Lemon-Lime Bars

Although our “summer” in the Bay Area is supposedly just beginning, I wanted to get some lemon bars made at least before September arrived.  There was a BBQ on Saturday that we planned to attend (we never made it, due to Alex’s insane on call weekend, boo) and I thought they would be a great treat. I ended up eating half the batch, no exaggeration.

Lately, I’ve been addicted to buying those seasonal Taste of Home magazines that show up at Costco. I have a very hard time resisting them, even more so when they’re 30% off…. I was browsing through one titled “Best Summer Desserts.” There are 2 lemon bar recipes in the magazine- I went with lemon-lime, since I had a few limes in the fridge. The crust for these bars reminds me of a sugar cookie and the lime zest gives it a subtle tanginess.

These are a great lemon bar version that is just a teeny bit variant from the traditional version. If possible, please use fresh lemon juice, it’s so much more flavorful than store-bought, and totally worth the extra effort! Also, I halved the recipe and put it in an 8-by-8 inch baking dish- it worked great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon-Lime Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

FILLING:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the lime zest. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.Press into a greased 9-by-13 inch baking dish. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or just until edges are lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in another large bowl, beat eggs and sugar. Combine the flour and baking powder. Gradually add to egg mixture. Stir in lemon juice and zest; beat until frothy. Pour over hot crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares and store in the fridge. Makes 4 dozen.

Killer Brownies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to call these brownies “killer” because no other adjective seems to convey their power. Seriously, they are intense. Alex declared them the best brownies he’s ever tasted. My family was visiting and couldn’t stop eating them. The base is super simple, just use any box of brownie mix you have. As for the topping, this is where all the fun lies. The pretzels provide a perfect saltiness and crunch that balances out the chocolate and peanut butter. Adding a bit more crunch and texture are Rice Krispies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In place of the pretzels, you could use chopped mini peanut butter cups. Also, instead of the milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate, 2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips would be a fine substitute. And, if you wanted to get even more “killer”, use Cocoa Krispies for the Rice Krispies! These are quite rich and decadent, so I’d recommend cutting them in small squares. A little goes a long way :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Killer Brownies

1 package dark chocolate brownie mix
2/3 cup pretzels, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s 72% dark chocolate)
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Spread into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs.

Sprinkle with pretzels and peanuts and semisweet chocolate chips. Bake 4 to 6 minutes longer, or until chocolate is melted. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate, peanut butter, butter and salt. Cook and stire until the chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat, stir in the cereal and vanilla. Carefully spread over the brownies. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Mash

A wonderful resource that I use quite frequently for trying out cookbooks is the library. It’s a great way to test out a book to see if it’s worth buying. When we lived in SF, I had a massive collection available, and with a library across the street, I couldn’t resist. Now, since we live in between Berkeley and Oakland, I’m able to take advantage of both library systems! Hit up your local library, and if there’s a specific cookbook you’re looking for, search for it online and have it sent to your branch. And, if it’s not offered, you could always request it and see what happens. SO, I checked out Eating Well’s 500 Calorie Dinners and I wasn’t disappointed! The recipes are easy to follow and most include healthy ingredients that are convenient and easy to find. If I wasn’t trying to limit my cookbook additions, I’d definitely consider purchasing this book.

Like most everything else, I buy my broccoli at Costco. This leaves me searching for new and exciting ways to use it so that Alex will actually touch the stuff. I couldn’t wait to try this recipe, and I can’t wait to make it again! It’s a perfect way to get kids, or anyone for that matter, to eat their veggies. It’s a healthy take on mashed potatoes. I can’t wait for Lizzie to be old enough to try this. Actually, I can wait, she’s already growing up too fast :(

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Mash Eating Well 500 Calorie Dinners

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges

3/4 pound broccoli florets (about 4 cups)

3/4 cup shredded cheese (I used 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan)

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

ground pepper to taste

Bring an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add potatoes, cover and steam for 10 minutes. Place broccoli on top, cover and steam until the potatoes and broccoli are tender, 6 to 8 minutes more. Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl and coarsely mash with a potato masher. Add the potatoes, cheese, milk, salt and pepper and continue mashing to desired consistency. Serve immediately.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

eanut butter is one of my absolute favorite foods, and I will take any chance I can to make a baked good with it included. I’m a cupcake fanatic, I think they are the cutest things and are the perfect take-along treat, after cookies of course :) Sometimes, it can be a challenge to make a cupcake that isn’t dry, especially on the bottom! I can’t tell you how many times I remember eating cupcakes (mostly from cake mixes) that were dried out and just blah. It became almost like eating a muffin- eat the muffin top and no more. And then there are the wonderful store bought cupcakes with the pound of lard frosting on each one, and if they’re colored, that distinct color-dyed taste ( you know what I’m talking about). I’m glad the cupcake craze is still going strong to help raise the bar for mediocre mini cakes. A quick tip: if you’re in the bay area, other than SF, stop by a Teacake Bake Shop– they make an awesome cupcake, no matter what flavor you get (and the cookies are delish as well!).

