Monthly Archives: February 2012

That Sweet Salty Thing

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Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, & Chocolate Chip Cookies

As if I didn’t already have enough cookies around (with 200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies at my front door waiting to be sold), I decided I wanted to bake a couple dozen more.  My daughter Samantha had a friend over for a play date, so I’ll use that as my excuse for needing to bake cookies.  I have a long-standing love affair with homemade peanut butter cookies, so this Looneyspoons recipe by Janet & Greta Podleski had been calling my name for some time.  It is very simple to throw together, and the saltiness combined with the chocolate chips is totally addictive.  But with oats, peanut butter, and whole-wheat flour (in my version), it’s a relatively healthier cookie.  Oh, Samantha and her friend liked them too.

Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, & Chocolate Chip Cookies (Adapted from Janet & Greta Podleski’s Looneyspoons Collection recipe, “Cookies for Rookies”):

1 1/4 cups flour (I used 3/4 cup all-purpose and 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)

1/2 tsp each baking soda and salt

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup peanut butter (the recipe recommends light, but I used regular peanut butter)

1 egg

1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, combine flours, oats, baking soda, and salt.  In another medium bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter, peanut butter, and egg on low speed of electric mixer until well blended.  Add dry ingredients and chocolate chips and mix well using a wooden spoon.  Dough will be stiff.

Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  Using a fork dipped in flour, flatten cookies to 1/4 inch thickness.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Remove from tray immediately and cool on wire racks.  Makes 24 cookies.

Just For Me: Taleggio Truffle Flatbread

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I recently found myself cooking for one — this hasn’t happened in at least seven years (the age of my oldest child).  I figured I should take advantage and make something that would drive my kids to tears if I ever served it to them.  Let’s see…lots of vegetables, extra strong cheese, and more vegetables on top:  perfect.  The lovely White Truffle Oil I picked up at Oil & Vinegar has been burning a hole in my pantry waiting to be used, so I decided to create a new version of the mushroom and taleggio cheese flatbread that my Mom has made for us in the past.

 

Ingredients:

2 whole-grain Naan flatbreads (or other flatbreads/pizza crust of your choice)

1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups mixed sliced mushrooms (I used cremini, oyster, and shiitake)

1 10-oz container cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes

Salt & pepper, to taste

4-oz piece of taleggio cheese, rind removed

2 cups fresh baby arugula

2 tsp white truffle oil

Coarse sea salt (I like Maldon)

Preheat over to 400F.  Toss mushrooms, tomatoes, and EVOO on a cookie sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until the tomatoes start to burst, about 12 minutes, turning half way through.  Place flatbreads on a second cookie sheet and top with cooked mushroom/tomato mixture.  Dot taleggio cheese over the vegetables and return to the oven until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Toss arugula with truffle oil and place on top of cooked flatbreads.  Sprinkle sea salt on top (this is the best part).  Serves 2-3.

Taleggio Truffle Flatbread

Fat Tuesday Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

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Pumpkin Pie Pancakes

In addition to it being Fat Tuesday, apparently today is also National Pancake Day.  As if I needed a second excuse.  When I was looking for the perfect pancake recipe for our Valentine’s dinner last week, I came across these “Pimped-Out Pumpkin Pie Pancakes” from my Looneyspoons Collection Cookbook, courtesy of Janet & Greta Podleski.  It seems that everything I have made from this cookbook has me delving into the pumpkin pie spice, but there are certainly no complaints about that.  This recipe uses half whole-wheat flour (I always use whole-wheat pastry flour as it seems to result in a fluffier texture) and half all-purpose flour, plus a cup of pumpkin — so a pretty healthy and hearty pancake.  I did cut back on the pumpkin pie spice a bit as my kids found it to be strong in the granola bars we made recently.  As expected, the kids were thrilled with another “pancake breakfast for dinner” night.  And this recipe made a ton of pancakes — we’ll be eating the rest for breakfast for sure.

Pimped-Out Pumpkin Pie Pancakes (adapted from Janet and Greta Podleski’s “The Looneyspoons Collection” cookbook):

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 to 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda

1 can (14 oz) 2% evaporated milk (note, I used a 12 oz can plus 2 oz of milk)

1 cup canned pure pumpkin

1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)

2 eggs

2 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat griddle to medium heat.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl — flours through baking soda.  Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking well.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.  Spoon batter by 1/3-cupfuls onto preheated griddle that has been lighted coated with cooking spray.  Gently spread batter to about a 4-inch diameter.  Cook 1-2 minutes per side, until cooked through (this batter is pretty thick, but be careful not to burn them).  The recipe suggests serving with vanilla yogurt and pure maple syrup (we skipped the yogurt, although that sounds good too).

Fish Piccata and Lemony Pasta

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Flounder Piccata with Angel Hair Pasta

This would be a perfect dish to serve to a family that is trying to eat more fish — it is extremely mild with lemon and butter (I skipped the capers), and you can make it with whatever thin white flaky fish looks good at the store.  I used wild flounder, but tilapia, snapper, sole, and catfish would also be good.  I wouldn’t recommend a thick fish like halibut or cod for this recipe.  I had never actually cooked fish using this process of dredging in flour and then lightly pan frying in olive oil before, and it turned out so well.  The sauce was initially very strong with lemon, because I accidentally put the butter into the green beans instead of the fish sauce.  Those were some really delicious green beans (since I had already tossed them in olive oil and lemon juice!).

Both the Fish Piccata and the Angel Hair Pasta recipes are from Melissa d’Arabian.  You really want to serve them together as all the flavors combine so well (lemon, butter, olive oil, parmesan).  And if you keep some fish fillets in the freezer, this is a super easy dinner to throw together with things you already have on hand.  With the ingredient lists so short, these aren’t as much recipes as they are methods of cooking, but I’m thrilled to now know how to cook fish this way and the kids loved it.

