Saturday, December 20, 2014

Crazy Ingredient Challenge - Holiday Edition

You know what's super fun?  Getting emailed two random ingredients and then figuring out what to make with them.  SERIOUSLY.  Everyone should do this on occasion, even if it's just finding random things in your fridge that need to go.  That works too.



In the spirit of the holidays, this month's Crazy Ingredient Challenge was Cranberries and Gingerbread spice.  Obviously, I made cookies.

For my birthday, my sister gave me a couple of cookbooks.  I finally busted them out, and found a great recipe in The Working Class Foodies Cookbook.  If you don't have this and you're trying to cook on a budget (or just looking to save more money for important things, like beer and getting your nails done), definitely check it out.  As I was perusing it, I discovered a recipe that would adapt perfectly - Cranberry Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Lace Cookies.   Wow - mouthful.

Anyways, these cookies have cranberries and chocolate, so they're basically awesome.  The recipe called for cinnamon and nutmeg, but I needed gingerbread spice,  So, I just subbed the same amount of gingerbread spice to equal the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Done and done.




Cranberry Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Lace Cookies:

For the Gingerbread Spice:
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Cloves
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Allspice

For the Cookies:
1 Stick Butter, Softened
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Egg
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Oatmeal
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soad
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
3 Teaspoons Gingerbread Spice
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chipes
1/4 Cup Milk (maybe more, depends on your batter)

To make the gingerbread spice, mix all the spices together.  Store in a baggie in the spice place.




Pre-heat the oven to 350 and prepare your baking sheets (I now have silpats, but if you don't, butter, parchment paper, or spray stuff is fine).

Mix together the butter and sugars until fluffy, then add the vanilla and egg.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix.  Then, add the cranberries and chocolate.

Mix about half of the dry ingredients with the wet, then add the milk.  Add in the remainder of the dry ingredients.  Add a bit more milk if you think it's way too dry.

Bake for 15 minutes, rotating the cookie pans halfway through.  Remember to leave LOTS of space between the cookies - these spread out quite a bit and you don't want MEGACOOKIE.  Or maybe you do?  Whatever, do what you want.




These were delicious.  The gingerbread spice really shone through and added a little sommin sommin to the cookies.  I've actually never used gingerbread spice before (because I've never made gingerbread cookies...), so I wasn't entirely sure how it would turn out - sometimes I find myself either over or underwhelmed by spices (only just whelmed in Europe).

If you're a bloggy type, you should definitely join us for the next Crazy Ingredient Challenge.  It's pretty low pressure (participate when you can, it's always the 20th) and a lot of fun.


HunngryLittleGirl


Now, check out what my friends made!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just Add Cooking!!

Hi, team!  How are you?  Busy busy?  I think we all are this time of year.  I've been cooking, baking, and running around like a crazy person lately.  I've seen the Nutcracker, gone out with a friend who was in from out of town, baked about a billion cookies, snuggled my new BFF baby Ryan, and been to an event for Just Add Cooking.

What is Just Add Cooking?  Glad you asked, dear readers.  It is Boston's newest meals delivery service. They know you're busy, but you still gotta eat, and while a dinner of cheese and crackers is never amiss, that's not really a solution.  So, they have partnered with a TON of local foodie types, including my one true love, Allandale, to bring you boxes of delicious food to make.  All you gotta do is just add cooking.  Glorious, and much welcomed, especially this time of year.

As part of the event, we got to try out a few of the recipes.  DELICIOUS.  It was held at Sur La Table, so in addition to delicious food, I also got a few new knife skillz.  And toys, but that's another discussion (my lack of self control in kitchen stores is not something I'm willing to deal with.  Ever.). The menu was:

Arugula Salad with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Pine Nuts




























Pan-Seared Scallops with Oranges in a Ginger Vinaigrette




























Mexican Cod with Garlic Mashed Potatoes























Doesn't that look amazing?  Trust me, it was.  Everything was delicious, but the cod was my favorite. I don't cook fish very often, because it always seems very difficult to me, but it's not.  This was so simple, just saute some veggies, add tomatoes, and then the fish.  Cover and cook.  Plus, with your box, you get simple, step by step instructions, with a break down of when you should start different parts of the meal, so it can cook together.  That right there is worth the price of admission, unless the rest of you have magical powers that allow all the food to cook at the right time and come out warm simultaneously.  In which case, let's chat, because I need to know your magic.