Anyway, back to these lovelies. I found a screamin’ deal on amazon for the cookbook Cupcakes!, by Elinor Klivans. That lady makes some awesome little books. It must’ve been some kind of random special because I paid $1.86 for a brand new copy! I didn’t have the right ingredients for the milk chocolate glaze that she includes as the topping, so I found a perfect recipe on allrecipes instead. I had some evaporated milk that needed to be used, so I did the handy-dandy ingredient search and found a perfect fit.

The cupcakes were some of the moistest, perfectly peanut buttered treats I’ve tried. If you have any doubts about a peanut butter flavored cupcake, these will erase those thoughts.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes, adapted from Cupcakes!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter (I used Safeway brand)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup milk (I used fat-free)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until smoothly blended and lightened in color, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Mix in the egg. Add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute, or until the batter is smooth. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing just until the flour is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

 

Fill each paper liner with a generous 1/4 cup of batter, to about 1/3 inch below the top of the liner. Bake just until the tops feel firm and are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. There will be a few cracks on top. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Carefully remove cupcakes from pan to finish cooling.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons softened butter
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a medium bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth, then gradually beat in sugar mixture alternately with evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. If necessary, adjust consistency with more milk or sugar.

And, I can’t help it, I have to put up another photo of our babe :)

How to Make a Panini (sans Press)

There is a certain turkey sandwich that I am addicted to in Hollywood Studios in Disney World. It is only served at the Backlot Express, and since I’m not going to Orlando anytime soon, I’m starting to experiment on paninis at home to come up with something similar. The one above is different than my favorite sandwich, but I didn’t have all the ingredients for that, so this will  definitely suffice. One day, I’ll make that sandwich in all its gloriousness, I promise :)   Alex was quite impressed with my makeshift panini press! I can’t justify buying a real panini press, as they are kind of pricy and take up a ton of space.

Instead of the press, you can use a grill. We have the Wolfgang Puck Cafe Collection that we found at Costco a few years back. It’s great because the reverse side is smooth- perfect for pancakes! Anyway, just take your first slice of bread (no need to butter it!), spread some dijon mustard on it,  add some sliced turkey and cheddar cheese, and place it on the preheated grill. I heat my grill to 300 degrees. Place the other slice of bread (also spread lightly with dijon) on top of the sandwich, then put a paper towel on top of the sandwich. The paper towel keeps the sandwich clean. Then, find something heavy to put on top of the paper towel and press down moderately hard with your hand for about 3 minutes.

Remove the heavy object (the quiche pan, in my case) and the paper towel, flip the sandwich over with tongs or a spatula, and do the same thing on the other side for about 3 minutes. It should look like this when it’s done:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the sandwich on a pretty plate, slice it in half and garnish with a few strawberries, and there you have it- a delicious panini made all on your own!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is another first time experiment for me that I’d had in the back of my mind for some time. A while ago, Alex and I were visiting some friends and Naomi whipped these up like it was as simple as that. So, after too many trips to the grocery store and forgetting to pick up some peppers, one day I finally remembered to grab some. I did a lot of researching recipes online and in some cookbooks, and ended up just throwing together something from the various ideas I was accumulating.

I’m not a big fan of rice- we’re one of those rare households who doesn’t even have a bag sitting in the pantry. There are plenty of veggies and turkey in this dish so the rice wasn’t missed one bit. But, if you would like to add it, it would blend in just fine. Also, the frozen veggies can be interchangeable- you could use cut green beans, peas, cauliflower or whatever else you have that needs to be used. We were quite pleased with how these turned out, and I think you will be, too!

