Thursday, April 30

m&m cookies

If swine flu precautions hadn't shut down school for the rest of this week, my crazy homeroom would have been able to share in the enjoyment of these little nuggets. But such is not to be, and they won't even believe me when I tell them on Monday that I had cookies all ready for them, prepared with love and anticipations of good behavior on Wednesday night.

I had an M&M surplus, ranging from Christmas to Easter varieties. When my sweet husband asked me to pick up some more of his cookie "break and bakes" from the store on my way home from the gym I told him no. But I'd make him some real cookies. He was a little confused as to how I could make such a thing materialize from the depths of our pantry... poor deprived husband has forgotten where cookies come from.
I LOVE how chewy these are. I don't like cakey cookies as much and this recipe, found on the M&M website, fit the bill perfectly.
adapted from
1 cup butter softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup M&M candies

Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into creamed mixture. Stir in M&M's. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and centers are still soft. Do not overbake. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; cool completely on wire racks. Store in tightly covered container.
But in all honesty I'm a fan of his "break and bakes." I firmly believe they are are one of the tickets to marriage sanity. T can pop two or three in the oven any night of the week at his leisure and I don't have to face the temptation of a bowl full of cookie dough. Because when I do it is a sight to behold.

Sunday, April 26

carrot cake :: cupcakes ::

Aren't cupcakes just scrumptious looking? It seems cupcakes are like wedding cakes in the sense that their actual taste quality takes a backseat to their aesthetic appeal. Obviously we want our cupcakes and our wedding cakes to taste good but aren't we pretty satisfied as long as they look darn scrumptiously dainty?
All that to say that my mom and I made cute cupcakes and they also tasted delish. I love carrot cake so that's what we did. These were moist, spiced, nutty, and just enough cream cheesy. If I'd had the right food colorings I would have made orange and drawn little carrots on them. But had to settle for monograms since I forgot to take red food coloring to my mom's.
Ah yes, the pictures begin. Here we are adding the carrots and "folding" in the pecans. One of the reasons I decided that cooking at my mom's is ideal is that her kitchen is much better lit than mine and a lot more conducive to good picture taking. Secondly, I discovered that she can be my sous chef. She pours, I click.
On the left you see the cupcakes fresh out of the oven. Cooling and waiting to be iced. We popped them in the fridge to expedite that process. What you don't see is my dad...hovering over the hot cupcakes asking permission to sample.
We used some apple sauce in lieu of part of the vegetable oil, and I believe apple sauce can substitute for the oil completely. Try it that way and let me know how it goes.

carrot cake cupcakes

adapted from
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (3/4c vegetable oil, 1/2 c. apple sauce)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cups in cupcake pans. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil (oil/applesauce mix), sugar and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly beat dry ingredients into sugar mixture. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

The frosting was fun to make. I think store bought cream cheese icing is pretty great though myself so don't let the homemade icing scare you. I actually made it using only about a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup water since it turned out my sous chef's kitchen had no butter.
And of course food coloring, sprinkles and monograms.
Last but not least, here is one of the little cake bombs we made using a miniature muffin pan. I will certainly make cupcakes with a mini pan again because not only were they a great little portion (given you don't pop five) but the icing to cake ratio is much more balanced....that's a very important thing to me.

Saturday, April 25

hummus among us

The raw garlic makes the hummus spicy so only add one clove if you're interested in toning it down. Black beans and maybe a dash of paprika or nutmeg (probably not those two spices simultaneously) would also add a different flavor. If you don't have a food processor and aren't interested in purchasing one based upon my recommendation, you could also do this with a potato masher tool or even a fork. Perhaps a blender as well as long as you were generous with the olive oil. Very easy and really good. If you're one of my girlfriends who can make itty bitty meals without worrying about starving a non-existent husband, you should really try this. Or if your significant other doesn't mind stashing his carnivoirish tendencies for a night. Mine minds. But I personally spread this out into about three meals.
Chickpeas are a legume that, like all legumes, are high in protein and fiber and low in fat and cholesterol. Adding black beans will not only amp up the flavor but the protein and fiber content as well. Since the only meats I ever really eat are chicken and salmon, I'm enjoying figuring out some protein varieties to add to my repertoire. If you get canned chickpeas and black beans look for the low sodium ones.

