Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Magnolia Bakery's Chocolate Chip Peanut Banana Loaf

Magnolia Bakery--one of the best bakeries in New York City. So when I took a trip down to visit my older sister last weekend, I decided to bake her something from their cookbook. Heck, maybe she'd be able to compare my creation to the actual thing!

Only half of this Chocolate Chip Peanut Banana Loaf made its way down to the city, and a slice never made it to my sister's best friend as planned. Take that as: THIS BREAD IS DARN GOOD.

1/3 cup (5-1/3 T.) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup milk
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup finely chopped, unsalted peanuts
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Bake at 350º. Grease and flour 9x5x3" loaf pan.

Using a large bowl, cream butter and sugar on low speed, until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time. Add banana and milk. Mix in flour and blend thoroughly.Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan.

Bake 45-55 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes and remove from pan.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another Summer Salad

Wegmans has done it again. Another Menu magazine, loaded with ideas, recipes, and new products to try, appeared in our mailbox a few weeks ago. The large section devoted to fresh summer salads is especially appealing. We've tried several and have an early favorite to share.

Quinoa has long been something of a mystery to me. Even its pronunciation posed a problem (the consensus seems to be keen-wah). This recipe for Red Quinoa-Avocado Salad contains many of our favorite summer ingredients and seemed a promising place to begin.

Red Quinoa-Avocado Salad


1 pkg (7 oz) Food You Feel Good About Red Quinoa, cooked per pkg directions, chilled
1 pkg (12 oz) Food You Feel Good About Frozen Super-Sweet Corn, thawed
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 plum tomatoes, 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, cubed small
1/2 cup Food You Feel Good About Lemon Vinaigrette
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Add cooked quinoa, corn, cilantro, green onions, and tomatoes to mixing bowl. Fold in avocados and dressing; mix until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper; serve

Nutrition Info: Each serving (1 cup) contains 210 calories, 27 g carbohydrate, (4 g fiber), 5 g protein, 9 g fat, (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, and 240 mg sodium.
Calories: 210

It was delicious! The nutty flavor of the quinoa was an unexpected treat. Are you a quinoa fan?  How do you prepare it? Any ideas would be welcome.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.
*cross-posted at Lakeside Musing

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Doughnuts

Disclaimer: This is not a real doughnut! It's a devil's food cake with chocolate butter cream frosting made in a doughnut cake pan that Santa brought me.
Maybe he's getting tired of cookies?

Let's talk doughnuts.

What is it that draws me to them? I love food and nutrition, fitness and exercise. So why doughnuts?

When I think of round circular treats, I think of Sunday mornings after church with my family. They served refreshments in the church hall following 9 o'clock mass, so as soon as we finished the final prayer, my sisters and I would book it down the aisle right after the priest to get first dibs. Cinnamon-sugar, glazed, chocolate headlights. The good ones always went first.

But on those mornings when our parents couldn't tear my sisters and me away from our Barbies, we went to 11 o'clock mass. No guitar group, no doughnuts, and crowded pews with sleepy high school students . . . we were always just outside of our element.

Or is it fond memories of time spent with my dad that makes me gravitate towards doughnuts? I think of long road trips through towns that time had forgotten to visit my great-great aunt in Vermont. Young Margaret would get restless and Dad would get sleepy. Nothing that a special sweet, sticky treat and a steaming cup of coffee couldn't fix. Or maybe it's the picture in my mind of my dad regularly bringing in boxes of doughnuts from a local bakery to his (most-of-the-time) grateful staff. He's a thoughtful guy, and I'd like to think I have a lot in common with him. Sometimes, it's easier to show people you care with an impressive three-layer cake, or a plate piled high with warm, soft cookies, or a box of fresh doughnuts.

It could be because doughnuts have always been seen as "the bad guy." And maybe I feel like I doing something a bit daring when I bite down on these circular desserts of apparent doom. Maybe it's the thrill of eating something we're always told to stay away from, to avoid like that kid in the sandbox who sneezes into his hands and doesn't give them a good scrub-down afterwards. Doughnuts are the most obvious of junk food, the option that wins the prize for the most I'm-trying-to-avoid-you effort during the morning coffee breaks.

