Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

IMG_2624The chocolate-peanut butter duo is always a hit IMHO (in my humble opinion), so when my future daughter-in-law requested a cookie with that combo, I was ON IT. We found this winner on the McCormick website, and it appealed to me because I didn’t have to run to the grocery store for anything. Now, I don’t usually have peanuts on hand, but I’d just made the previously-posted chicken peanut stew, so I had a jar handy. Other recipes I ran across had chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups or other non-staples in them. 

Ashley and I really liked these! They aren’t achingly sweet, which they would be if you were to use chopped candy bits. They were a good balance—chocolate cookie spiked with peanuts and peanut butter flavor. YUM. So the girl my son is marrying has great taste! Both in food… and in men. 

2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package (10-ounces) peanut butter chips
1 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, and then vanilla, mixing well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Stir in peanut butter chips and peanuts by hand.

 

Drop by rounded tablespoons about two inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or just until cookies are set. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Monte Cristo Spinach Sandwiches

Divide mustard, cheese, ham/turkey, and spinach evenly between each of two bread slices; cover each with a bread slice. Whisk together eggs and milk in a medium bowl.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Dip sandwiches in milk mixture; transfer to skillet, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve with raspberry jam or cranberry conserve.

*NOTE: I’ve added spinach to the Real Simple recipe. Again, always trying to up my veggie intake in my meals…

Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

IMG_2622Double-doses of ginger—fresh and ground—amp up the flavor in these chocolate and spice morsels. These came from Martha Stewart’s website, and I’ve done some updates as dear Martha sometimes takes things a step too far—like  lining every baking sheet with parchment paper and chilling dough not once, but twice, etc. I made them as I’ve recorded below, and they were just fine! And a lot less labor-intensive.Given the amount of spices and overall richness of these cookies, my taste testers thought they would be best served warm with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. But try them yourselves, and you be the judge!Makes 1½ dozen cookies

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1½ tablespoons boiling water; set aside.

Beat butter with brown sugar until combined. Add fresh ginger and mix on high until butter is light in color. Beat in molasses. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Slowly add to butter mixture, with baking soda mixture, stirring until thoroughly combined.

Stir in chocolate morsels by hand. Scoop teaspoons of dough and roll into balls. Roll dough balls in ¼ cup granulated sugar and place 2-inches apart on baking sheets. Transfer to oven and bake until surfaces crack slightly, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Torte

IMG_2594Avoiding wheat? Here’s a sweet fudgy treat just for you. My co-worker Nita went the extra mile for my birthday recently, digging around online to find a gluten-free cake option. She lucked out when she stumbled on this treasure, because it’s the rare flourless baked good that actually tastes GREAT!

So many gluten-free cakes and cookies taste like A) glue or B) sand. I’d given up trying to make gluten-free cakes or cookies. Better to just eat a chunk of chocolate or handful of peanut butter M&M’s to assuage the sweet tooth! In fact, another co-worker once texted me, asking what local bakeries had good gluten-free muffins. I texted back, “There is no such thing as a good gluten-free muffin.” Mary’s response was crying laughing emoji and “Seriously, where can I get good gluten-free muffins?” And I texted again, “Good gluten-free is an oxymoron. I’m serious, there is no such thing as a good gluten-free muffin!” (I’m kinda proud of myself for using “oxymoron” in a text. No need to dumb down our vocab just cause we’re using our thumbs, now is there? crying laughing emoji…)

But Nita found an exception to the rule (on allrecipes.com, flourless chocolate cake II), and I think you’ll love this quick and easy recipe as much as I do. I’ve made it a couple times now—for one of our famous November family birthday parties (4 outta 7 have b-days that month), and again for my book club. Raves all around.

Makes 8 Servings

4 – 1-ounce squares semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter, and dust with cocoa powder (this keeps it entirely gluten-free).

Put chocolate and butter in a large glass measuring cup and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, and repeat for an additional 30-60 seconds as needed to melt chocolate. In large mixing bowl, combine melted butter and chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla, and stir with wooden spoon until just combined.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve right away with ice cream, or let cook completely and serve next day.