My Birthday Cupcakes

My birthday was yesterday- I turned a whole 31 years old. The bigger milestone is I have exactly one month until my due date! I’ve been seeing homemade funfetti cupcakes on a few blogs lately and they keep catching my eye. How can a cupcake that is splattered with sprinkles not be festive. These are just screaming Happy Birthday, and I knew I had to make them for myself. I felt kind of funny making my own birthday treat, but I got over it fast :)

The first place I found the funfetti cupcakes was on 52 Kitchen Adventures. I loved how vibrant the sprinkles looked inside the cakes! She got her cake recipe from Cakespy, so that was my next stop. I used the cupcake recipe as a guide, but I did make some adaptations. One was the addition of almond extract- a definite enhancement! It added great depth of flavor without being overpowering.

For the icing, it took me a while to figure out what to use. Buttercream is a great choice in which you can never go wrong, but I had some marshmallow cream that I’d been wanting to use, so I did some researching. Finally, I found a recipe in my Cupcakes! From the Cake Mix Doctor book, but I didn’t have sour cream, so I made major changes to the recipe and ended up dipping the cupcakes in the icing. It took some trial and error to get the icing to a workable consistency, but I think I got it figured out. The flavors of the cake and icing blended amazingly and I couldn’t ask for a better birthday indulgence. Oh, and some Breyer’s vanilla ice cream didn’t hurt either :)

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg, plus one egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup milk (I used fat-free)
2 to 3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkle

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. With a mixer, beat the sugar and butter until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add egg and egg white, one at a time, beating on low.  Add vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions, ending with the flour mixture. Fold in rainbow sprinkles.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting.

Marshmallow Icing

1 jar marshmallow cream
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
about 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Remove the lid from glass jar of the marshmallow cream and heat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Scrape the cream out of the jar into a mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese and vanilla. With a mixer, beat the mixture on medium speed, adding powdered sugar to thicken it enough to your desired consistency. Beat until fluffy. Dip the top of each cupcake into the icing, then decorate with sprinkles. Let the icing set for about 10 minutes before serving.

Indoor BBQ Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I was planning to get right back on the blogging bandwagon after Lizzie arrived, but it got a bit hectic around here. My family came in town for the 4th, then my mom stayed the week after. It was sad to see her go, but now I have no excuse for not cooking or baking! For my first post-partum dish, I decided it had to be from my new America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. A friend of mine couldn’t stop raving about this cookbook, so I finally caved and ordered it about a month ago on Amazon. Of course, due to my major life interruption, I hadn’t got around to discovering this miracle book until now.

Alex said this is the best chicken I have made to date. It was pretty darn good. Since I didn’t have chili powder or cayenne pepper, I used red pepper flakes. This gave it a spicy kick that blended perfectly with the sweetness of the ketchup and syrup. The ingredient list is short enough to make it worth the little extra time it takes to create your own BBQ sauce instead of store-bought, which doesn’t even compare.

I can’t wait to try more recipes out of this book. It seems like the most reliable and informational cookbook I’ve yet stumbled upon. Seriously, get yourself a copy!

 

 

 

 

Indoor BBQ Chicken, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, minced
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Pound the thicker ends of the chicken as needed so the breasts are the same thickness all over. Pat dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook until light brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet and return to medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, syrup and red pepper flakes, scraping up any browned bits.

Turn the heat to low. Return the chicken to the skillet, with any accumulated chicken juice, and coat with the sauce. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serves 4 people.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

Every Sunday, either Alex or I teach a sunday school class at church. The other week, it was my turn to teach and the lesson was on developing our talents. SO, I thought it would be fun to bring a treat. I got up extra early Sunday morning and decided brownies would be easy enough.  But they had to be different in some way since brownies can sometimes seem like a last-minute, thrown together type of treat (although they always taste good to me no matter how they’re made!). Plus, any excuse to add peanut butter to a brownie works for me.

I found a recipe that sounded enticing on Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, and I thought I’d give it a shot. Let’s just say that I was able to snag about half of a brownie for a necessary taste test,  but that’s all that was left. The cream cheese made the brownies extra soft and moist! Sometimes, I’ll doctor up a boxed brownie mix by melting some peanut butter and swirling it into the batter before baking, since I never can have enough peanut butter in my life. But, this cream cheese/peanut butter combo is SO much smoother and silkier- definitely worth the extra bit of effort.

