Friday, May 31, 2013

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies--picture redo

Good thing I had so many lousy pictures in the earlier (okay, and sometimes even later) days of this blog, so that I have plenty of opportunity to remind you all about some of my favorite recipes.

This flourless peanut butter cookie wins on so many levels. It's delicious. It's easy. It's gluten-free. It's filled with good fat and protein. Yes, it has a lot of sugar, but evenso, I consider it a thoroughly acceptable weekday treat. Truth be told, I'd even eat it for breakfast in a pinch. (I haven't, mind you, but I honestly consider it a lot better than many of the breakfast foods out there.)

Now go put your kids to work and tell them to make you some cookies.

(And just for kicks, here's the old picture). And just in case you're wondering--yes, in real life they look pretty like the good pictures, not ugly like the bad.:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mother's Day: A Belated Grief

It's not at all about food (although somehow I intended it to be when I started), but here's a post I wrote for Whitney Johnson's blog about my mother and writing and believing in myself . Enjoy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Balsamic Glaze

Someday I will learn to take a decent picture of meat. Someday.

Until recently, I've never been able to make a really great pork chop. I just didn't know how to cook it through without cooking it to death. Now I do. I also know something great to put on it. It's also easy--hurray--because I don't know about you, but today I don't want to do ANYTHING.

You can do this on the grill, but you can also do it on a skillet. That is what I did.

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Balsamic Glaze
adapted from Saveur
makes 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $5.25
(chops: 5.00, butter: .15, other stuff: .10, rosemary: mine was free, but fresh herbs will be a few dollars; if you don't have them already, feel free to use 1/2 tsp dried)

Note on vinegar: There are all kinds of flavors of balsamic, so you can just go standard or you can go all crazy. I used a blackberry one once for this and it was incredible. If you don't have balsamic, you can probably sub a red wine vinegar, it'll lack a little of the sweetness balsamic gives this.

Note on honey: This could be subbed with maple syrup or even sugar if you don't have honey.

4 pork chops
salt and pepper
1/3 C balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp butter
1-2 sprigs rosemary
oil for cooking

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a skillet. It doesn't have to get super hot (you don't want the oil smoking), but hot enough to sizzle when you put your chops on. Coat 4 pork chops with salt and pepper. Cook them in oil. Alternately, you can throw these babies on the grill.

In the meantime (or if you're grilling--do beforehand), combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a small pan. Cook until it's reduced (it'll boil, thicken, and reduce). When it's reduced, add butter and rosemary.

Use your balsamic mixture and baste it onto your cooking pork chops. Give it a little more every time you turn the pork chops.

They're done when they're at least 145 degrees at the center.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

No Bake Breakfast Cookies--Photo Redo

So when I did my post earlier this week about oat chocolate chip cookies, I realized while linking to other breakfast cookies that a picture of one of my most popular breakfast cookies looked like crap (um, kind of almost literally). I make these cookies at least once a week. It was time for a photo redo.

These cookies have only 1/4 the sugar of a regular no bake. They are whole grain, yet potentially gluten-free (if you use oats that haven't been mixed with gluteny stuff). They're also nice and quick since there's no baking time and they set up very quickly. At this point, I think I actually prefer them to typical no bake cookies and that's the honest truth.

Make them, eat them, and be glad my picture no longer looks like this:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oat Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies

For a long time I've been after a chocolate chip breakfast cookie that I really love. I've got this one, which is good (though I always knew wasn't perfect), but still usually gets trumped out of the breakfast scene by these or these or these(worst pic ever and I make these at least once a week--time to fix that picture) or even these. So I was looking for something that could really compete. And I found it.

The oat flour in these takes a good breakfast cookie to a great one. And if you like macadamia nuts, then these will be better to you than some dessert cookies. (Note: I love macadamia nuts; my family doesn't like "chunkies"--unless those chunkies are comprised of chocolate of course--so I usually just put a handful of nuts in the last bit of batter and make myself some with nuts.)

