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.

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.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oat Bars

unnamedThe sweet-tart combo of strawberries and rhubarb is to die for, in my humble opinion. And since my rhubarb is threatening to take over the world this spring, I’m trying to find new and creative ways to use it up. When I saw a recipe on Better Homes & Garden’s website for bars using my favorite fruit duo, I said, “I’m in!” Then once I started perusing the recipe, I realized 1) the pan/batch was waaaaaaay too small to serve my family or co-workers, and 2) it looked strikingly similar to my blueberry breakfast bars previously posted! (Which DOES make a large enough batch to serve my family or co-workers…)

So I kinda combined my blueberry bar recipe with the BH&G recipe, and I think we’ve got us a winner here, people! Rhubarb is a little more finicky fruit than the berries, though. So it took a little trial and error to get it simmered the right length of time, and make sure the sugar ratio was on point. Now I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is bake up a batch!

Makes 15 bars

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups all-purpose flour*
¾ cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease an 11″x17″ pan with butter and set aside. In large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine. Add melted butter and stir until all of oat mixture is combined with butter. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Press remaining oat mixture in bottom of prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

While crust is baking, combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, water, and ginger in large saucepan and heat on high. Once mixture starts to boil, turn to medium and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Rhubarb should start breaking up, and it should thicken up. Add strawberries and return heat to high. Once it starts to boil again, turn down to medium and simmer for 3-5 minutes. In small bowl or cup, combine cornstarch and water. Drizzle in to rhubarb and strawberries and stir until mixture thickens up a bit. Pour on top of baked crust and sprinkle with reserved oat crumbs. Bake for additional 30** minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

*NOTE: I’ve started using Costco’s Ultragrain flour, which is a non-GMO flour and may be tolerable to those who are sensitive to gluten. But it’s not for those with celiac disease!

**Next time I make these, I may try baking these 40 minutes once crust is topped with fruit. Rhubarb seems to require a longer baking time than berries, peaches, pears, etc. I was concerned about the top burning if I did them longer than 30 minutes, but I think they would have been fine.

Indian Spiced Beef Wraps with Cilantro Mint Sauce

FullSizeRender 2This meat dish has so much flavor it could convert a vegetarian. I’m not a big fan of beef, but I absolutely LOVE all the crazy spices—cilantro, ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, and even cinnamon—packed into this recipe. The contrast between the spiced meat and the chilled cilantro mint yogurt sauce is perfect. Add the fresh cucumber slices and sweet cherry tomatoes, and it’s a dish to die for. In fact, I once thought a guest of ours actually WAS dying (or had broken a tooth) when I served this meal. My son Justin had brought home a pack of starving college guys, and I thought they’d appreciate some quality meat, served up in a format they probably weren’t getting in the school cafeteria. His friend Brady starting moaning after his first bite, and I looked up in alarm. “Are you OK?” Brady sheepishly smiled and said, “I’m fine! It’s just sooooo GOOD.” The others laughed, but concurred.

The original recipe directions said to mix meat, herbs, and spices together and shape into meatballs or sausages, skewer them, and grill them. I tried that the first time I made this, and it was a ton of work, and then the meat didn’t stretch as far as I would have liked. So now I just mix it all together and brown the meat in a pan, and it works great. Now to give credit where credit is due. I got this recipe from the Lunds & Byerly’s Real Food magazine some time in 2010, I’m guessing. I don’t have the exact date recorded with my magazine clipping, but I remember about when Justin would drop in with that particular crew. Good times had by all. 

Makes 6-8 servings

For Spiced Meat:
1½-2 pounds quality lean ground beef (or lamb—if you like lamb…)
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped scallions (aka: green onion, Tom)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
½ teaspoon ground fennel
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

For Cilantro Mint Sauce:
½ cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
½-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, quartered
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt

Serving suggestion:
Flour tortillas*, or corn tortillas (for gluten-free option)
1 cucumber, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow onion, sliced (optional—sometimes we want these, sometimes we don’t!)
Crumbled feta cheese

To make meat: Combine beef, yogurt, cornstarch, and all the herbs and spices in large frying pan. Cook until no pink remains in meat. Keep on low heat until serving.

To make sauce: Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth. Can chill until serving.

To serve wraps: Briefly heat tortilla on hot griddle, then top with warm spiced meat, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and chilled yogurt sauce. Fold in half and eat like a taco. Get ready to be amazed at the flavor explosion in your mouth.

*NOTE: I love to take this recipe up even ONE MORE NOTCH by making my own tortillas. I sometimes do these a day ahead and store in frig with parchment paper between them, and then reheat on the griddle right before serving. Just like the spiced meat, they are truly moan-worthy.

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Orange Scented Rice Bowl

FullSizeRender-1The light peanut flavor seems like a strange pairing with the citrus rice in this stir fry, but it’s an odd couple arrangement that works. My son Justin got this recipe from his Senior Foods class, and we often joke that it was the only good thing to come out of his high school experience. (At least there was one thing…) It’s become his signature dish, and when he lived at home, I often asked him to make this to give me the night off from cooking. As there is a lot of chopping involved, it’s good to have a couple people in the kitchen doing prep for this one. And that’s where a younger brother comes in handy—especially when that brother is a whiz at keeping the knives sharp for all that chopping… The fresh grated ginger and bit of heat from the red pepper flakes enhance the sauteed vegetables, and have made this another family favorite.