But Margaret! Sugar! Fried! Calories! Trans fat! What are you doing? Relax guys, I got this.

Although doughnuts are meant to be a breakfast food, I classify them as a dessert, a splurge, or a treat. I try to eat a clean diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean (vegetarian) proteins, and healthy fats. I exercise five or six days a week and attend yoga classes whenever possible. Now what I'm about to tell you may or may not be flawed logic. But what good is leading a healthy lifestyle if one can't, well, be naughty every now and then? Take care of yourself, but don't deny yourself. If it's your great uncle's birthday party--have a small slice of cake. If your significant other gives you a box of fine chocolates--have a couple, but share with him or her! If you just finished a day of shopping that was brutal to your feet and your credit card, and you have a gal-pal who is eyeing the doughnuts and you're thinking you could deal with treat--go for it. Have the doughnut. When treats are just that--treats--I believe they're okay. Every now and then. Occasionally. When it's a full moon. Whatever--live a little, enjoy yourself, be bad. Have the doughnut!

National Doughnut Day, created in 1938, is celebrated annually on the first Friday in June.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Taste of Home Cookies

I've been busy so far this summer with my go-to cookie cookbook. Out of all the ones I've made over the past couple of weeks, these three are my favorites. The Frosted Cocoa Cookies have a little almond extract in the frosting. They're divine. Cool and refreshing, the Blueberry Squares are perfect to serve on a hot summer day. Be sure to store them in the refrigerator. Finally, the Pecan Metlaways are a classic true to its name! So go ahead, choose one or choose a couple. There's something here for everyone!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Greek Lentil Salad

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

Before heading to the grocery store checkout, I like to make a quick pass through Wegmans book and magazine aisle. Their selection is second only to Barnes & Noble and I have been known to make an occasional impulse purchase - usually a cooking magazine.

It was Vegetarian Times that caught my eye last week. Since Margaret has become a vegetarian, I've been on a quest to expand my meatless recipe repertoire. The June 2011 issue has several interesting ideas, but with summer salad season just around the corner, I decided to try the Greek Lentil Salad first.



1 cup French green lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 small onion
2 bay leaves
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 small cucumber, diced (1 cup)
2 medium tomatoes, diced (1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. Place lentils, onion, bay leaves, and 6 cups water in large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 25 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Drain, remove onion and bay leaves, and cool.

2. Stir together shallot and lemon juice in large bowl. Add lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, and oil; stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill 1 hour, or overnight. Serve topped with feta.

Serves 4

My Notes:

  • The organic green lentils (from Wegmans) cooked in just 20 minutes.
  • I skipped the shallot.
  • When served with lettuce and a tomato, this was perfect for lunch. 
  • I'm sure it would also be a welcome addition to the potato or macaroni salads usually served at summer barbecues.

This is my May submission for the The Foodie Challenge.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kale and White Bean Soup

This is my first week of summer vacation . . . and 65°F has been the highest temperature. And it has been raining. Wonderful.

When I think of summer foods, I think of fresh fruits and vegetables, bright salads, delicate cakes, and chilled smoothies. Kale and White Bean Soup doesn't really come to mind. However, if you're having a cold and rainy week like we are, this soup would make an excellent lunch. Pair it with some fresh whole-wheat bread and you have yourself a satisfying, nutritious lunch. I made two batches this week, and paired the second with King Arthur's No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread.

This recipe is from the Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, which is filled with recipes that are "crazy delicious" and "good to the Earth and great for your bod." Yay for veganism!

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup (130g) peeled and chopped carrots
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup (75g) peeled and cubed potatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups (1.4 l) water
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (135g) chopped kale with the hard spine removed
1 (14 ounce/400g) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Pinch of Pepper

Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about four minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, and tomato paste until the ingredients are well combined. Add the water, white miso, cumin, coriander, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add the kale, white beans and thyme and simmer another half hour. Garnish with basil and pepper before serving.

