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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ginger Cookies


I am not the biggest fan of ginger in baked goods (although I absolutely love it when in stir fry.)  My sister-in-law, on the other hand, loves ginger bread, ginger cookies, ginger anything.  So for her birthday, I decided to make her a batch of these cookies - from a cookbook that she actually got for me for my birthday this year.  I wonder if she knew that her birthday present to me would become a birthday present to herself.  If so, she is truly devious.  Anyway, these cookies are very good (if you like your baked goodies with ginger.)  The coarse sugar on their outside that makes them look oh so pretty also makes them oh so sweet, but I think that it works as a nice counter to the spiciness of the ginger.  The chocolate and apricots also add a nice touch - taste and texture-wise.

Ginger Cookies
from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day

1/2 cup large-grain raw or turbinado sugar
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (more like shavings)
2 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
2/3 cup light brown sugar
2 Tbsp peeled and finely minced ginger
1 large egg, well beaten
1 cup dried plump apricots, finely chopped

Put the large-grain sugar in a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt.  Heat the butter in a saucepan until just barely melted.  Stir in the molasses, brown sugar, and ginger.  The mixture should be warm but not hot at this point.  If it is too hot to the touch, let it cool a bit before whisking in the egg.  Pour this mixture over the flour mixture and add the apricots.  Stir until barely combined.  Stir in the chocolate.  Chill for about 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees with racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Scoop out the dough in exact level tablespoons.  Then split those pieces of dough in two and roll each between your palms into a ball.  One at a time, drop each ball into the large-grain sugar and roll it around until coated evenly  Then roll around between your palms again before placing each on your baking sheet a few inches apart.  Bake the cookies, two sheets at a time, for 7 to 10 minutes, until puffed up, fragrant, cracked, and the bottoms are golden brown.  The recipe says that it makes 48 cookies, but it produced almost double that.  These would be fantastic with a hot cup of tea.








Happy Birthday, Jen!
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Scalloped Herb Potatoes


This is another special occasion dish because it is super delicious and not all that healthy.  Lots of butter, cream, and cheese.  (If it had some sour cream, it would be a Paula Deen recipe.)  So this dish only makes an appearance occasionally.  But I'm happy when it does because it truly is delicious.  This is a great addition to the Thanksgiving dinner table, so I decided to bring it to a pot luck we are going to on the night before Thanksgiving (a spoiler.)  It's a good dish to bring because it can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead and I can just throw it in the oven so it's ready right before we leave.   People responded well and the dish disappeared.  The herbs and sweet potatoes absolutely turn this dish into something special.   Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are all in here, so cue the Simon and Garfunkel music and get cooking.


Scalloped Potatoes with Herbs
from Bon Appetit, November 2008

1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thin rounds
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thin rounds
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sage, finely chopped
1 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 cups, packed, coarsely grated gruyere cheese (about 5 oz)


Butter a 13x9x2-inch baking dish and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all the herbs in a small bowl.  Mix salt and black pepper in another small bowl.  Also, mix all your potato slices together so that the yukon golds and sweet potatoes are distributed evenly among the dish, making for a well-balanced bite.  Combine the cream, butter, and garlic in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Then remove from the heat.  While the cream is coming to a simmer, put half of the mixed up potato slices to the prepared baking dish, distributing and spreading evenly. Sprinkle with half of the salt-pepper mixture, then half of the herb mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, salt-pepper mixture, herb mixture, and cheese. Pour the cream mixture over gratin, pressing lightly to submerge the potato mixture as much as possible. (Mine was basically only half submerged - it didn't matter at all.)  Cover gratin tightly with foil. Bake 35 minutes. Uncover and bake until top of gratin is golden and most of liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes (in my case it waited about an hour) before serving.



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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tacos


This is my favorite slow cooker recipe.  It is the absolute best way to make shredded chicken for absolutely any Mexican dish - chicken tacos, chicken quesadillas, chicken burritos.  You can use this to top a salad, simply put it over rice, or even stuff peppers.  It is extremely versatile.  Most importantly, it is extremely delicious and extremely easy.  Throw the ingredients into a slow cooker at night, turn it on in the morning before you go out, and come home to dinner ready and waiting.  You can use any kind of bean that you want (or omit them entirely) and you can add frozen corn (I omitted it from the recipe because we don't care for it.)  It's rare for me to find a slow cooker recipe that I like.  This dish is an integral part of my cooking repertoire.  I hope you like it as much as I do.   I could not stop eating these tacos.

Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tacos
from Budget Bytes

1.5 lbs chicken breasts
1 jar of salsa
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Fixins' for the tacos:
Taco shells
cheese
guacamole
hot sauce
cilantro

Throw all the ingredients in a slow cooker and combine.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  Shred the chicken with a fork and mix until everything is thoroughly combined.  Serve with all the taco fixins'.  Alternatively, you could make some rice and either wrap everything in a tortilla as a burrito, or serve in a bowl for a lower calorie version.  Enjoy!