TIP #1: Cover with dish towel or loose foil if keeping overnight. If covered with plastic wrap or tight tin foil, it will get soggy.

TIP #2: Anyone else have trouble cutting brownie-like treats? They seem to get all crumbly and fall apart as you try to slice them, and even the sharpest knife won’t help. My fellow book clubber, Sherie, said she always cuts brownies and gooey bars with a plastic knife, so I tried it. VOILA! It worked like a charm. #kitchenhack

Chicken Peanut Stew

IMG_2621Leftover holiday turkey—or a rotisserie chicken—is the main ingredient needed to get going on this savory West African-inspired peanut soup. I saw this recipe in the November 2017 Better Homes & Gardens magazine, and thought it looked weird. But weird intrigues me, when it comes to food. And since my husband and I had tag-teamed on the turkeys this year, we had plenty of leftover meat to use. (He did a 24-pound bird on his Big Green Egg, and I did a 14-pound turkey in the oven. The former for delicious smokiness, and the latter to make killer gravy.) 

How was it? It WAS weird, but in a good way! My son Mitchell and I loved the new flavor twist of the peanut butter, tomato and smokey spices, and thought you could even serve it over rice to make it even more hearty. But my husband kept making fun of the soup. Mind you, the man eats peanut butter and fresh tomato sandwiches throughout the month of August…this should be right up his alley, right? Then he got hungry enough to try it, and he liked it! Mikey likes it! 

I’ve made this twice now, and adjusted spices and amounts as you see below. One additional ingredient to the BH&G recipe, is chopped fresh spinach. I like to add more veggies whenever I can, and spinach adds nutrients without altering flavor of the stew.

Serves 8-10

1 tablespoon coconut or canola oil
6-8 green onions, sliced thin
1 medium green pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3 – 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth
6-8 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
6-ounce can tomato paste
3-4 cups shredded cooked turkey or chicken
15-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
4 cups fresh spinach, chopped

Garnishes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Dry roasted peanuts, chopped

In a large Dutch oven, melt oil over medium heat. Add green onions and green pepper, and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until onions are tender. Add ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin, red pepper, salt, and pepper, and cook and stir until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth and sweet potatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender to the fork.

Ladle about 1 cup of soup broth into a medium bowl, and whisk in peanut butter, stirring until smooth. Whisk in tomato paste as well. Add peanut butter mixture, turkey or chicken, and spinach to Dutch oven. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve topped with cilantro and peanuts.

Roasted Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Soup

Root soupI love roasted veggies. I also love home made soup. So why not combine the two and get a heaping helping of vegetables in a thick and creamy soup? Usually a self-imposed kitchen challenge like this takes a while to get right, but this one was a win from the first ladle to the last. Why was it so good? Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sugars, and gives it a level of flavor you don’t get when boiling your veggies in a pot. Toasting the herbs and spices in the butter before making a roux also amps up the flavor. Add in some delicious half and half, and you’ve got yourself a winter soup winner.

Actually, I have to give my daughter-in-law to be, Ashley, credit for the idea. She had texted to ask me if I had a recipe for using up a pile of carrots (I think she’d gone hog wild on a Farmer’s Market run…), and I gave her a recipe I had for straight up carrot soup. But then she asked if she could throw in other veggies and cream, and I thought, hmmmmm, I should try something like that! So here it is, Ashley.

Next time I make it, I think I’ll cut the vegetables into ½-inch pieces before roasting, and then puree half of the mixture until really creamy, and stir that back into the chunkier vegetable mixture. I had only slightly pureed the whole batch, and I didn’t like the texture. The flavor more than made up for it, but as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve got to make this JUST RIGHT next time I serve it to family and friends. 

Serves 8-10

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
2-3 cups cubed red potatoes (skin on)
4-5 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon caraway seed
¼ teaspoon dried mustard
4 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken soup base (or vegetable soup base, if you’d like to make this strictly vegetarian)*
2 cups half and half

Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare 2 baking sheets by rubbing 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on each pan. Toss cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips onto pans, and roast in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, and edges are slightly golden.