Cal: 150 Fat: 5g Sat Fat: 0g Carb: 21g Fib: 5g Pro: 5g

  • This recipe makes six servings.
  • I chopped up everything at the beginning.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

La compote de pommes et petits gâteaux à la cannelle

(Hey, guys! This is a project for my French class . . . don't mind me! Or the mistakes, if you speak French. ;D)

Bonjour! Cherchez-vous un dessert délicat, doux et fruité ? Voila! Cette recette est rapide et délicieuse, et le nettoyage est facile. Ces petits gâteaux seraient bons pour un pique-nique d'été. Si sortir votre couverture et votre panier pendant que ceux-ci sont dans le four!


1 bâton beurre doux, ramollir
½ c. et 1 tbsp. sucre surfin
1 c. farine autolevantes
2 oeufs
¾ c. compote de pommes sans sucre
¾ tsp. cannelle
½ c. noix de pecan hachés
½ c. raisins dorés
1 petite pomme, mincement coupé en tranches
1 tbsp. sucre

Préchauffer le four à 175. Mettre des papiers dans une casserole de muffin. (muffin pan?) Mettre le beurre, la sucre, la farine, et les oeufs dans dans un bol et mélange jusqu'à c'est lisse et pale. (Deux à trois minutes.) Remuer dans la compote de pommes, la cannelle, les noix de pecan, et les raisins.

Ajouter la pâte dans les tasses. Mettre les tranches de pomme sur le sommet et asperger avec un petit sucre.

Cuire pour 25 minutes.

Enlever la casserole du four et attendre cinq minutes. Après, enlever les petits gâteaux et les a mis sur une étagère. Servir les petits gâteaux quand ils sont chauds.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Celebrating Poetry: What's That Smell in the Kitchen?

by Marge Piercy

All over America women are burning dinners.
It's lambchops in Peoria: it's haddock
in Providence; it's steak in Chicago:
tofu delight in Big Sur; red rice and beans in Dallas.
All over America women are burning food they're supposed to bring with calico smile on
platters glittering like wax.
Anger sputters in her brainpan, confined but spewing out missiles of hot fat.
Carbonized despair presses like a clinker
from a barbecue against the back of her eyes.
If she wants to grill anything, it's
her husband spitted over a slow fire.
If she wants to serve him anything it's a dead rat with a bomb in its belly ticking like the
heart of an insomniac.
Her life is cooked and digested,
nothing but leftovers in Tupperware.
Look, she says, once I was roast duck
on your platter with parsley but now I am Spam.
Burning dinner is not incompetence but war.

from Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy
photo credit

I'm a poetry novice, and this one has left me speechless. Anger is not an emotion I tend to associate with poetry. But, why not?  Poetry gives voice to a wide range of feelings with keen and often profound insight.  When I read this to my husband, he responded "How about take-out tonight, dear?"

April is National Poetry Month. I'm posting a poem each week in celebration.
**Cross-posted from Lakeside Musing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cookbook Reviews at Lakeside Musing

Interested in cookbooks? Here are links to recent reviews at  Lakeside Musing.

Table of Contents by Judy Gelman &Vicki Levy Krupp 
(review here)

Party for Two by Bruce Cadle 
(review here)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Play Pool!

What a way to spend a Sunday morning!

Following the directions from the Hello, Cupcake! cookbook, I turned plain vanilla cupcakes into these pool balls. Fun to make and fun to serve.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Lentil Seitan Sloppy Joes

Although we're trying, weekly Vegetarian Night (should I call it Meatless Monday?) has not become a tradition. I've experimented with several tofu, bean, and pasta recipes, but my husband prefers a more traditional dinner. This week, we finally hit on a winner.

Margaret got Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook for Christmas and immediately requested the Lentil Seitan Sloppy Joes. Huh, seitan? What is it and how do you pronounce it? After learning seitan is actually wheat gluten, I dragged my feet another month before discovering it readily available at the local Wegmans. The real surprise came when my husband declared them better than "regular" sloppy joes.

(from Skinny Bitch)

1 1/2 cups (360ml) water
1/2 cup (170g) dried lentils, rinsed
1 Tablespoon safflower oil
1/3 cup (55g) minced onion
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup (85g) seitan, finely chopped
1 (6 ounce/170g) can tomato paste
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons tamari
1/4 cup (60ml) ketchup
6 whole wheat burger buns
1 avocado, sliced
pickles, sliced for garnish

In a medium saucepan, heat the water over high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the lentils. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.  In a separate saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the onion, bell pepper, and carrot until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add in the seitan.  Add the tomato paste to a blender or the work bowl of a food processor and puree.