Everything comes packaged in the exact amount you need, so there's none of that "ok, so now what do I make with a half a leek, a tomato, and some cilantro" nonsense.  And you don't have to leave the house. The delivery guy doesn't care if you're still in your PJs at 3pm, so don't even bother to get dressed.  Step out your door, grab your box of food, and Just Add Cooking!

Disclaimer: I was very kindly given a discount code for both Just Add Cooking and Sur la Table at this event.  However, all opinions are 100% mine and not affected in the slightest by this gesture.  As if I ever hold back, have we met? 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

Today's post is brought to you by the letter "C".  Sing it with me, guys:

C is for COOKIE, that's good enough for me.
C is for COOKIE, that's good enough for me. 
C is for COOKIE, that's good enough for me...... 
OH, cookie cookie cookie starts with "C".

Also, did you know that Cookie Monster's first name is Sid?  Yep.  The more you know....

Anyhow, it's cookie swapping time around here.  I have actually participated in several this year, which is awesome.  One cannot have too many cookies to share with their friends.  I did the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and was gifted THREE delightful dozens of cookies from my new friends.  Seriously, amazing.  And I sent the same number to other new friends.  This is all kinds of awesome, although I'm not sure what my neighbors think now - I have gotten a TON of mail lately. Eek.  

I feel like I always make plain, chocolate chip cookies, which are amazing, but it's always nice to switch it up.  So, for this, I did some Peanut Butter Chocolate Sandwiches.  Basically, you make PB cookies, then glue them together with chocolate.  There are no flaws in this plan, unless you happen to be allergic to peanuts, in which case I cannot help you.  




Peanut Butter Chocolate Sandwich Cookies - From Tracey's Culinary Adventures
**Please note that I doubled this - if you're making a normal amount of food, you don't need to do this**. 
Cookies
2 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter, at room temperature (I had to use a little bit of Almond Butter, because 5 cups of PB is apparently more than the giant giant jar I got....who knew)
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Filling
10 Oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate (I used Chocolate Chips)
1 Stick Butter (8oz), cut into pieces















Pre-heat the oven to 350 and spray, line, silpat, etc some cookie sheets. 

In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, sugar, and baking soda, until well mixed.  Then, add the eggs and vanilla and continue to mix until smooth.  Bask in the delight of such a large and beautiful bowl of cookie.  
















Use a cookie scoop or two spoons or your hands to plop fairly evenly sized cookies on the pan.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Don't put them too close together, or else you'll end up with MEGACOOKIE.  Which is delicious, but probably damned hard to make into 36 individual sandwiches.  















For the filling, melt it all in your melty vehicle of choice.  Because I'm a rebellious hippie, I don't own a microwave and must do such things on the stove.  I know.  Anyways, melt it, then let it thicken and cool some - I actually put mine in the freezer to expedite this.  

Then, spread a little (or a lottle) chocolate onto the bottom of one cookie.  Wait for it to set up a little bit, and then sammich with another cookie.  Let them firm up before transferring into bags. 















Thank you SO much to the lovely hosts, Lindsay and Julie for hosting this.  I got delicious treats from Lexi and Lexie BitesLauren at Healthy Delicious, and Cyndi at My Kitchen Craze - Almond Crescent Cookies, Eggnog Sugar Cookies, and Gingerbread Kisses respectively.  Jump on over and say hello.  Make sure to check out the treats, because they were YUMMY!! 

I sent my lot to Jessica at Stuck on SweetChelsea at KaTom Blog, and Trang at Wild Whisk.  I hope everyone enjoyed them!!  I had so much fun participating in this :) 

And now, because I feel like it's been a while, here's a picture of Milton sample searching.  Lucky for him, Miya is a pretty easy target and he spent a good part of the day trying to figure out how to completely clean a jar of peanut butter the size of him. 


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cranberry Cream Cheese Bread

Hello, Everyone!!  Did you all have a nice Thanksgiving?  I sure did - there was SO MUCH food, a lot of fun with friends, and a fried turkey.  Milton was most impressed with the turkey.  That dog loves him some poultry.

Anyways, once again, time has totally gotten away from me and all of a sudden, it's Leftovers Club time again.  In case you're new here, welcome, the Leftovers Club is a group of bloggers who send delicious treats through the mail.  It's a nice way to get your blog out there and eat.  Win-win.  Sign up.  This month, I was paired with Ginger at Stark Raving Delicious.  She sent me some awesome lemon cranberry shortbread cookies.  They were also packaged super cutely in a little box with a tag...I have got to up my game here :)

Cranberry Cream Cheese Bread - from What's Cookin' Italian Style







FYI - This makes two loaves, so plan accordingly :)

3/4 cup butter, softened 
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese 
2 cups sugar 2 large eggs 3 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed (about 1 1/4 lbs. or 4 medium) 
1 teaspoon grated orange peel1 cup of fresh or dried cranberries1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Grease TWO loaf pans (or one casserole pan, if you wanted to do it cake style) and set aside.  Do not try to cram this all into one pan, you will then have to spend 10 minutes staring at it, trying to figure out how to separate it into two pans without making a huge mess (use a small spoon, go slow).  This is time you will never get back.  

