Monday, December 29, 2014
So Christmas is over and the Pinterest boards and Yahoo articles and advertisements are filling up with exercise routines and weight loss challenges and work out clothes. It kind of makes my head spin--like we're a bunch of schizo lunatics on some trippy joy ride. Hey--Let's eat too much chocolate and ham until our stomachs bloat and our fingers swell and we feel kind of like crap. But we won't stop. Well, not until we decide to do the four-day juice fast and choose (of all body parts?) to focus on the intense exercising of our inner thighs. And then we'll give up whole food groups at a time or adapt recipes made with sugar to recipes made with...wait for it...maple syrup. This lunacy continues on to about February when everyone either has yoyo-ed back to a normal weight or given up. I sound kinda judge-y, don't I? I don't mean to. Honestly, I don't. It's just that I've driven to crazy town and back a time or two in my life. I did not eat any fat in all my high school years except for these occasional "binge days" when I would eat all and everything I wanted. In college I did a couple of sugar free years (better than the no-fat thing, I think, but still a focus on restriction that employed many fake sugars so I could get an occasional sweet fix). And this type of disordered eating--it's just not the place I think we should all be aiming for (and pinning) right now (or ever). So I'm trying to be helpful, not judge-y, and to speak from the voice of experience--of past disordered eating. Please forgive me if I've missed the mark there and come off sounding like a total jerk (at least I could try to sound like a funny jerk, right).
Ironically, the recipe today is Paleo, Vegetarian, Void of refined sugar, and involves plenty of Coconut. People, it's positively righteous. But I'm not posting it for those reasons. I'm posting it because it tastes good. And it's wicked quick (like, 60 seconds) to make. Easy. One bowl. One serving (but can be made for more). And it tastes good. And, yes, it does leave you feeling better after eating than you did before. That, I suppose, is the goal I'm shooting for. Most wholesome food gets us there, and occasionally a really good treat.
The truth is that I actually discovered this little snack/meal in December one super busy Saturday night when I came home from singing at a nativity exhibit, then shopping for presents (in heels--oh the agony; how do women do it) and then hurrying home to rush my son and his friends over to the church to clean up from the nativity exhibit. I was starving, but already running late and I had three tweenage boys waiting for their ride. This meal was like heaven--satisfying, healthy, but light enough to eat at 7:00 pm without regretting it. It can be an instant breakfast as well, or healthy dessert, or a post workout snack. It can be anything you want it to be (maybe it should move to Vegas).
So try it. I hope you like it. Also--don't let the whole "warm banana thing" frighten to you. They're very lightly warmed--just enough to bring out a bit of sweet comfort-food-ness, not warm enough to be, like, you know banana mush.
Warm Banana and Coconut Bowl
adapted from Fast Paleo
prep time: 60 seconds
banana: .15, coconut milk: .25, pecans: .25, coconut: .10
1 ripe banana (yes, ripe)--cut into "coins"
1/4 C coconut milk (canned or other)
2 Tbsp pecans
1-2 Tbsp shredded coconut (unsweetened works just fine)
a drizzle of maple syrup (optional) (you could also use a sprinkle of any sugar of your choice)
Combine all of this (except maple syrup) in a bowl. Nuke it for 30 seconds. Stir it. Add the maple syrup if it's not sweet enough for you, although taste it first because you might be surprised.
Monday, December 22, 2014
I'm gonna be honest here. When I saw these on Pinterest, I didn't think they'd work. If they did work, I figured they would be chalky and dry and gross. Nope and Nope and Nope. They're delicious--almost Oreo-cookie-esque (my humble opinion is that they're better than Oreo-esque). And they absolutely DO keep their shape. My old boring sugar cookies (which I've never managed to perfect btw) just got butt-kicked to the curb.
The secret? It took me a sec to figure it out when I looked over the recipe--we're always blaming butter and what-not for cookies spreading. But no. This has more butter than you'll care to admit and plenty of sugar too. Lots of cocoa? Check. But. But. NO LEAVENING. I mean, it's so obvious, right? If you want a cookie to keep it's shape--you don't add the agent that will make it poof up. As an added bonus, removing the leavening from your cookies is going to keep the flavor more pure because when you add leavening to a baked good, it reacts (which is what makes it leaven and all) and that sometimes causes a flavor change. I don't notice this flavor change in most baked goods, but you know where I do notice it? Sugar cookies. That's why I always love the dough of standard sugar cookies, but end up not really liking the actual baked cookies of standard sugar cookies--the leavening has reacted and created a flavor that I dislike in sugar cookies. Not in these babies. No leavening means no weird taste/aftertaste. These are delicious.