Spicy Hummus Pitas
1 15 oz can chickpeas / garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 c. olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
pita bread pockets
{recommended variations}
sliced cucumbers
sliced roma or cherry tomatoes
baby spinach leaves
Place all ingredients in food processor. Pulse until creamy. Add pepper, salt, lemon juice to taste or more olive oil if it’s not smooth enough.

Envelope pita(s) in foil and place under broiler on low for about 3 minutes. Uncover and allow to toast for 1 to 2 min on each side. Add hummus and any additional desired ingredients.There's a "digital macro" shot of my garlic press. I'm still trying to figure out the settings on my point and shoot and the "maco" setting is much better than the "digital macro" setting. Hence the unacceptable fuzziness of this shot. Regardless, this is a trusty little garlic press and I just wanted to show it off.My supporting actress of choice is the Nature's Choice Sweet Cherubs. If I had cucumbers they would have been diced up and thown in there too. I'm sorry I had already begun to devour my dinner before taking this picture.

Wednesday, April 22

thin mints!!!!!!

Where to begin? I love Thin Mints let's just get that out of the way. A manic obsession with a seasonal cookie leads to a very unhealthy February. I need to be able to regulate my supply. I need Thin Mints year round.

Secondly, this was so messy that my camera took one for the team. So did my husband who was less than thrilled about the chocolate covered kitchen that this adventure produced. Resist the temptation to scroll down and look for a delicious macro pic of the grand finale. It won't be there because I learned when I loaded these pics that I'd smudged up not only every inch of my kitchen but every inch of my camera lens as well.

Don't let that deter you from trying these! They are worth it!! I was in a hurry to throw these together and I'm generally a mess anyway. Make them! Make them!
Oh, another thing. Who has a food processor that holds that much dough? Not me. Mine's for hummus and pesto. I therefore subjected the dry ingredients and the butter mixture to the food processor in batches and then moved it all to my RED KITCHEN AID STAND MIXER (sigh, true love) where I added the milk, etc. The milk, vanilla, peppermint mixture looked a lot like Bailey's... which gave me an idea for the inevitable sequel.
My mixer (and what I wished had been Bailey's) produced this chocolate minty deliciousness that I wanted to devour out of the metal bowl. I may or may not have tasted a little.
Or a lot. So then, while the roll of future Thin Mints froze up on top of my fillo dough and next to my Blue Bell, I thoroughly cleaned every inch of my beloved mixer. I even used a tooth pick.
Here is the roll. Ready to be sliced. Be sure that your roll is really 1 3/4 of an inch in diameter, no more than 2 inches because these really do spread and thin out.
On the left is the thinness imagery. Too wide in diameter but acceptable in thinness. And you can see the beginnings of the camera lens issue. Oh and the one on the right is just some chocolate ready for melting in its cute bowl. Without further ado...

Peppermint Flavored Dark Chocolate Coated Chocolate Wafer Cookies aka
thin mints!!!!!!!!!!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking sod

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
3 tablespoons whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract
{chocolate peppermint coating}

1 1/2 to 2 pounds good quality dark semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

2 t peppermint extract to taste
Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl and mix thoroughly. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate the butter into to the bowl. Combine with your hands and then transfer mixture to food processor. Pulse several times. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or a cutting board and knead a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.
Form the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper and freeze for 20 minutes.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into slices a scant 1/4-inch thick and place them one inch apart on the lined sheets (cookies will spread). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. If you are doing multiple sheets in the oven simultaneously, rotate halfway through. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks, or slide the parchment onto racks to cool completely.
{the peppermint coating}
Coating works best in multiple small batches to keep the chocolate melted. Placing glass or ceramic bowl of melted chocolate on the warm range while the batches of cookies are baking or the oven is cooling works surprisingly well. Divide the chocolate in
to two microwave save bowls and use one at a time. Heat the chocolate on high 1 min in the microwave. Remove and stir in peppermint extract, to taste, stir well and heat 15- 30 more seconds if needed. Chocolate should become glossy and smooth as you stir.
Coat the cookies one at a time and then gently set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set. Place the cookies in the refrigerator or freezer to set. Make 3 or 4 dozen cookies.

These are best room temperature or even cold. Serving outside in the sun is not recommended. Plain chocolate wafer cookies can also be used as the beginning of a glorious cheesecake crust. Which I may or may not be considering.