Cream together the cream cheese, sugar, and butter, until smooth.  Then, blend in the bananas and eggs. 

Add in the other ingredients and mix lightly until just combined - I usually use a whisk or a spoonula for this instead of the mixer.  

Divide into two equalish portions and bake until a fork comes out clean - around an hour.  

You could add a glaze of some kind to this, if you wanted, but I felt like there was already enough going on with the orange zest and the berries and the bananas.  It is actually so good that I don't even feel the need to toast it and add a bunch of crap on top when I eat it (not that there's anything wrong with that).  And, as a bonus, 1 cup is about the amount of cranberries left in the bag after you make cranberry sauce #winning.






Check out what my friends made: 








Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

GUYS!  Guess what?  I made up a baked good!  What, you're not in total awe of my mad skillz? Whatever, I am, and that's good enough.  See, I'm decent at improvising with regular cooking, but baking - not so much.  Once, I subbed PB chips for chocolate chips, but other than that, baking for me is strictly a follow what other people have done endeavor.  Mostly because science.  Baked goods rise and hold their shape and taste good because there is a lot of science behind it; regular food tastes good if you put things together that aren't nasty.

But, I had all this pumpkin cream cheese leftover from the bacon poppers and it needed using.  I don't love sweet cream cheese on my bagels, so that was out.  So, I thought, well maybe I can make some kind of bread with this, like a banana or applesauce bread, but with pumpkin cream cheese.  So, I looked at a couple of similar recipes (it's easier to see how to make it if you look at a recipe as ratios of wet to dry ingredients, instead of amounts of specific things - according to something I Googled), and had at it.  I figured it was a low risk project, because I already had everything I need, and didn't really have another plan for it.  And low and behold, a delicious bread was born.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread - A Cooking with Milton Original




2 Cups Pumpkin Cream Cheese
1 Cup Sugar 
2 Eggs 
1 Teaspoon Vanilla 
3 Cups Flour 
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda 
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon 
1/4 Teaspoon Each Nutmeg, Cloves, and Allspice 

Pre-heat the oven to 350.  Grease a loaf pan well and set it aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Blend until combined and smooth. 

Then, add the flour, baking soda, and spices.  Blend until just combined - I find the best way to do this is to use the mixer for the first part, then when you scrape down the sides, just stir the rest of it with a spoon.  Try not to over mix, as it can make your bread kind of tough. 

Bake at 350 for 45 min to an hour (I don't think my oven is particularly accurate, because mine always seems to take FOREVER).  It's done when you can stick a fork in it and have the fork come out clean. 

Serve toasted with apple butter.  




Question of the Day?:

Have you ever done any experimental baking?  How did it turn out?  


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Apple Butter - The Leftovers Club

Hi, everyone!  Are you enjoying your fall?  We are.  Milton loves fall because it's finally cool enough for his permanent fur coat to come in handy.  I love it because it's time for apple picking.  When I first moved to New England and people talked about how fun apple picking is, I may have thought they were being a little crazy.  I mean, you walk around and take apples off a tree - seems pleasant enough, but this isn't major excitement.  Except it is; I'm not sure why, but apple picking is super fun.

However, there is a small downside - all the apples.  I think I ended up with about 10 pounds.  That's a lot of freakin apples.  So, since I knew I wasn't going to eat them straight up for the next 10 years, I decided to make apple butter.  If you've never had apple butter, you're missing out.  Basically, it's super concentrated apple sauce that you can spread on french toast, bread, rice cakes, a spoon, etc.  It's so easy to make I almost feel silly posting a recipe about it - the general premise is cook the ever loving crap out of some apples and spices.  Puree.  Shove in face.

I sent a jar of this to Shashi at Runnin Srilankan for this month's Leftovers Club.  She sent me some really tasty cookies that have beets in them.  Obviously, since they have a vegetable in them, that makes them a health food.  Put some apple butter on top and it's basically a complete meal.  If you join the leftovers club, you get food treats from your new internet friends in the mail once a month. It's awesome and you should definitely sign up. 




