food Network, intrigued me. It's a little spicier than your typical potato salad, and the sweet potatoes make it, obviously, sweeter. The spinach adds some nice color, and you don't notice it too much in the salad, since you also have crunchy celery and green onions. And it's healthy, subbing greek yogurt for most of the mayonnaise. Here's the recipe, with my changes.

Two Potato Salad with Spinach

1 lb. sweet potatoes (I used yams), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes (I used white), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt (or mayo or sour cream)
2 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
1–2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I prefer less mustard)
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced (I just used hot sauce, to taste)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried (I subbed marjoram)
4–6 oz. baby spinach, chopped roughly
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled, optional (I didn't have this)

Put the sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes in 2 separate saucepans. Cover the potatoes with water, add 1/2 tsp salt to each pot, and bring the pots to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are just cooked through and tender. The Yukon gold potatoes should be finished in about 12 minutes, the sweet potatoes will take a little longer, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in green onions and celery. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper, if needed.
When potatoes are completely cooled, toss in the potatoes and spinach.
To serve, garnish with bacon.

Let us know how you like it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lettuce Wraps 2

So I know this is the second lettuce wrap recipe I've posted, but these are quite different than the other recipe. The other recipe used shredded chicken and a bottled sauce. This recipe uses ground turkey (or chicken), and a homemade sauce. The homemade sauce wins my vote!! I added more veggies to mine (shown as the "optional" ingredients). The original recipe (from changeable table) claims it's a "clone of the real-thing," and tastes just like P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps. Well, I don't totally agree with that, but they were close, and still good. This makes a great light dinner, or a fun appetizer.

Lettuce Wraps

1 lb ground turkey or chicken
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 white onion, chopped
2–3 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbsp)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2–1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 stalks of celery, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup carrots, grated (optional)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (in the Asian section of the store—don't skip this! Or you can make your own*)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp chili paste, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, etc. (I used hot sauce)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, optional
Iceberg or Bibb lettuce

A few hours before, core lettuce and rinse. Wrap in a paper towl, then in plastic and chill well. You want crisp lettuce!
In a large skillet, brown turkey with chopped onion. Before fully cooked, add celery and bell pepper. Cook until turkey is cooked through. Drain if desired (you might not have to if your turkey is lean).
Add water chestnuts, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Continue to heat and stir until well blended and heated through. Add sliced green onions and heat just until they begin to wilt. Sprinkle with nuts and place in serving bowl and keep warm.
Separate lettuce into leaves, trimming of excess if desired. Place on plate. Serve with any oriental sauce of your choice (optional).

*How to make your own Hoisin sauce:
Mix together:
5 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp bean curd paste, or peanut butter (who has bean curd paste?!)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp hot sauce

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lime and Coconut Crumble Bars

These have got to be one of my all-time FAVORITE desserts. Buttery, sugary crust, tart lime filling, and a coconut crumble topping?! Yes please!!

I'd been eyeing the recipe for a few days (thank you Baking Bites!), so when some friends stopped by last-minute, I whipped them up. However, I forgot to take into account the cooling we ate them slightly warm, and guess what? Still GREAT! But they are better room temperature, or even from the fridge!

These are a THOUSAND times better than regular lemon (or lime) bars. As in, I'd reeeeeeally have to be craving regular old lemon bars in order to make them over these babies.

So make them, would you? Please?

Lime and Coconut Crumble Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rolled oats, old fashioned or quick
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free!)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, or lemon juice (for me this was about 4 limes)
2 tsp lime zest, or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until everything comes together in a crumbly mixture and flour is evenly distributed. Mix in oats and coconut. Mixture will be somewhat dry and crumbly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and lime zest.
Put 2 cups of the oat mixture into the bottom of prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Pour lime mixture on top and spread evenly. Crumble all remaining oat mixture oven the top of the lime mixture, covering completely.
Bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool completely on wire rack before cutting into squares.

*Note: If you want to make a 9x13-inch pan, just double the recipe!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder

This recipe has similar flavors to the Summer Corn Fettuccine recipe I recently posted, which is why I loved it! I usually don't like eating soups in the summer, but when it's such a fresh summer chowder, how can you resist?! Sweet corn and yellow squash, celery, and salty bacon and cheese on top make it the perfect summer meal. And it was easy!

