Friday, July 2, 2010

Hot and Humid and lots of catch up, promise!

Its been so hot and humid here that I have not been spending nearly as much time in the kitchen as I like, and thus, not as much time updating all of you with my kitchen creations. However, today, I just had to post a link to these fantastic plates not only are they so durable and fantastic looking, they are totally green! I can't wait to try them out!

Coming this weekend are backposts for the following:
S'mores bars
Wilton Cake Course I (cake and cupcakes and photos)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Monster Cookies

An internet friend recently asked me for this recipe and since I never posted it months ago when I made the holiday gift boxes for my co-workers, here it is now, with her photo.

Thanks Leeshebee, these look yummo!

INGREDIENTS (makes 3 dozen)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar (I use dark for everything whether it calls for light or dark)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt ( can omit, I always do)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 -3/4 c M&Ms1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal(not instant)
  • 1/4-1/2c flour, if necessary. You do not want them to be too too mushy and sticky where you think they will run but they will be mushy/sticky b/c of the peanut butter. Many recipes do not call for the flour, I have not tried without but they are PERFECT with.
  • Set oven to 350
  • Spray cookie sheet with pam or line with wax paper
  • In the largest bowl you own (or even a pot) combine eggs and sugar, mix well ( I use a hand mixer but you can do it by hand).
  • Add vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix again.
  • Add baking soda and oatmeal, mix. (it may be hard with a mixer so do this by hand with a good wooden spoon.
  • Stir in the choc chips and M&Ms. Drop 2 inches apart on sheet and bake 9-12 minutes, depending on oven--keep a close eye on them after 9 minutes!
  • They will come out nice and soft.
  • Let them cool for 2-3 minutes on the sheet then remove to cool on wire racks or counter/plate/whatever you use for cooling.Store in container with lid or ziplock to avoid them getting hard.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

This recipe is super quick to whip up and pretty healthy as far as baked goods are concerned!  It is also easy peasy to modify and you can use extra canned pumpkin, just make sure to add some extra flour, you want to keep the proper consistency. I used extra pumpkin (doubled it) and used an extra 1/2 c. of flour-- I did not bother with extra baking powder or baking soda and they came out great. I wrapped them individually and froze them, they were DELICIOUS and both my coworkers and husband loved them.  Chances are, you have everything but the pumpkin on hand. Make sure you are using canned pumpkin NOT the pie filling!!

This recipe makes a dozen regular muffins or 24 minis.
  • 1/2  cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour  (I used 1 cup regular and 3/4c wheat)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  •  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Mix sugar, oil, eggs. Add pumpkin and water.
  • In separate bowl mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.
  • Combine wet and dry mixtures
  • stir in chocolate chips.  
  • Fill muffin cups 2/3 full
  • bake 20-25 minutes for regular size, about 18 for minis.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A long overdue party in my kitchen-- MONKEY BREAD

It has been weeks, 6 weeks to be exact, since I last posted. I blame it on a 2 week vacation + passover, well, at least that takes care of 1/2 of the time I was MIA.

Well, I have gotten busy in the kitchen this week, already having made MONKEY BREAD and some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and I expect our friend Lia to stop by in a little while for dessert and so there will soon be 2 Molten Lava Cakes in the oven!

So, without further ado, here is the oh so simply monkey bread recipe (with some suggestions). Some quick notes: I did not want to make a huge amount as you would if making in a bundt pan, which is the traditional baking pan of choice. Instead, I used to mini bread loafs and it worked like a charm. I put more in one than the other, the bigger one came to work with me of course!  You can't really go wrong with this recipe if you use a little more of one ingredient or a little less of another. 

  • 2 packages (about 8 oz each) of refrigerated buttermilk bisquit dough (I would use about 30 oz total for a bundt pan)
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup margarine (I used smart balance)

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Spray pan(s) with PAM
  • Toss sugars and cinnamon together in plastic bag (quart size or bigger)
  • Cut bisquit dough into 1/3s or 1/4s (I did a little of each)
  • Toss pieces of dough in sugar bag, about 6 pieces at a time until nicely coated
  • Remove coated pieces and gently press into pan(s), do not use too much force as you do not want the dough pieces to stick to each other and they need room to expand during baking
  • Once all pieces are coated and placed into pan (s), place remaining sugar from bag into sauce pan with margarine-- mix well and allow to boil while stirring, for about 1 minute.
  • Remove sugar mixture from heat and pour into pan (s)
  • Place pan(s) on cookie sheet (in case the sugar butter mixture boils over a little bit so its not burning at the bottom of the oven!)
  • Bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Approximately half way through gently cover pan(s) with foil to avoid overbaking/burning the top.
  • Upon removing from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes before flipping over on serving plate
Pictures to come this weekend so stay tuned.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chocolate Alfajores/Dolce De Leche Sandwich Cookies

If you loved the regular Alfajores from last week, you may want to try making them CHOCOLATE.  There was a perfect hint of chocolate in every bite.  Follow the Alfajores directions from last week, this time adding about 4 oz melted semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 2oz if you are only doing half a batch).  These cookies are amazing filled with the Dolce de Leche or on their own for a scrumptious taste and texture!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The Jewish holiday of Purim is less than a week away!  On Sunday I had the pleasure of baking some Hamantashen in the shul kitchen with some of my Kadima kids and a brave parent volunteer.  I LOVE this recipe for the dough; my mom used it each year when I was growing up.  I am modifying it a bit from the original though, to reduce the amount of sugar.  If you like your dough really really sweet, stick to the original amount, my modification is in red.

