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Cheater’s Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

November 14, 2009

I ran out of flour tonight. FLOUR. Of all things! We make baked goods at least once a week in this house, so it’s so odd to run out of the main ingredient in those baked goods. But, I promised the kiddos we’d make cookies, so I was determined to deliver on my promise. I sifted through our monster binder of cookie recipes. We could make meringues, but those take forever typically, and we Schotlands don’t wait well…especially when there are baked goods involved. I walked into the pantry and sifted through the bins, trying to come up with something else we could use for the base of cookies and still in disbelief that I actually didn’t notice we were out of flour (to be fair, it has been an insanely busier than busy last couple of weeks. But still…).

Then I saw it: a box of cake mix. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I try to always have a box of cake mix on hand at all times. It’s a staple in our pantry, much like, well…flour. If worse comes to worse and the family’s craving (ok, if I am craving) sweets, it’s so easy to whip up a batch of cupcakes. And now I know they make mighty fine cookies too.

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Cheater's Chocolate Chocolate Cookies

Oh. YES. Don’t those look good? Well, they were! We all loved them!

(side note: many of you reading this may already know cupcake batter makes for great cookies. I did not, so please just nod and smile and pretend that this is just the most ingenious creative use of random ingredients you’ve ever heard of, because I was feeling so very tickled pink at this substitution! 🙂

Ingredients

1 Box of chocolate cupcake mix – any kind (Devil’s food, chocolate, dark chocolate, etc) will do

2 eggs

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

12 oz chocolate chips

steps

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a mixer, combine all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips on medium speed until well blended. Don’t over-mix.

3. Add chocolate chips and fold them gently into the batter.

4. Drop tablespoonfuls of batter for adult-size cookies and teaspoonfuls of batter for kid-size cookies onto a baking sheet with a Silpat or onto a greased baking sheet. You can see the adult-size cookies on the left and the kid-size cookies on the right in the above photo.

5. Bake for 11-12 minutes for chewy cookies, 13-14 for crunchy cookies.

Now how easy is that? And yes, I cheated. It not only felt great, but it also tasted oohhhhh sooooo goooooood! 🙂

No Measurements Mushroom Marsala

October 23, 2009

I love recipes. I hate recipes. I’ve always been a “don’t you dare tell me it has to be this ONE way or it won’t work” kinda gal.  The thing is, almost every recipe in existence can easily be transformed: large entrees can be rationed into appetizers for parties, pasta dishes can be turned into rice dishes, meat dishes transformed into vegetarian dishes, and so on. The whole point of this blog is NOT to get you to follow these recipes to the T, agonizing over every detail of each step (boooorrrriingg!), but to encourage you to have FUN with cooking & baking. Learn to embrace substitutions for ingredients you don’t care for with those you love. Tell those measuring cups & spoons that they’re not the boss of you, you’re the boss of them and you’ll use them as your taste buds please.

Take today’s Foodie Friday dish, for example. I made this for the first time when I was STARVING (and if you’ve ever met me, you know that once I hit the “I’m STARVING” phase, food had better come quickly, or else!). We didn’t have much in the fridge. But we had mushrooms. And in the pantry: pasta, garlic and marsala wine (seriously, you must have marsala wine in your pantry at all times). So easy. You can make this with or without the marsala; with rice instead of pasta; with less garlic; with a creamy bechamel sauce if you wish instead of light oil; with sauteed chicken or pork.

And here’s the fun part of today’s dish: I’m not gonna tell you how much of each ingredient to use. I offer some suggestions based on how I like the dish, but that’s it. It’s one of those dishes that lends itself well to experimentation based on YOUR specific taste buds. Think of my recipes as starting points–not finales. Experiment, and enjoy!

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Ingredients

-Spaghetti or linguine. Penne will work as well. (about 1/2 pound feeds 2-3 people)

-Olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)

-Minced garlic (I use 3 cloves; you decide how garlicky you want it to be)

-Sliced mushrooms (I use a handful, literally; put in however much you like!)

-Marsala wine (don’t go crazy here; try around 1/2 cup)

-Lemon juice (unless you love lemons that much, I wouldn’t go too crazy here either; try 1 tablespoon or less)

-Chopped fresh or dried parsley

-Salt & pepper

-Parmesan cheese

steps

1. Cook the pasta

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic to the pan and sautee for about 1 minute until slightly soft.

3. Add mushrooms to the pan and sautee for about 1 minute.

4. Add marsala wine to the pan and gently stir ingredients in the pan while the wine warms up to a mild bubbly simmer.

5. Add lemon juice to the mushroom marsala mix.

6. Once pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the pan, gently fold together all of the ingredients so as to coat the pasta with the marsala mushroom mixture.

7. Top with fresh parsley, salt & pepper, and parmesan cheese as desired.

Mmmm….DONUTS!