Look closely and you can see the slices of squash (they look like cheese at first glance).

I made this soup even healthier by using fat-free half-and-half, and I love how rich and creamy the blended corn makes it! I added canned chicken to make it more filling and it was great!

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder [from Cooking Light]

1/4 cup chopped celery (I think I used more, like 2–3 stalks)
1 pound yellow summer squash, chopped
3–4 ears of corn, with corn sliced off, OR 1 pound frozen corn kernels (thawed)
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or thinly sliced (or 1 large can of chicken)
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1 cup fat-free half and half (or 2 1/4 cups low-fat milk instead of fat free milk and half and half)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
2 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped, for topping

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add squash, celery, and 1/2 cup of green onions to the pan, saute until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.
Reserve 1 cup of corn; set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk (and half and half), thyme, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to blender and process until just combined. Add pureed mixture, chicken, and reserved 1 cup corn to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Ladle into bowls and top with bacon, remaining green onions, and cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

I served this chowder with homemade wheat French bread. Mm, mm, good!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rating: Tuscany

We were recently invited to dinner at Tuscany, an award-winning Italian restaurant in Cottonwood Heights, with Senga and Joni. It is a large and beautiful dimly-lit restaurant surrounded by a forest (well, not really a forest—just trees), which makes for a secluded, picturesque dinner. It’s also a popular wedding dinner/reception venue (we only got a glance of the patio outside, but it looked large and nice). We had heard of it and were excited to go, since we'd probably never go there ourselves!
So let’s get to the food. As an appetizer we had a flatbread topped with smoked salmon. It came out and I was surprised to see caviar on top! This was something we’d never tried...

and honestly probably won’t try again. We like to try new things and branch out, but neither of us cared for the fishy taste. The appetizer as a whole was fun to try as well, but we think a lover of smoked salmon (which neither of us are) would like it better.

[I’m apologizing for the poor quality of the photos, it was really dark inside, so some are blown out with the flash, and some are dark—Photoshop only fixes so much.]

The salads were fresh, with a light vinaigrette. They were good.

Time for the main course. The presentation was great on all the dishes and when they came to the table we oohed and awed.

Stew ordered the biggest rib-eye I've ever seen (good thing Stew didn't eat the whole thing, he would have had a heart attack!) was cooked perfectly and was tender and juicy.

I got the salmon crusted in pancetta pesto. But honestly, I don't think it was pancetta or tasted like breadcrumbs to me. But it was still delicious salmon! Right up there with the best salmon I've had (made by friends Ryan and Lisa—Ry's a pro at grilling salmon)!

Senga and Joni both got white fish, one was the fish of the day, the other is halibut (not sure which is which). We had a bite of them and they were really smooth and delicious.

We tried three different desserts. Stew got the strawberry shortcake, which was probably our favorite dessert out of the three, with a dense more savory cake to compliment the sweet strawberries.

We also got peach cobbler, which I was disappointed with because it wasn’t even hot! I’ve never had cold cobbler, and in my opinion, the best part of eating cobbler is the hot cobbler and cold ice cream!

We also tried the creme brulee, which was a good creme brulee with a thick sugary crust on top.

We left pretty full, and honestly could have done without the desserts, but it was a nice (nice meaning fancy and tasty) dinner.

Here’s our official rating:

If you get the chance to dine at Tuscany, let us know how you liked it!

Thanks again Senga and Joni for the great dinner and company!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zucchini Noodles

Here's an easy "replacement" for pasta, for all you low-carbers, gluten-free-ers, calorie-cutters and healthy eaters out there, and it's actually pretty good. Well, good as in "this doesn't taste at all like pasta but it's fun to eat and tastes good." Stew didn't really love it though...maybe because this is pretty much all we had for dinner, with some leftover meat...and then Stew had a pb&j. ;)
So don't eat ONLY this, but this would be a good veggie side to an Italian meal, like chicken parmesan or something. These noodles weren't my idea, I got the idea from some blogs I follow, then followed a simple recipe on eHow.