(See those lines, people. This is a cooked cookie. I always wondered why cookie cutter makers even made cookie cutters with those lines that would inevitable blur out in the baking process. Now my lined cookie cutters have new purpose. They thank you, new sugar cookie recipe.)
And, you know what, I'm totally going to try this with my normal sugar cookies--I'm going to see what happens when I take the leavening out. Will the finished product taste just as good as the dough? Let's hope so.
For now, I give you these fabulous chocolate sugar cookies. Not only are they fabulous tasting and un-spreading, they're super simple with only a few ingredients. And they really do taste a lot like the chocolate parts of Oreo cookies. So, naturally, if you want them to taste even more like an Oreo cookie, you're going to frost them with this like we did. You're welcome.
You can also add mints if you want to. Especially for the cookies that your frosted ugly (but delicious) style.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies That Keep Their Shape
Makes 3 dozen
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour
Cut time: depends on whether it's just you and the elf on the shelf or if you're including your children in this process; just don't start too late at night with young kids or you'll be ready to rip off some Santa cookie heads in a mad rage before the evening's over. Not that I know from experience or anything
Cook time: 6-8 minutes unless you make these babies thick (which you CAN do because they don't spread--hurray)
Cost: $2.00 (or about $.06/cookie
butter: 1.00, sugar: .20, egg: .10, flour: .20, cocoa: .40, vanilla: .10
1 C butter
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C flour
3/4 C cocoa
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix butter and sugar until combined, but you're not going to "cream" it per se (you're not going to beat it until you get a bunch of air in and its light and fluffy because you're trying to avoid that with these cookies).
Add egg and beat in. Add vanilla and beat in.
Combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Beat these into the wet ingredients. Again--don't overmix--just beat until it's combined and kind of clumping together.
Take it and roll it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or longer).
When you're ready, flour the table (flour it well, friends) and then roll out your dough. It can be thin or thick--we went for medium and did ours about 1/8 inch thick.
Place on cookie sheet as you get them done. Then place the cookie sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes (Note: This was part of the directions from the original recipe; It was meant to help them hold their shape more perfectly. I followed it for my first two pan-fuls and then ran out of steam and just threw the third pan in the oven when I was done cutting. I did not notice a perceptible difference between the chilled and not-chilled cookies, so if you want to check your anal-retentive at the door, feel free.)
Bake for 6-8 minutes. If your cookies are quite thick, you'll want to add a couple more minute.
Remove from oven. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then take off of cookie sheet (leave too long and they kind of stick and get harder to remove).
Frost or decorate as desired. We had to do this the next day since by 7:30 that night, I was ready to behead some Santas. We used my favorite Vanilla Butter Frosting. You should too. Unless you're dieting. In which case, shame on you for even reading this post, you food porn pervert.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
If you ask most people, they'll tell you they don't like brussels sprouts. That's because they've never really had brussels sprouts. They've only ever had soggy little cabbage balls. Or perhaps they haven't even had those--they've only had the idea of soggy little cabbage balls in this woefully slandered member of the broccoli family. At any rate, before you pass judgment, you should make these. They are fabulous beyond fabulousness. They are like the brussels sprouts you thought you knew went to Hollywood and made it big (minus the plastic surgeries).
Asian Brussels Sprouts
adapted from The Baker Mama
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
brussels sprouts: 1.50, other stuff: .50 (yeah, I'm totally guessing here; sorry)
1 lb brussels sprouts
3 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
pinch black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set a rack on the top (yup--top).
Cut sprouts in half and remove any leaves that are wilty or falling off.
Spread brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet. Coat with oil and sprinkle with satl.
Place on TOP rack for 40-60 minutes, stirring them every 15 or 20 minutes to ensure that all sides get browned and crispy.
During the last 10 minutes of cooking, put other ingredients in a pot and boil them until they reduce into a thicker sauce (about 5 minutes)
Remove sprouts from oven and brush with the sauce. I did this with a pastry brush and it worked perfectly. You'll likely have leftover sauce. You can use this for dipping if you wish.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
This month I joined a Cookie Carnival (as part of Secret Recipe Club), which is a group of bloggers who make each others cookies in December and then blog about them. I got the blog Join Us, Pull Up a Chair. It's written by Heather who is a mother, blogger, business woman, and she has a full time job. I'm going to bed now. No wait, because I have to tell you about these cookies which were everything I'd hoped they'd be and more. Truly, I had NO problem picking my cookie.