HAMANTASHEN- My mom's recipe

This makes about 3 dozen average size cookies with each side being about 2.5 inches in length

  • 1 and 1/3 sticks of butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 c and think it can be further reduced to 2/3 or even 1/2 but I have not experimented with less than 3/4c)
  • 1 egg
  • splash of Vanilla
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • 2.5 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Fillings of your choice- we did chocolate, apricot, poppy and prune.- see notes

Cream together softened butter with sugar until fluffy.  Add egg, vanilla, water, and baking powder and mix on medium speed.  Slowly add the flour, about 3/4-1 cup at a time to incorporate.  Once the flour is mostly incorporated, the mixture will look like little balls of dough.   With clean hands, kneed the dough together in bowl or on clean counter, you may need to add additional water (maybe 1 tsp) but prior to doing that, make sure you really work the dough for about 1 minute and try to put in ball form. Only if it does not come together should you add more water.  A tiny bit goes a long way with this dough.  Roll out dough on counter or seran wrap to approximately 1/8 inch thickness (it should be thinner than the cookie of a regular oreo!)  Using a cookie cutter (I used a water glass) cut circles from the dough.  Now, you can either fill some and go back to working with the rest of the dough, or as I like to do, I make all the circles first and then start filling.  Use about 1 tbsp of filling for each cookie. Using 2 teaspoons, one to scoop and one to push from spoon onto circle, fill each circle of dough with desired filling. Pinch the corners, folding the pieces of dough in to form triangle. Make sure your corners are well pinches and you fold over so that there is a small whole in the center but most of the filling should be covered by the dough folded over.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.

For best results and to keep your cookies from bulging while baking, you want your pre-baked cookie to be closed off like  THIS:

Rather than really open THIS (as you can see, these cookies do not have crisp sides and are a bit bulgy:

NOTES: I prefer using SOLO brand filling. It can be found in your baking ingredient section of the grocery store, usually near the pie fillings and graham cracker crusts.  It is not cheap, running about $3.50-$4 a can but do NOT cheap out and purchase jams instead. Jam has a tendency to run and get soggy when baked in Hamantashen.  Each small can has 9 servings and will fill about 25 cookies, so plan accordingly!  These cookies can be baked and frozen.  I froze leftover poppyseed filling and will probably use it in a few weeks to make a poppyseed cake/bread. I will report on defrosting and using the frozen filling then.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

After enjoying a few days of my delicious carrot ginger soup, I decided it was time for a flavor change!  I made butternut squash soup much like I made the carrot soup.  Sorry, the hubby was too busy filing taxes to take a picture of this one but it looks just like the carrot soup :)

  • about 2 lbs of peeled and diced butternut squash (see tips)
  • 2 medium potatos, peeled, diced and cooked in pot of water to 80% doneness
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 lb carrots
  • 4 tbsp consume

Bring 5-6 cups of water to a boil.  Place onion, diced squash, carrots, and potatos into pot and reduce to simmer.  Cook approximately 15 minutes.  Add consume and continue to cook for about 5 more minutes.  Puree the soup with either a hand pulser, blender or food processor. DO NOT pour the hot liquid into your blender or processor, they can crack from the heat.  Instead, either use the pulser in the hot pot until you get all the chunks or use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies from the broth, transfer into a metal or heavy duty glass bowl, add 1 ladel of broth and puree until chunks are gone. Transfer the veggie puree back into broth and stir. Serve hot with optional dolup of sour cream.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My experience at the local Asian market!

There are 2 Asian markets with 20 minutes of our home.  I had gone to the bigger one a few times over the past couple of years but in late 2009, I noticed the new smaller, closer one opening!  Last weekend I stepped in hoping I could get everything I needed for 3 Thai meals without going to the bigger one thats further away.  Here is what I was able to purchase for $15.48!  Note: not pictured is a package of rice noodles for Pad Thai.... forgot to take it out of the cupboard for the photo op!)

2 HUGE carrots for carrot ginger soup (each was the size of a 3 cup poland spring sports bottle!)- not pictured
a chunk of ginger used for the Spicy Basil Chicken and for the carrot ginger soup (to be posted later today) (not pictured)
pad thai noodles (not pictured)
peanut Satay sauce packet
pad Thai sauce (in jar)
yellow Curry paste (in tub)
2 bunch of scallions (not pictured)
1 large tray of basil (1/8 of a lb, half in basil chicken recipe, remainder in freezer)-directions below
baby corn
red Bean balls (google them)
sesame seed packet
fish sauce
chili oil
dehydrated chili peppers

Yes, you read that right, ALL of that plus the unpictured package of noodles for under $16!!!

NOTE: fresh basil can be frozen in a ziplock bag. DO NOT wash it first, simply put in bag and push all of the air out. It WILL look wilted once it defrosts but will not effect your cooking, flavor or aroma!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Spicy Thai Basil Chicken Stirfry

I have fallen severly behind in my blogging and have several photos + recipes to post so, rather than boring you with my random thoughts on cooking, I will cut to the chase and post a few recipes tonight!

This is a combination of several recipes, you should be glad I did the legwork for you to come up with the perfect combo!

