Sunday, May 1, 2016

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks

These cookies are like soft fluffy clouds of peanut butter and chocolate. No other description is necessary, so I'll just stop right there and tell you that you should make them.

On another note, let's discuss relaxed cooking, otherwise known as the lazy girl's version of cooking. This style of cooking is right up my alley. Short and simple ingredient lists, easy techniques, and quick clean up. Now saying this, let me also say that I have been known to simplify even a lazy recipe.

For example, when making the cookie dough, Curtis says to mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl from the wet ingredients. Um, no thank you Curtis. Why dirty a separate bowl for the dry ingredients when you can add them to your wet ingredients (after mixing) with the same results? Additionally, let's talk measuring cups and spoons.  Why dirty your whole collection of measuring cups and spoons? Why not just use one measuring cup, such as a 1/4 cup measure 4 times to equal a cup and so on? And finally, why dirty 3 baking sheets when you can just use one? Can you tell I put a lot of thought into relaxed (aka lazy girl) cooking? Maybe a little too much.

Whether you make this recipe as is, or take my lazy approach, the results are amazing.  This is one delectable and addictive cookie.  Hard to stop at just one.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks
Adapted from Relaxed Cooking
with Curtis Stone
Makes between 15-20 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper, or spray them with cooking spray.

Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in two additions. Stir in the chopped chocolate.

Scoop about 3 tablespoonsful of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2-1/2 inches apart. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies puff and begin to brown on top but are still very soft to the touch. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Then use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack. Enjoy the cookies warm or let them cool completely.

Theme: April Potluck!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas {Something To Eat On The Sofa}

Ok everybody. Let's discuss the grocery store.  Lately I am not a fan. It's crowded, it's hot, they are always rearranging things and then have the nerve to install those new environmentally friendly lights that are so dim you can't see, you run into everyone you know (which is nice, but not when you're on a mission to get in and get out), and quite frankly the whole endeavor takes about half the afternoon!  Drive there, try to shop while making small talk with everyone you know because you live in a small town, go on a hunt that requires night goggles so you can see in the dark, pack it onto the conveyor belt, mess with your coupons, talk to some more people you know, pay and mess with your coupons again, pack it out into the car, talk to some more people, pat some kids on the head, drive home, bring it all in, trip over the dog who wants to smell every bag, and finally, put it all away.  Of course all the while everyone is whining about why it took so long and asking whether I have any idea how hungry they are. Poor helpless dears.

Never fear. Rotisserie chicken to the rescue. To be honest, sometimes I just pick up a chicken and salad and throw it at everyone when I walk in from the grocery because I simply have nothing left in me. However today I was craving something I could eat on the sofa, because quite frankly, after that shopping trip, that is where I plan to spend the rest of the day. I am officially done!

Thankfully everyone is a fan of a chicken quesadilla and Curtis Stone's Barbecue Chicken Quesadilla works for the whole family. Tortillas (flour or corn), Monterey Jack cheese, shredded chicken, your favorite barbecue sauce, cilantro, and diced jalapeno, and don't forget the sofa.  Put your show on, get your plate, lay back and enjoy! Unless of course you simply have to get up and make yourself another quesadilla, which is entirely possible since these are so delicious!

Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas
Adapted from Relaxed Cooking
by Curtis Stone
Serves 4

Four 10-inch diameter flour tortillas
2 cups coarsely shredded roasted chicken
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
room temperature butter, for frying

Preheat the oven to 250F. Arrange the tortillas on a work surface. Divide the chicken, cheese, cilantro, and jalapeno among the tortillas, scattering the ingredients over half the tortilla.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste, and drizzle the barbecue sauce over the top of the filling.  Fold the uncovered half of the tortilla over the filling to form a half-moon shape. Butter the outside of the tortilla, if you wish.

Heat a large flat griddle pan (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Place 2 quesadillas on the griddle. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the tortillas are golden and the cheese has melted.  Transfer the quesadillas to a baking sheet and keep them warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining 2 quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve.

Theme: Something To Eat On The Sofa

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Madhur Jaffrey's Egg Masala

This is one of those recipes that's been on my to do list for years.  For some reason it always seemed more involved than what I felt like doing. I suppose the ingredient list was too long, or perhaps I didn't feel like rifling through my spice cabinet for all the spices. Whatever the case, I built this recipe up, when in reality it is actually very simple.

Hard boil a few eggs, make some rice, and top it with a VERY spicy tomato sauce brimming with loads of cayenne pepper, and you have one fiery breakfast that is sure to put a pep in your step! Believe me when I say, you will be thankful there is rice to help cool things down.

This is a tasty breakfast that is full of spice and really wakes you up. I think it would be perfect to serve on a Sunday morning and I imagine any leftovers would keep well and be just as tasty reheated and served the next day.      

Hard-Boiled Eggs Masala
Adapted from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking
by Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 2-4

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
 pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 tablespoons onion, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup canned chopped tomatoes 
1/4 teaspoon sugar
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into halves lengthwise

Combine the cayenne, turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Mix.