Zucchini (about one regular sized zucchini per person)
Green onions (I cut some really long and thin and added them in for flavor, but I didn't love the texture of them)
Olive oil
Garlic (to your taste)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Tomatoes or tomato sauce, if desired
Grated parmesan cheese, if desired

Wash the zucchini (obviously). With a vegetable peeler, grate zucchini length-wise, rotating it to keep it round (so you get thinner noodles). Use as much of the zucchini as possible (the seedy center is a little hard to grate so I left it out). Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and let it cook until it's a little brown and soft. Add zucchini to the pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until thinner slices look translucent.
Add salt and pepper, tomatoes or tomato sauce to taste (not too much to overpower the zucchini). Top with cheese.

Now how easy was that?!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Easy Stir and Roll Pie Crust

This flaky pie crust is a snap to make, and it tastes SO good! And since it uses oil instead of butter, it's a *tad* healthier!

Stir and Roll Pie Crust

* Measurements for a 2-crust pie are first (I use that the most—even if I'm just making a one-crust pie because it seems like there's not enough dough in the one-crust pie to cover the whole pie pan! I think they're making pie pans bigger these days!), and measurements for a 1-crust pie are in brackets.
2 cups flour  [1 cup flour]
1 1/2 tsp salt  [3/4 tsp salt]
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp oil  [4 1/2 Tbsp oil]
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp milk  [2 1/2 Tbsp milk]

Mix flour and salt together with a fork. Measure milk and oil together, but DON'T stir. Pour liquid all at once over flour mixture. Stir GENTLY with a fork until mixed. Don't overmix. Roll out between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Invert into pie plate.
For single-crust pie: prick bottom and sides with fork several times and bake for 8–12 minutes at 375º, until lightly browned.

*Note: I always make a 2-crust pie, because my pie pan is bigger and the 1-crust just isn't enough. With the leftover pie dough, I roll it out, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on it, and bake it on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, until it's lightly browned. Then I cut it into strips. It's a fun snack while you're waiting for your pie!

Banana Cream Pie

I LOVE my mom's banana cream pie. I really think it's the best I've tried, but maybe I'm just biased. ;) What's interesting is this banana cream pie has a vanilla pudding base, not banana—but I think that's what makes it so good, because there's no fake banana flavor! Another great thing? You probably already have all the ingredients! And do you know what I love? It's a pretty healthy dessert, because my mom uses skim milk every time and it turns out great! Here's the recipe for everyone to enjoy!

Banana Cream Pie

Pie crust (see next post)

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk (can use fat free!)
5 egg yolks
2–3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vanilla
1–2 bananas (if you prefer more or less)

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy saucepan (before turning heat on). Gradually whisk in milk. Crack egg yolks into separate bowl (in case of shells, and you can pick the thick white part attached to the yolk out if you don't like those), then vigorously whisk into milk mixture until no streaks appear.
Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Return to heat, whisking occasionally, and bring to a simmer and cook for one minute or until thickened (it usually takes longer than one minute until it gets thick, and don't skip this, otherwise the pie won't set).
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
Cool slightly with waxed paper or plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Layer pudding and bananas over baked pie crust, starting with bananas (and make sure all bananas are covered with pudding so they don't brown). Chill thoroughly (at least 2–3 hours). Serve with whipped cream.

My mom makes this pie all the time (it's so easy!) and it's a favorite at our house—hope it becomes one of yours!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rating: The Savory Palate

We got an email a couple weeks ago from Britnee at Intrepid Agency (a marketing and communications company), who said we might be interested in The Savory Palate. The Savory Palate is a culinary student-run restaurant at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City in Draper, Utah. During the quarters, they are open Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch, by reservation only. They serve a high-end three-course meal for only $12.95.
Of course we were interested! After emailing her back and forth, she offered to treat us to lunch at Savory Palate! Needless to say, we were very excited and planned to go the earliest we could.

The restaurant is located in the Art Institute’s campus, on the second floor. It is a pretty small dining area, with about ten tables.