I picked these oatmeal cream pies because I used to love the Little Debbie version. I have many memories of coming home after school, climbing up on my counter, and stealing them from the cupboard where my mom kept them. In defense of this questionable behavior, let me distract you from myself and point the finger at someone else and say that I also have plenty of memories of my parents snarfing them down. So there we go.
Even though I haven't had a Little Debbie cream pie in years, anything that professes to be a better, homemade version can catch my eye. Now it can catch yours too. These are one of the best cookies I've made in a while. And I like to make cookies. They are way way better than any oatmeal cream pie you'll buy in a store. And you don't have to change out of your pajamas to enjoy them.
Oatmeal Cream Pies
from Join Us, Pull Up a Chair
Makes about 20 cream pies
Prep time: about 20 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 minutes
oats: .20, flour: .10, butter: .50, sugar: .10, brown sugar: .20, egg: .10, cream cheese: 1.00, confectioner's sugar: .10, maple syrup: .25, other spices: .10
1 1/2 C rolled oats
1 C flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C light brown sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 C confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
In a separate bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add in egg. Then add flour mixture until well combined. Stir in oats by hand.
Roll batter into balls (about 1-2 Tbsp worth). Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned (on bottom).
Allow to cool completely.
While it's cooling, make the filling. Beat cream cheese with confectioner's sugar until smooth. Add maple syrup until combined.
When cookies are cool, plop a tablespoon or so of filling between the flat sides of the cookies.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
So this isn't quite a recipe, but a month or so ago, I developed a tiny obsession with candles that come with jewelry in them. It's like Cracker Jacks meets the lottery because there's a chance that instead of a cheap piece of jewelry in your candle, you'll get a nice, expensive piece of jewelry. But cheap or not, there was something thrilling about burning a candle and then seeing a bit of foil peek out of the wax--foil that contains a prize. (Okay, not everyone gets this, but if you are a prize or surprise person, you probably do.) After a foray into the candled jewelry world, I had a huge and awesome couponing streak with these candles and got several for nearly free. Naturally, my three girls also became obsessed with this concept, but none of the rings I got ever fit their tiny fingers. There were other companies that sold candles and tarts (wax without a wick that you melt in a melter/warmer) with things like necklaces and earrings in them, but I already had all the candles I needed for cheap and didn't want to pay for more. I also--for the record--had earrings that I'd been planning to give for Christmas (sterling silver ones, which are often better quality than what you'll get in a gamble of a candle jewelry).
Enter brilliant idea. I would make my own little tarts for them to melt in our melter. They get the fun and the jewelry. I get the cheapness.
You can too. Because this is pretty easy. If you've got someone in your life who loves jewelry, nice smells, and surprises, this will be a triple win for you.
Also, it'd be a cool way to propose. Just melt that tart throughout dinner gentlemen.
1. First you melt your wax. You can use a cheap candle you buy for this. Or if you've got old candles lying around your house (who doesn't) that are used or nearly used up, you can use these. You put the candles on a candle warmer (Note: If you don't have one, put them in your crock pot and set it to low--this is what I did.) Melt the wax.
2. While it's melting, prepare your jewelry. Put it in some type of tiny Ziploc bag. I had little ones left over from other jewelry I've received at various points of my life, but if you don't, a small Ziploc bag or even some tightly wrapped Saran wrap will probably work. Put the jewelry in the tiny bag and seal it up tight.
3. Then wrap this tightly in aluminum foil till it's a sweet little square.
4. Put this at the bottom of an ice cube tray (or how ever you can get it to fit).
5. Pour your melted wax into the tray and let it cool.
6. When it is thoroughly cool--not just rehardened, but cool--it should come easily out of the ice cub tray.
7. Now bag it up and wrap it. If you're a cute person, you'll bag it all cute and wrap it with a bow and stuff. If you're me, you'll throw it in a Ziploc bag and call it good.
Note: Not going to do any of this, but intrigued by the idea of a candle with a ring in it. Here's a link for 20% off from Diamond Candles.
Monday, December 8, 2014
When you bite into them, there's this delightful snap/pop thing that happens. And a sweet sour thing going on. I love them.
adapted from Kleinworth and Co.
