Wednesday, July 28, 2010

purple thumbs

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


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.

Monday, July 19, 2010

simple chicken stir-fry

I used to laugh when I saw recipes for stir fry.  Why would anyone need a recipe?  Isn't the whole point to throw in whatever you feel like?

And, then I tried to make one.  I threw in whatever I felt like.  Afterward, I felt like was terrible.

I have since tried, on multiple occasions, to make stir fries by simple cooking instinct.  I've failed on all counts.  I've heard that some people have this ability, but apparently I don't.  I've come to terms with it.

Really, I have.

Now, I turn to recipes.  My favorites, though, are those basic stir fry recipes - the ones that provide the foundation for a successful stir fry but allow for some creative interpretations.  This is one of those recipes - it highlights the delicious flavors of the vegetables but not much else.  If you want to eat it just the way it is, it tastes great.  If you want to add more ginger, more heat, different veggies, more soy sauce, or even some orange juice, go right on will still taste good because the foundation is there.

It's simple...but that's why it's a keeper.

To begin, chop up your vegetables.  I used green pepper, carrots, and broccoli.  You can use whatever veggies you like, but I find this combo particularly colorful and delicious.

You also want to cut chicken breasts into thin strips.  The easiest way I have found to do this is to cut them when they are almost frozen (outsides thawed but insides still fairly hard).  Slightly frozen chicken is much easier to work with than chicken that's already thawed.

Cook the chicken in about a tablespoon of oil until no longer pink (I recommend using a nonstick skillet).

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it to a separate bowl and keep warm.  Then, toss your veggies into the skillet and cook for about 2-3 minutes (until crisp-tender).

Once the veggies have reached their desired tenderness, take them out and keep them hot (I just dumped them in the same bowl as the worked).

Then, pour three cups of water into the skillet and bring it to a boil.  Once it's boiling, add 3 teaspoons of chicken bullion.  (You could also just toss three cups of chicken broth into the skillet and call it good.  But, if you don't have chicken broth on hand, the bullion works just fine.)

Add about one tablespoon (or more!) of soy sauce.  I used a gluten-free version, and it tasted fine.

Toss in about a teaspoon of ginger...freshly grated ginger is a-maz-ing.

And then add as much crushed red pepper as you think you can handle.  I added a copious amount, and I'm glad I did.

Throw your veggies and chicken back in and let them simmer for a minute or two.

To thicken it, mix 1/4 cup of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water.  Pour it into the stir fry and bring it to a boil.  Let it simmer for about 2 minutes, or until it's thickened up.

And there you have it.  Simple.  Delicious.

Simple Chicken Stir-Fry
1 T. oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 cup each, carrots, broccoli, and green pepper (sliced)
3 1/4 cups water, divided
3 t. chicken bullion
1 T. soy sauce
1 t. ginger
crushed red pepper, to taste
1/4 cup cornstarch

Cook chicken in oil in a nonstick skillet until cooked through; remove and keep warm.  Cook vegetables in skillet until crisp-tender; remove and keep warm.  Pour 3 cups water into skillet and bring to a boil; add bullion and stir until dissolved.  Add soy sauce, ginger, and red pepper.  Add back the chicken and vegetables, allowing to simmer for about one minute until heated through.  Mix together cornstarch with 1/4 cup water; mix into stir fry and bring to a boil.  Allow to simmer until mixture has thickened.  Serves 6.

Nutrition: 130 cal, 1g fat, 0g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 46mg cholesterol, 812mg sodium, 9g carbs, 1g fiber,2g sugar, 20g protein, 77% vit. A, 55% vit. C, 3% calcium, 5% iron.

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

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 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
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