While vegetables are roasting, combine onion and butter in Dutch oven (or other large pot), and cook on medium-high until onion is translucent. Sprinkle flour, dill seed, dill weed, caraway seed, and dry mustard over the onion mixture, and stir to combine. Toast flour and herbs for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Gradually stir in water, and stir to combine so no lumps remain in flour mixture. Add soup base, and stir to combine again. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes until broth is slightly thickened.

Add in roasted vegetables and half and half. Return soup just to a boil, then reduce heat immediately to simmer so half and half doesn’t curdle. Simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly. Transfer half of the soup, 2 cups at a time, to blender and puree until smooth. Stir pureed mixture back into the soup. Serve immediately, or store in container in frig.

*NOTE: My favorite soup “hack” is to use chicken soup base instead of bouillon or chicken stock, because it has more flavor and less salt. The brand I like is called “Better Than Bouillon” and they make a chicken, beef, and vegetable base. You can find it in the soup aisle at your grocery store. So just march on past those cans of Campbell’s, and pick up a jar so you TOO can make tasty, nutritious soup for you and the fam.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili

FullSizeRenderThose who like it extra spicy will love this black bean chili recipe I got from Café Latte in St. Paul, Minnesota a few years back. A reader requested the recipe from the restaurant when I wrote a Q & A food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Café Latte obliged—but in restaurant-sized quantities. So I had to do some fancy division and subtraction to get down to a recipe I could fit in my largest soup pot. This is still a massive amount of soup, but it always gets gobbled up in a hurry. Served over a bowl of brown rice, it’s a filling, satisfying meal. If you can take the heat! (Which I can’t, so I make this as a gift of love to my husband and sons who DO like their food on the spicy side.)

Serves 10-12

4 (14 ounce) cans black beans
1 (14 ounce) can pinto beans
1 (14 ounce) can dark red kidney beans
2 )14 ounce) cans corn
1½ cups yellow onions, diced
2½ cups carrots, peeled and chopped
2½ tablespoons chili powder
1½ tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
6 cups water
3 tablespoons vegetable soup base or chicken soup base*
Half of 7 ounce can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree or sauce
2 cups canned, roasted red peppers, chopped
2 cups cooked brown rice

Garnishes
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Sour cream

Drain and rinse beans and corn. In large Dutch oven or stock pot, sauté onions until translucent. Add carrots and continue to sauté until carrots are tender to the fork. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, salt, chipotle powder over onion mixture, and stir to combine. Roast spices and onion mixture for a few minutes. Add water and soup base, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil; then add chipotle peppers, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or puree, roasted peppers, beans, and corn. Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over cooked rice, and top with cilantro and sour cream.

*NOTE: Soup base is a less salty and more flavorful way to make soup than using bouillon or vegetable/chicken stock. It’s first ingredient is vegetable or meat, and salt is lower down the list. I prefer to use this in soup whenever I can, and usually buy only the chicken base as I use it in other soup recipes as well. But if you’re trying to go strict vegetarian with this recipe, you’ll want to buy the vegetable soup base.

Turkey Peanut Satay Wraps

FullSizeRenderThai-flavored fare a favorite with you, like it is for me? Then these savory turkey wraps will hit the spot. I got this recipe from a Bethel University student worker (Natalie G, that’s you!), who raved non-stop about it, and she had found it on iowagirleats.com. It went together pretty easy—about 30 minutes—and most of the ingredients were the kind of thing I had on hand. I’m not concerned about using soy sauce in recipes, but those who have zero tolerance for gluten would want to sub in gluten-free tamari sauce.

Now for the adjustments I made to the recipe—let’s start with the meat. It called for ground chicken, and I can’t recall seeing that in the grocery store. (And my husband refused to look for it when I sent him to the grocery store for the butterhead lettuce…so that kinda settled it!) Since I had ground turkey on hand, that’s what I used. Not a fan of gathering loads of specialty sauces in my cupboards and frig, I subbed in fresh minced garlic and dried chili powder for the recommended chili garlic sauce. Another addition was the scallions, as I thought they’d give it a nice bite.