  • 1 lb of chicken (I used a little less)
  • 2 tbsp chili oil (if you like it super super hot, if just medium hot, I would use 1 tbsp
  • 3 hot chili peppers (I used dehydrated ones, ONE SMALL fresh will do it!
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion (cut into quarters rather than rings so that each piece is about 1 inch squarish)
  • 1 bunch (about 2 oz) fresh basil leaves, removed from branch
  • 1 c cocunut milk (I used lite)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (I used lite; you can use 2 tbsp if you don't have fish sauce)
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (normal vinegar would work if you were in a pinch but it will not have the same flavor and I would reduce to 1tbsp for that reason)
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, sliced
  • 2tbsp chopped FRESH ginger


In a bowl, mix the coconut milk, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and fish sauce.  In a skillet or wok, heat the oil + hot pepper+SLICED (not crushed-- use fresh!) garlic over medium-high heat (my dehydrated peppers were about 1.5 inches in length and very thin, I did not cut them but if you use a fresh one, I suggest starting off with a small amount and adding additional towards the end of cooking time if you need to take the heat up a notch then.  You do not want to make your meal so spicy that you can not enjoy it; its really hard to take it down a notch once you make it, other than to add more ingredients and increase the servings so be careful!. Stir in the onion, ginger, and garlic, and cook until lightly browned. Mix in chicken strips, and cook about 3 minutes, until browned. Add mushrooms and onions, then stir in the coconut milk sauce. Continue cooking until sauce begins to reduce.  Mix in green onions and basil and cook and additional 2-3 minutes or until chicken is done.   Do not worry about the basil wilting.  Garnish with additional basil and/or green onion, if desired. Serve over the cooked rice.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

All last week I was looking forward to making something outside the box.... something unexpected and different perhaps.  When browsing the Joy the Baker blog, I came across the cutest looking cookie sandwiches.  After perusing my various cookbooks and googling around, I was convinced that this simple recipe was the way to go. Nothing to screw up and I figured the simplicity of the outer cookie would make the filling that much more lucious.

So here you have it, my very own Alfajores.  Alfajores are traditional cookies in South, Central and Latin America as well as Mexico.  Some reading about these delectible treats revealed that these cookies are not native to the Spanish countries but rather, came from the Arab world in the mid 19th century!  Now that you have today's history lesson, I hold off no longer

  •      1 c. butter or margarine (softened)
  •      2/3 c. sugar
  •      1 egg
  •      1 tsp vanilla
  •      2.5 c. flour
  •      1 tbsp cinnamon
  •      1 can dulce de leche (Note below)
  • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in egg and vanilla.
  • Add flour and cinnamon and mix until well combined.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour or overnight
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Roll cookies out to about 1/8 inch thickness. (this is probably thinner than most cookies you have made, but don't fret!)Cut circles (or other shapes, I used a champagne flute for the circles and a cookie cutter for the rippled)
  • Bake on greased cookie sheet for about 12-15 minutes (keep a close eye on them after 10 minutes- if you are using a thin dark nonstick pan, 13 minutes was right on the money for me)
  • Allow cookies to cool completely and then make into sandwiches by spooning some Dolce de Leche on one half and pressing and gently pressing a second cookie on top.
MY Dulce de Leche experience and tips:
NOW- for the Dulce de Leche....  I was surprised to learn that all Dulce de Leche is, is caramelized condensed milk (there are also recipes of how to do this from scratch from milk and sugar, which is all condensed milk is anyway). After reading and reading and reading about how to make the perfect Dulce de Leche, I nervously followed the directions of many. 

Making Dolce de Leche:
  • Bring pot of water to a boil, remove label from can and insert entire can of condensed milk in pot.
  • Make sure that the can is submerged under water the entire time, with about 1 inch of water or more above the can at all times!
  • Bring back to boil and then reduce to simmer for about 3 hours.
  • Remove from water and allow to cool for about 1 hr. DO NOT open can while hot.
  • In theory, opening the can should reveal a thick caramel spread, so thick that if you put some on a spoon and flip upside down and shake, it won't move!

 I FAILED. M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-Y.  I have a love/hate relationship with our gas range.  It just can't seem to get the flame low enough for a gentle simmer. Not for soup, or rice, or pasta. Its either simmering like crazy or nothing- with nothing in between.  So, for about 2.5 hours my can stayed in boiling hot water with NO simmer.  I guess I was so scared to turn the heat up too high and have the can explode into the air, that I never actually got the contents hot enough.  So, although my shiny silver can got scortching hot with dark brown rusty looking spots on the outside, on the inside, it was just not hot enough. (No need to worry about the rusty looking spots, its only on the outside of the can).  I let the can cool and opened it up, and all I had was warm consensed milk. It was NOT thick and gooy like caramel.  Thinking I had to run back out to the store, I was disappointed. Hours of waiting all for nothing. By alas, some more browsing of recipes and directions and I decided to place the contents of the can in a small sauce pan over medium heat and stir stir stir like crazy for about 10 minutes. DO NOT STOP STIRRING until it really thickens up--boy was it caramelized.  I then removed it from heat for a few minutes, all the while still stirring so it did not burn to the buttom of the pan.  The only way I can describe it is what a caramel candy would probably look like if you put it in the microwave for 20 seconds.  Stick to your teeth gooyness!  SUCCESS!

Working quickly with a knife, I plopped the condensed milk turned into Dolce de Leche into the middle of a cookie, gently pressed a second cookie on top to form a sandwich, while being careful not to smush too much as to have it ooze out.  After sitting for about an hour, the outer cookie softened up just a pinch and the filling hardened up a bit and was no longer getting stuck to DH's teach. DELICIOUS. These little cookie sandwiches are like a bucket of gold. First, they are super cute to put in a cookie tin for a gift, or on a platter for a party. Second, they were ultra easy to make, especially now that I will never boil the can again!

