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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

purple thumbs

I have a purple thumb.  No, pink.  Yellow.  Orange.

Chartreuse?

Well, whatever it is, it's not green.

My mother can grow anything.  She's always had a garden of sorts, lush with squash, herbs, potatoes, and even loofah sponges.  I, on the other hand, have managed to kill everything I've ever grown...even a cactus.

This year, though, I am determined to be a gardener!  We moved into an apartment with a patio deck, so I've got the space for a few containers.  I bought a book at Lowe's called 3 Step Vegetable Gardening to give me some basic instruction.  I bought the containers...I bought the plants...I'm doing this.

The good news is that I haven't killed anything yet.  The bad news is that not much else has happened either.

My strawberry plant looks a little sad.  I have yet to see any strawberries.


My pepper plant just exists.


It hasn't grown me any peppers yet, but it has grown mushrooms.  Weird.


I'm not discouraged, though.  I still have one more plant - a pumpkin plant.  It's pretty unorthodox to grow pumpkins in a container, so I just planted one seed.  And look what I found last week...


It's so beautiful!  And it keeps growing every day. 

I doubt that I'll turn into a master gardener overnight.  And, I doubt that I'll see any peppers or strawberries out of this year's "crop".  But, I did get a seed to sprout...and that's something.  Right?

Monday, July 26, 2010

peanut butter and chip cookies


Eleven years ago today I met the love of my life.


To celebrate, I decided to make him cookies, and I let him pick out the recipe.  Being the smart cookie that he is, he went to my collection of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, pulled out Country Baking, and picked out Peanut Butter & Chip Cookies.

These cookies intrigued me.  The ingredient list included a yellow cake mix.  I've used cake mixes to make cookies before, but the idea of a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie made with a yellow cake mix just sounded weird enough to try.

Are these cookies allowed on my restricted diet?  No.

Did I eat the dough anyway?  Yes.

And it was great.  As usual, my taste tester knows what he's doing!

The ingredients: eggs, water, melted butter or margarine, peanut butter, packed brown sugar, a yellow cake mix, and chocolate chips.  May sound crazy, but they make a lovely combo!


In a large mixing bowl, combine the 2 eggs, 1/3 cup water, and 1/4 cup melted butter.  Add 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar.


Add 1 1/2 cups of peanut butter.  I was worried about using the organic "goopy" kind of peanut butter in this recipe, but it's all I had.  Everything turned out just fine!


Add half of the yellow cake mix.


Mix this all up until it's smooth!


Trade in your whisk for a spoon and add the rest of the cake mix and chocolate chips.  Stir until just combined.



Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.


The end result is better than I could have imagined.  They are not only beautiful but absolutely delicious.  A perfect cookie for my man. :-)



Peanut Butter & Chip Cookies
from Gooseberry Patch's Country Baking
2 eggs
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 1/2 cup peanut butter (natural peanut butter works fine)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
18 1/4 oz. yellow cake mix, divided
12 oz. chocolate chips

Whisk together the eggs, water, margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar and half of the dry cake mix until smooth.  Stir in the remaining cake mix and the chocolate chips until just combined.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.  Serves: a lot!

This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the cure for a chocolate craving

There are two types of homemade brownies - the kind you make to impress your friends and the kind you make to satisfy a craving.

When you are looking to impress your friends, you pull out all the stops.  You grab the recipe that takes 2 hours, 3 different types of flour, fifteen bowls, and twelve hours in the oven (okay, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point).

When you are trying to satisfy a craving, you look for something fast and easy, something that won't require you to drive to the grocery store for ingredients or wash a lot of dishes afterward. 

I had a brownie craving.  Guess which kind of brownies I picked. :-)

I found a recipe on Tasty Kitchen that took only the ingredients I had in my cabinet, required only one bowl, and baked in less than 30 minutes.  And these were good!  I wouldn't be ashamed at all to feed these to my guests.  In fact, now that I think about it, they may just be the perfect cross-over brownie...good for both situations.  May I introduce you to Easy From-Scratch Brownies...


By the way, this is the only finished picture you are going to get...I ate them too fast to cut them up and make them look cute.