In a medium bowl, mix together the tomato puree, mustard, vinegar, tamari, and ketchup. Then add the tomato mixture to the pan of vegetables. Combine thoroughly. Drain the lentils, but save the cooking liquid in case it's needed. Add the lentils to the pan of vegetables and simmer 5 minutes. If the mixture seems dry, add some of the cooking liquid.

Toast the burger buns. Serve the mixture on the toasted buns with  avocado slices and sliced pickles.

This is my March submission for The Foodie Challenge: Whip Up Something New.  Elise is collecting links for this month's recipes.

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fun Cookie Cutters

Give a sick loved one a fruit basket? Nah.
How about a plate full of mini fruit-shaped sugar cookies?
There we go.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Easy and Decadent No-Knead Wheat Bread

After returning from Denmark, I've been craving freshly baked bread. I knew I'd be able to find a healthy and easy recipe on Sure enough, after searching through the bread category, I discovered this recipe for Easy and Decadent No-Knead Wheat Bread.

This bread has a harder crust, but the inside is soft. The only thing I would change is the sugar. It calls for 1/3 cup of sugar, but I think I'll try 1/4 next time.

With only six ingredients and no kneading required, this is a great go-to recipe. And it's vegan!

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Danish Food

During February break, I embarked on a journey to Denmark with my school as part of a cultural exchange program. Seventeen American students were placed with Danish hosts, all of whom attend the same academy. Most students stayed at their host family's home, but a few boys crashed at the academy with their hosts (who are boarders).

The entire week was absolutely incredible: the people, the food, the architecture, everything. I'll tell you, I'm falling in love with Europe! My host family was so kind, and the Danish students were so much fun. My week in Denmark was one of the best weeks, if not the best week, of my life.

Above are various desserts from my time in Denmark. I enjoyed all of them in Copenhagen, except for the one in the first picture, which I had in the town where I stayed. I split the buttery scone, the lemon-coconut cupcake, and the apple pastry with my best friend during our free time in the city. The chocolate and the dessert in the first picture were all mine. Hey, when in Denmark!

Like Germany, the bread there was delicious. Greatly inspired, I've been baking quite a bit of bread since I've returned. That said, bread recipes are on the way!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Foodie Challenge: Stuffed Flank Steak

February is winding down, and it's time to submit my recipe for The Foodie Challenge. This project, the brain child of Joanna and Trish, asks participants to try at least one new recipe per month and blog about it.  February links are being collected on Trish's blog.

My crock-pot has been getting quite a workout this winter, especially since purchasing Stephanie O'Dea's Make It Fast, Cook It Slow cookbook. This was one of the first cookbooks I borrowed from the library for a test run. After the maximum two renewals, it clearly deserved a spot in my permanent collection.


The Ingredients:
3 pounds flank steak
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green apple, diced (no need to peel)
1/3 cup raw almonds, chopped

The Directions:
Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Put the flank steak in a plastic ziplock bag with honey and soy sauce and marinate overnight.

In the morning, combine the feta cheese, garlic, green apple, and chopped almonds in a mixing bowl.

Pour the flank steak and marinade into the stonewear. Remove the meat from the marinade and put it on a cutting board. Put a handful or two of of the cheese filling in the middle of the flank, and roll it up.

Return the meat to the crock, seam-side down. If you'd like to secure the meat with twine or skewers, go for it.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or on high for about 4 hours. Slice carefully, and serve. If the meat unrolls a bit, you can stick it back together with toothpicks to present nicely. Or don't worry about it - it's just going to get eaten anyway. If you are left with extra garlic, feta, apple, and almond mixture, it makes a great salad topping.

My notes:
This needs to marinate OVERNIGHT, so be sure to start the evening before. I somehow missed that fact the morning I was planning to serve it - we had it the following night instead.

There was way too much stuffing for my 2 pound flank steak, but the author was right. The leftovers were outstanding on a salad!