October 16, 2009
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Fact: donuts are not hard to make. If you take a little shortcut, they are even easier than baking cookies! You don’t even need a deep fryer – just a wooden cutting board, rolling pin, slotted spoon, plates and hungry tummies.

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Here’s an insanely easy homemade donut recipe:

Ingredients

1 can pizza dough (yeah that’s right: pizza dough)
about 3.5 cups canola oil (but in a pinch veg oil will do)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
4-6 hungry tummies

steps

1. Roll out pizza dough on a floured cutting board until about 1/4 – 1/2 inches thick.

2.Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.

3. In a shallow bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon until well blended. If you need more, just remember to add twice as much sugar as you do cinnamon.

4. Use a large round cookie cutter to cut out the donuts. Then use a small, 3/4-inch round cookie cutter to cut out a hole in the center of each donut. Save the center dough circles for donut holes.

5. Make sure the oil is hot by dropping a teeny tiny piece of dough into the oil. If it’s ready, it should start sizzling up immediately (not a lot, but enough).

6. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the cut out donut dough into the oil. I can fit about 4 or 5 in our saucepan at a time without overcrowding; use your best judgment based on the size of your saucepan.

7. Allow the dough to soak in the oil until the bottoms turn slightly golden, then turn them over. Once they are a nice golden color, use the slotted spoon to carefully lift them out of the pan and onto a plate.

8. Allow the donuts to cool just slightly, then gingerly dip each donut in the cinnamon sugar mixture, covering all sides with the sugary goodness. Do this with much love; it’s like giving your child that beautiful coat she’s always wanted and once she has it on she just shines. That’s what cinnamon sugar does to these donuts. Mmm-hmm.

9. Feed 4 – 6 hungry tummies with these tasty treats. Eat. Enjoy.

Then if you’re like me, consider going for a run later in the day, because low fat, these donuts are not 🙂

PS – I am working on a chocolate topping for these donuts. Haven’t quite gotten the best mix of melted chocolate to whipped cream ratio I like yet but you could try that too if you want some chocolate donuts. And who doesn’t want chocolate donuts? Also working on a maple topping. Because I LOVE me some maple bars. Mmm-mmm!

Garlicky Linguica + Peas Pasta

October 9, 2009

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Sometimes I stare into the abyss of my fridge, freezer and pantry and think “what on earth can I make for dinner tonight?” You guys & gals do this too sometimes, right? (If you don’t please just smile and nod). Sometimes it takes a few trips back and forth, mentally attempting to piece together ingredients. Nope. Nope. Nope. And then I hit the “A-ha!” moment. Now, not all of my a-ha moments turn out fabulous. I somewhat burned some experimental fried chicken the other night. Oops. I blame the kids for distracting me. But sometimes they turn out ok.

Recently I was searching through our freezer and found some leftover linguica I had frozen from the most recent time we made paella. Now linguica tends to come in packages of 2, and for most dishes, unless you are cooking for a huge crowd,  you really only need to use one. Linguica is a Portuguese sweet pork sausage that is perfect for pizzas and pastas. I simply combined it with other staples in our house: garlic, pasta, peas, olive oil, canned tomatoes, dried spices.

It’s a super simple pasta dish that even my picky 5-year-old loved so much that he had THREE helpings…and then he asked for some to be placed in his lunchbox for the following day. It may not be suitable for the fanciest of appetites, but if it pleases the adults AND the kids in the house, it’s a winner in my book!

**as with all of my recipes, go with your gut and put as much or as little as you feel would work best for your palate. I don’t usually measure when I cook; I eyeball, taste and add as needed.**

Ingredients

1/2 pound of rotini or other medium-shaped pasta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 linguica sausage (about 1/4 pound), sliced into about 1/2 inch thick slices
1 14 – 16 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil or 1/2 tablespoon of dried basil
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley or 1/2 tablespoon of dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

steps

1. Boil water and cook pasta.

2. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until slightly soft, about 1 – 2 minutes

3. Add linguica. Saute for about 3 – 4 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes. Mix all ingredients well as you continue to saute for about 4 more minutes until tomatoes are heated. Turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until pasta is cooked.

5.  Drain pasta once cooked and add to the pan that has the garlic/linguica mixture.

6. Stir in frozen or fresh peas. Leave on simmer for about 2 – 3 more minutes, stirring until ingredients are well blended and peas are cooked.

7. Add parsley. Add salt & pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese (I like parmesan reggiano).

Enjoy!

the happy 1950’s housewife meal: meatloaf + mashed potatoes

September 22, 2009

Recently, I was perusing my Facebook feed, when I saw at least two updates from girlfriends that prompted me to burst out loud in response: “WTF? What is this, 1950? As women and moms we’re just supposed to cook and clean all day? What modern mother has time for the ‘perfect’ house or meal?”

Pssh-shaaaw, I say!