Since I didn’t make any adaptations to this recipe, I’ll just post the link to the recipe here and let Tracey take care of the rest :)

Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Our good friends had us over for dinner the other Sunday after church. I had about 1.5 hours to think of and make something sweet for dessert. Cake wouldn’t work since I’d have to make it look all pretty. Same with cupcakes. Cookies would take me too long to decide on a recipe, then bake each sheet. Brownies take forever to cool. Pie crust is still a bit scary to me so that was out of the question.Yep, I’m good at making excuses. Another friend of ours is in love with coffee cake and we had recently devoured some that was quite tasty. Thankfully, this popped into my head when I was feeling as though I’d eliminated everything other option.

My mom used to make us coffee cake on Sunday mornings as we were all scrambling to make it out the door to church on time. I can’t recall  ever making it on my own, however. Mom made it with Bisquik, which was delightful, but I went the from-scratch route with buttermilk I was dying to use. Oh how I love buttermilk in baked goods! It’s too bad the actual smell of buttermilk makes me want to gag. Oh well, sacrifices….

Anyway, I went to Allrecipes once again and found a wonderful recipe that inspired me. The crumb had a nice, gooey texture and the entire cake was moist and flavorful. My main fear of coffee cake is dryness, and this helped me get over that worry. If you would like to make the cake in a 9 x 13-inch pan, just double the recipe.

 

 

Buttermilk Coffee Cake

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans (any nuts work, or none at all)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Batter:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.  Spread half of the batter into a greased 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with half of the crumb mixture. Carefully spread with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Buttermilk Coffee Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our good friends had us over for dinner the other Sunday after church. I had about 1.5 hours to think of and make something sweet for dessert. Cake wouldn’t work since I’d have to make it look all pretty. Same with cupcakes. Cookies would take me too long to decide on a recipe, then bake each sheet. Brownies take forever to cool. Pie crust is still a bit scary to me so that was out of the question.Yep, I’m good at making excuses. Another friend of ours is in love with coffee cake and we had recently devoured some that was quite tasty. Thankfully, this popped into my head when I was feeling as though I’d eliminated everything other option.

My mom used to make us coffee cake on Sunday mornings as we were all scrambling to make it out the door to church on time. I can’t recall  ever making it on my own, however. Mom made it with Bisquik, which was delightful, but I went the from-scratch route with buttermilk I was dying to use. Oh how I love buttermilk in baked goods! It’s too bad the actual smell of buttermilk makes me want to gag. Oh well, sacrifices….

Anyway, I went to Allrecipes once again and found a wonderful recipe that inspired me. The crumb had a nice, gooey texture and the entire cake was moist and flavorful. My main fear of coffee cake is dryness, and this helped me get over that worry. If you would like to make the cake in a 9 x 13-inch pan, just double the recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buttermilk Coffee Cake

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans (any nuts work, or none at all)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Batter:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.  Spread half of the batter into a greased 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with half of the crumb mixture. Carefully spread with remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Italian Ricotta Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we lived in San Francisco, I would occasionally nanny in the North Beach neighborhood, aka SF’s Little Italy. There are some awesome Italian bakeries over there, and I could never resist stopping in for a few little cookies. One of the bakeries specialized in focaccia and I’m sad that I never got around to buying it before we moved. If you’re in San Francisco, spend some time in North Beach- it’s a fun neighborhood with a lot of boutiques and a bounty of great restaurants! Also, check out the candy shop Z Cioccolato on Columbus Ave. and eat as much taffy as you want while you shop, along with a homemade fudge sample!

I had some leftover ricotta cheese that was ready to be used (meaning, just about on its last leg), so I searched allrecipes.com for some kind of cookie I could make with the ricotta. These cookies taste somewhat similar to sugar cookies, but the ricotta gives them a bit more richness and they are definitely chewier.  We loved them and as always, I ended up eating more than my share :) Since an almond flavor reminds me of Italian baked goods, I added some almond extract to this recipe and it gave it a nice touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t this photo awesome and ridiculous? Alex and I decided to get creative with his old dental school typodont….

Italian Cookiesadapted from this recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract

8 ounces ricotta cheese

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Icing

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla, almond extract and ricotta cheese. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the cheese mixture. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges are golden. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, cream together the remaining butter and confectioners’ sugar. Beat in vanilla and milk gradually until a spreadable consistency is reached. Frost cooled cookies.

Alex’s Scrambled Eggs

I love scrambled eggs, and when I make them for myself, I am quite unparticular about their fluffiness or overall appearance. As long as I’m able to add some kind of green veggie (usually spinach or broccoli) and they cook together without burning, I’m fine.