Prep time: overnight soak, plus 15 minutes, plus hour rest
cranberries: 1.50, sugar: .25
1 C sugar
1 C water
2 C cranberries
3/4 C sugar
Heat sugar and water in a pot until sugar is dissolved (try not to boil, but if you do, the world probably won't end; you just don't want to hard candy your syrup). Then let that cool (if you put the cranberries in when it's hot, they'll pop open). After it's cooled, add cranberries. You're going to leave them in this sugar water to soak overnight, so be sure they're all submerged. This will keep your cranberries from being intensely sour--they'll still be a bit sour, mind you, but not as sour as plain old cranberries rolled in sugar would have been.
Soak them for 8 hours or overnight.
When you're ready, strain off the sugar syrup (or use it for some other purpose), and let your cranberries dry just a bit. You don't want them dripping wet. You want them a little damp or tacky.
Now roll them in sugar. I did this by putting the sugar on a plate and shaking those berries around till they were coated. It worked perfectly.
Let them sit for an hour or so so that they sugar can set. Then put them in something pretty and throw a party.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Local readers--If you're in need of Nabisco Chocolate Wafers (and trust me, you need them even if you don't know you need them yet), they are on sale right now at Schnucks. (And by on sale I do mean 'being sold' not 'selling for a fabulously low price'). So sorry that they're not super cheap. But they are super awesome. And in some cases they are the only cookie that can be used to perfect effect in certain recipes. And here I'm thinking of this one. Which is my favorite dessert recipe of all time and will probably be yours too if you buy the darn cookies already. Stock up.
Monday, December 1, 2014
You guys know I'm not Princess Crafty, right? If you don't, then I'm going to assume that you are legally blind. At any rate, for our Mom-run preschool, I had the letter 'L' and I always say nothing says Love Like Lollipops. Okay, I never say that, but wouldn't it be great if I did for letter L week. Anyway, I was looking on the internet for "Easy Lollipop" recipes and, folks, I was not finding easy recipes. I was finding the types of recipes that need a candy thermometer and lollipop molds and silicone sheets and--do you know how hot melted sugar gets--hotter than preschool-level hot--that's how hot.
So I turned to a little book I got my own preschooler for Christmas. It's called, Candy Aisle Crafts and is lovely. We got it from the library and Emma was obsessed with it. She'd look through the pictures and make requests. For weeks. Until I finally had to return it and she was sad. So I bought her her own for Christmas (shhhh). Now, in all honesty, some of the ideas in the book are what I like to call "sheer lunacy" (making polar bears from marshmallows types of things), but others--like the entire section on using hard candies to make simple lollipops--I must in all humility refer to as "sheer brilliance." You take hard candies (crushed or whole) and you arrange them over a lollipop-esque stick (we just used skewer type sticks), and you bake them and they come out all glued together and abstract art-ish and fabulous. The kids can help; they can arrange their candies in any old way they please. And then you pop them in the oven till they melt together. And then they cool. And that, my internet friends, is an easy lollipop. A kid-help-friendly lollipop. A lollipop that is easy to Like and Love and Lick and Linger on.
It is also a lollipop that can be easily and whimsically adapted to the holidays. To be honest, I'd choose one of these over a gingerbread house any day. With these I get almost no parental work and your kids still get the sugar orgy. Win!Win?
You can use them to decorate, to craft/eat with your kids, or to give as gifts if you have hard-candy loving friends.
Here's what you do:
1. Preheat oven to 275.
2. Cover your baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. If you do not do this, your candy will stick and you will hate your life for at least several hours afterwards (possibly even a whole day).
3. Arrange your candies. Use any old stick you've got. We used skewers. You can use whole candies, or crush them. Naturally I opted for whole ones since crushing/breaking candies sounded like a lot of messy work.
4. Bake. Start with five minutes, and check, although if you're using hard Starlight mint style candies like we did, you can probably start checking at 8 of 9 minutes. Our lollipops took about 12 minutes total, but you do want to check yours if you're using different types of hard candy (say Jolly Ranchers) because if they melted too much they'd spread all over everywhere.
Note: Try to use similar types of hard candy--say all Jolly Ranchers or all round mints. Why? Because different hard candies have different melting points and if they're not matched somewhat evenly, then some will be super spread when the others haven't begun to budge. We did try a bag of assorted candies and all had generally the same (or close enough melting points except the Werther's-style candies).
Note: Know that they shatter. After preschool, I found myself sweeping and mopping my floor. So don't let your kids wander around chomping on these unless you want peppermint speckled carpet for the holidays.
Note: If you plan to give them away, you may want to parcel them up in parchment paper for classic Christmas prettiness and for unstickiness.