Sunday, September 15, 2013

Domestic Goddess, part 2

Whenever I watch cooking shows, which is more like Hell's Kitchen than Food Network, I hear the experts talking about sweet vs savory. Since I figure my last post covers the savory side, here is something for the sweet fans. I love sweet things. Much to my figure’s dismay, they are right up there with noodles and potatoes.

(Quick aside, I heard this really funny kid's joke on the radio the other day. I like this kind of thing, so I can't help but share. Here goes: What did 0 say to 8? Nice belt! J )

So, usually I try to make something about my sweets redeeming, like at least having something of substance and nutritive value to try to counterweight some of the butter and sugar. And my urge to bake usually comes on at night, or during naptime, when I’m effectively stuck at the house, so I tend to make do with whatever I have on hand (or look for recipes that coincide with my available ingredients). I feel like a real grown up that the usual contents of my kitchen can make cookies and muffins! Forget the mortgage and parenthood – having a fully-stocked kitchen and getting the jokes on SNL will continue to be my measure of adulthood. Continuing on my domestic goddess spree, here are a couple of recipes I tried out recently: 

Recipe #1: Best-Ever Cowboy Cookies 

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts 

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, blend the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until fluffy, about 1-1/2 minutes. Blend in the vanilla extract.  

Using a wooden spoon, stir the dry mixture into the butter mixture one half at a time. Mix in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Refrigerate the dough for 1 to 2 hours.  

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large, preferably light-colored baking sheet with aluminum foil, then grease the foil. Using a scant 1/4 cup per cookie, shape the dough into balls and place them on the sheet about 2 inches apart.  

Use your fingertips to flatten each ball to 1/3 inch thick. Bake the cookies on the center oven rack for 13 to 14 minutes, turning the sheet about halfway through. When they're done, the cookies should be very lightly browned and still look moist. Don't overbake them. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack.  

Customizing Cowboy Cookies
Coconut Cowboy Cookies: 1 cup of flaked sweetened coconut, 2 cups of chocolate chips, and 1 cup of chopped walnuts.
Cranberry White Chocolate Cowboy Cookies: 1 cup each of white chocolate chips and dried, sweetened cranberries.
Peanut Butter Cowboy Cookies: 2 cups of peanut butter chips or 1 cup each of peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.  

With a modest name like “best-ever,” how could I go wrong? This was a good bake find on Pinterest since I was looking for something to make for a friend. When we met up shortly after the Brennan’s death, she came bearing cookies. They were great and I felt the need to return her container full. So, the night before we had a lunch date, I got the urge to bake and found I had all the ingredients for these yummy, substantial cookies. 

As I mentioned last time, I don’t have an electric mixer, but hand mixing this recipe worked fine. I don’t know that the stuff ever looked “smooth” or “fluffy,” but it did look mixed and they turned out fine.
I probably made a mistake in trying to bake two pans of cookies at one time. It meant that the baking temperature varied by location in the oven and I ended up over-baking them. They were still good, just a little harder than ideal. But, even after scooping out 24 scant ¼ cups of dough, I still had a lot left. I got the cookies off of one pan so I could send another in, and this one ended up with 16 cookies! So, if you follow the directions, anticipate over 3 dozen cookies, which is not a bad thing if you plan on sharing.  

Recipe #2: Seminary Muffins 
from All Recipes

1 egg
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana (roughly 3 good size bananas)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used semisweet chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease one 12 cup muffin pan. In a large bowl, combine egg, banana, brown sugar, applesauce and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Gently stir flour mixture and oatmeal into banana mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven or 15 to 20 minutes, or until light brown. Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to let cool before serving.

This was a rediscovery since I remember making these muffins when I actually was in seminary (and wondering how they got this name since I found nothing really theological about them). The most disappointing part of this recipe is that it only makes 12 muffins. They are so delicious, I’ll likely double the recipe next time I make them. And be prepared, the cups look ridiculously full when you divvy out the batter evenly. But they don’t rise too much, so it just makes for large, hearty muffins.

I almost never make muffins without muffin liners, so I was nervous about that part of this recipe. With that in mind, I may have gone a little overboard with the Pam when I “greased” the pan. Blessedly, the muffins popped out of the pan easily. It was amazing and made for a great picture of beautiful, piping hot muffins.