My only regret.... making only 1/2 of the recipe!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Carrot Ginger Soup

Last weekend I was really in the mood for some homemade soup without all that added ingredient junk.  I have made variations of this soup in the past and it is very easy to modify to your liking.  I will list the ingredients and quantities I used but feel free to add more carrots or potato to bulk up the soup or cream/milk to make it creamy.  I have also heard of people using a pinch of corn starch but I did not.

2 medium potatos, pealed, cubed and cooked to 80% doneness
1.5 lbs of carrots
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
small piece of fresh ginger , approximately 1-2 oz (judge according to personal taste)
Chicken Soup Consome (mine is parve)- according to box directions for 4 servings (probably 4 tbsp)

Boil about 6 cups of water.  Peal and dice carrots (you can keep baby carrots whole).  Add carrots, onion and potato to pot and reduce to a simmer.  After approximately 10 minutes, test carrots- they should be soft.  Add pealed and diced ginger and consome to put.  Boil for another 5 minutes or until carrots are very soft.  Remove pot from range and allow to cool prior to pureeing.  Use food processor or hand pulser to puree the veggies.  Serve  hot with an optional dolup of sour cream for a creamier texture.

TIPS: If you want to serve this soup immediately after making it, use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies into a separate bowl and pulse/food process and then returning back to pot of hot water/soup works best for me. You do NOT want to pour boiling hot soup into your food processor or blender.  You CAN use a hand pulser in the hot soup but you may find that getting every little chunk is hard to locate in a huge pot.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


In an effort to stop my decade long yoyo dieting, I decided to recommit to weightwatchers to ensure that I keep the 40 lbs I have lost  OFF and to keep losing.  After flipping through a few recipes looking for something sweet, light and low on points, I decided to make some easy meringues!

The recipe can't get easier than this!

eggwhites (as many as you want)
sugar (1/4c per eggwhite)
1 tsp vanilla extract
mini chocolate chips or peppermint bits (optional)

Separate eggs one at a time, into small dish or cup, discard yolk.  Transfer eggwhite into mixing bowl and proceed to separate remaining eggs one at a time.  You do not want to separate directly into your mixing bowl. The SLIGHEST drop of eggyolk can completely ruin your eggwhites which is why I do it one at a time. At worst, I get yolk into ONE eggwhite and I can just use that egg for some scrambled eggs!  It would be totally crappy to get yolk into your bowl on your third or fourth egg and have to start again from scratch.

Using hand mixer or stand mixer, beat eggs until they stiffen and START to come to peaks if you lift the beaters.  Add sugar, 1/4cup at a time and continue beating until sugar is completely dissolved.  You can test that its dissolved by using a clean spoon to remove some of the mixture and feel with your finger for grainyness. If grainy, keep beating.  When you are able to make large peaks, add vanilla and beat one more minute.  The entire beating process takes approximately 10 minutes, depending on climate, humidity, etc.

Optional: stir in mini chocolate chips or chopped up candy canes/mints.

Spoon mixture a large spoonful at a time onto cookie sheet.  You can also use a piping bag or spritzer to make for cleaner and more uniform meringues.

Place in preheated 300 degree oven for 5 minutes.  Turn off oven and keep meringues in warm oven overnight (or until the oven completely cools, probably 2-3 hours).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Alina's Apple Tart

I love apple pie.  Apple pie ala mode and I am in heaven!  Unfortunately, apple pie is frequently chock full of sugar and butter to make that warm oozy filling we all so much love with a dollop of icecream.  Inspired by my new tart pan (with removal bottom, highly recommend investing in this, I got mine for $7.99 at Marshalls. They always have great baking pans if you don't mind mismatched.  While I swear by my Martha Stewart muffin, mini muffin, brownie and loaf pans I received from my great friends Lena and Sarah (check out her foodie blog here at my bridal shower, my tart pan and cookie sheet from Marshalls were great buys!

So, as the title obviously reveals, my shiny new tart pan inspired me to make an apple tart.  Its light and simply delicious; not heavy like many traditional American desserts.  If you are looking for the original recipe, you can find it at Smitten Kitchen

Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1.5 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 1 stick margarine or butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons chilled water

  • 2 pounds apples, cored, peeled and sliced (keep peels); I used a combination of Gala and Red Delicious
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • reserved peals from apples

 For dough:  Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; slowly add in butter.  The mixture should be crumbly.  Add water, 1 tbsp at a time until it just holds together.  You do not want the dough to be too dry to work with nor too sticky.  Form dough into ball and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.  When ready to bake, roll out into rough circle, to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thickness- Approximately 16 inches for a 10 inch tart.  TIP:  I do all of my dough rolling between 2 pieces of seran wrap.  Wax paper also works-- I do not usually flour the surface.  With dough between 2 pieces of seran/paper, roll into circle. When desired size is reached, peal off top piece of seran/paper and then flip dough with seran/paper, upside down onto pan.  Gently remove seran/wax paper.  Lightly spray pan with cooking spray and press dough into pan and up sides, leaving extra dough hanging over the sides to be folded over the apples later.

Preheat oven to 400.  While oven heats, place apples into tart.  For great how to photos, go to Smitten Kitchen.  Fold overhanging dough over the apples, crimping edges every few inches.

Brush melted butter over tart (optional) and sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons sugar over dough edge and apples.
BAKE for 35-45 minutes, look for tart to gently brown and then remove.