Put the oil in a medium-sized, nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds. Ten seconds later, put in the onion and ginger.  Stir and fry until the onion turns medium brown.  Put in the spice paste. Stir and cook for 15 seconds.  Now put in the tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer. Now put in the tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Put in the cilantro. Stir once or twice. Lay the cut eggs in the sauce and spoon more sauce over them.  Cover and simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Curtis Stone's Pasta with Spicy Italian Salami, Baby Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are beginning a new journey. For the next six months we are going to be cooking the recipes of the very talented, and quite handsome, Curtis Stone. In order to prepare for this new kitchen adventure I ordered his three latest cookbooks, each one more beautiful than the last. As I'm prone to do, I spent the afternoon looking through each of the cookbooks, taking notes and tagging recipes. I managed to jot down pages upon pages of recipes I wanted to make, but there was one recipe that stood out among the rest.  One recipe that begged to be made first.

This Pasta with Spicy Italian Salami, Baby Tomatoes, Olives and Capers was THE recipe that caught my eye the most. I'm not even quite sure why. Maybe it was the flavorful slices of salami, or the briney black olives, or perhaps the whole dish reminded me of southern Italy and my deep longing to visit one day. Whatever the case, this was a delicious dish and one that begs to be made again. With all of the flavorful ingredients you really don't need the cheese, but I'm of the belief that cheese makes everything better- so I added little balls of bocconcini. With cheese, or without cheese, you simply can't go wrong. Serve it hot, serve it warm, serve it's all delicious!

Pasta with Spicy Italian Salami, Baby Tomatoes, Olives & Capers
Adapted from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone
Serves 4

20 cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces spicy salami, such as Sopressa Vicentina, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup extra-fine capers
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 to 10 ounces rigatoni (or other short shape) pasta

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the tomatoes on a small baking sheet and drizzle with the 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until they begin to split. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

While the water is heating, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy saute pan over medium heat. Add the salami and cook for 30 seconds on each side, until light golden in color. Remove the salami from the pan and reserve.

Return the pan to the heat, add the garlic, and saute for 1 minute, or until tender. Add the tomatoes and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer for about 3 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Add the olives and capers and toss gently. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the salami and parsley.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling salted water for 8 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain the pasta and toss it in the pan with the sauce. Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to plates, spooning any extra salami and tomato mixture from the pan around the pasta, and serve.

Theme: G'day Curtis!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Healthy Five Layer Mexican Dip and My Top Five Ellie Krieger Favorites!

THIS DIP IS EVERYTHING! I'm serious. It's soooooooooo good that my mom and I ate half. We simply could not stop. If you crave Mexican like we do, but are looking for healthier options then this is YOUR recipe.

Creamy black beans, with just the right amount of heat from a chipotle pepper, are the base for this dip. The next layer is corn mixed with a little onion, garlic, and cilantro. On top of the corn is mashed avocado with lime juice, followed by a fresh salsa made from tomatoes, jalapeno, and scallions. The fifth layer is all about some cheese. I like to use an extra sharp white cheddar because it delivers big in the flavor department and you only have to use a little.

That's it! Grab a chip (or a bowl full) and I guarantee you will be tempted to eat way more than your fair share of this dip. Gather a little bit of each layer on your chip and you will have the perfect bite!

Five Layer Mexican Dip
Recipe found on Food Network
by Ellie Krieger
Makes 12 -1/2 cup servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon minced chipotle pepper in adobo
4 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups corn kernels (10-ounce box frozen corn)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 ripe avocados
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno pepper, optional
3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar
Tortilla chips, for serving

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until they soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more.

Put half of the onion mixture into a food processor with the black beans, chipotle pepper, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, cumin, water and salt. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Add the corn to the skillet with the remaining onion mixture and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro leaves.

In a small bowl mash the avocado with the remaining lime juice. In a medium bowl toss together the tomatoes, scallion and jalapeno, if using. Season tomato mixture with salt and pepper, to taste.

Spread the black bean dip into the bottom of an 8 by 8 glass baking or serving dish. Top with the corn mixture, spreading it out to form a single layer over the beans, repeat with the avocado, then the tomatoes. Top with cheese. Serve with baked chips.

Per 1/2 cup serving (not including chips): Calories 140; Total Fat 8 g; (Sat Fat 2 g, Mono Fat 3 g, Poly Fat 0.7 g) ; Protein 5g; Carb 16 g; Fiber 5g; Cholesterol 6mg; Sodium 245 mg

My Top Five Ellie Krieger Dishes

It has been a wonderful six months cooking the recipes of Ellie Krieger. The recipes below were my favorites, as well as one honorable mention! Goodbye for now Ellie!
(click on the recipe title to be directed to the original post)

 Number One
 Ellie's version of White Chili is fabulous and comes in at the very top of my list! Maybe it's the hominy, which I discovered and fell in love with, but this is my favorite chili recipe!

Number Two

I am constantly craving Mexican food and this Five Layer Mexican Dip has it all and still manages to be healthy! This is going to be my new go to dip for all parties and potlucks. Love it!