The taste alone is enough to sell me on this cookie, but it gets even better because if you're worried about allergies, gluten, or need an easily veganned breakfast cookie, this cookie is:

-Potentially gluten-free (use all oat flour--a type that hasn't been processed with gluten stuff)
-low sugar
-whole grain
-egg free
-potentially vegan (sub that milk out with almond or soy or whatever and sub the chocolate chips out with whatever vegans usually use for chocolate--or skip the chocolate chips all together and use raisins or nuts; this is still a great) cookie

Oat Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies
adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie
makes 12 smallish cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 minutes
Cost: $.85
oats: .30, sugar: .10, chocolate chips: .30, milk: .05, oil: .10

Note: You can use all oat flour. I think this is my favorite. I've also tried it with 2/3 C whole wheat flour and 1/2 C oat, which is also good. And I'm betting you could use a lot of different grains for that 2/3 C if you wanted to experiment or do a cookie with different grains/textures.

2/3 + 1/2 C oat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 Tbsp brown sugar (or 2 Tbsp brown, 2 Tbsp white)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp coconut oil in liquid state (or another vegetable oil)
1/4-1/2 C chocolate chips
5-6 Tbsp milk (can sub out vegan types of milk if needed)

Preheat oven to 375. Combine dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Now, form this into a big ball and then make little balls from the big one. I know that sounds weird, but it works the best for these cookies (unless you've been generous with the milk, in which case, you can just drop them). Then flatted the balls with your hand or a spatula.

Bake for 6-8 minutes. Let cool.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Breakfast for Dinner

So I was totally planning to do a new breakfast cookie post today, but burned my finger kinda bad at dinner, which makes typing a little difficult.

So in honor of breakfast, here are a few links to some of our favorite breakfasts for dinner. I whip these (or things like them) out at least once a week--either when dinner hasn't been well-planned (shocking) or we're short on time (also shocking) or just to keep it cheap. All can be made in 30 minutes or less and cost just a few dollars to feed a family. I think breakfast for dinner a time or two a week is one of the best ways to save money. Serve with some fruit or a salad if you're worried about veggies although several of these even manage to incorporate greens.

1. Bacon Swiss Egg Bake. I love this stuff. And look there's green goodness in it too (pictured above).

2. German Pancakes (Dutch babies). So EASY. And a great thing to do if you find yourself with too many eggs or if eggs go on a wicked sale. (pictured at bottom of post)

3. Potato, Bacon, and Cheddar Bake. You can also add greens or other veggies. Though I truly believe there is nothing in this world wrong with some eggs and potatoes on occasion.

4. Blender Waffles. Make in a blender--forget that egg yolk/white separating stuff. And a nice treat every so often.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This month for Secret Recipe Club, I had Learning Patience. It didn't take me long to pick a recipe called Brocomole. Why? Because broccoli has been on sale lately. And Kip loves it. In fact, in a cruel twist of marital fate, it was the one veggie he really loved when we got married and the one (though I love almost all vegetables) that I really didn't care for. In an even more cruel familial twist, it is one of the few vegetables that my entire family will consume whether they love it or not (Mark eats his paltry and mandatory piece doused in BBQ sauce, but he eats it). Consequently, I've learned to appreciate it more. I've even come to love it roasted (oh, mama), though we eat it steamed more often because (mysterious to me) that is how the masses tend to prefer it around here. As a kid steamed broccoli was one of those foods I would not eat. And yet my son who eats, like 7 foods total is willing to choke it down if he wants dessert (and, yes, there are many many foods he is not willing to choke down, dessert or not). So every time I discover broccoli in a new, fun way, I go for it. Brocomole is just that. It is a broccoli dip. With cream cheese and sour cream. And it's delicious.

