Monday, March 29, 2010

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies

     There are two oatmeal cookie factions in my household. There is the "An oatmeal cookie is not an oatmeal cookie without raisins in it" faction, and then there's the "I hate to bite into a perfectly good oatmeal cookie and discover that those dark things aren't chocolate" faction. This being the case, when I made oatmeal cookies this weekend there was only one thing to do...well two actually. I made part of the cookies with raisins, and the rest were studded with peanut M&Ms.

     This recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies on the Quaker Oats website  is a little bit different than the recipe (by the same name) on the Quaker Oats oatmeal has a little bit less of both butter and sugar, which made it an easy choice since we're trying to cut down on both around here. Regardless of the mix-ins used, both kinds of cookies turned out perfectly chewy inside with a little "crisp" on the edges. Additionally, using the Baking Spice Blend in place of the cinnamon I usually use really gave them a good flavor. No one missed the extra butter and sugar at all!

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies
recipe from the Quaker Oats website

1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs from happy hens
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon or Baking Spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker Oats- old fashioned or quick  (uncooked)
1 cup of mix-ins: raisins, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, candy covered chocolate pieces, dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries (optional)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees 
  • Cream together butter and sugars. 
  • Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
  • Whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, spice and salt. Add to mixture.
  • Stir in oatmeal and mix-ins.
  • Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment covered (or ungreased) baking sheets. I also added a few extra raisins (or M&Ms) on top of each dough ball.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for a minute on the cookie sheet and then cool completely on wire racks. Yield: 4 dozen.
Bar cookie variation: Press dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

    Sunday, March 28, 2010

    Weekend Wanderings

    Isn't this a nice view? If you had a little cabin here, you could wake up and take your coffee out to your porch and enjoy the solitude of the early morning. All you'd hear would be the sound of the water rippling, the fish jumping and the birds in the trees. And if the mosquitoes weren't too bad, you could make a freezer of pineapple ice cream and invite your family (including your sisters of course) to help you eat it. You'd do that, wouldn't you?

    Baking Spice...Cinnamon with an Attitude

         I love cinnamon. It's probably my favorite spice to use in baking year 'round. In addition to being incredibly tasty, did you know that cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar? It can also have a beneficial effect on LDL cholesterol, help relieve arthritis pain and boost cognitive function and memory. (Boy, do I need that one!) It's great to find out that something that tastes so good  has so many health benefits.

         While cinnamon is good all on its own, the addition of this mixture of spices gives it a little "kick". The spices work together to make a delicious blend you can use wherever you would use cinnamon (or any of the other spices in the blend). Try it on your oatmeal, in cinnamon rolls, cinnamon toast, in oatmeal cookies, or even add a spoonful to your coffee grounds in the filter. Try's good for you!

    Cinnamon Baking Spice
    6 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
    1 Tablespoon ground allspice
    1 Tablespoon dried orange peel (found in the spice section)
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use in recipes in place of cinnamon or other baking spices.

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

    Chocolate-peanut butter-graham cracker-caramel goodness sittin' on a Ritz cracker. Yep, a Ritz cracker. Who would have believed it? This crispy gooey delight is reminiscent of a Twix candy bar. Crispy layers sandwiched with a caramel filling and covered with chocolate. And easy? You don't even need your oven.  You'll need your stovetop and about 20 minutes to have these chilling inside your refrigerator, with you chilling outside of it peeking every 5 minutes to see if your bars are set and ready to eat.

    I found this recipe on Buns in My Oven and they looked so deliciously tempting I had to try them. Another recipe in Taste of Home used Waverly Crackers, which I think would also be awesome, but you know that everything's better when it sits on a Ritz! (Andy Griffith said so.) You should try these. Really, you should. But don't hate me if you sit down with a cold glass of milk and eat way too many of them. Not that I'd know anything about that.

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispy Bars (Printable Recipe here)
    adapted from Buns in my Oven
    1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    3/4 cup white sugar
    3/4 cup brown sugar
    3/4 cup butter (1 and 1/2 sticks)- melted
    1/3 cup half and half or milk
    Ritz Crackers- Enough to make 3 layers in your 9x13 pan. My pan used about 2 1/2 sleeves.
    1 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 cup creamy peanut butter
    • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine melted butter, sugars, milk and graham cracker crumbs. Bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, cook about 5 more minutes. Make sure to stir constantly- the sugar will burn. Don't even ask me how I know that.
    • Grease a 9x13 pan. (To make the bars easier to lift out, you could line your pan with greased-or nonstick-foil or greased parchment.) Cover the bottom of your prepared pan with a layer of Ritz crackers.
    • Spread half of the graham cracker-sugar mixture evenly over the layer of Ritz crackers. Repeat with another layer of Ritz crackers and the rest of your graham cracker-sugar mixture.
    • Top with a third layer of Ritz crackers.
    • In your microwave on low power, melt together the chocolate chips and peanut butter. (Don't overcook...Melt the chips part-way and stir to finish melting.)
    • Spread the chocolate mixture over the top layer of Ritz crackers. Put in the refrigerator to set completely. Cut into bars and hide some away for yourself, because they'll disappear fast!

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Weekend Wanderings

    It was another beautiful weekend for being outside, with temperatures in the 70s. The daffodils are up and blooming. I think I need to weed and mulch.

     I had good company in my wanderings this weekend though! My little shadow (and his too) had fun on the trampoline,

    and with Great-Mimi's kitty. 

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Easter Peanut Pretzel Bites

    Easter Peanut Pretzel Bites
    These sweet and salty treats are cute and curiously addictive. Quick and easy, a batch of these can be made in two shakes of a bunny's tail! Put them in a cute bag tied up with a pretty ribbon for a last minute Easter basket treat, or just enjoy them from the bowl. Go ahead...make somebunny happy!

    Peanut Pretzel Bites
    1 bag of square "waffle shaped" pretzels
    1 bag of peanut M & Ms
    1/2 lb. package white chocolate "bark" or white chocolate chips
    On a piece of waxed paper, lay out as many pretzel pieces as desired.
    Melt white chocolate according to the instructions on the package.
    Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of melted chocolate on top of each pretzel. (I just used a spoon.)
    Before the chocolate sets, place a peanut M & M on top. (I used the pastel Easter M & Ms for these.)
    Let set until chocolate hardens. (You can put them in the refrigerator to speed this up if you need them fast!)
    Store in an airtight bag or container.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Egg-sparagus Wraps

    Asparagus is one of those veggies that is best when it's in season locally, and thankfully, it won't be too much longer. Why? Asparagus is delicious any way you make it...roasted, steamed, in soup, with pasta, and now in this scrumptious sandwich.  I was in Sammy T's last week, and this wrap on the specials menu caught my eye. Egg salad, asparagus and bacon... how could I go wrong? It was indeed a wonderful sandwich. Wonderful enough for me to make it for dinner tonight.
    This is more of a concept than a true recipe. You'll need egg salad, bacon, asparagus and some sort of flour tortilla or flatbread. (I made this one on a homemade tortilla, but you could use your favorite flatbread.)

    Egg-sparagus Wrap
    Egg Salad- Use your own recipe or the one below.
    Start with perfectly boiled eggs. Boil enough water to cover 6 eggs. When water is boiling, gently lower room temperature eggs into water. Boil for exactly 14 minutes, then remove from heat. Run cold water over eggs until cooled. Peel.
    Mash eggs with a fork. Add a  tablespoon of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of yellow mustard, 2 teaspoons of sweet pickle juice and salt and pepper to taste. (Depending on your eggs, you may need to add a bit more mayo or pickle juice.)
    Fry bacon until crisp. Drain excess fat.
    Wash and drain asparagus. Saute in a little olive oil until desired tenderness is reached.

    To assemble the wrap, spread about 1/2 cup of egg salad down the center of your flatbread. (Use more if you have a large tortilla.) Top with 2 or 3 slices of bacon and about 6 (or more) asparagus spears. The original sandwich had lettuce as well, so it wouldn't hurt my feelings if you tucked some in. Fold your wrap and enjoy one of the best treats of spring!

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Homemade Tortillas

    Homemade tortillas?  Jenny suggested we make these, and while I'd never even thought of making my own tortillas before, it sounded like a good idea. And oh my goodness it was most definitely a good idea. These were soft and flavorful, with just the right amount of chewiness. We ate them with lentils, but they would be equally good wrapped around any kind of filling to make a sandwich wrap (or tacos, or enchiladas, or anything your heart desires). Made with ingredients you already have on hand, you can make these up as quick as a wink. Jenny found the recipe here at OmNomNomnivore.

    South Texas Flour Tortillas
    You will need:
    2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. vegetable or olive oil
    generous 3/4 cup hot milk

    • Heat milk in the microwave for 60 seconds. Leave it there until you need it!
    • Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
    • Add the oil to the dry ingredients and mix together a bit.
    • Slowly mix the hot milk in until the dough ball comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. (You might need a little more or less milk than the recipe calls for, and you might need to adjust with additional flour.)
    • Mix the dough for 3-4 minutes and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead once or twice.
    •  Divide the dough into 12 equal balls. Make an indentation in each with your finger.

    • Roll each ball into a 6 inch circle (more or less...) and cook on a hot non-stick skillet or griddle. Each one will take about 30 seconds per side to cook, so you can put one on to cook while you're rolling out the next one. This is a good time to employ a willing helper if you have one. Or be the helper yourself if you have a daughter in law that can make these things with her eyes closed.
    Enjoy them warm or cold. You'll never look at a perfectly round tortilla the same way again.

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Bacon and Eggs...Sunny Side Up!

    There's something about a salty and sweet combination that's hard to resist, and when you add chocolate, it's even better! These treats are quick and easy to make, and the cute factor is seriously high. A friend told me about them (Thanks Phyllis!) and the ingredients just happened to jump into my grocery cart. I wish I'd known about them last week...I could have made them for Dr. Seuss's birthday. Wouldn't they be cute in green? (Note to self: Remember these next year.)

    Eggs and bacon...they're not just for breakfast anymore. 

    Bacon and Eggs Candy Pretzels
    thin pretzel rods
    yellow M&Ms 
    white chocolate (candy melts, white chocolate chips, white chocolate bark)
    • On a piece of waxed paper or parchment, arrange pretzel rods in pairs for the bacon. (Break them into desired lengths if they're too long.)
    • Melt the white chocolate according to the directions on the package.
    • Drizzle (either with a spoon or a piping bag) a small amount of melted white chocolate onto the center of the two pretzels.
    • Before the chocolate hardens, place an M&M on top to look like the egg yolk.
    • Let harden before carefully peeling the candy off of the paper. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

    Weekend Wanderings

    It's been wet now for several days, but just a bit drizzly today. The roosters were out struttin' their stuff...they're happy to have some green grass to scratch around in.

     Trees are still bare, but look closer...


    And this was the first thing I saw when I got to my mom's made me smile. :)

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Triple Coconut Macaroons

    I truly believe that coconut and chocolate were made for each other, and these macaroons are proof. Dipped in dark chocolate, the chewy sweet bundles of coconut goodness put Mounds bars to shame. Each one is a perfect "two-bite" treat just waiting to be enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee. I only made half of a recipe, leaving me with a half can of Coco Lopez. PiƱa Coladas anyone?

    Triple Coconut Macaroons  (printable recipe)
    slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated magazine
    (Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

    1 can (15 oz.) can cream of coconut (I used Coco Lopez)
    2 tblsp. light corn syrup
    4 egg whites (from 4 large eggs from happy hens, of course)
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp. almond extract
    1/2 tsp. salt
    3 cups unsweetened shredded desiccated coconut- you can find this in the natural or organic foods section of most larger grocery stores
    3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
    10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (optional) for dipping
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
    • Whisk together cream of coconut, corn syrup, egg whites, extracts and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
    •  Combine both types of coconut in a large bowl; mix together, breaking up clumps.
    • Pour set aside ingredients into coconut and gently mix together. Chill for about 20 minutes.
    • Roll coconut mixture into small (about an inch) balls and place about 1 inch apart on parchment covered baking sheets.  If you have more patience than I did, shape the balls into pyramids with moistened fingers. :)
    • Bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets until slightly set, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
    • Melt chocolate (if desired) in a double boiler or in microwave on 50% power. Dip the bottom of each macaroon into the chocolate and then place on parchment paper to set. Let cool until chocolate hardens.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Devilish Eggs

    Around here, deviled eggs disappear just as quickly as they appear so I don't know why I don't make them more often. My happy hens are laying again, so there were some extra eggs in my refrigerator. I've never really used a recipe for deviled eggs before, but have used the "dump it in until it tastes right" method. This time when I made them I actually did my best to figure out what I put in them. :) In addition to the traditional ingredients, I always add sweet pickle juice. If you don't have sweet pickles, you could also use the juice from sweet pickle relish.  And cayenne? It doesn't make them hot, it just gives them a little personality. (I made a mistake one day and used cayenne on the tops instead of paprika, and have used it ever since!) Perfect for a simple lunch with a green salad.