Number Three

Ellie's Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes made the top five because I ate them straight off the sheet pan, but they were even better playing the starring role in my Roasted Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette. This was easily my favorite salad of the year!

Number Four 

If you're looking for a succulent little appetizer that can be made the day before, is pretty, and somewhat healthy, then look no further! These little Italian Sausage Skewers are just the recipe. I'd like to pop one in my mouth right now.

Number Five 

My fifth favorite Ellie recipe was this tasty and hearty Tuscan Lentil and Macaroni Salad. I made this salad on Sunday, packed it into mason jars for my lunch, and made everyone in the teacher's lounge jealous at lunchtime. I never got tired of eating it and just a little bit was more than enough to satisfy.

Ellie's Broiled Chicken Wings deserve an honorable mention. If you're craving chicken wings and trying to be healthy, this is a great option. They are every bit as good as a fried wing.
Theme: Goodbye Ellie!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Potato and Ham Fritters for Easter Brunch

Every time I go to Costco I buy one of their spiral sliced hams. As soon as I come home I put it right in my special roasting pan and when it's done we descend on it like a pack of vultures. It is something that all five of us (my mom, my husband, myself and both of my kiddos) just love. When the ham is ready it is a tradition for us to stand over the pan as we eat, tearing off piece after piece until we can't possibly take another bite. The kids pretty much giggle their way through the ham because they know this is the only time they don't have to practice their manners.

Try as we might, there is always lots of leftover ham - which is always good to have on hand.  I usually leave some of the nicer sliced pieces for sandwiches and chop up the rest for omelets, casseroles, and dishes such as these Potato and Ham Fritters. The ham keeps well in the freezer and thaws within minutes, making it very convenient for those days when you have little on hand.  It has become somewhat of a go to for me.

If you are lucky enough to have a little leftover ham from Easter, you can easily put these fritters together. You probably have all the necessary ingredients on hand: potatoes, peas and/or spinach, cheese, eggs, garlic, and oil and/or butter for frying. I love that you can make these your own by changing or adjusting amounts. I opted to add the cheese to mine because I love how well cheese compliments ham. I enjoyed mine dipped in some Dijon mustard (another good compliment to ham) while everyone else seemed to enjoy theirs as is. We really enjoyed these and I think you will too!

Potato and Ham Fritters
Adapted from Donna Hay website
Makes 6 small fritters

3 average Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon rind
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 peas or chopped spinach
1/2 cup chopped ham
canola oil & butter, for frying
fresh spinach, for serving

Place the potato in a medium sized saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until tender when tested with a skewer. Drain and roughly mash. Set aside to cool.

Place the cooled potato, garlic, onion, lemon rind, eggs, peas or spinach, and ham in a bowl and mix to combine. Heat a large skillet (I prefer cast iron) and drizzle in enough canola oil and butter to fry the fritters (I used about 3-4 tablespoons oil and a little knob of butter). Shape about 1/4 cup of the fritter mixture into a round cake and fry. Shape the remaining mixture and fry in batches, if necessary, until the fritters are golden brown. Serve with the spinach. Should make around 6 fritters.

Theme: March Potluck!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tuscan Lentil and Macaroni Salad

Spring is an awkward transition. Mornings usually start out near freezing, but by afternoon it's hot as Hades and nearing 80F.  You never know whether you want to wear you parka and winter boots or your capri pants and flip flops. Likewise, in the morning you've got your hot cocoa in hand while having visions of piping hot pot roast and mashed potatoes for dinner. However, by the time you leave work you are sweating in your winter clothes and visiting the ice cream stand. You simply just can't win! This salad reminds me of spring. Hearty enough to satisfy, yet light enough to keep you on your toes.

Whole-grain pasta and green lentils are the heart of this salad. Whisk up a light and refreshing Dijon vinaigrette; toss in some carrots, artichokes, and tomatoes and you will have one delightful pasta salad that is perfect for picnics and/or packing in mason jars for your lunch. I think this salad would be equally delicious with white beans in place of lentils.  I also think some black olives would make a nice addition.

Tuscan Lentil and Macaroni Salad
Adapted from You Have It Made
by Ellie Krieger
Serves 6

2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 cup green lentils
2 medium carrots, diced
8 ounces whole-grain elbow pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons champagne or white vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
One 10-ounce package frozen artichokes, thawed, drained and chopped OR
1 jar quartered and marinated artichoke hearts
1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes, quartered OR
2 roma tomatoes, deseeded and chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Combine the broth and lentils in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add carrots and cook until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape, 5 to 10 minutes more. Drain any remaining liquid and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook for 1 minute fewer than it says on the package directions. Drain, toss with 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, oregano, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the pasta, lentils and carrots, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and parsley and toss to combine.

This salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Stir well and add a splash of vinegar before serving if desired, as the acidity tends to fade over time.

Serving size: 1-1/2 cups; 360 calories; 11g total fat; 15g protein; 55g carbs; 12g fiber; 0mg cholesterol. Excellent source of: fiber, iron, manganese, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K

Theme: Green Eating!
Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen