Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baked Peanut Butter Cookies

If you don't want to run to the kitchen to start making irresistible desserts, you should stop reading. Honestly, I consider that I've given you fair warning, and if you make these cookies and complain about how wonderful they are and how your defenses are immune to their pull, please don't say that I didn't warn you.

There are few cookies that rise to the level of the classic chocolate chip in my esteem. These do. Sometimes, they are even better. I guess it's not shocking, the combination of peanut butter and milk chocolate has always been a favorite. These will satisfy on many different levels- salty and sweet, ooey-gooey and crispy, sandy crust, melty chocolate. Yea, they are beyond a triple threat. Obviously you're feeling pretty confident about yourself if you haven't clicked away at this point, so we might as well dive in. I am going to do this a little differently just to see how it feels, I'm going to list the recipe first, then go through my steps. If you've been playing along, you know that I bought the Baked cookbook in a moment of weakness after buying two other cookbooks that month. Of those three, it's the best. It might be the best baking cookbook that I own. Wow. Yea, I said it.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks

From Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Costco's organic which does not have stabilizers or sugar)

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla (I use 2)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 & 3/4 cups all purpose flour

8 ounces milk chocolate, broken into chunks

First things first. Butter and sugars into the mixer. Cream until light and fluffy for a few minutes.Add the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated each time. Add the peanut butter and vanilla. It's considered appropriate to sift together the dry ingredients to ensure that the salt and baking soda are evenly distributed. It works best to me to add them to the wet ingredients before adding the flour. I hate dirtying another bowl if you don't have to. Proceed with either method you like.
After incorporating the dry ingredients, stir in the chocolate. I had a bar and a half bag of chips, so I used both. Either way will be good. The authors caution not to swap semi-sweet for the milk chocolate, and they are absolutely right. It won't be the same, trust them.Roll into teaspoon size balls and roll in sugar. Place 2-3 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.Bake at 360 for 10-12 minutes. Cool immediately on racks. Don't cool on the baking sheet as the chocolate might burn.Enjoy. Again and again.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I had one of those days. Not one of those days, not the ones where everything goes wrong, not the ones where one big thing goes wrong. No, basically just uneventful. It might have been better if something had gone wrong, because then at least something would have happened! Of course I am kidding, but it was kind of a weird day. On my way home I was not looking forward to cooking given my compromised condition, but luckily I had frozen homemade lasagna in the freezer. That helped. Combined with sauteed green beans and mushrooms and a spinach salad, it ended up being not as bad of an evening as I thought. I am so glad I didn't give in to the take out that I had been considering. This was so much better and easier. And just the act of doing it made me feel better. Yes, I think cooking is my therapy.
I called it a day with the finger frog...
And this girl always helps...
Hope you had a good one. If not, try this recipe below to accompany anything you like- as long as it's easy. I promise it'll pick you up!
Sauteed Green Beans and Mushrooms
1 bundle of french trimmed green beans, rinsed and patted dry
1 clove of garlic, crushed with the back of your knife and peeled
pinch salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
olive oil
Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add a few swirls of olive oil in the pan. Heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the green beans, mushrooms and garlic and sautee. About 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and toss in pan. Sautee for 5 more minutes, serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I went to yoga on Sunday night, and one of my favorite parts is the deep relaxation at the end. (Shocking, I know!) It's funny, sometimes I just lay there and feel all the muscles that just worked and how they feel relaxed and tired and I sort of drift off into this relaxed state until... ding! ding! Class is over and it's time to pack up your things. Ahhh. Then, there are other times, when all I think about is what I am going to run home and make for dinner. And dessert. And lunch to take to work on Monday. On and on. Sunday was one of those nights. I was going to make pizza with this spelt dough that I had tried for the first time. I was going to try new toppings. We had just gone to costco and I had a big package of strawberries and spinach just waiting to be made into this wonderful salad that I make all the time, but haven't shared yet on this site.
I had a tub of greek strained yogurt to make into gelato in my new gelato machine.