    Start with:
    Perfectly Boiled Eggs
    Bring eggs to room temperature. (I always boil more than I need and use the rest for egg salad.) In a large saucepan, bring water to a rapid boil. Add a dash of salt. Gently lower eggs in with a ladle. Boil, uncovered for 14 minutes. Immediately pour off boiling water and cover with cold water to halt the cooking process. Add cold water to the eggs as the water warms. As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack and peel.

    Slice 6 hard boiled eggs in half lengthwise. Put the yolks in a small bowl. Put the whites aside on a dish. With a fork, mash yolks until all lumps disappear. Add:
    1 1/2 Tbsp.mayonnaise
    2 tsp. yellow mustard
    dash of cayenne pepper
    1 Tbsp. sweet pickle juice (the secret ingredient)
    salt and pepper to taste

    Mix together until blended. Spoon the mixture back into the shells or pipe it in using a star tip with a frosting bag.
    Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika. (or more cayenne if you dare!)

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Weekend Wanderings

    ...When everything turns 'round to feel
    the sun upon its back.
    When winter lifts a little bit
    And spring peeks through the crack.
    Dorothy Aldis

    Today was a beautiful day for a walk.  Sixty degrees, sun shining, snow almost doesn't get much better. I can smell spring.

    The sky was beautifully blue and I was looking up at the patterns made by the bare branches. I almost missed this but I'm glad I didn't. See it?

    A little closer.

    Hiding in plain sight.

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Dulce de Leche Squares

    These Dulce de Leche bars were a delicious mistake invention. They were supposed to be Caramel bars with  a lovely homemade caramel in the middle, but we won't discuss what happened there. Luckily I remembered the can of Dulce de Leche hiding in the cupboard, and voila...Dulce de Leche bars! With the coconut in the crust, the caramel and chocolate, they reminded me of Samoas, one of my favorite Girl Scout cookies. They just needed some toasted coconut on top (which I didn't have because I'd used it all in the macaroons that I'll post later.) I liked that the crust was not sweet... it made a perfect base for the creamy caramel and fudgy frosting. They were very easy to make, and would be perfect for the special time when you want to make someone happy. And that includes yourself. Cut these small..share the love.


    Dulce de Leche Bars (printable recipe)

    Bottom crust:
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 scant teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 cup desiccated coconut (This can often be found in the organic or health food section of the grocery store.)
    1 stick butter
    Middle layer:
    1 can Dulce de Leche (I found it in the Mexican food section of my grocery.)
    4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (I used Bakers) broken into pieces for easier melting
    1/2 stick butter
    2 teaspoons light corn syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8"x8" baking pan. Cut parchment to fit into the bottom to make the bars easier to remove. Lightly grease parchment.
    • For crust: Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Melt butter and mix with the dry ingredients. Press into prepared pan.
    • Pour Dulce de Leche over the crust. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
    • Place butter, chocolate and corn syrup into a small saucepan or double boiler. Melt over very low heat to avoid burning the chocolate. When chocolate and butter have melted, remove from heat and add vanilla. When mixture has partially cooled, whisk together until smooth and glossy. Pour over cooled Dulce de Leche. Allow chocolate layer to harden, and cut into small squares.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Fish Cakes!

    Ever since they were little tykes, my kids have loved salmon cakes.  My grandson loves them too, so I always keep a can or two of salmon in the pantry for those times when a quick dinner is necessary. Salmon cakes are easy, quick and are an economical way to add fish to your diet. I like to serve these with corn muffins and a salad or greens.

    Salmon Cakes
    2 small cans skinless, boneless salmon, or one large can salmon with skin and bones removed
    1 egg
    2 slices of bread or rolls-moisten with water then gently squeeze to remove excess water
    2 tblsp. mayonnaise
    dash of cayenne or hot sauce
    pinch of baking powder
    finely chopped onion- optional (I like them with onion but my kids prefer them without)
    ground pepper to taste

    Remove skin and bones from your salmon if necessary. Put all ingredients in a med. bowl. Mix together- hands work best! Make into patties and cook in a small amount of olive oil until golden brown and cooked through. Makes about 5 cakes.

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