First, put 1/2 cup of butter in a mixing bowl and melt in the microwave.  I obviously didn't measure this exactly...I was in too much of a hurry for chocolate.  I didn't notice any negative side effects.


Add 1/2 cup of baking cocoa to the melted butter and mix well.


Add a cup of sugar, and mix it in.


Then add 2 eggs and beat those in until everything is nice and smooth.


At this point, add 1 teaspoon (or more, if you are like me) of vanilla, 1/4 t. salt, and 1/2 cup flour. 


You might have noticed that I've used gluten-free flour in some of my recent recipes.  I found a bag of it on clearance a few weeks ago and decided to try it out.  Generally, gluten-free baking calls for a lot of ingredients, including xantham gum (it acts as a thickener in place of gluten).  I haven't messed with the xantham gum or any of the other specialty products - I've just been adding the gluten-free flour to recipes in place of all-purpose flour to see how they would turn out.

Let me tell you...gluten-free flour works great in this recipe, even without the added xantham gum.  The person who submitted the recipe to Tasty Kitchen also recommended using oat flour.  I haven't tried that method yet, but it sounds delicious (and high in fiber!).

Okay, back to the brownies...

If you want to add any extras, this is the place to do it.  I added the last few chocolate chips I had in the cabinet.  I think nuts, marshmallows, dollops of peanut butter, etc. would all be great.


Stir everything together with a spoon - don't over-mix!


Pour into a greased 8x8 pan.  Just for fun, I drizzled leftover caramel topping on the top of the brownies.  It gave them a fun look after baked and tasted really good when the brownies were warm.  I wouldn't recommend it if you plan on serving the brownies cold - the caramel gets a weird texture when not heated up.


Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for a little while and then dive in to enjoy the chocolaty gooeyness.  Just don't eat them all at once!


Easy From-Scratch Brownies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1/2 cup flour
Optional add-ins - chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter; add cocoa and stir until mixed.  Add the sugar and stir until well mixed.  Add eggs, beating until well combined.  Stir in vanilla, flour, salt, and any add-ins until just combined.  Pour into a greased 8x8 pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

oat waffles

I love waffles.  They are my favorite weekend breakfast fare.  My favorites are definitely the show-stopping corn waffles I made a few weeks ago, but I also enjoy making these for a change.  They pack in an extra gram of fiber per waffle, and they can be made with gluten-free flour.


These waffles call for oat flour.  To make this, just pour 1 1/4 cups of quick-cooking oats into a blender and let 'er rip until they look like flour.


Mix the oat flour with a cup of all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.


In another bowl, mix 2 eggs, 1 3/4 cup milk (skim milk or non-dairy milk work fine), 2 tablespoons of canola oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.


Mix the contents of the two bowls together, making sure to not over stir.


Pour 1/2 cup of batter at a time into a waffle iron and cook until golden brown.


Enjoy your breakfast!


Oat Waffles
(modified from Taste of Home Light and Tasty Annual Recipes 2002)
1 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup flour (gluten free works fine)
4 t. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
2 T. oil
1 1/2 t. vanilla

Put oats in a blender and process until they become a flour-like texture.  Place in a bowl with flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Combine dry and wet ingredients (don't over stir!).  Cook batter 1/2 cup at a time in a waffle iron.  Makes 8 waffles.

Nutrition: 178 cal, 6g fat, 1g sat fat, 54mg cholesterol, 307mg sodium, 24g carbs, 2g fiber, 7g protein.

This post is linked with Foodie Friday!

Monday, July 12, 2010

phenomenally creamy cookies-and-cream ice cream

My mom makes some of the best homemade ice cream in the universe. Every year for the 4th of July, we would make the famous family recipe for Butterfinger ice cream...with extra Butterfinger.

I've learned to make this ice cream, and we enjoy it several times a year.  This 4th of July, however, I decided to improve upon it.  You see, our traditional recipe has a phenomenal taste, but it get's rather hard and crumbly after it's been in the freezer for a while.  I wanted to find out if I could create an ice cream that tasted just as good but stayed creamy.  I decided to try my hand at a custard ice cream.