The other adventure with this recipe was using some bananas that I had frozen as they started to turn dark. I had heard that this was a good way to have them on hand for baking later, but I had no idea how to thaw them in a timely manner. Luckily, my friend Google came to the rescue and I found a method here.
I popped them in the microwave for just a few seconds, since hot mushy bananas sounded yucky. Then I gave my son a bath and, wouldn’t you know, just leaving them on the counter they were thawed and ready to go. Be warned, if you’ve never used frozen bananas – they are a little gross. My advice is to let them thaw (with a jump start as needed), then open one end and squeeze them like a tube of toothpaste. The banana will just fall out of the peel. I put them on a plate so I could soak up some of the liquid that separates from the fruit so my batter wouldn’t be too loose.

The 1 cup of bonus ingredients (chocolate chips and walnuts) can be changed at your pleasure. I saw some other folks had used other kinds of nuts, blueberries, raisins, etc. I didn’t have any nuts in the pantry, so I just added a different kind of chocolate chip that I did have on hand (which is telling about me). I liked the two kinds of chocolate since they each have a distinctive flavor.
Hope you enjoy these recipes. What's your favorite sweet treat?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Domestic Goddess, part 1

It's been rather dark around here for a while, with good cause, but I'm ready to talk about something different. Every once in a long while I get the urge to be a domestic goddess which, in my mind, means taking the time to find and make good recipes to feed my family.

I like to cook, but this household chore often goes to my wonderful husband since he is usually home first and can get dinner going before James and I get home. And a lot of recipes get ruled out since I’m not such a serious chef that I have lots of the tools and tricks around – I don’t have a stand mixer or a shredder or lots of other things that turn up in some recipes, so I don’t even attempt some things.

Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling inspired and decided to loot my dear friend’s website since I know she and her family eat well (i.e. healthy AND delicious). So, here is my take on recipes from What’s Cookin’ with the Johnstons!

This recipe has two key words that make my day – quick and easy. Yes! This means that this may not be a one-day wonder. And, being both a Southerner and a United Methodist, I love a good casserole.

2 cups uncooked macaroni (I used whole grain noodles)
1 lb. ground beef or turkey (I used turkey)
1 can tomato soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup French-fried onions
1 can diced Italian tomatoes, drained

Cook and drain macaroni according to instructions on box. Brown ground beef and green pepper; drain. Mix soups and meat in a large bowl. Add macaroni and stir. Place 1/2 mixture in a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cheese and onions. Top with remaining mixture and cheese. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Top with rest of onions and bake 5-10 minutes more. 

This turned out beautifully, as you can see, and was very delicious. My son, who is a good eater but is sometimes hesitant to try new things, was asking for seconds. It may have had something to do with the French-fried onions...

Recipe #2: Tacozanga

(from Rachael Ray)

This one caught my eye with its fun name. Exploring further, I was excited to see it looked like something I could actually make.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 pounds ground turkey or ground sirloin
1 zucchini
2 carrots, peeled
1 onion, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons chili powder (I used 1½ tablespoons)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup beef stock
6 (8-inch) flour tortillas
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack (or other Mexican blend cheese)
1 bag of shredded lettuce
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a large high sided skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add the meat and brown, 5 minutes. While meat browns, grate the zucchini and carrots with a box grater (or shredder attachment on the food processor, if you have one of those). Add the vegetables to the meat and shred in the onion and garlic. Season the meat with chili, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and cook 7 to 8 minutes more to soften vegetables. Stir in beef stock. Grease a 8 by 13-inch baking pan with vegetable oil. Layer in 3 overlapping flour tortillas and top with 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese. Repeat the layers twice and bake 10 to 12 minutes to brown cheese. Top with lettuce and tomatoes, cut into squares and serve.

This also turned out beautifully and I love that there are hidden veggies for a bonus nutritional punch. I don’t think I had the right size pan, but I just did my best to overlap the tortillas, which is really the idea. In her recipe, Leanne adds scallions to the toppings for the finished dish, but since I don’t really associate that with Mexican food, I left it out. I also put salsa on the table to top when serving, but it had such a good flavor, we ended up not using it.

We sliced squares, then let each person add their own toppings, which was helpful with the little boy. This, too, was a hit for all ages in our house. The sensitive palate of the 3-year-old was also my motivation for halving the amount of chili powder. I thought it was very flavorful. My husband liked it so much he made it when his parents came to visit last week.

Coming next: this domestic goddess tackles the sweeter side!