Monday, April 20

a better baked tater

No offense intended for the baked potato lovers of the world, but I just don't know why you'd settle for a baked potato when you can do this to them....

Twice Baked Potatoes
2 medium sized potatoes
1/3 c. low fat ricotta
1/2 to 3/4 cup mixed grated cheeses such as Parmesan and Monterrey Jack
seasoning salt
cracked pepper
Clean and cook the potatoes. Give them a few good pokes with a fork and either bake them on 400 for an hour or put them one by one in the microwave on some variation of the Baked Potato setting.

Heat oven to 400. Allow cooked potatoes to cool just enough to handle. Cut each in half lengthwise and carefully scoop flesh in to bowl, leaving a small, even layer on the skins. Place skins on baking sheet. With a fork or hand mixer, combine potato with cheeses and salt and pepper generously to taste. Scoop mixture back into skins and sprinkle with cheese and a pinch of cracked black pepper. Bake about 10 minutes.
The image on the right is before they were subjected to the oven for the second go 'round. The image in the left is obviously just another shot of the completed savoriness in case you missed it the first time.

This is a baked potato done right, in my book. Take everything out (isn't that what you wish you could do to a baked potato in order to mix it up properly?...or is that just me?) Add some creamy cheese. Ample salt. Bake it again to melt it all up to gooey greatness.

Friday, April 17

the little pea

Well, my future children have no hope when it comes to avoiding a massive book collection. Old books, new books, picture books, board books, chapter books. I envision myself at the age of 50, with all my children off to college, thumbing through stacks and stacks and stacks of books, smelling them, yes smelling them, and being unable to part with a single one, each with it's own unique justification for why it should get to stay. That's just how much I love books. And how unable I am to throw things away. Right mom?? And if you've never smelled one of your favorite childhood books, you really need to go back and smell Goodnight, Moon or the Velveteen Rabbit or Try Again, Sally Jane. Something will change for you....

All that to preface a book I just HAD to feature on vittles. I found this on Oh La Tart and followed her link to It's about a Little Pea (obviously) who has to eat five pieces of candy before he gets to eat his vegetables for dessert. Cute.

And how can you not think these simple, happy illustrations aren't just precious? It takes some illustrative skill to make an ill formed green circle lovable. You're laughing at me now, but I told you I love books. And I love reading books to cuddly little p.jammied people.

"yum. yum. extra yum." How cute is that!?


Wednesday, April 15

meatballs of veal

So part of me wishes I could retire all blog posts and leave those scones at the top. Not only are they the epitome of my baking aspirations but that picture matches my color scheme so well! It's just the perfect little post with the perfect little picture. But alas, life goes on and so does vittles. I have no idea why, I don't even really like them that much, I'd been wanting to make meatballs with veal. They were fun and a pretty easy way to sass up spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce. Ah! I've admitted to using jarred tomato sauce! A working girl's gotta do what a working girl's gotta do.

Veal Meatballs
inspired by Emeril L. & Rachel R.
1 cup day old Italian bread, crumbled
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup finely minced yellow onion, sauteed
3 clove garlic, minced, sauteed
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
dash of lemon juice
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 pound ground veal
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl soak the bread crumbs in the water and wine, then squeeze dry. In a large bowl combine the bread crumbs and the remaining ingredients, mixing with your hands until smooth. Cover and chill for half an hour.

Heat oven to 425. Shape the veal mixture into 1-inch balls. Spritz bottom of rimmed baking dish or cookie sheet with olive oil. Evenly place balls on cookie sheet and spritz tops with olive oil. Bake 10-15 min depending on size of meatballs.
This, I think, is a good base for meatballs. Most of them involve a mixture of meats like pork, beef and veal. I however, could not buy that much ground meat without drowning us in a variety of ground meat leftovers. So I chose veal. Other recipes suggest pan frying or browning in a pan then cooking in simmering tomato sauce. While I thought the cooking in tomato sauce sounded yummy I chose not to do that for a variety of not worth going into leftover situations. But basically the more separate I keep my meal ingredients the more leftover options I allow myself. Had I cooked them in the sauce, they would have been married. Oh the complex thoughts that go through my head. Anyway, Taylor liked these. And don't they look like savory little goobers on that bright yellow dish. Similar in visual savoriness to my Venison Steaks.