While tart is baking, place peels in saucepan with sugar.  Cover in just enough water to cover (approximately 1 cup) If you use a SMALL saucepan, you may need to use more water to cover the apples and will require extra sugar--- you can't really screw this step up, so make the simple syrup to taste.  Simmer for about 25 minutes.  Because I used RED apples I got a gorgeous colored syrup that looked great on the tart!  When the tart is out of the oven, brush tart and apples with the simple syrup.  I drizzled individual slices with some extra syrup on the first day we ate it and it was delicious.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Peanut Chicken Stir-Fry

A quick and easy dinner recipe... so good that DH wanted to eat leftovers the following day and I can never get him to eat the same thing 2 nights in a row!

Recipe from Chicken Easy
Serves 4, Serve over rice

  2 tbsp peanut oil
  1 garlic clove
  3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
  1tbsp grated fresh ginger (I omitted because I forgot to pick some up at the grocery store)
  1/2 tsp chili powder (more, to taste)
  6 oz sugar snap peas, trimmed (use fresh)
  4.5 oz  baby corn cobs (I used an entire can)
  2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  1 tbsp light soy sauce
  Heat oil in wok or large skillet.  Add garlic and scallions and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 1 minute.  Add the chicken, ginger, and chili powder and stir-fry for 4 minutes.  Add the sugar sneap peas and baby corn cobs and cook for 2 minutes.  In a bowl, mix together the peanut butter and soy sauce, then add to the wok.  Stir-fry another minute.  Remove from heat and serve over a bed of rice, or plain if you are watching your carbs :)


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Homemade bagels!

As many know, bagels are a staple at all things Jewish, be it Kiddish, an after wedding brunch, or just an ordinary lunch (or in my DH's case, breakfast).  I don't recall what sparked my desire to make bagels from scratch, but I did it!

This recipe is a bit complex and detailed and it is vital that each step is followed EXACTLY---dough is tricky to work with sometimes so make sure to read the recipe and directions a few times before you start.  The recipe (found here) has 6 major steps and requires either 2 days or one long day (with a long break in the middle for rising):
1. make sponge
2. make dough
3. rising
4. shaping
5. retardation in fridge
6. boil and bake

Makes approximately 1.5 dozen bagels

     1 teaspoon instant yeast
     4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour (see note below)
     2 1/2 cups water, room temperature

     1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
     3 3/4 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
     2 3/4 teaspoons salt
     2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon dark or light malt syrup, honey, or brown sugar (see note below)

  To Finish
     1 tablespoon baking soda
     Cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Day one:

1. Make sponge: stir the yeast into the flour in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the water, whisking or stirring only until it forms a smooth, sticky batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the mixture becomes very foamy and bubbly. It should swell to nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the countertop. (This did NOT happen when I let mine rest, possibly because the metal bowl got too cold on my granite countertop. I do not know if it affected my final result but I do not think so. If you are working on granite, which is always cold, I suggest elevating your bowl on some kitchen towels or trivets).

2. Make dough: In the same mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer), add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir. Then add 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt. Stir (or mix on low speed with the dough hook) until the ingredients for a ball, slowly working in the remaining 3/4 cup flour to stiffen the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for at least 10 minutes (or for 6 minutes by machine). The dough should be firm, stiffer than French bread dough, but still pliable and smooth. There should be no raw flour – all ingredients should be hydrated. If the dough seems to dry and rips, add a few drops of water and continue kneading. If the dough seems tacky or sticky, add more flour to achieve the stiffness required. The kneaded dough should feel satiny and pliable but not be tacky.

4. Immediately divide the dough into pieces for standard bagels, or smaller if desired (I used a kitchen scale and used 2.5oz for each ball)
5. Cover the rolls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment and mist lightly with spray oil.

7. Poke a hole in a ball of bagel dough and gently rotate your thumb around the inside of the hole to widen it to approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The dough should be as evenly stretched as possible (try to avoid thick and thin spots.)

8. Place each of the shaped pieces 2 inches apart on the pans, spray litely with oil and cover losely with plastic wrap.  Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

9. Check to see if the bagels are ready to be retarded in the refrigerator by using the “float test”. Fill a small bowl with cool or room-temperature water. The bagels are ready to be retarded when they float within 10 seconds of being dropped into the water. Take one bagel and test it. If it floats, immediately return the tester bagel to the pan, pat it dry, cover the pan, and place it in the refrigerator overnight (it can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days). If the bagel does not float. Return it to the pan and continue to proof the dough at room temperature, checking back every 10 to 20 minutes or so until a tester floats. The time needed to accomplish the float will vary, depending on the ambient temperature and the stiffness of the dough.

10. The following day (or when you are ready to bake the bagels), preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with the two racks set in the middle of the oven. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (the wider the pot the better), and add the baking soda (and optionally, a few tablespoons of barley syrup, see Note at the end). Have a slotted spoon or skimmer nearby.

11. Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently drop them into the water, boiling only as many as comfortably fit (they should float within 10 seconds). After 1 minutes flip them over rand boil for another minute. If you like very chewy bagels, you can extend the boiling to 2 minutes per side. While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle the same parchment-lined sheet pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you decide to replace the paper, be sure to spray the new paper lightly with spray oil to prevent the bagels from sticking to the surface.) If you want to top (see note below) the bagels, do so as soon as they come out of the water. You can use any of the suggestions in the ingredients list or a combination.

12. When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans on the 2 middle shelves in the oven. Bake for approximately 5 minutes, then rotate the pans, switching shelves and giving the pans a 180-degree rotation. (If you are baking only 1 pan, keep it on the center shelf but still rotate 180 degrees.) After the rotation, lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or until the bagels turn light golden brown. You may bake them darker if you prefer.
13. Remove the pans from the oven and let the bagels cool on a rack for 15 minutes or longer before serving.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Follow

I am officially a Friday Follower!!