We had no flank steak leftovers. I can't tell you the last time this much meat was consumed in one meal.

Food photography is hard... this actually looked much better than the photo suggests.

Did you try a new recipe this month? Stop by Trish's blog and link up.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Saturday Soup

Winter weekends are made for soup. This week's offering comes from Wegmans, my favorite grocery store. I've been making this spinach lentil soup for years.

Spinach Lentil Soup


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Classics Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) Food You Feel Good About Salsa
  • 1 1/4 cup dry lentils, rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 pkg (10 oz.) fresh spinach, stemmed

1. Heat oil in soup pot on LOW.  Add onion and carrots; cook, covered, on low for 5 minutes.

2. Add salsa, lentils, spinach, and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to LOW and simmer, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes until lentils are tender.

My notes:

  • I used organic green lentils.
  • Instead of 6 cups water, I used 4 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water. (Margaret would have preferred vegetable broth or just water)  
  • I also waited until the last 10 - 15 minutes to add the spinach.

Visiting Wegmans website this morning, I noticed the recipe has been updated to include matchstick carrots and Goya red lentils. The new recipe can be found here.  Matchstick carrots would make the soup seem even heartier, and I'm willing to give red lentils a chance, too. I wonder if they have a different taste...

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Almond-Ginger-Peach Treacle Tart

The tart before it was put into the oven.

I am, and will always be, a huge Harry Potter fan. I store the hardcover books in a safe glass-windowed chest, I know the lines to all of the movies by heart, and an entire shelf in the playroom is dedicated to Harry Potter games, action figures, cards, bookmarks, stickers, stationary, etc.

Obsessed? C'est possible.

Now, imagine a kid like me attending a Harry Potter class every other day. Discussions, debates, movie-watching, and other various Potter-related activities (ie. Divinations). End your daydream, because I am actually enrolled in such a class. Magical, isn't it?

Technically, I am a muggle (a person without magical abilities), but I am in a stage of denial . . . which has lasted since 1997 when the first book came out.

But nevertheless!

I made a wonderful Almond-Ginger-Peach Treacle Tart from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook for my class on Monday. The filling was easy to prepare, but the crust was, well, a nightmare. I finally got the hang of it after a while, and it was worth it. The crust was pure almond-y flaky goodness, and balanced out the perfect sweetness of the filling.

Witches, wizards, and muggles alike will enjoy this tasty treat.

Ron: Do you think we'll ever just have a quiet year at Hogwarts?
Hermione, Harry: No.
Ron: Yeah, didn't think so. Oh well, what's life without a few dragons?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Frosted Ginger Cookies

My volleyball team was looking forward to those cupcakes, so I ended up making these cookies for the team sleepover last night. Yup, definitely made up for it! People loved these--I couldn't believe how fast they disappeared! The ginger in these cookies was perfect, not over-powering at all. And the frosting was a perfect compliment. I had to save a few for my family!

This recipe is from the Taste of Home: Cookies cookbook.

For the Cookies:
1-1/2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons each baking soda and ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground cloves

For the Frosting:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash salt

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in molasses and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes or until cookies spring back when touched lightly (do not over-bake). Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For the frosting, in a medium saucepan, bring brown sugar, milk and butter to a boil; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat (mixture will look curdled at first). Cool for 3 minutes before adding the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt; mix well. Frost the cooled cookies.

Notes: The frosting recipe did not make a lot, so I would double the batch of frosting next time.

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Sunday!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

The texture of these peanut butter cupcakes is delightful and the frosting compliments it perfectly. If you're a peanut butter fan, you absolutely have to give these a shot. Of course, you could use creamy peanut butter if you're not too sure about peanuts in your cupcakes.

These were originally for my volleyball team, but our game was cancelled. I ended up giving them out to my friends in the hallways. No complaints there!

From the 500 Cupcakes cookbook.

For the Cupcakes:
1 cup sweet butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
4 eggs
1 cup crunchy peanut butter

For the Frosting:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup sweet butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place 18 baking cups in muffins pans. Combine the butter, sugar, flour, and eggs in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter until well combined. Spoon the batter into the cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minuted. Then remove the cupcakes and cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, combine the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar along with the milk, and beat until well combined. Swirl the frosting to the cooled cupcakes.