Beyond deliciousness, however, it is versatile. You can eat it with crackers for lunch (this is the route I went), but it would also be a fun party dip or appetizer or side/veggie dish at dinner (how I plan to introduce my family to it--nothing like a pile of crackers on the side to get then to try their veggies). I bet  you could even use it as a mayonnaise substitute on a sandwich to very good effect. Also, it can be made as I did with garlic, salt, and pepper, and a little onion and cayenne. But I bet it'd kick butt with dill and parsley. Or even a Tbsp of ranch powder. Or some pesto. Or whatever. So, yes, versatile.

Furthermore, I'd be willing to bet that if you didn't have broccoli you could make it with cauliflower (that way it would even be white and no one would have to confront greenness) or kale.

adapted from Learning Patience
Makes about 1 1/2 C
Prep time: 6-7 minutes
Cost: $1.20 with sale broccoli and cream cheese (probably closer to 1.50 or 1.75 if items not on sale)
broccoli: .50, cream cheese: .50, sour cream: .15, garlic: .05,

Note on cayenne and other seasonings: The seasonings in this will strengthen the longer it sits. So if you plan to serve it soon, feel free to go all nuts. However, if you plan to serve it the day after you make it, be careful, especially with potent things like cayenne. I made this a day ago and the cayenne was perfect; today when I had my leftovers it was (still good, but) more wowza. So, be warned.

1 head broccoli, cut
juice and zest from 1/2 lemon (if you don't have a lemon, you can use 1/2-1 Tbsp lemon juice here instead)
4 oz cream cheese
2 oz (2 Tbsp) sour cream
1-2 cloves garlic
dash onion powder
3 chives
tiny dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the broccoli. I did this in the microwave. Put broccoli in microwave-safe bowl with a bit of water. Then cover with plastic and cook for 3-4 minutes or until tender. (Be careful when removing plastic--the steam will whoosh out and could burn you.) Note: This could also be the perfect recipe for leftover broccoli. If you've got a cup or two leftover, go for it.

Put broccoli and rest of ingredients in food processor (blender would probably work too if it's a decent one, though this stuff is fairly thick) and process away.

Let cool and eat with crackers or other vegetables for dipping.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Salted Caramel Frosting

Yesterday was my birthday.

I'm getting a little older. Usually I don't let this bother me. I have--as they say--an old soul. Which is all well and good until your old soul meets your aging body, and then you start to wonder if this whole getting older thing might be kind of pesty after all. In fact, in the making of this very cake, I was just standing there by the stove--just standing. And all the sudden my knee had this excruciating pain shoot through it. For the next two hours, it hurt to walk. And then whatever was pinched through the exertion of that intense bout of standing on my own two legs that I unkindly subjected my body to got unpinched and I was saved. When I told my husband (two years my elder, btw) about it, he said, "Welcome to 36."

Anyway, to celebrate getting older and being a masochist at the same time, I decided I wanted a swimsuit for my birthday. Which inevitably entailed swimsuit shopping. Which inevitably entailed confronting the fact that I now have armpit fat (that little lip of fleshy stuff that hangs over the top of the swimsuit--tell me I'm not the only one, people). Which inevitably entailed another reminder that I am no longer 16 (and, truly, thank heavens that this is so, armpit fat be darned).

So to celebrate not being sixteen and discovering the joys of armpit fat, I made the best cake of my life. And not to put too fine a point on it, I've made some pretty incredible cakes in my time. This was a 3-layer chocolate cake with caramel frosting on the inside layers and chocolate frosting on the outside. 

Disclaimer: This cake will not give you armpit fat per se. I don't want people deterred from making this delight because I--for reasons inexplicable even to myself--have prefaced this post with a discussion of armpit fat. Getting older gives you armpit fat. Because armpit fat is really a combination of loose skin and saggy boobs, being pushed up by the merciless spandex-y stuff that swimsuits are made of. I am not recommending you make this cake every day. In fact, I will take a moment right now to not recommend that. But for your birthday--you totally should. It will keep you young. Especially if you lick the beaters (and share them with your kids). It will keep you from that 16-year-old self that was so afraid of getting fat that she filled her journal with ramblings about that topic. It will keep you connected to your recently deceased mother who made you whatever cake you wanted for your birthday--always homemade, often homely, delicious. It will keep you the best parts of young and the best parts of old. Promise.