Sunday, April 12

scones! scones! scones!

Once upon a time I spent a summer in England and fell in love with British, or perhaps, truly Scottish scones. They are a shortbread biscuit served with afternoon tea, or in my case, served for lunch with a banana and a diet coke in the market each and every day. I'd never noticed scones in the U.S. before but when I returned, and began looking for them I discovered that they had been lost in translation on this side of the pond. They'd been turned into a cookie. A dry, crumbly cookie, coated in coarse sugar and served with burned coffee. But not to make this story turns out well because I no longer have to lament the abysmal atrocity of the American interpretation. I can now make my own. Taylor nearly burned his fingers trying to get at these this morning. You'd think he never got any good vittles.

Just. Scones.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 t0 1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
{recommended variations}

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in nuts or any other desired dry additions.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth. Add any wet ingredients. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.) Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. I will dutifully note that at this point many American recipes will recommend that you sprinkle the top with 1 tsp. of sugar. However, since this is not a Starbucks cookie scone, rather a brunch or afternoon tea biscuit, I will make no such recommendation. Carrying on. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature. With strawberry preserves or whipped lemon custard.I leave you with a close up of that perfect moist crumbliness.

Le Easter Quiche

I made two quiches for Easter. One potato and one spinach. The only change I would make would be to add the spinach to the egg rather than layering. It wasn't as thin as it looks in that picture though I don't think it would hurt to add one more egg to the mixture, especially the spinach one and definitely if you choose to make this without any fillings. The onion or shallot is a must but as long as you're generous with the egg and perhaps ricotta as well, you can't go wrong with making this 'plain'. Doing the cheese and flour layering on the bottom first prevents the crust from getting soggy.

Le Quiche
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 9-inch refrigerated ready pie crust (1/2 box)
1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) grated Monterrey Jack
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) grated Parmesan
4 eggs
1/2 cup low fat ricotta
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
spinach: 1 10-ounce package frozen finely chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
potato: 1 baking potato, chopped into bite-sized cubes.
Melt butter in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Dust pie plate with flour. Gently press pie crust into pan, sealing any cracks. Trim edges and sprinkle with flour. Sprinkle both cheeses over bottom of crust. Top with any desired fillings. Beat eggs, ricotta, salt, pepper, nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over cheeses. Bake until filling is set, about 45-50 minutes. Cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve.

If making spinach, add to sauteed onions or shallots and saute about 3 minutes, allowing to dry. Combine onion and spinach with egg mixture and pour over cheeses.
Hello shallots. Where have you been all my life?

If making the potato variation, add chopped potatoes to sauteed onions or shallots and cook,
Covering and stirring until nearly completely cooked through (will finish cooking in the quiche). Spread potato and onion mixture over cheeses and pour egg mixture on top, spreading evenly. If you're not using fillings, add another egg and an additional 1/4 cup of ricotta to mix.
Don't forget to crimp the sides of your pie crust, pinching with your index and middle finger on the top and thumb on the back!
Check out those cute bite sized potato pieces and that non-burned crust!

Friday, April 3

Baked Mac & Cheese

Ahhh the gloriousness of macaroni and cheese! The nostalgia, the creaminess, the yummy cheesiness... I'd been aspiring to make homemade mac & cheese for a while and made enough of this for my coworkers to quickly inhale the next day. It was really easy and not even that unhealthy since I dubiously substituted cream and whole milk for whole milk and 2% milk and it turned out great. I also learned that the butter and flour whisked mix before the milk is added is called a roux. Cooking vocab word. You're welcome.

Baked Mac & Cheese with Garlic Breadcrumbs
adapted from Gourmet
For bread crumbs:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
For macaroni:
1/4 stick unsalted butter
scant 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup 2% milk
8oz elbow macaroni
16 oz sharp cheddar, grated (or your choice of white, yellow, sharp, extra sharp etc.)
Make bread crumbs: Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.

Cook macaroni according to directions. Drain in a colander and transfer to a 1 1/2 quart shallow casserole. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk* and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. I added a few dashes of ground pepper and garlic powder. To macaroni, stir in white sauce, cheese, and salt to taste. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

*I recommend allowing the milk to reach room temperature before making sauce. I had to stir a lot longer than 3 minutes before it thickened even a little. It should thicken slightly to resemble a sauce.

That's it, my friends, enjoy!