Monday, February 29, 2016

Cookie of the Month

So already this month, the kids have gotten used to there being a new batch of cookies every week. I even bought my first cookie jar (it's just a basic 1 gallon Anchor Hocking glass jar- but I have the 2 gallon jars for my sugar and flour so it "goes")!

And speaking of jars, the first week this month, I just made a mix from a jar someone gave us as a gift for Christmas. It was a gingersnap mix and all I had to do was add the butter and eggs and bake. I don't know what was in the mix, but I do have a great recipe for gingersnaps.

The second week of the month started with Superbowl Sunday. Amabel had liked the last M&M cookie recipe so much that her request was for monster cookies which I had not made in years.  We had some good friends over to watch the Superbowl and the peanut butter-oatmeal-M&M- chocolate chip cookies were a hit! They're one I really need to stay away from because I have absolutely no self control when they are around. Just to be clear, I don't put raisins in mine. Why would I do that? I just add more M&M's and chocolate chips to make the difference.

The third week of the month Amabel made another request - chocolate crinkle cookies. This recipe comes from the Williams Sonoma Kids Baking cookbook that I got a few years back when Borders went out of business. It's out of print, but I just love that it has basic recipes for basic baked goods. I use the recipe for pizza dough often. And this recipe is great too-- no chilling the dough or rolling out dough-- I think I've even made it on Sunday morning before church.

The last week of the month I was out of sorts. I just couldn't find any inspiration. Amabel was also out of sorts and really just wanted cookie dough. And the best kind of cookie dough, in both Amabel's and my opinions is chocolate chip cookie dough. Still slightly unsatisfied with the Nestle Tollhouse recipe and with no M&Ms on hand, I searched for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe and did find one that I liked, but the dough wasn't quite what we wanted. It lacked enough salt for one thing, and the inclusion of cornstarch in the recipe weirded me out a little. The recipe was fairly similar in many ways to last month's cookie of the month- down to the pre-chill (though only for 20 minutes in the fridge- I'm starting to think some sort of chill time is a must) and the two teaspoons of vanilla. However, the cookies themselves were also not quite salty enough. They were great though, and we all enjoyed them. However, I think the search continues for a new go to.

And therefore, the cookie of the month is chocolate crinkle cookies- simple, easy, soft, chocolatey, and delicious. I can't believe I've never posted them before now!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. Dutch processed cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

- Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
- Scrape down sides of mixer and blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.
- Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.
- Mix the flour mixture into butter mixture
- One at a time, scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into balls, then roll each ball into confectioners' sugar to coat.
- Place balls on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart and bake until crackled and puffed, about 10 minutes, at 350.
- Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing cookies to cooling racks to cool completely

Friday, February 26, 2016

More Fun With Sausage and Kale

This is going to sound like I am just crazy for kale. Which, okay, I kind of am. But this is another soup with kale and also Italian sausage. I actually have been meaning to post it for about a year but it's one that I make a little different every time and have been waiting to get everything clear in my brain to be able to make it sharable. I figured I might as well go ahead and get it up so that the two kale and sausage soups are right in a row. This one was born from me having various ingredients I really wanted to use together and wasn't sure how- namely, quinoa, kale, and black beans. I found a vegetarian soup recipe online and changed it up for our carnivorous family. I made it for the first time for my family last February and was able to build the leftovers back up for my coworkers for our Valentine's Day potluck (kind of a tradition at the flower shop where we work long hours at Valentine's Day and don't have time to have a proper lunch break). Everyone wanted the recipe and I didn't quite know how to tell them what to do apart from listing the ingredients (amounts of each vary and it seems to need more liquid upon reheating). I've tried it several times again and honestly make it a little different every time, but here it is, the basic gist.