Sweet Hearts for my Valentines

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Mini Heart Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

My kids have been pretty good guinea pigs through all this recent cooking of mine, and so it felt great to cook up their favorite for dinner on Valentines Day:  pancakes.  With NO vegetables.  Plain, buttermilk pancakes made with healthy whole wheat pastry flour, and nothing hidden inside.  They were thrilled.  I was inspired by the fun Nordic Ware pancake pan I found at Target, which makes 7 mini heart-shaped pancakes.  On the side I made a delicious strawberry dipping sauce, which tasted more like a smoothie (and it might as well have been a smoothie, as the kids ended up drinking it with straws…).  Both recipes are from Ellie Krieger.

My girls loved the mini hearts.  I don’t consider myself to be the most coordinated person, and I wasn’t sure how I would flip those little guys back into their exact spots in the pan.  So I flipped them into a second skillet, which also allowed me to have twice as many pancakes on the go.  Ellie’s advice to keep the first pancakes warming at 200F while you cook the rest was perfect.

The strawberry sauce was amazing, and so fitting for Valentines Day.  I’ll admit that 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup to a whole pound of strawberries wasn’t going to do it for our taste, so I probably used about 1/4 cup to make it sweeter.  I could eat this sauce with just about anything — fruit, toast, maybe an old sneaker.  And while this was the perfect and much needed change from routine, it will be back to vegetables tomorrow!

A Fine Time for Chili

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Chili Bean Corn Bread Pie

I love chili and love trying new chili recipes, but let’s face it — the window for chili-making in Texas is pretty tiny.  This fact just makes me enjoy it that much more.  This past weekend was unseasonably cold for February in Texas, and I took full advantage by trying out Ellie Krieger‘s recipe for Chili Bean and Corn Bread Pie.  It is a delicious vegetarian recipe with two kinds of beans, green chiles, and lots of spice.  The recipe called for ancho chili powder; I had chipotle chili powder on hand and it gave the dish a wonderful smoky flavor.  The best part is the very thick corn bread topping made with honey and buttermilk, which sweetens the whole meal when you mix it in with the chili.  I do like the fact that this is such a healthy recipe, but the extra calories added by including cheddar cheese in the cornbread would be worth it, so I will try this next time.

While I was happy that my husband liked the meal, I was most thrilled to see Romeo, my 11-year old Boston Terrier, stalking the oven while the chili baked.  He only does this when my Mom visits at Christmas and Easter (and cooks a turkey and a ham, respectively), and never for anything I cook.

Romeo, the Chili Stalker

Chili Bean and Corn Bread Pie (recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger’s “Comfort Food Fix”):

For the Filling:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp each ground cumin, dried oregano, and chili powder

1/2 tsp dried coriander

15-oz can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed

15-oz can low-sodium pink or red beans, drained and rinsed (I used pinto beans)

14.5-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with their juices

Two 4-oz cans diced green chiles, drained

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves

For the Topping:

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk

1 large egg

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, and coriander, and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.  Add the beans, tomatoes with their liquid, green chiles, salt, and black pepper and bring to a boil.  (I found the mixture very thick at this point and added a few splashes of stock).  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro and transfer the filling to the baking dish.

To make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, honey, and oil.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.  Pour the cornmeal batter over the bean mixture, then smooth the surface with a spatula.  Bake until the top is browned around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the corn bread layer comes out clean, about 30 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

Peanut Butter Cherry Granola Bars

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Peanut Butter Cherry Granola Bars

My family is a major consumer of packaged granola bars, breakfast bars, protein bars, etc. — you name it, we eat it.  They are just an easy (and sometimes healthy) snack to throw into backpacks and lunchbags.  While I love the convenience, the idea of having a healthy stash of homemade, unprocessed bars in my fridge is also appealing.  So I’m going to try a few recipes to see if I can find something my kids enjoy as much as the packaged stuff.

First up is a Looneyspoons Collection recipe called Goody Two Chews.  They are sweet, chewy, and have a big hit of pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t love pumpkin pie spice, cut it back or swap for cinnamon).  I found a video of Greta Podleski demonstrating the recipe, and I have included my version of the recipe below.  The original recipe calls for light peanut butter (I used regular) and dried cranberries (I used dried cherries); you can certainly swap in your own favorites.  For the low-fat granola, definitely try to use Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola.  It has pumpkin seeds but no dried fruit, so perfect for this recipe.  And, well, it’s delicious.

My kids did not care for these granola bars — they seemed put off by all the cherries (even though my youngest, Lauren, could eat a whole bag of dried cherries in one sitting).  But that’s okay, because that means more for me.  The combination of peanut butter with pumpkin seeds and cherries is quite addictive.  I really enjoyed these.  I tried them out on my husband and also my friend Beth, just to make sure I wasn’t biased…they loved them as well.  Perhaps the flavors are just a bit too exotic for the average kid palate.  They requested something more in the ballpark of chocolate chips and oats, so stay tuned.

Peanut Butter Cherry Granola Bars (adapted from Janet & Greta Podleski’s, “The Looneyspoons Collection”)

1/3 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

2 egg whites

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

2 1/2 cups Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola

3/4 cup chopped dried cherries

Preheat oven to 250F.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, beat together peanut butter and maple syrup with an electric mixer on medium speed.  Add egg whites and pumpkin pie spice  and beat again until smooth.

Stir in granola and dried cherries.  Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups (about 3/4 full).  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before removing clusters from pan.  Store in an airtight container.