Welcome to the Friday Follow celebration hosted by One 2 Try, Hearts Make Families and Midday Escapades!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Strawberry Jam Oatmeal Bars

While flipping through my cookbooks recently, I came across a recipe that I had not before noticed but that sounded yummo! These bars are a great combination of the healthy benefits of oatmeal yet sinful with the sugar and butter necessary to create them!

Recipe Adapted from Cookies and Bars by Love Food

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of regular sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1.5 cupstrawberry jam
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • preheat oven to 375
  • spray a 12x8 or 13x9 pan
  • add sugars and flours together in large bowl, mix well
  • add oats and butter and using hands, incorporate until mixture resembles granola
  • press 2/3 of mixture in pan, bake for 10 minutes
  • spread jam (easier if its at room temperature, so you may want to microwave it if its been sitting in the fridge)
  • sprinkle chocolate chips and then the remaining mixture, press down gently
  • bake for additional 20-25 minutes
  • remove and allow to cool before cutting.
Thoughts- DH loved these, and so did my coworkers. To me, they were a bit too sweet. I would recommened cutting out the white sugar all together and using 3/4 cup of brown sugar. OR use a jam that is not as sweet as mine was (very very sweet). I also used milk chocolate chips as that is what I had, semisweet would have been a better choice to complement the sweetness.  Overall, these were easy and fun to make and I will surely make them again with raspberry jam and semisweet chocolate chips.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Pie Tart(lets)

I am no longer a pecan pie making virgin! This afternoon I made pecan pie tarts (tartlets by my DH)--this dough is delicious and the filling mmmmmmm so so good. My only problem? I decided to make 1.5 batches of the pie filling without first premeasuring how much pecans I had. I ended up having a bit too much of the sugary liquid and was about 1/3-1/2c short on pecans.  In part, the shortage was due to my desire to "decorate" the tops of the tartlets with 3 pecans atop each.   The below recipe contains the proper quantities of all ingredients.
One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that its missing a common pecan pie ingredient--corn syrup!  While I do not fear corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup, I simply don't keep any around. As you know, I am a big fan of recipes that use basic ingredients that I typically have on hand and with the exception of the pecans, these were all already in my pantry.

  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1 c. flour (I used whole wheat!)
  • PAM or other cooking spray
  • beat together cream cheese and butter until well creamed
  • mix in the flour
  • refrigerate dough 1 hr
  • roll out dough between 2 pieces of seran wrap,about the thickness for sugar cookies
  • using a mug or cookie cutter, cut out circles
  • grease muffin tins
  • place dough circles into tin and press into place to make a cup shape
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon  flour
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  • In a large bowl, beat eggs until foamy, and stir in melted butter
  • Stir in the brown sugar, white sugar and the flour; mix well
  • Add the milk, vanilla nuts and chocolate
  • Pour into an unbaked tarts
  • decorate with lined up pecans on top (optional)
  • Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes(until edges of dough start to become golden in color
  • reduce oven temperature to 275 and bake for 10 more minutes
  • let cool before flipping pan upside down and gently tapping out the tarts

Zucchini Latkes

For many, the smell of potato pancakes frying in mid to late December reminds them of family, gifts, and lighting the Hanukkiah.  While I love the golden delicious fried goodies as much as you do, a number of years ago my mom made me these delicious pancakes out of zucchini.
    Yesterday, desiring something different as the "starch" for dinner, I decided to whip some up.  They were SO delicious, much better than I remembered mom's being (sorry mom) and even DH J enjoyed this healthy side to our oven roasted chicken.  So incredibly good that I ate a few leftover from yesterday for lunch today and you know what, I think I am going to be making some more tomorrow too!

  • 1 lb zucchini (green sqash) washed with ends snipped off
  • 3-4 tbsp flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs + 1 white (or 4 whites)
  • EVOO for frying
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder- to taste
  • with peel on, grate zucchini by hand or food processor
  • dump zucchini into mixing bowl
  • add eggs, mix well
  • turn on frying pan or griddle with enough EVOO to cover the frying surface but not enough for "deep frying" or boiling
  • sprinkle 3-4 tbsp over mixture and mix again, making sure flour is evenly distributed
  • season with salt, pepper, garlic powder or other seasoning, to taste-- mix again
  • use measuring cup or large spoon to spoon mixture just as you would make potato latkes/hashfries/small pancakes
  • fry until lightly browned, flip and cook for 2 more minutes
There you have it- 10 minutes takes you from raw zucchini to a delicious meal, size or snack.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

I love me some chocolate, DH loves him some chocolate, lets face it, MOST people love chocolate. If you are in the minority on that one, I don't know whats wrong with you but something clearly is.  When I asked around at work what they'd like for this week's sugary goodness the requests were for something not chocolate! I guess with the nonstop holidays, cakes, and candy, people have had their fill.

And so, I decided to poke around for some fruity cupcakes. When I came across a lemon cream cheese frosting, I knew that I had to make it.  I LOVED the results, they are light and refreshing and would be great for a summer get together.