There is a big glass window into the kitchen, where you can watch the students prepare your meal (Hell’s Kitchen-style, only without Gordon Ramsey yelling).

I got to peek inside the kitchen!

The restaurant is decorated with red and black, to match the Art Institute's colors. The tables look kind of wedding-receptionish, with the mirror under the vase (not necessarily a bad thing).

On to the food! The students create the menu, and there are 3 choices of appetizer and dessert, and two options of entree.

First we were each brought a piece of a multigrain baguette, with a chive butter.

The appetizers we got were the raspberry fruit dip and a salad.

Both were good, and really fresh ingredients (they use local ingredients and take advantage of seasonal farmer’s market foods). Nothing was really unique or blew us away about the appetizers, but they were good and we were satisfied.

Next came the main course. We got both dishes; Stew got scallops with pasta, and I got a lemon chicken with potatoes and carrots.

Scallops are a classic “culinary school food,” and the student that cooked our scallops had it down—they were cooked perfectly and Stew really enjoyed them. There was an assortment of pasta in the dish, including squid ink fettuccine, which was a fun addition. I personally think the dish would have been more impressive if there was only squid ink pasta and not a mix.

The lemon chicken dish really surpassed everything, though. The chicken had been marinated in lemon juice and herbs, then breaded in flour, spices and red onions. The flavor was so bright and fresh; the chicken cooked perfectly and was tender and juicy. It was absolutely outstanding and we enjoyed every bite! The yukon gold potatoes and carrots served with the dish were also phenomenal and perfectly cooked.

For dessert we enjoyed the cherry cheesecake and the chocolate roulade.

The chocolate roulade was a not-too-rich chocolate dessert, and the perfect portion—just enough to satisfy. I loved the presentation on this dish, with the brush of chocolate and sprinkle of sugar (even though it may have been a little "cliche" culinary school).

The cheesecake was dense and velvety smooth—perfect texture, with a substantial graham cracker crust. Even the cherry topping was delicious (neither of us really love maraschino cherries, but we liked them on the cheesecake).

At the end of the meal, we were given three chocolates the chocolate class had made. We ate these as we filled out our comment card, but they were probably the worst part of the “meal.” They looked good, but the chocolate was pretty waxy.

Other than that though, it was a great meal and we left satisfied but not stuffed, and still talking about the great chicken. I’m going to have to try to recreate that recipe...

We’ve read reviews about The Savory Palate that talk about the cliche “culinary school” presentation. And while this may be true, we were still impressed with how nice the dishes looked.

Here’s our official “rating”:

It’s not every day that we eat food this good. The Savory Palate is right up there with other really nice restaurants we’ve been to (bonus for the price!), and we’d happily dine there again!

After our meal, we got to talk to an instructor chef about the program and the restaurant. He goes to farmer's markets often to get the food for the restaurant class. Talking with him, we could tell the culinary program at the Art Institute of SLC is top-notch!

Thank you Britnee of Intrepid for treating us to lunch and introducing us to The Savory Palate! And thanks everyone at the Art Institute of SLC for the great lunch! Keep doing what you’re doing!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chocolate Oatmeal Chippers

Once again, we wanted a sweet treat, and I wanted something semi-healthy, but still chocolaty. And easy, I was exhausted. After searching my Google reader, I decided bar cookies were a good way to go, and chose the healthier of the two recipes I’d narrowed it down to. Thanks Taste and Tell for posting the recipe!
After reading the full recipe though, I found that this was a cookie recipe, but the blogger had made them into bars. It worked for her, so I did it too! She used a jelly roll pan, but I decided I wanted them thicker and chewier, so I did mine in a 9x13.
These were a little unique. Since they look like brownies, you expect them to taste like brownies; gooey and chewy.

But they SO don’t! Since it’s an oatmeal cookie recipe, they are still chewy, but they are NOT gooey, and instead slightly crumbly. They're a great cookie when you just want a cookie, and chocolate.

I still loved them, but Stew said they weren’t his favorite. He would have liked them better in cookie form, and I agree. They might have been better in the bigger pan, like the recipe I used said to do.
So here’s the recipe for the cookies, with notes of how to make them into bars.