Not Alex. He likes his with milk and thoroughly scrambled, no veggies and ketchup on the side. Oh, and uniform color and fluffiness are a big plus. As many times as I had tried, I never was able to achieve that when I made him eggs. So, I had him give me a little lesson. Here’s what I learned:

First, crack the eggs into a small to medium bowl with a splash of milk and a little salt and pepper and whisk them like crazy. Or, use an immersion blender to get them frothy until they’re all a light yellow color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a medium size skillet set on the stove to low to medium heat. Once heated, take a stick of butter and spread a layer or two over the skillet so it’s completely covered and just sizzling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour the egg mixture into the heated skillet and let the eggs sit there for a few minutes (3 to4 should be fine). Do not start scrambling right away (this helps them become fluffy)! With a spatula, start from the outside of the skillet and fold the eggs over onto themselves very gently, so that the middle and upper parts of the eggs can cook. Look at all that frothiness!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once all the eggs are cooked through, immediately remove them from the skillet onto a plate. Don’t waste time here, or the eggs may start to burn or get overcooked a bit. Grate some cheddar cheese over the eggs and add any type of condiments you desire (like ketchup, hot sauce, bbq sauce perhaps), and you’re good to go!

Like I mentioned, I think adding spinach or broccoli to the skillet before you cook the eggs is a great way too boost the nutrients- and it tastes great! Or, for more protein, maybe a chopped chicken sausage or some sliced turkey. Get creative. But, if you’re a purist like Alex, this is what you’ll get:

Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I rarely have made chocolate chocolate cookies in the past because for some reason I thought that Alex wasn’t really into them. Although, when I told him to choose a cookie out of the Big Fat Cookies book that I checked out from the library, this is what he chose. Maybe I just made that thought up in my mind, who knows (it’s happened before!).   They turned out “delightful,” according to Alex- like a chewy brownie cookie loaded with chocolate chips.The melted chocolate chips combined with the cocoa powder make a powerful chocolaty flavor that really stands out.

This cookbook is meant to make large cookies, so the amount it says this recipe should make is just 12 cookies. I made the dough balls much smaller than suggested, so I got around 28 cookies out of the dough. Elinor Klivans wrote this book and I’ve noticed she writes more cookbooks than of what I was aware. The latest one I really, really want to get my hands on is called Donuts, which I can only find at Williams-Sonoma. Maybe with time, it’ll be released on Amazon or Borders, so I don’t have to pay full price….?

Anyway, these are now part of my regular cookie line-up! Maybe next time I’ll try white chips or peanut butter chips just to mix it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from Big Fat Cookies

2 2/3 cups (16 oz) semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened (for about 30 minutes)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cold egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put 2/3 cup of the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of a double boiler). Stir the chips until melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, stir it together and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate chips until blended. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until blended, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Mix in the remaining 2 cups chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoon size mounds of dough onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake one sheet at a time until the cookies crack slightly on top, about 11 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer then to a wire rack to cool completely.

Taco Pasta Toss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was reading the Rachael Ray Magazine while on the elliptical the other week and this dish caught my eye. I love to buy ground turkey breast, but sometimes I struggle to come up with new meals in which to use it. This looked easy, I had all the ingredients and it was a fun spin on traditional tacos.  Although a lot of people aren’t fond of Rachael, I think she does a nice job helping people get in the kitchen and make things from scratch. The seasoning in this was much tastier than store-bought taco seasoning! All her dishes I’ve tried, which, granted, haven’t been all that many, have turned out great and are creative enough for me. I also like that she gives suggestions for meat substitutions and occasional shortcuts.

Since I had to return the magazine to the library before I got around to making it, I searched the Rachael Ray website to see if it would be listed anywhere. Lucky me- she even had a short tutorial segment on it from her show! This is a wonderful alternative to tacos, and you can still add whatever condiments you prefer. Although I didn’t have any, tomatoes and lettuce would be perfect on top of this, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taco Pasta Toss, adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine (March 2010)

salt and pepper

1 pound penne pasta

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1.25 pounds ground turkey breast

1 onion, chopped and divided

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

sliced avocado

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.

While the pasta is working, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Add three-quarters of the onion, the garlic, chili powder, coriander and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is softened, 6-7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cook for 1 minute then stir in the chicken broth.

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss. Spoon into a serving dish, top with the cheese and tent with foil to melt the cheese, about 1 minute. Top with the remaining onion, avocado or any other condiments you like!

Makes 4 servings