- This makes a lot of frosting, so depending on how much frosting you like on your cupcakes, you could probably cut it down a bit.
- I sprinkled chocolate shavings on top.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Minestrone Soup

Soup and my slow-cooker are winter essentials.  There is always homemade soup in the refrigerator, and my crockpot is busy at least three times a week.  On Friday, I tried a slow cooker recipe for minestrone soup.

It comes from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow by Stephanie O'Dea.  If you have a crockpot, you need this cookbook. I borrowed it from the library, renewed it twice, and finally purchased a copy of my own. We have tried at least a dozen recipes and all except one has been a hit.


2 (15-ounce) cans canned beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can tomatoes, and their juice
1 (15-ounce) can corn and its juice
2 cups chopped vegetables (fresh or frozen)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
kosher salt
black pepper

Use a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Open the cans and dump the contents into the stoneware. I drained the bean goop only, and kept the tomato and corn juices. Add the chopped vegetables.  This is a good recipe to use when you've got a mishmash of past-prime vegetables in your crisper drawer. Slightly wilted celery or browned cauliflower is fine to toss in. Pour in the broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or high for 4 to 5 hours.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I used one can each of dark red kidney beans and canellini beans. I also threw in diced carrots, slightly wilted celery, a small onion, and some broccoli.  Margaret would have preferred a vegetarian version, but I used the chicken broth we had in the pantry. We also sprinkled parmesan cheese on top before serving.

It just doesn't get any easier than this, folks! The soup is delicious and I'll definitely make it again.

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

There is nothing like homemade soup on a cold winter day. At this time of year, I always have soup on hand that's ready to be warmed on a moment's notice. Thanks to my new favorite cookbook, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, most of the recipes I've tried lately are simple to prepare in a slow cooker.

from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow
by Stephanie O'Dea

The Ingredients:

1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 small onions, diced
2 small apples, peeled and cubed
1  1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

The Directions:
Use a 6-quart slow cooker.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  This is terribly hard to do, but if you microwave the entire squash for 2 to 5 minutes on high, the skin will soften a bit.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp.  Brush the olive oil on the inside of the squash and roast in the oven cut side up at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the skin peels away from the flesh.

Plug in the slow cooker and turn to high.  Add the broth, onions, and apples. Stir in the salt, pepper, and spices.  Cover to let heat.

When the squash is finished roasting, add it to the pot.  Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for about 4 hours.  Mash slightly, then carefully blend with handheld immersion blender.

Our Verdict:
This soup is deliciously creamy... it's hard to believe there is no butter or milk in the recipe!  My husband and daughters thought it was perfect, but the spices seemed a little overwhelming to me. I would cut back slightly next time.

Cooking notes:
I followed the recipe exactly, but thought the microwaving and roasting of the squash made it more difficult to handle. Another time I would peel, seed, and cut up the raw squash, then add it to the slow cooker in the beginning with the apples and onions.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Foodie Challenge: Whip Up Something New!

Do you love to try new dishes? Are you constantly collecting recipes from magazines, newspapers, and the internet that get stuffed into some already overflowing folder or box in your kitchen? Then have I got a challenge for you.

Trish and Joanna have combined forces to come up with The Foodie Challenge: Whip Up Something New!  The idea is to try at least one new recipe per month and then, whether it's a hit or a miss, blog about it.  Monthly hosting duties will rotate.

All the details may be found here.

January posts are being collected by Joanna here.

Will you join us?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello everyone! I hope you're all enjoying the new year so far.

These cookies are yummy--and vegan! (Do we have any vegan followers?!) I found the recipe on in the popular recipes section at the very top of the list. With 585,151 views and 380 reviews (and counting), I thought I'd give these a try.

Click for the link -- Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I used one cup of vegan carob chips, and I added a splash of almond milk at the end. Also, I flattened the cookies slightly after placing them on the ungreased cookie sheets.

Even my mom, JoAnn, says they're surprisingly delicious!

Weekend Cooking, hosted at Beth Fish Reads, is open to anyone with a food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button, head over to Beth Fish Reads, and link up anytime over the weekend.