Kale, Quinoa, and Black Bean Soup with Italian Sausage and Chicken

-1/2 lb. Italian sausage
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1.5 T Italian seasoning
- 2 bunches of kale, rinsed and chopped (or one larger bunch- depends on the store)
- 8-12c. chicken broth
- 1-2 15 oz. can(s) petite diced tomatoes
- 1c. quinoa
- 1-2 15oz. can(s) black beans, drained and rinsed
- chopped roasted chicken, optional- I would normally use the meat from the legs of a 3.5 pound fryer because our family prefers the white meat and I need good ways to use the dark meat, but a chicken breast would also work

1) Brown Italian sausage in a Dutch oven.
2) Add sauté onion, carrots, and celery for several minutes
3) Add garlic and kale and sauté several more minutes
4) Add 8c. chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
5) Reduce heat to a simmer, stir in quinoa and let simmer for about 20 minutes
6) After quinoa is ready, decide if you need more chicken broth and the second can of tomatoes, especially if you are adding a lot of chicken (my vote is yes, just to stretch it), and then add in beans and roasted chicken and heat about 5-10 more minutes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Soup for a Group

We had an unusually busy weekend this weekend. I felt so blessed by all the fellowship! And quite a bit of it was other people reaching out to me- so it wasn't the kind of weekend where I had to do a lot of work to keep the good times going. We were treated to dinner and games with some friends on Saturday night, lunch with friends after church today, and our amazing church planting group this evening where wine and good conversation is almost always part of the agenda! 

I did have to do a little bit of work though- I wasn't off the hook completely. We had some friends over for lunch on Saturday that we haven't gotten to hang out with in way too long. So naturally, I had to do some basic cleaning and meal planning/prepping. I was so looking forward to seeing them though that I felt really unable to settle down and pick a menu. Someone finally said something to me about soup and I was so grateful for an idea I could latch onto and run with. After all, my friend Sarah has an amazing creamy potato soup with kale that I have been wanting to make for a while. I thought I had made it about a year or so ago after I first had it at her house, but once I started making it, I realized I probably never did after all. There are steps I surely would have remembered- like, you have to pre-boil the potatoes. I think after I have made this a few times, surely I will think of a way to streamline it so that I don't have to use two separate pots. And other potato soup recipe I have ever made cooks the potatoes in with everything else. But, it's way less complicated than my tomato soup recipe, and it is well worth the trouble of using a second pot. We are usually pretty considerate of each other in our house, but there was definite effort being made on all of our parts as we decided who got the very small portion that we actually had leftover. In the end, we let Amabel have it. I'll just have to make another whole pot very soon. We served it with grilled white cheddar cheese sandwiches on country Italian bread. We had 6 adults and 8 children and almost nothing was left, so I guess it would be accurate to say the recipe serves about 12.

Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

1.5 pounds Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
10-15 small to medium potatoes, 1/4" sliced 
2 bunches kale, rinsed, stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces (some markets sell larger bunches than others- you may just need one)
2- 4c. low sodium chicken broth
4c. milk
2c. heavy cream
1 tsp. dried oregano

- Boil potato slices in salted water for 10-12 minutes or until tender (slices from larger potatoes may need to be halved or quartered before boiling to be bite sized) and drain
- Meanwhile, in a dutch oven, brown sausage and sauté onion until softened, then drain off fat
- Add broth, cream, milk, and oregano to dutch oven and bring to a low simmer- allow to simmer for 30 minutes (so then, why can't the potatoes just be cooking in this liquid is my question? you would just need more chicken broth- I may try this)
- Add potatoes and kale to soup and cook just long enough for kale to soften- about 10 minutes (a commenter on Sarah's blog where this was posted suggested adding the milk and cream at this point too, which I tend to think is a better idea, and yet also just then wonder what the whole 30 minute step is even for-- this is a recipe I probably should've made again one more time before posting, but it's just so dang good that I wanted to go ahead and share!)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Two Creamy Layered Desserts

At one point in high school, it seemed that my friends, mother, and sisters were all suddenly enamored with tiramisu. I think Sleepless in Seattle may have sparked a cultural awakening to a previously lesser known dessert. Or maybe it was just one of those things where we had all taken its existence for granted and Tom Hanks' asking about it reminded us what a treat it was! Anyway, I am sorry to say, I did not like tiramisu. I have never cared for coffee ice-cream and I drink my coffee black- something about sweet and coffee flavors together is not appealing to me. Furthermore, I am not a fan of cheese in desserts- cheesecake and cream cheese brownies are easy for me to pass up. So tiramisu, with its coffee dipped lady fingers layered with mascarpone cheese was never going to be a favorite with me.