This cookies and cream ice cream is phenomenal, if I do say so myself.  It makes a mountain of dessert.  It's rich, it's creamy, and it's absolutely addicting.  You could use the base for just about anything - Oreos, Butterfinger, M&M's, or even fruit.  Just make sure you try it!

You'll need the following ingredients and at least two days time...not joking.  This is an EASY recipe, but it does take time.


Boil one quart of whole milk in a large saucepan.


In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of egg substitute, 1 - 1 1/2 cups of sugar (I like more, my husband likes less...you pick your sweetness level), and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  I highly recommend using egg substitute over real eggs since it's been pasteurized. 


Pour the egg mixture very slowly in a thin stream into the hot milk, whisking the whole time. 


Turn the heat down to medium-high.  Heat and whisk the mixture for about 6-8 minutes until it thickens up.  Your goal is to get it thick enough to coat a spoon.


Grab a bowl that is larger than your saucepan and fill it with ice.


Set the saucepan in the bowl with ice and stir for 5-10 minutes.


Then, very slowly, pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into the mixture, whisking the whole time.


Plop a lid on it, stick it in your refrigerator, and let it chill for at least 8 hours (aka...overnight).

After it's good and chilled, freeze it in an ice cream freezer according to manufacturing instructions.  While it's churning, roughly chop up some Oreo's.  It may be tempting to grab a handful and call it good, but you want to use at least 2/3 of a package - trust me.  More Oreo's = better.


Most ice cream freezers will say that you should add your toppings about 5 minutes before the ice cream is done freezing.  I have just one problem with this - how do you know when it is 5 minutes to being done?  That makes no sense!

I use a different tactic.  I throw the cookies in after the ice cream is done and then just gently stir it all together.


Freeze the ice cream for several hours in your freezer for optimal texture.  The result will be beautiful...

...and very, very, very creamy.


It will make your guests smile. :-)



I have since made this ice cream with Butterfinger, and it's fantabulous.  I plan on eventually trying it in a low-fat version and a dairy-free version - I'll let you know when it happens!

Cookies-and-Cream Ice Cream
1 quart whole milk
1 cup eggbeaters
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 t. salt
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

Boil milk.  Combine egg substitute, sugar and salt.  Add to milk VERY slowly.  Cook over medium-low heat for 6-8 minutes or until it can coat spoon.  Set in bowl filled with ice - stir 5-10 minutes.  Then add condensed milk gradually, stirring the whole time.  Cover and chill for 8-10 hours. Freeze according to manufacturers directions - gently stir in cookies after it is done.  Freeze in freezer several hours before serving for firmer texture.  Serves 20.

Nutrition of ice cream base (Oreo cookies not included): 164 cal, 4g fat, 2g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 14mg cholesterol, 134mg sodium, 27g carbs, 0g fiber, 27g sugars, 5g protein, 3% vit. A, 1% vit. C, 14% calcium, 2% iron.

This recipe is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday , Tasty Tuesday, and Tuesdays at the Table
Also linked to Foodie Friday

Friday, July 9, 2010

the winners, a review, and a cookie to boot!

The Winners...
And the winners of the beautiful cast iron skillets are...

drum roll please...

The random number generator at random.org selected comments #43 and 67...
  • Kimmyj1962 - " I have always wanted to make cornbread in a cast iron skillet! :)" 
  • Ponder This - "goulash ...the way mommy does."

Congratulations!  Please make sure that I have your contact information, and check out this great tutorial on caring for your cast iron by Faithfulness Farm.

The Review...
I was tickled pink to have the opportunity to review a new product by Buitoni - a frozen dinner for two!  Knowing that we were about to move and that all of my cooking utensils would be packed away, I immediately accepted when Buitoni offered me a free frozen meal for two.  It was the first thing we cooked in our new place.

 
Since Buitoni provided our meal for free, my husband decided to be adventurous - he picked the Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli with Garlic Sauce.  Why was this adventurous?  Well, we hardly ever eat seafood and I can't remember the last time we had shrimp.  Have we ever had lobster?  I don't think so...