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Monday, November 12, 2012

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Quiche



My favorite quiche recipe in the entire world is from the Whole Foods Cookbook.  It is a potato, spinach, and pine-nut quiche with sage (Mmmm...sage.  It's a lovely, warm touch.)  The recipe also calls for a store-bought pie crust.  I swear I will make my own one day, but it's just SO much easier to by the ready-made one and it tastes really good.  Besides, I am usually making this for an easy dinner.  Once I start making pie crust, it ceases to be an "easy" dinner.   Anyway...once I started cooking for my husband, I had to get rid of the pine nuts.  He hates them as much as I love them.  He says they taste like dirt.  So sad.  But you know it's true love when you stop cooking with a beloved ingredient.  To make matters worse, when I went to the store this morning, I forgot the uber-necessary potato.  @#$&.  So out of this forgetfulness was born the roasted tomato and spinach quiche.  Fingers crossed...and the result....was delicious, but not as delicious as when it is with the potato.  Make this with a delicious side salad to round out the meal.  Also, this quiche reheats amazingly in the toaster oven.  Enjoy a nice slice of leftover quiche for lunch.

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Quiche
adapted from the Whole Foods Cookbook

1 9-inch frozen ready-made pie crust
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups fresh spinach
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tomato, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (or use 1 red bliss potato, cooked and sliced instead - it's actually better this way)
additional olive oil, salt, and pepper to roast the tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange tomato slices on parchment lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with some olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.  Lower the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the pie crust from the freezer and let thaw for 10 minutes.  Prick the bottom with a fork and bake in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.  Saute the garlic for a couple of minutes and add the spinach, sage, salt, and pepper.  Cook stirring constantly until the spinach is just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  In a small bowl combine the cheeses.  In another bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs.  When the pie comes out of the oven, sprinkle the bottom of the crust with 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture.  Top with half the spinach mixture.  Place the tomato slices on top of the spinach.  Add half the remaining cheese and then the rest of the spinach mixture.  Top with the rest of the cheese.  Then place the pie on a baking sheet and pour the egg and milk mixture into the crust.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly before cutting and enjoy!






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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


I went to the mall today and was perusing baking dishes - held a pretty blue one in my hand for awhile and debated purchasing it - decided against it because I really don't need another baking dish.  I have a perfectly good one.  Fast forward five hours later...I had a perfectly good one.  This post does not have a happy ending.

On my list of "Things I Love" are brussels sprout trees...and thankfully they are back at Trader Joe's.  I love brussels sprouts, but seeing them right on their stalk makes me love them even more.  They are oddly intriguing.  So after being all revved up to eat my delicious brussels - after preparing them and waiting the 45 minutes for them to roast - I dropped the whole thing on the floor.  I haven't been this broken up over food since the great Mexican Wedding Cookie incident of 2007.  The sadness lingers.  At least this blog can serve as some mild (and free) therapy.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

One stalk or package of brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet or dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Cut your brussels off the stalk if necessary.  Cut the ends of the brussels and remove any dark green, dirty, or bruised leaves.  Put them in your prepared dish and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake for 45 minutes, tossing frequently to make sure they brown evenly.  Remove from oven.  Do not drop on floor.


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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie


About a year or so ago, before I was blogging, I was scrolling through food blogs and came across this peanut butter pie everywhere I turned.  All the food blogs were posting it - extremely unusual.  Turns out that a food blogger had just tragically lost her husband, Mikey.  This was his favorite dessert and so everyone was making a "pie for Mikey" to show their love and support.  After I finished crying, I decided to make one too.  It quickly became Jim's favorite as well.  It has everything he loves all in one dish...peanut butter (check!), cream cheese (check!), homemade whipped cream (check!), chocolate (check!).  One day, I will try it with reduced fat cream cheese and reduced fat condensed milk instead of the full fat that the recipe calls for so that we don't feel as bad eating it, but not when it's his birthday...which is tomorrow.  I don't want to risk a failed attempt at making this healthier for us on his birthday.  I've already decreased the sugar by more than half the original recipe because it was way too sweet for us.  So now it is perfect and I am afraid to mess with it just yet.  Until then, this is a serious indulgence - which is okay by me.  I only make it once or twice a year, and when I do, it always reminds me to appreciate everything on a daily basis - including yummy pies and especially my husband.  I myself learned very recently after losing my 56 year old father suddenly to a stroke that you never know when you might lose the ones you love most in this world.  You may not even have a chance to say goodbye.  So eat this pie with those you love and savor every moment with them.

1 8 oz box chocolate cookies
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 oz any kind of chocolate chips (I use 60% dark)
1/4 cup unsalted and dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use natural)
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice


Put the chocolate cookies in a food processor and process into fine crumbs.  Melt the butter and combine with the cookie crumbs in a bowl.  Press the mixture into the bottom and an inch up the sides of a 9-in spring form pan, making the crust of the pie.  Melt 4 oz. of the chocolate chips (I use the microwave on 20 second intervals.)  Pour it over the crust and spread around so it covers most of the bottom.  I tilted the pan around to do this because when I used a spatula or knife it would take up the cookie crumbs.  Now sprinkle the chocolate with most of the chopped peanuts, reserving some for the top of the pie.  Place the pan in the refrigerator until you are ready to pour in the filling.


Put the heavy cream in a medium bowl.  With a hand mixer, beat on high for about 3 to 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.  Place this bowl in the refrigerator as well.  In another bowl, combine your cream cheese and peanut butter.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar on low speed until combined.  Then add the condensed milk, vanilla, and lemon juice.  Beat on medium speed until combined and smooth.  Now add 1/3 of the whip cream.  Fold this into the mixture to lighten it before adding the rest of the cream.  Fold all the cream in gently.  Pour this filling into your pan.  Melt the rest of the chocolate chips so you can decorate the top of your pie with chocolate and peanuts as desired.  When all done, put the pie in the refrigerator at least three hours or overnight so it has time to set.  This pie is worth the wait!


















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