About a year and a half ago though, we were invited to dinner at my friend Sunny's house down in Alabama. She always had the loveliest spread with the most delicious food. And at the end of this particular meal, she brought out a tray of sherbet glasses of tiramisu. It was a charming presentation, and I always make a point of at least trying what is set before me. And what a surprise! The tiramisu was delightful! It was so good that I wrote to Sunny after we got home and requested the recipe. And Sunny, being the sweet lady that she is, obliged.

In December, I had a little party for some of the people from the church we have spent the last year at who have really blessed our family. We had a total of five couples and eight children and I made way too much food! I made a spinach artichoke dip for an appetizer, three lasagnas (the recipe to which, I am realizing only now as I try to find a link, I have never posted), a very large Caesar salad with homemade croutons, two of Sunny's tiramisus (? can you make tiramisu plural? I just did!), and one alternative dessert for the kids or anyone who isn't a fan of tiramisu. The reviews came back positive- people really enjoyed the tiramisu! And the other dessert is so simple that I am pretty sure Elspeth Peace actually did most, if not all, of the work. It is the recipe I mentioned in my last post as being the one funny little exception to us purchasing national brand store-bought cookies. My mom, who doesn't like cooking at all, uses it as a fallback all the time and it always gets rave reviews. My sister and I even won a dessert contest with it at a Christmas party when we were kids! It's the kind of thing that is so easy it's embarrassing, but then it isn't embarrassing after all because everyone wants the recipe and loves the genius of a three ingredient, no bake, 15 minute prep recipe that their kids or grandkids can make! Without further ado:

Cookie Casserole (sorry, that's just what we always called it)

2 bags of Chips Ahoy cookies (store brand Chips Ahoy works just as well- just whatever's cheapest)
16oz. tub of Cool Whip (again, my apologies)
coffee mug full of milk

- One by one, dip the cookies in milk and lay across the bottom of a 9x13 glass dish
- After the dish is covered in a first layer of cookies, spread half the Cool Whip in a layer over the top
- Make another layer of dipped cookies
- Make another layer of Cool Whip
- Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, and serve

*A few notes-- Oreos can be used instead of chocolate chip cookies. The longer the cookie is dunked in the milk, the more milk it absorbs, and the less refrigeration time is required (this is good to know if you are making it for potluck right before church or throwing it together ten minutes before guests arrive for supper). And finally, my mother always thought it was a nice touch to drizzle the top with Hershey's syrup but I, personally, don't like doing it that way- but to each his own.

Sunny's Tiramisu

6 egg yolks
1c. sugar
1 3/4 c. mascarpone cheese
1 3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
2 7oz. packages of lady fingers**
1c. cold espresso
1/2 c. coffee liqueur
1T cocoa for dusting

- Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
- Add mascarpone cheese to whipped yolks and beat until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks, then gently fold whipped cream into egg and cheese mixture.
- In a small bowl, mix the cold espresso with coffee liqueur and dip each lady finger into this mixture just long enough to get wet (don't soak!)
- Arrange the lady fingers in the bottom of a 9" square baking dish.
- Spread half of the whipped cream mixture over the layer of lady fingers
- Make another layer of dipped lady fingers and then spread the last layer of whipped cream over top
- Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight
- Dust the top with cocoa before serving.

**A note about the lady fingers- I purchased Trader Joe's Soft Lady Fingers in a 4.75 ounce package. 2 packages were more than enough for this recipe. I certainly did not need the equivalent of 14 ounces of these. I do think the Trader Joe's lady fingers, a "product of France,"  are a little lighter and airier than what one might normally find and therefore weigh less. It does look like most other lady fingers imported from Italy come in a 7 ounce package.

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