Chocolate Oatmeal Chippers
[originally from]

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa (I used 1/4 cup dark cocoa and 1/4 cup regular—so good!)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 3/4 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375º. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs. Gradually beat in flour, cocoa, soda and salt. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets.
Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until edges are set but centers are still soft. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Bar cookies: Preheat oven to 350º. Grease 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen bars.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rating: Sweet Afton's Candy Shop

One evening we took a walk over to Gardner Village to feed the ducks. Well, apparently the ducks there are super spoiled and won’t eat our bread (it was even HOMEMADE Italian bread rolls! And if you’re wondering why we were feeding it to the ducks, it’s because we found a spider in the bag. Sad day!).
Anyway, we wandered around and into Sweet Afton’s candy store, in pursuit of fudge (they have unique flavors of AMAZING fudge: jalepeño pepper, Twix, creamsicle, etc. AND they give a free sample). We wandered around the small store (small in size, but packed with candy) and were amused with candy from our childhood, and even more amused with candy from Scotland (also from Stew’s childhood, since his mom is from Scotland). We HAD to buy some, and also got eight snowflake plates on clearance—perfect for winter holidays!

Here's what we got:

Licorice cigars.

Coconut Long Boys (we'd never had this before—pretty good!).

Toffee Crisp, turned out to be different than Stew remembered.

And...SEN-SEN! From Stew's childhood. 

Stew's mom used to give him Sen-Sen in church. Well, Stew gave me some Sen-Sen (first time, mind you), right before we taught our first Sunday School lesson, and it was GROSS!!!! I think I was making a yuck face for the first ten minutes or so. Sen-Sen is NOT for me. ;)

So if you're looking for that old candy from your childhood, or some really great fudge (I even bought a fudge tie for my dad for Father's day!) Sweet Afton's is the place!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wheat French Bread

I was feeling ambitious one day (which ended up being the ONLY day that whole week I felt "ambitious" and made a meal that took more than 20 minutes) and decided to make fresh bread to go with Summer Corn and Squash Chowder (recipe coming soon). I scoured my cookbooks, and found a french bread recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that looked easy enough, so I started. Well, I should have looked at my flour supply, because it was LOW! I did have whole wheat flour though, and was planning on using half wheat flour anyway, but I ended up using more than half because I ran out of white. The bread turned out a little denser and sweeter with more wheat flour, but it was still GREAT! Perfect for soups. We made garlic bread with the leftovers to go with pasta the next night, and I still have the second loaf in the freezer, just waiting to be made into French toast!

I let it rise longer than usual, because I biked to the store to get some corn on the cob for the chowder (I decided the frozen corn it called for was just stupid in the summer). But I think extra rise-time is better than not enough. I hate it when my bread turns out too dense.

French Bread [from Better Homes and Gardens cook book]

5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour (or half white and half wheat)
2 packages active dry yeast (which is 1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp), or rapid rise
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cup warm water (the temperature of a hot tub: 120º–130ºF)
Cornmeal (for dusting the pan)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp water

In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups of the flour, yeast and salt. Add the 2 cups of warm water to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaning flour as you can.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (8–10 minutes). Shape dough into a ball. [If you used rapid rise yeast, skip this next four sentences] Pace in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease dough surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour). Punch dough down. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide dough in half. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet; sprinkle greased baking sheet with cornmeal.
Roll each dough half into a 15x10" rectangle. Tightly roll up, starting from a long side; seal well. If desired, pinch and slightly pull/twist ends to taper them. Place shaped dough, seam sides down, on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl and with a fork, whisk together egg white and 1 Tbsp water. Brush some of the egg white mixture over loaf tops. Let rise until nearly double in size (35 minutes to 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a sharp knife, make three or four diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across each loaf top. Bake for 20 minutes. Brush again with some of the egg white mixture. Continue baking for 15–20 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove loaves from baking sheet and cool on wire racks.
*You can also make four smaller baguettes by dividing the dough into four. Just reduce second baking time to 8–10 minutes.*

Who can resist hot, homemade bread? Definitely not me (as evidenced):

Stay tuned for the summer squash and corn chowder recipe!