And then I continued my daily 3-hour routine of cleaning up the house, taking care of the kids, cooking dinner, checking work emails, and preparing the kids for the next day of school.

Talk about irony. I laughed so hard I almost spit out my 1950’s traditional 4:00pm Mom Martini.

Kidding, about the martini.

But, it did inspire me that night to make my own version of what I envision to be a very 1950’s meal: meatloaf, mashed potatoes and cupcakes. We don’t eat ground beef in our house, so we use ground turkey. You could use ground beef, just be aware you might have to adjust baking times.

meatloaf and mashed potatoes

meatloaf and mashed potatoes

Ingredients

Meatloaf:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup bbq sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup ketchup or BBQ sauce for outer coat

Mashed Potatoes:
4 baking potatoes
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely shredded asiago or other sharp cheese
salt & pepper to taste
finely chopped parsley for garnish

steps

We start with the MEATLOAF:

1. Remember to thaw out the ground turkey in your fridge well beforehand. If you are like me, you always intend to do this, but often forget and slap your forehead in “DOH!” moments.Thawing in the microwave just isn’t the same as in the fridge.

2. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and sightly saute carrots until soft. Remove carrots and set aside in a large bowl.

3. In the same pan, saute the garlic for both the meatloaf and mashed potatoes until slightly soft and golden.

4. Set aside 1 tablespoon garlic for mashed potatoes. Place garlic for meatloaf in the large bowl along with the carrots.

5. In the same large bowl, add ground turkey, oats, ketchup, BBQ sauce, parsley, salt, pepper. Mix ingredients with your hands until well blended.

6. Once well blended, either a) form the mixture into a meatloaf log shape about 4 inches wide, 2 inches high, and about 8 or 9 inches long and place on top of a baking sheet coated in cooking spray, OR b) place mixture in a loaf pan. I have done both and prefer to use the DeMarle loaf mold that doesn’t need cooking spray or a regular loaf pan that I’ve coated with cooking spray.

7. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing & serving.

Now we move on to the MASHED POTATOES:

While that’s baking, it’s time to make the potatoes! Really, any mashed potato variation will go well with meatloaf, but this is the one I prefer to pair with meatloaf.

1. Peel yer taters. For some reason, I find doing prep work and walking through the steps using an accent helps. Feel free to skip this extra credit task if you are boring and a fun squasher.

2. Add potatoes to a pot o’ boiling water and cook until potatoes are slightly soft but not squishy. For 4 potatoes, this will be around 15 minutes.

3. Drain the water, return the potatoes to the pot, add milk, cheese, reserved sauteed garlic, salt & pepper and mash, mash, mash away to desired consistency. I prefer mashed potatoes that are a little chunky, not super smooth, but that’s just me. I also cook while thinking & speaking in various accents, so… there you have it.

4. Once properly mashed, sprinkle with parsley and serve scoops of the taters alongside the delicious and lower-fat version of this 1950’s meal.

EXTRA CREDIT: To complete your perfect 1950’s housewife duties, pour yourself a drink while cooking, then just before the taters are done, pour yourself another and pour one for your partner. Don’t forget to clean as you go along, because what hard working man likes to come home to a messy kitchen? Good grief, that would be a catastrophe! And if the kids try and bug you while you’re making this perfect housewife meal, remind them that they need to go watch more television.

Polka Dot Monkey Bread

September 17, 2009

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We make chocolate chip banana bread a lot in our house. At least once a week, my son and I have a baking afternoon. We go through the various recipe binders I’ve created throughout the years and he gets to choose what we bake. This means we often bake the same thing each week. That’s ok by me, as long as we have baked goods in the house!

Here’s how we make our Polka Dot Monkey Bread. I love this because it’s so easy, contains ingredients we usually have on hand, and my son can pretty much take on almost every step of making the bread on his own if he wanted.

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 egg whites
1 egg
2 large ripe bananas
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
handful of chocolate chips

steps

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Beat first four ingredients (brown sugar through eggs) on medium speed in a mixer until well mixed.

3. In a separate bowl, mash bananas, oats, and milk together until well blended. Add to the sugar mixture.

4. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and stir with a whisk.

5. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture in the mixer and beat on medium speed until just moist.

6. Add batter to 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray (or just use a DeMarle loaf pan as I do).

7. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the batter. (This is my son’s favorite job!)

8. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the middle is solid.

Enjoy!

International Bacon Day!

September 5, 2009

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It’s International Bacon Day! Hubby is frying up some sizzling goodness as I type this. Mmmmm….bacon….BACON!!!

In addition to the chowder recipe below, here are some links to great bacon recipes.

Bourbon Bacon Apple Tarts

Fried Chicken with Bacon & Pepper Cream Gravy

Grilled BBQ Bacon Shrimp

Beefsteak Tomato, Butterhead Lettuce and Bacon with Blue Cheese Dressing