It also seemed that the amount of sauce made in the recipe wouldn’t have covered the meat, so I doubled the peanut butter and coconut milk. I was glad I did, because it was JUST right. And so was the flavor!!! It was a great mix of spices, and the creaminess of the coconut milk and peanut better coated the meat perfectly. Once wraps were assembled, the crunch of the lettuce wrapped around the spiced meat mixture made for a thoroughly satisfying meal. (Could also be a killer appetizer!) If there’d been leftovers, I’d tell you how it tasted second day, but alas, we ate every last morsel. DEE-lish.

Serves 4

2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large shallots, chopped, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3-4 scallions (green onions), chopped
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger*
salt and pepper
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup coconut milk (I used a can of regular, not light, and mixed to include fat and coconut milk)
¼ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
*(If you don’t have fresh ginger, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger here)
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
¼ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 heads of butterhead lettuce

Coat skillet with oil, and heat to medium-high. Add ground turkey, and cook until almost no pink remains in meat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Add shallots (or onions), scallions, and minced garlic, and cook until meat is no longer pink and garlic is fragrant. Turn down to low.

Combine coconut milk and peanut butter in large microwave-safe measuring cut or bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, chili powder, curry, and red pepper flakes. Stir until combined. Add to meat in skillet, and stir to coat. Turn element off.

Remove core from butterhead lettuce, and rinse. Pat dry. Line 4 plates with several leaves of lettuce, and add large dollop of meat mixture to plate. Put cilantro and chopped peanuts on table. Let each person assemble their own wraps, and top with peanuts and cilantro.

Caprese Zucchini Bites

FullSizeRenderFresh zucchini, basil, and mozzarella are 3 of the 5 ingredients in this super simple appetizer. Looking for another way to use up the mountains of zucchini available at the end of summer, I threw together these ingredients that mimic the ever-popular caprese salad. And they were super tasty! The zucchini added some nice crunch and gave you a “cracker” feel without any gluten involved, and the flavors all blended really well. I used the Trader Joe’s dressing because I didn’t have balsamic vinaigrette on hand, and I think you could use just about ANY vinegar-based dressing on these—Italian, simple sweet and sour, whatever you have on hand. The sun-dried tomatoes pack such punch you don’t need a lot of help from the dressing.

Serves 4-6

1 small zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
Half of a jar of julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
4-5 slices fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch squares
¼ cup fresh basil, snipped
Trader Joe’s Ginger Soy Dressing or reduced balsamic vinaigrette

Line a plate with a layer of sliced zucchini, then top each slice with a teaspoon of sun-dried tomatoes, and a piece of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with fresh basil, and drizzle with spare amount of dressing. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. Probably best to serve within 24 hours of assembling.

Zucchini Chips

FullSizeRender-2Veggies = crisp and savory snack. That equation doesn’t always add up with non-vegetable eaters. But try serving up a bowl full of these tasty treats and you’ll win over even the most staunchly adamant vegetable hater.

These were my second new recipe effort with a monster zucchini that had been bestowed upon me. They were best straight out of the oven, and within a few hours of being baked. I brought them to my zucchini gift-giver to try the next day, and they’d absorbed moisture from the air and gone soggy. So if you can bake and eat same day, go for it! (This recipe from allrecipes.com didn’t offer any suggestions for how to make them good Day 2.) I will tell you, you have to bake these to total crispness—any hint of bendability in the chips, and they will start to get soggy as they cool on the racks.

Makes 4 baking sheets of zucchini chips

1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or Kraft grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced (1/8″ works best)

Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour milk into a bowl. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and black pepper in a food processor and pulse until combined into fine crumbs. Place zucchini slices in the milk and soak for 1 minute. Remove zucchini slices from milk and press each into the bread crumbs mixture until coated on both sides. Arrange coated zucchini slices on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake 2 sheets at a time in the preheated oven until chips are totally crisp, about 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Repeat with 2 more sheets of zucchini chips. Best eaten first day.