Crock Pot Apple Butter: 




Enough apples to fill your crock pot, peeled and sliced (I used about 20)
1 Cup Sugar (there are many recipes that call for substantially more sugar.  Since I don't love overly sweet things, I tend towards the low side, but if you have a sweet tooth, use more.  It's just a matter of personal preference) 
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Cloves 
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg 
1/4 Teaspoon Salt 

The hardest part of this is peeling and cutting the apples.  Don't worry too much about the cutting part, you're just going to cook them until the fall apart anyways, but do try hard to peel them very carefully; it really helps with the texture. 

Once you've finished peeling and cutting, dump everything into the crock pot and turn it on high.  If you're home, check on it periodically and give it a stir, but if you leave it while you're at work it will still be fine. 

After it starts to really fall apart (7 hours or so), prop the lid open so that some of the moisture can evaporate.  Once it's a little thicker (about another 2 hours), take the lid off, turn the crock pot off, and let it sit.  Please note that this is just what my particular crock pot did - yours might be completely different.  

When it's a bit cooler, blend with an immersion blender.  If you don't have one, you can use a regular blender, just do small batches and be extremely careful.  It's really hot. 





Put into jars.  If you're planning to eat it all within the next couple of weeks, there's no need to boil the jars to seal them, it will stay fresh.  However, if you'd like to keep it around for months, feel free to actually can it (which I didn't do because putting glass into boiling water scares the crap out of me). 

This goes really well on all kinds of treats.  I made some pumpkin cream cheese bread the other day and put this on top.  Then, the fall gods came and asked me to join them as their leader.   




Check out what my friends made!! 



Monday, October 20, 2014

Crazy Ingredient Challenge - Bacon and Pumpkin



I just love a challenge, especially in the kitchen.  So when I saw that there was a group called the Crazy Ingredient Challenge, I had to learn more.  The concept is pretty simple, each month, the group votes on two ingredients, and then you make something with them.  I missed last months, since I apparently don't know how to read a calendar, but I'm in for this month, and the two ingredients are bacon and pumpkin.

So, I know that this is some what blasphemous, but I actually don't like pumpkin that much.  I mean, it's fine and all, but we need to calm it down with this pumpkin spice everything obsession.  First, pumpkin spice doesn't taste like pumpkin, it tastes like preservatives.  Second, it's not even that awesome.  I mean, pumpkin pie is delicious and all, but chill, it's just squash.  Bacon, on the other hand, now there's some good eats. 

Because I don't love sweets or pumpkin spice anything, I thought I'd go in much more of a savory direction with this.  I got a TON of peppers in my farm share, of all different kinds, so I decided to make Bacon Wrapped Pumpkin Jalapeno Poppers.  Not going to lie, this is probably my best idea to date.







Bacon Wrapped Pumpkin Jalapeno Poppers: 

1/2 Sugar Pumpkin, Roasted (or buy a can of pumpkin, just make sure it's completely plain, and not pre-flavored)
1 8 oz Package Cream Cheese (I used 1/3 less fat, but you can use whatever you usually use) 
6 Slices Bacon 
6-8 Peppers (Since mine were from the farm share, they're not all jalapenos, but if I was going to buy specifically for this, I'd get all jalapenos.  Make sure that they are fat enough to really hold some stuffing) 

To roast the pumpkin, pre-heat the oven to 375.  VERY carefully cut it in half (use a very sharp knife and lots of caution!), scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, and place into a pan, cut side down.  Mine was pretty big, so I had to cut it into a few pieces to get it to fit.  Put a little bit of water in the pan, to help it steam.  Cook for about 45 minutes, until it can be easily pierced by a fork (this is my preferred squash roasting method). 

While it's cooking, cut all the peppers in half and scoop the seeds and ribs out.  Then, wash your hands about 100 times before touching ANYTHING, unless you like getting burned. 

After the pumpkin is ready, mix it with the cream cheese.  I didn't add any other kinds of seasonings to this because I figured the bacon and peppers would help me out.  I was right. 

Blob some pumpkin cream cheese into the peppers, then wrap with some bacon.  I cut my bacon into pieces, because the peppers really weren't that big.  If I did this again, I would definitely secure with toothpicks, because they kind of fell apart.  Bake at 375 until the bacon is at your desired level of done - they could also be grilled, if you're into that.  

These would be a great party snack, or a nice addition to your tailgate.  They're a little bit labor intensive, but not too bad, and SO tasty that it is definitely worthwhile. 

Look at what my friends made!! 




HunngryLittleGirl