Things were promising. Then, when I was cutting the mushrooms for the pizza, somehow my finger got mixed in with what I was doing. Argh. This is like, one of my worst fears. Luckily, I am not badly injured, but the damage was done. Chris was so helpful and got me bandaged and settled down. He helped me finish the pizza, which was already in the works.
We ate dinner together, and I was already feeling a little bit better. However, needless to say, I didn't get around to any more photos. I didn't get around to the salad or the gelato. I didn't get around to my lunch for Monday. So much for my plans.
So I decided to take this opportunity to share some of my favorite food pictures of my work over the last year, as well as links to where they appeared on my blog, in case this inspires you to try them again or for the first time. I hope you rediscover something that you'll love. I'll get to the rest- you better believe I am making plans for what to make as soon as I am back to my old self!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Real Deal Gelato

I guess there is no point in having a gelato machine if you don't go all out and make the real deal gelato. I figured Giada's nutella gelato was a good place to start. Basically started with a custard base, then you can add any flavors you like. I decided to make mine half nutella and half pistachio. You start with 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cups milk and 1 cup of cream over low heat. Using room temperature eggs, beat 4 egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar until light in color and thick.
This takes about 5 minutes of beating. To temper the yolks before adding to the milk mixture, add a half-cup of the warm milk to the eggs before adding them to the mixture on the stove.
Cook for about 10 minutes until thickened. Insert a spoon in the mixture and make sure it coats the spoon. After cooking, strain the mixture through a sieve. I divided mine into two bowls to make the two flavors.
For the pistachio flavor, mix 1/4 cup raw pistachios with 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor. Stir this into the gelato base.
For the chocolate-hazlenut flavor, add 1/4 cup nutella to the gelato base and whisk until incorporated.
Cool on the counter for 30 minutes and then chill in the fridge for 3-4 hours. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the custard to prevent a skin forming on as it cools. Freeze the chilled custard in the ice cream maker for 30-40 minutes until frozen.
It was a little melty after just the ice cream freezer, but the second night it was BOSS. (Sorry, momentary channeling Juno moment.) Move over HagenDaaz - your spot in my freezer just got taken! The chocolate is that perfectly dense flavor, even Chris liked it! He's usually not a chocolate ice cream guy despite his tenure at Cold Stone! If you don't think you need an ice cream machine, you might want to rethink that... it's definitely worth it to make it yourself!

Monday, January 19, 2009


When your husband calls to tell you that he's eating dinner at work, what's a girl to do but treat herself?! I hardly ever go out to sushi, and I rarely pick up take out on the way home, but for some reason, it just sounded good! I got a shrimp tempura cruch roll and a vegetable roll. The sweet potato was awesome! Some organic edamame that was in the fridge from costco....

Just a little dinner for one.... Yum!

Totally gringo sushi, I know- but it's what I like! Let me know your favorite little splurge for moments like this!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Baked Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

If your New Year's resolutions include eating more healthfully, you have to try quinoa. This tiny grain is packed with protein as well as essential amino acids. This is an easy recipe which you can make without a lot of fussing. Start by sauteing a large onion and a couple cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan that you might use later in your meal for something else. (I hate getting something dirty for only one thing!)While that is on the stove, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve for a minute or two. Quinoa has a bitter outer coating which will dissolve once rinsed, so don't skip this step. It is fine if the quiona is a little damp when you get ready to cook it. I used about a cup and a half of quinoa, and once rinsed, spread it over the bottom of the dish which has been drizzled with a little bit of oil.The onions should be done at this point, so spread those over the top of the quinoa.
Top with vegetables of your choice, a favorite of mine includes zucchini and tomatoes, but since those are not loved by my husband, I went for crimini mushrooms. Feel free to improvise here! You can leave this in the fridge until you are ready to bake if you'd like. Once you are ready, add 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
After cooking covered for 30 minutes, top with cheese of your choice and bake for a remaining 15 minutes uncovered until the cheese is browned.
I used mozzarella and Parmesan. Goat cheese, feta, or Gruyere would be good options too.
I served the quinoa with one of my new favorite recipes found here:
Roasted broccoli is one of my favorite preparations, and adding the shrimp couldn't be easier. This was one of those "A ha!" recipes for me. All the ingredients were in my fridge and cupboards, but I never thought to combine them in just this way. Sprinkle the broccoli with olive oil, ground cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and roast for 10 minutes. In the meantime toss raw shrimp in olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper and add them for the last 8-10 minutes of baking until just cooked and firm. Everything was fantastic, and together with the quinoa, it was a perfect healthy weekend meal.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cherry Lemon Frozen Yogurt