     -  1 cup butter or margarine, softened
     -  2 cups sugar
     -  3 eggs
     -  2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
     - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     -  3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
     -  1 teaspoon baking soda
     -  1/2 teaspoon baking powder
     -  1/2 teaspoon salt
     -  2 cups sour cream (I used light/reduced fat)

     - cream butter and sugar
     - Beat in eggs, one at a time.
     - Add lemon peel and vanilla; mix well.
     - combine dry ingredients
     - add creamed mixture into dry ingredients, alternately with sour cream
     - Fill paper-lined muffin cups
     - Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes (toothpick test)

                        (1) This recipe is for 30 cupcakes, I halved the recipe and decided to pour the batter into 12
                              paperlined cupcakes- this resulted in some pretty big cupcakes, had I made 15, they would have made
                              storebought size cupcakes but would have required me to bake 2 batches since I only have one 12cup pan
                        (2) In halving the recipe, I totally screwed up the baking powder and used 1/2 teaspoon rather than 1/4- I do
                              not think this effected the texture, appearance or taste of the cupcakes at all
                        (3) I set my timer for 25 minutes and did not check on them at all until the timer went off, I think 22 minutes
                            would have been better

   FROSTING (This made too much for my 12 jumbo cupcakes--probably enough for 15 jumbo or 20 standard cupcakes)

     -  8oz cream cheese (I used light)
     -  1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter or margarine, softened
     -  2 tablespoons lemon juice
     -  2 teaspoons lemon zest
     -  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     -  1/2 tsp lemon extract (or you can just use some extra lemon juice, to taste)
     -  5 cups confectioners' sugar  (you may need to add more to compensate for additional lemon juice should you use it)

     -  Mix together all ingredients but confectioner's sugar and lemon extract
     -  1 cup at a time, add confectioner's sugar
     -  After approximately 3 cups, add extract, to taste
    -  continue adding sugar until you reach your desired consistency, for piping thickness, you will need 5 or so cups, for 
       spreadable, 3 or 4 cups will probably do
     -  refrigerate at least 10 minutes to stiffen it up before placing into piping bag and frosting cupcakes

PIPING DIRECTIONS: use any tip that has a decent size gauge, carefully press tip into cupcake to create cavity (I inserted, then lifted out, and reinsterted to create the size you see in the pictures).  When ready to fill, insert tip into cupcake and slowly squeeze piping bag while carefully lifting it out of the cupcake (its much easier than it sounds). Once you reach the top of the cupcake, either spread or pipe frosting on top.

Banana Pancakes for DH

I am still living the low-carb lifestyle but DH J most definitely is not. He is the president of carb-o-holics anonymous!
On Sunday, I decided to use one very browned banana for a quick breakfast and the result was this:

     -  1 cup flour
     -  1 cup all-purpose flour
     -  1 tablespoon white sugar
     -  2 teaspoons baking powder
     -  1/4 teaspoon salt
     -  1 egg, beaten
     -  1 cup milk
     -  2 tablespoons vegetable oil
     -  2 ripe bananas, mashed

1.  Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt
2.  In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil and bananas.

3.  Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy-- DO NOT OVER MIX
4.  Pour batter onto well greased/oiled frying pan on medium heat.

**Recipe makes 8 medium to large size pancakes, I halfed the recipe and it was plenty for one person**

TOPPING: a combination of peanut butter + maple syrup cooked over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes until melted and well mixed together. I used probably 1 tbsp Peanut Butter and 2 tbsp maple syrup (made enough for one).  You can alter the consistency and amounts of each ingredient, to taste.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


The box of goodies I prepared for my coworkers for Christmas

Monster Cookies
Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Fudge

Some Past Dinners

After a long day at work and workouts every other day, dinners are typically super quick and require little planning.  While I tend to have energy to bake on weekends, mid-week, dinner consists of a quick starchy side for J (none for me), a fresh veggie or canned if nothing good is on sale and protein.  We are high class diners, can't you tell?

Here are some photos of dinners from the past few weeks

Peanut Chicken with Near East Pilaf and broccoli

Battered Filet of Sole with mixed veggies (canned) and Near East

A Brownie That's Also a Cookie

Confused much? My DH J was too!
I found these puppies on tidymom's website and just HAD to make them.  In continuing with the "make a half batch of everything if you don't have a real occasion to be making them," rule, I sort of ran with it today too.  See, despite all the baking you see here already, I have managed to drop 25 lbs since October 1st and am officially 3 lbs lighter and 1 dress size smaller than at high school graduation.... 8 yrs ago... thats 50 lbs lighter than I was at my cousin's wedding in June 2007. While I am running my bootie off at the gym in preparation for my first 5k, I am trying to both satisfy my baking bug and keep the stuff out of our apartment!  Monday has officially become "baked goods day" at my office. I bake on Ssundays, leave a few pieces for J and bring the rest to work. Thus, I make 1/2 of most recipes, sometimes even less!  It also lets me make mistakes without wasting too many ingredients.  Anyhow, now that you know the method behind my madness, here is the new thing I tried today!  Feel free to double the below recipe to use an entire box of brownie mix and an entire cookie pouch.

- 1/2 box of Ghiradelli brownie mix
- 1/2 of a Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Pouch

-  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-  Measure/weight out 1/2 of the brownie mix. (I 0ut a bowl on a kitchen scale, hit tare, pour in the mix- take note of how much is there and then proceed to put half back in the bag-- seal nice and tight and put back in the box for next time!
- make brownie batter per box directions, making sure to use HALF of each ingredient to accomodate making half a batch
-  Spray a small pan (I used a 9x5 loaf pan and it was perfect size)
- Pour all of the batter into the pan
- Make cookie batter as per pouch directions, again halving all of the ingredients using a kitchen scale
-  plop cookie batter all over the brownie pan-- I did this by taking a large spoon full and patting out to make a thick cookie shape-- you can get creative here, no right or wrong!
-  bake for about 35 minutes, I took it out at 25 minutes and it was still raw inside but think anything between 30 and 35 minutes would work.
-  allow to cook.