Makes 4-6 servings

For rice:
3 cups water
1 orange, zested
1½ cups white rice (short or medium grain is best)

For stir-fry:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ green (or red) bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
½ cup snow pea pods, ends trimmed

For Thai peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Justin likes 1 heaping tsp. – too much heat for me!)
1 orange, juiced

Topping:
Chopped dry roasted peanuts, optional

Rice: Bring water and orange zest to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, return to boiling. Stir once then cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Stir-Fry: Pour oil in large non-stick skillet with heat on medium-high. Add chicken, garlic, and onion – stir-fry 5 minutes. Add carrot and green pepper, stir-fry 5 minutes; add remaining vegetables and stir-fry 5 minutes more or until chicken is done. Be careful not to allow vegetables to cook until soggy.

Thai Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix all sauce ingredients. Simmer until combined. Add sauce to stir-fry and toss. Serve mixture over rice in a bowl.

Spicy Pumpkin Bundt Cake

IMG_1172You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something pumpkin flavored in the fall, so it’s at the risk of pumpkin overload that I post this. I just tried this moist and delicious pumpkin cake recipe, after seeing it on Martha Stewart’s website. It called for cake flour, which I didn’t have, so I subbed in all-purpose flour using this little trick that’s all over the internet: measure out 1 cup flour, then remove 2 tablespoons, and sift in 2 tablespoons corn starch. Use that concoction cup for cup as a replacement for the cake flour. I have a confession to make—I don’t think pumpkin actually has much flavor! Now, don’t pummel me with candy corn for my sacrilege against the sacred gourd. While it adds moistness to a recipe, it’s really the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in a recipe that we associate with the pumpkin-infused desserts and drinks so popular in autumn. (Personally, I think butternut and acorn squashes have more going on in the flavor department…)

Some people, like my daughter-in-law Jessica, can totally rock a layer cake. But cake making is my Achilles heel, so I love a good, simple Bundt®* cake recipe, especially one like this that requires no frosting. A light dusting of powdered sugar is all that’s needed to finish this tasty cake, and bing, bang, boom, it’s ready to serve. Maybe add a dollop of whipped cream or Cool Whip if you’re going to serve this instead of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving… And then watch this clip from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as a reminder that the term “Bundt® cake” isn’t universally recognized.

Serves 12-16

Rating: easy

4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), or 4 cups all-purpose flour minus ½ cup flour, plus ½ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk**
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Spray a 14-cup Bundt® pan with cooking spray or coat with butter. Dust with flour, and tap out excess.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat in flour mixture gradually, alternating with the buttermilk or sour milk. Beat until just combined. Add pumpkin puree, and beat until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55-60 minutes. Let cool on awire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully turn cake onto rack to cool completely. Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

*FUN FACT: The Bundt® pan was created in the 1950’s by Nordic Ware, a Minneapolis company started by a husband and wife post-WWII to make Scandinavian ethnic cookware products. It comes in a wide variety of fluted or ridged configurations within the general ring shape. No one recipe needs to be used with the Bundt pan—it works for hundreds of different cake batters, as well as making a beautiful Jell-O mold.

**NOTE: I’ve never bought buttermilk when it’s called for in a recipe. I always make my own sour milk by putting 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a measuring cup, and filling it with 1% or 2% milk (don’t use skim—the milk needs some fat to “sour”) to 1 cup measurement. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes before using in recipe.

Ginger Crinkles

FullSizeRenderWe’ve all bitten into gingersnap cookies that are so hard you practically break a tooth on them. This soft, chewy cookie has all the sweetness and spice of a gingersnap, but none of the dental danger. And these Ginger Crinkles are SO good, my 30-something nephew Jacob actually asked for a take-home bag when he and his wife had been over for dinner once. He said he wasn’t really a cookie person, but thought he’d try one to be polite, and then couldn’t stop.

It helps to serve them nice and warm, fresh from the oven, although they keep well in an airtight container. They’re a great fall and winter cookie, since they use the same spices as gingerbread, but your family—and guests!—will be happy to eat them year round. (I like to make these when Chocolate Chip and/or Monster Cookies are boring me. A nice change of pace.)

I found the recipe on the McCormick spice site several years ago, but it is no longer posted. They had used corn syrup in their recipe (which I don’t keep on hand), so I tried molasses instead. Worked great! And probably added more flavor, too. 

Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 ¼ cups white sugar
¼ cup dark molasses
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup white sugar (for rolling cookies)

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. In large mixer bowl, cream butter. Slowly add white sugar, then molasses, and beat with electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg, and cream all ingredients. Add vanilla, and cream ingredients again.

In separate medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and salt. Stir with spoon. Slowly add flour mixture to creamed butter and sugar mixture. Remove bowl from mixer.

Put ¼ cup white sugar in small bowl. Take spoonfuls of cookie dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball in sugar before placing on baking sheet. Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing cookies from baking sheet. Store in airtight container.