I got a gelato machine for Christmas and I was sooo excited to try it out!! Chris and I love frozen yogurt, but we are hooked on a particular tart flavor. If you've had Pinkberry or Golden Spoon's Simply Tart then you know what I am talking about. Also, when we went to Hong Kong, there was a gelato shop that carried a yogurt blackberry gelato. It might have been the 90 degree heat plus the 90% humidity, but we were totally addicted that week! The gelato ladies started to recognize us! We found a similar thing in Tucson at Frost Gelato. (If you have a chance to go, do not miss it!!) I don't know what causes the obsession, but it might be kind of like sweet and sour candy. It's really tart, but then sweet and it makes you just want more. In any case, I couldn't wait to see if I could recreate it. Of course, I always want to make it better, and I think I did...

So you start with 1 large container of strained greek yogurt. I tried this both with the fat-free variety and the 2% variety. The 2% gives you something more like gelato, whereas the fat-free version is more like classic frozen yogurt. Both are fantastic. This is nice to have on hand when you want to skip the step of thickening your ice cream or gelato base. No waiting!

I was lucky to find cherries at the store- hooray! Above any other fruit, they are by far my absolute favorite. You can use other things if you can find them, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries would work well substituted here if you can't find cherries. I pitted the cherries and chopped them roughly, making sure to scrape all the yummy juice into the bowl and not lose it!
I'd say that I had about a cup of cherries once I finished. To that I added some meyer lemon zest and the juice. I used the zest of 2 lemons and the juice of one. Finally, I added 1/3 cup agave nectar, which is not only better than sugar, it takes a step out of the process. If you can't find it, or want to use sugar, make sure to melt it into a simple syrup first. The sugar won't dissolve in your ice cream and you don't want the grittiness of sugar in this dessert.Add the yogurt to the bowl, and stir to combine. Freeze in your ice cream maker for 30-40 minutes or until it reaches the desired consistency. Place the finished dessert in a plastic container (just save the one that the yogurt came in) and freeze in the freezer for an hour or so before eating to firm it up.
Scoop and enjoy. Totally addictive, yummy, and healthy. Really healthy for a dessert. ;)
If you don't have an ice cream machine, check out this to see other ways of making ice cream. Just takes a little elbow grease!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Super Quick and Healthy Turkey Chili

This chili is very healthy and super easy. Chop one large onion (or a couple small ones) and cook over medium heat in your biggest stock pot. You want the onion to cook until translucent, and not brown, about 5-10 minutes.Then chop a couple peppers of your choice- I used pasilla peppers which are a little bit more flavorful than green bell peppers. Chop these and add it to the onions, cook for about 5 more minutes. Once cooked, the onions and peppers should look like this:

To that, add 1 pound of ground turkey or ground turkey breast. I prefer ground turkey breast, but it is sometimes hard to find. Cook, breaking up any large pieces until browned throughout.Now it is time to season. I used 2 tablespoons ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground corriander, and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, plus additional later to taste. Don't add the salt until the end. The beans will stay firm as long as they aren't too salted until the end.Add 3 cans of rinsed beans, I used 2 cans white beans (sometimes called cannellini) and 1 can black beans. If you want to make this vegetarian, add 1-2 more cans of beans. Use whatever combination that you like! To this, add 1 box of chicken broth, (4 cans) preferably low sodium if you have it. If not, just taste the chili before adding the salt at the end. After simmering for a while (as long as you like) I thicken the chili with a little roux. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan.
Add 5 tablespoons (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon) of flour to this once the butter has melted and cook over medium heat. Whisk to keep the mixture smooth. I love using whole wheat flour here, it adds a nice nuttiness to the chili and keeps the glycemic index a bit lower then white flour. If you can find whole wheat pastry flour, it's a great alternative to all purpose for these kinds of things.
Cook the roux until bubbly and completely incorporated. Cooking this simple mixture takes the flavor way above just butter and flour. This little bit of mixture will thicken the whole pot of chili remarkably.

Taste the chili, and season with salt, pepper, and more cayenne pepper if you like. I used about 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper (don't feel like you have to measure this) and an additional 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes over the top of the chili and stir to combine.
Serve with chopped tomato, avocado, plain yogurt, shredded cheese, and any other toppings that you like. The chili can simmer indefinitely on the stove covered if you aren't ready to eat it right away. You can also freeze it, just defrost in the fridge before heating. Makes about 8-10 cups of prepared chili.
Cozy up to a warm bowl with a green salad, a quesedilla, or even just a toasted slice of bread. It's hearty and satisfying. Super Quick and easy!
Shopping List:
1 pound ground turkey or turkey breast
1-2 yellow onions
Peppers/chilies of your choice
3 cans beans (black, pinto, or cannellini are good choices)
1 box chicken broth, low sodium
2 limes
Cumin, Chili Powder, Ground Coriander, Cayenne Pepper
Toppings of your choice: Cheese, avocado, tomatoes, plain yogurt

Friday, January 2, 2009

Giada's Nutella Cookies

If you like Nutella, these cookies are for you. If you like chocolate and hazelnuts, these cookies are for you.
I know, I know. You're thinking, "Wait!! It's the second of January. This is the time for New Year's Resolutions! This is the time for healthy eating! I promised to be good!" Well, don't get too worried. Yes, these are a dessert, but c'mon. Dieting without any dessert is just no fun. I promise that these are a yummy treat that will satisfy that chocolate craving and not completely un-do your post holiday hard work. Granted, you can't eat the whole batch in one sitting and still claim to be dieting- but a little reward now and then keeps us on track. So if you are ready to indulge a little, get out a bowl and here we go!
The recipe is happily basic and easy. Something you can whip up in a quick afternoon or evening. If you want to limit your consumption, you could freeze half of the dough and bake these later. There is only 1 cup of added sugar (granted the nutella is sugary) and only 1/2 cup of butter (granted the nutella is buttery). So start with your butter, sugars and nutella and beat until fluffy and fully incorporated. Like this:

To the creamed mixture, you add the eggs and vanilla and beat for a couple more minutes. Then add the baking powder, soda, and salt, followed by the flour. Once just barely combined stir in the chocolate chips (or nuts, if you prefer). We are not huge fans of nuts in our cookies, so I swapped them out for chocolate. I personally can never have too much chocolate, but if it isn't your favorite flavor, you might want to try the hazelnuts. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8-10 minutes for teaspoon sized cookies, or 12-15 minutes for tablespoon sized cookies.
Enjoy with a cold glass of milk- you will need it!
Adapted from:
Giada's Nutella Biscotti
(From her most recent book, Giada's Kitchen, Giada explains that her grandmother called these cookies biscotti, even though they are drop cookies. I think it was a good idea to go along with Grandma in this case, no matter what you call them, they are fantastic!)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup nutella (about half of a small jar)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or toasted, chopped hazelnuts