-  1/8 c Heavy Cream or Light Cream
-  2 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
-  1 tbsp Margarine or Butter

-  melt butter/margarine on medium heat
-  add heavy cream
-  heat until just before boiling
-  pour over chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly incorporated
-  pour over cool brownies and spread
-  cut after ganache has set

Too Much Chocolate Chocolate Cake

I came across this recipe during the holiday season and it has been my go to dessert for my work holiday party, a Hanukkah gathering at our apartment with the inlaws, and for my grandfather's birthday a few weeks ago. On Friday, one of my coworkers asked for me to make it again, so I did.... a dessert THIS GOOD just could not be easier than this:

1 box of devils food cake mix
1 box of instant chocolate pudding mix (I use whatever is on sale or generic!)
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream (I use light)
3/4 cup oil
2 cups chocolate chips (you can get creative here, mini chips work, as do peanut butter and chocolate chips combined)
1/2 cup warm water

- preheat oven to 350 degrees
- beat 4 eggs for about 1 minute in medium bowl
- add cake mix, pudding, water, oil and sour cream, mix for 2-3 minutes until well blended
- stir in or fold in the chocolate chips-- feel free to add extra
- generously spray a bundt pan with PAM or other baking spray
- carefully pour/spoon batter into the pan
- bake for 55 minutes
- remove from oven, allow to cool for AT LEAST one and one half hours (I once attempted to rush the process, the end product was not as attractive and had some holes)
- once cool, flip upside down onto plate or cake tray. It should fall right out of the pan
- sprinkle with powdered sugar

This can also be made as a sheet cake, although I have not tried it yet. Next time I have an occasion for this yummy recipe, I am going to do a 2 layer cake with raspberry mouse and raspberry preserve between the layers mmmmmmmm

Check out this zoomed in photo J took-- he wanted to highlight the texture.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Kahlua Chocolate Brownie Balls

Inspired by Cake Balls found just about everywhere, I decided to make my own twist today.  Having used about half of my brownie batter for the Peanut Butter Surprise, I figured, why not try making these delectable treats with BROWNIES in the middle.  So there it was born, my Kahlua Chocolate Brownie Balls.

          -  Brownie batter (this recipe uses about half of 1 brownie mix worth of batter)
          -  2 tbsp cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
          -  Kahlua to taste (I just poured, but probably 1.5 tbsp?  Add slowly and sample as you mix)
          - Almond bark (vanilla and chocolate)-- found in baking section at Walmart

          -  Bake brownies  as per box directions, slightly underbaked is ok
          -  Let brownie pan cool for about 10 minutes
          -  Dump contents of brownie pan into bowl
          -  Roughly crumple up brownie with spoon
          -  Add cream cheese; using mixer, fork, or spatula, mix the cream cheese and brownie together
          -  Slowly add kahlua, to taste (can also use rum, creme de menthe, etc.)
          -  Roll into balls, about 1 inch diameter and place on plate to freeze (I froze overnight)
          - Melt almond bark in the microwave as per package directions (you can also use Chocolate Disks/Melts)
          -  using a toothpick, spoon, or any other method you prefer, roll the brownie balls, one at a time in the melted 
             chocolate and place on tray to set (take the balls out of the freezer one or two at a time)
         -  once chocolate is set, you can drizzle with a contrast color

Peanut Butter Surprise

Inspired by Heather, I set out to make these mini brownie cupcakes with a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup in the middle and somewhere along the way thought, why not frost them like cupcakes too!  And so it came about, my peanut butter surprise brownies:

"Naked" Brownie RECIPE
          -  1 box brownie mix of choice (I'd recommend one without extra chips, chunks, etc.)
          -  All incredients required for brownies, as per box
          -  Cupcake liners
          -  25 Reese Peanut Butter Cups (I used 12 because I used half of the batter for my next creation)
          -  Place wrapped Reeses Cups in freezer
          -  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
          -  Prepare brownie batter as per directions on box
          -  Place cupcake liners into pan
          -  Fill each cup about 3/4 full (or 2/3 if you follow optional step below)
          -  Unwrap frozen Reeses Cups
          -  Gently press one cup, smaller/bottom down
          -  Optional step: you can put a small amount of batter on top of the Reeses if you would like them to  
             truly be a surprise, I made 2 like that and 10 uncovered, this did not effect bake time; works best if  
             the liners are less full, approx 2/3 full prior to pressing Reeses in)
          -  Bake for 15 minutes
          -  Allow to cool completely before frosting*
                             *frosting is optional, they are delicious as just "surprises" and easier to pack in a lunch.

Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe (enough for about 15 cups and some samplings by Jared)
          -  1/4 cup (4 tbsp) butter at room temp (or margarine if making parve)
          -  1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (room temp)
          -  1 cup confectioner sugar
          -  2 tbsp water

          -  With mixer, beat butter/margarine and peanut butter
             -  Gradually add sugar, 1/4 cup or so at a time
             -  Beat on medium speed until frosting gets a bit stiff, add 1 tbsp water
             -  Continue mixing until all sugar is incorporated
             -  Add 1 tbsp water (check for consistency, if too stiff, add a drop of water-- tiny amount can
                change the consistency considerably)
             -  Beat an additional 1 minute
Using piping bag (or knife) to frost cupcakes. Decorate with a small piece of a cut Reeses Cup