The verdict - the portions were hearty (although not at all low in calories and fat), and it was really reminiscent to something you would get at an Italian restaurant.  We probably wouldn't get the shrimp and lobster again - it was good but not our favorite.  The garlic butter sauce was strong enough that I would suggest serving alongside a salad or veggies in order to add some variety.  I think we would give this particular dish 3.5 out of 5 oven mitts! 

The cookie...
Okay, so you know that I love, love, love my 4-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe.  I make it at least once a week.  This past week I decided that it needed something different...some fiber perhaps.  I dumped 1/2 cup of oatmeal into the dough and made it into drop cookies.  I loved the change!  If you love the regular version, I think you'll like this new twist.


And finally the thank yous...
Thank you to Foodbuzz and Chef's Catalog for allowing me to host this amazing giveaway. 
Thank you to all who entered to win, and to Faithfulness Farm for sharing it with your skillet-loving readers. 
Thank you to all of the followers I gained in the process (it's wonderful to have you!). 
Thank you to Buitoni for giving my husband something to eat while I was still unpacking my kitchen. 
Thank you to my husband for not complaining about the time it took me to unpack my kitchen.
Thank you to my husband for...well...for marrying me in the first place.  It's an adventure, I know.
And thanks to all who actually made it to the bottom of this list.  You are real troopers. :-)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

hot bacon pasta salad

I have this pair of pants.  They aren't my skinny pants.  They aren't my fat pants.  They are more like...measuring stick pants.

Do you know what I mean?

This is the pair of pants that fits me perfectly when I'm exactly the size that I should be.  If they get too loose, then I eat a little more dessert (can't get too skinny or I won't have any clothes that fit!).  If they get a little tight, I know it's time to start exercising.


And it's time to start exercising.

Because of my upcoming cast iron giveaway, I've been showcasing fried foods (my husband's picks).  And, as a result, my measuring stick pants have been getting more and more snug by the day.  So I've decided that today, I'm posting a cast iron recipe that's just as delicious but much more healthy.  It would be even healthier if I used less bacon...but my pants aren't that tight.


The inspiration for this hot bacon pasta salad came from a Tasty Kitchen recipe posted by the Pioneer Woman herself - spinach salad with warm bacon dressing.  The salad was delicious, so I decided to convert it into something more filling, more hearty, and slightly healthier (by using turkey bacon).

The cast of ingredients includes turkey bacon (you could also use regular), a small package of sliced mushrooms, a package of baby spinach, red wine vinegar, sugar, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.


Ooops...don't forget the pasta!


Cook the pasta according to package directions.  In the meanwhile, slice up your bacon into smaller strips.


Toss these into a large skillet and season very, very liberally with pepper.  Cook until they get as crispy as you like.  Once the bacon is cooked, remove it to a separate bowl.


Toss your mushroom slices in the skillet, and cook and stir until they get nice and tender.


Then throw in your package of spinach.  Stir it around for about a minute, or until the spinach has wilted.


Once your spinach has wilted, add the bacon back to the skillet and turn off the heat.


 Mix together 3 tablespoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a dash of salt.  Because my mushrooms had soaked up most of my bacon grease, I also added a small amount of olive oil to the dress, although I'm not sure that it was really necessary.


Toss the cooked pasta in with the spinach, mushrooms, and bacon...


Then pour in the dressing.


And toss your pasta salad to mix everything all together.

And there you have it...a fast, easy, hearty, delicious, and relatively healthy skillet meal! 


Don't forget to enter to win a cast iron skillet!  Drawing will be held on Friday evening.


Hot Bacon Pasta Salad
16 oz. package of pasta
1 lb. bacon or turkey bacon
1 small package (2 cups) sliced mushrooms
10 oz. package baby spinach
3 T. red wine vinegar
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
dash salt
pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Dice up bacon and place in a large skillet, seasoning liberally with pepper.  Cook until crispy; remove to another bowl.  Add mushrooms to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes, or until tender.  Add spinach leaves; cook and stir until wilted.  Toss in cooked pasta.  Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt and pour over the pasta.  Stir everything together and serve hot.  Serves 8.

Nutrition:  320 cal, 13g fat, 3g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 91mg cholesterol, 736mg sodium, 35g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g sugars, 16g protein, 67% vit. A, 18% vit. C, 7% calcium, 22% iron.
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