Today it is about the caramel frosting that I wish to speak.

My friend gave me the idea--nay, the obsession--by introducing me to an absolutely divine frosting a few weeks ago. Hers was amazing. I kept imagining it in combination with chocolate. Ah, such happy birthday imaginings. (Dieters--stop imagining. And, as a general piece of advice, stop writing about getting fat or hoping not to get fat or all the things that might make you fat in your journals, okay. Because one day you'll go back and read them and you'll think--sadly--"I wish I could remember what St. Nicolas Day was like in The Netherlands." But you won't be able to remember well because all you will have written about your time in that lovely country was your terrible fears that--even though you're biking miles every day and generally eat very healthfully (and incidentally--were not at all fat)--you will somehow manage to suddenly gain trillions of pounds and be repulsive to all around you. Just stop it. Not that I know this from personal experience or anything...I just think that as a general practice it's probably a bad idea.)

Okay, enough with speaking. Let me tell you how to make it.

Salted Caramel Frosting
frosts 1 9-inch cake (to have it frost a big one like this entirely--not a bad idea--you'd need to double it)
Prep/cook time: 30 minutes, plus a period of cooling
Cost: $1.25
sugar: .10, cream: .50, butter: .50, powdered sugar: .15

Note: Caramel can be a tricky beast, or at least a food you have to get to know. Below, I've put the method that works for me very well. I use water with the sugar and heat the cream before adding it. For me, this has been (so far) full proof. Then I add the cream in a steady stream whisking constantly until combines into a saucy sort of thing. At first it might seize a bit, but if I keep whisking, it unseizes and comes together. If I have trouble with it, I warm it a bit as I whisk. That said, I believe that altitude, humidity, and whatever Egyptian diety who happens to control caramel might also have a hand in this, so find a method that works for you and use it. Just be sure to add the butter after you've done the sugar and cream and it has cooled. If you add the butter before it's cool, the butter will melt and this will come out differently (probably a little runny and you'll have to add more powdered sugar and loose the oomph of the caramel flavor).

1/2 C sugar
4 Tbsp water
1/2 C cream (heated for 30-60 seconds in the microwave)
12 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar

Note: If you can melt sugar just fine on the stove, skip the water and do so. I always burn mine, so the below method works best for me.

Put sugar and water in a pan. Heat. Don't mix it or anything. (Tip: As it melts, warm your cream--this will make it easier to mix when it's time to add it.) Just let the sugar melt and start to turn color.  The liquid sugar will start to bubble and boil. It might even crystalize a bit. That's okay. If it starts to crystalize (the bubbles will look a little crystally), just gently stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Do this until it turns deep amber in color and smells awesome. This took me a while, but until the end, I didn't need to pay much attention to it. I did dishes and got stuff ready.

Then, take off the stove and whisk in the cream. Keep whisking until your stuff comes together. [Note: If it's clumping into a big candy mess, put the pan back on low heat and keep whisking--it should eventually melt and come together.]

Let this cool. I put it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

When it's cool (and it is important that it cool--otherwise this will not turn out right), put butter and salt (I'd start with 1/2 tsp salt) in a bowl and beat it. When it's fluffy add the caramel you made and beat. Then add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and beat.

Allow this to sit for a few minutes. The flavors will meld. I know that sounds a little whacky, but it's true. When I first tasted mine, it was good. But after 30 more minutes, it was amazing. Of course, this would probably happen on your cake anyway...


To make a cake such as I did:

Make the above caramel frosting.
Make Kip's fudge frosting.
Make Best Ever Chocolate Cake.

Put the caramel frosting between layers and the chocolate frosting on the outside.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spinach Artichoke Pizza

I made this one night when we had friends (and their 5 kids over). I made several pizzas--pepperoni, my ranch pizza, and this. It was a riff off of one of my favorite dips, and boy howdy, this pizza won the day. By a long shot. And I even burned the cheese a little and it was still much loved. Make it. Love it. Eat it.

Spinach Artichoke Pizza
makes 1 large (or even extra large) pizza
Prep time: 15 minutes (not counting crust here; just topping part)
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $6.65
cream cheese: 1.00, mayo: .15, spinach: 1.00, artichoke hearts: 2.00, Parmesan cheese: 1.00, mozzarella cheese: 1.50

1 crust of your choosing (I usually do a breadmaker one, but I love this quick one too)
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
5 oz spinach, chopped small and cooked (you can microwave with a bit of water or cook in the skillet--you want it wilted; then drain the water off)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped a bit
1/2 C Parmesan cheese to mix in
1/2 C Parmesan cheese to add on top
1 1/2 C mozzarella cheese

Spread out the dough for your crust.

Beat together cream cheese and mayo. Add garlic, cooked (and drained) spinach, artichoke hearts, and 1/2 C Parmesan cheese.

Spread this on your crust.

Top with 1/2 C Parmesan cheese (or Romano if you want to switch it up just a tiny bit) and 1 1/2 C mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Who's late to the party again? Me, that's who. I've been seeing links to recipes like this for ages and have meant to try this for ages. But I just barely got around to it. A bunch of ripe $.39 avocados were helpful. Maybe you come late to parties too. If you do, we can hang out in the corner eating our chocolate avocado puddings together. We won't regret it.

We can even invite our husbands over. Even if they claim not to like avocado. Kip gobbled up half of mine the other day and liked it. It came from a blender so he knew something was up and asked what was in it. I told him that the food industry has their little secrets and I've got mine.

This is so delicious and so smooth. It is more in texture to Jello pudding than most homemade puddings (whether that's a selling point for you or not). I hate Jello pudding, but I think they go for that texture for a reason--it's smooth and just thick enough. That's how this pudding is. It's very very creamy and the texture--I mean, it's just perfect.

The other thing I love about this (besides it being delicious because it really is--I crave it every time I tell someone about it) is that even though there's an avocado in it, it will keep. You can eat part now and part the next day. You can put it in school lunches. You can make it ahead. Unlike homemade guacamole, which looks like the compost bin ate it by day two.

This is not a vegan version, but I'd bet my buttons you could vegan it in an instant. I recommend using canned coconut milk and real maple syrup to do so.

The one thing you should be aware of with this pudding is that it's dessert. I know. I know. It's dessert that you just threw a super food into and I'm sure your skin will thank you, but it's still got 1/4 C sugar for what could easily be considered one large serving or two small ones. And that's a lot. I tried making it with half the sugar and half the cocoa (knowing that adding half the sugar and all the cocoa could make it a bitter disaster). It wasn't terrible. I ate it. But it wasn't chocolate pudding. It was an avocado-type-chocolate-ish smoothie.

The other thing I should tell you is that this is really very filling. I don't know what it is about avocado, but it is so so filling to me. The day I tried eating this all by myself (for breakfast--it was the lower sugar experiment), it was all I ate and I could barely get it all down and was not even close to hungry at my next meal. When I ate a half serving of this, I still got till 1:00 before being hungry for lunch. And, yes, I know avocado has, like, 22 grams of fat, but so does 1/4 C of butter and I don't think it will fill me up the same way (but then I've never made a butter smoothie--hmmm--bet I'd be the first one to that party).

Chocolate Avocado Pudding
serves 2
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $.70
(avocado: .50-1.00, milk: .05, sugar: .05, cocoa: .10)

Note: I used a small blender for this. Using a big one might be difficult because the blades might pass right over the avocado. If you only have a large blender, I recommend doubling or tripling and scraping down the sides frequently.

1 ripe (but not overripe) avocado
1/4 C sugar (or pure maple syrup, which I also tried and to good effect, though it adds a slight maple flavor to the end product)
1/4 C cocoa
6-7 Tbsp milk
drop vanilla (optional)

Blend in blender.



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