Sunday, November 30, 2014

Big Batch Lasagna

I grew up helping my father make lasagna. Whenever we had lasagna at our house, we always made two 9x13 inch panfulls and ate it for a few days, or froze extras. It was also a favorite dish to have when company came over. If you are going to go through all that trouble, you may as well make two big lasagnas and get more than one meal out of it. Also, the lasagna noodles fit larger pans better and one container of cottage cheese was always enough for us to make two lasagnas. We always made one meat lasagna and one vegetarian - I did the meatless and my father handled the meat. We would work side by side, I preparing the cheese and sauce, and eating the broken noodle pieces, and my father cooking up the meat. At work recently, I made one really big lasagna in a much bigger pan. It was definitely a different recipe than my father and I always made together, but the techniques were the same and it certainly brought back memories, especially since I didn't have a helper and was making this all by myself. 

This lasagna consists of a spicy meat tomato and pepper sauce, four layers of noodles, a layer of cottage cheese mixed with spinach, and a top layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. I like how lasagna can be prepared in advance, stuck in the fridge, and baked shortly before serving. Pictured here is the unbaked version. I also love the layering process and don't find it to be tedious at all, as long as you have all your mise en place in order beforehand. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Berry Cobbler

Berry Cobbler
2 cans berry pie filling (use a single berry pie filling or a mix of berries, or mix two different cans)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425F.
Mix the filling, lemon juice, and almond extract together in a 9x13 inch rectangular pan. Place in the oven to heat up while preparing topping. 
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until crumbly. Stir in the milk to form a soft dough. Drop by spoonfuls over the hot filling.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes until biscuit topping is golden. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Peanut Butter Marble Cake

I made a cake recently, but I wanted to do a little something different with it. I wanted a cross between a sweet cake and a snack cake, so I didn't want to use an icing and piping on it - I wanted something quick and easy. I began with a simple marble cake. The classic flavors of chocolate and vanilla swirl. 
 Then while the cake was still warm, but not hot, I spread smooth peanut butter on top, which melted slightly over the cake. This added another depth of flavor to the profile.  Then I sprinkled chocolate chips over top to add a little more chocolate flavor. Then I stuck the cake in the fridge briefly to allow the topping to set. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Hearty Vegetable Soup
3 small white onions, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small eggplant, diced
3 small potatoes, diced
stalk of choice, to cover
1 can yellow wax beans, drained
1 can green wax beans, drained
1 can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 cup cooked, chopped carrots
salt, spices, and seasoning as desired
2 cups cubed leftover cooked meat, if desired
approximately 1 cup leftover seasoned mashed potatoes

Heat a little oil over low heat in a large pot. Add the onion, celery, zucchini, eggplant, and potato and allow the mixture to "sweat" for twenty minutes or so to marry the flavors together. Stir in the stalk and heat to a boil. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, carrots, seasoning, and meat. Boil until vegetables are tender. Stir in mashed potatoes and heat to thicken. 
The snowy, cold days approaching are the perfect time to enjoy bowlfuls of warm, hearty, delicious soup. With imprecise soups such as vegetable, no recipe is needed, but here is a formula for a very flavorful and nutritious soup I came up with that is quick and inexpensive to make, and a great way to use up some leftovers. Switch it up as you please. This makes a large batch that can easily be saved and reheated. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Roast Turkey

This past weekend I cooked something I have never cooked before, which actually happens quite often considering I always like to try new things; however this is something I am particularly proud of. I prepared, roasted, and carved my very first turkey! Of course I have had turkey before, and maybe even helped in preparing it, but I have never made a whole turkey from start to finish. To do this, I placed a medium-sized turkey, about six kilograms or so, in a large roasting pan, and poured in a little bit of chicken stock and cranberry juice for moisture and flavor. Then I seasoned the turkey liberally, with salt, ground black pepper, thyme, sage, and whatever other ground spices I happened to find that appealed to me. I just sprinkled them all over the top of the turkey, like a dry rub. Then I cut up two onions into small wedges, and put them in as well. I then covered the roasting pan in tight plastic wrap and foil. The turkey didn't take too long to bake, only a few hours, and then of course it must rest in the pan, outside of the oven, before carving. Slice it tenderly, and then it can be put back into another pan with the juices and heated gently again to be really hot. Be sure to use some of the pan drippings for a rich gravy, and save some of the onion to eat as well - it is tender and flavorful. A bit of the spice flavor comes through the turkey and the turkey is moist and juicy, either white or dark meat, but the turkey is not overly spicy. Of course it is great served with carrots, peas, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, and to make it extra special like Christmas dinner, stuffing!
Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of the whole turkey after baking, but here it is all carved up!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lemon Currant Cookies

Lemon Currant Cookies
1 package lemon cake mix
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup currants

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line cookie sheets.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, and oil just until combined. Fold in the currants. Roll dough into small balls and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake for about ten minutes until golden and cracked. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring. Makes about 36 small cookies. 
Making cookies from a cake mix is an easy, quick, and cheap way to 'cheat' at making cookies. And the flavor combinations are endless, depending upon what types of cake mixes you can find and what you want to use as your stir-ins. The basic formula is one cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup oil, and 1/2 cup stir-ins. The cookies are moist, and of course cake-like. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Banana Streusel Muffins

Banana Streusel Muffins
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
3 large, overripe mashed bananas
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400F. Grease or line muffin tins.
STREUSEL: Crumble all ingredients together until well combined.
MUFFINS: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, then the milk and bananas. Stir in the flour, soda, and salt until just combined. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle with streusel. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.

This recipe is really my collaboration of two recipes - classic banana muffins and apple streusel muffins. The streusel really vamps up the taste of these banana muffins and adds a little extra sweetness, in lieu of adding chocolate chips to a banana muffin batter.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

PB Chip Cookies

These are some cookies my mother recently made and sent up to me. They are a simple chocolate drop cookie, and then you can throw in any type of chip you would like - chocolate to make it even more chocolaty (milk, white, dark, semisweet), butterscotch, peanut butter, mint, cinnamon - whatever appeals to you! 

PB Chip Cookies
3/4 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chips of choice 

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line baking sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients.
Drop by teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until set. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Simple Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a classic, well-loved dessert. Here is a simple recipe for a baked cheesecake, that uses only four ingredients for the filling. It uses a good portion of cream cheese and no other fillings such as sour cream, but simply cream cheese, and low-fat cream cheese at that. 
Simple Cheesecake
one 9-inch crust (see NOTE)
4 packages light cream cheese spread, softened
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 325F. 
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed until light and smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just blended, scraping the bowl as necessary. Pour into prepared crust. 
Bake for 45-60 minutes until cake is set, but center is still slightly jiggly. Cool slightly, then remove or loosen from pan and cool completely. Chill for several hours until cold. 

NOTE: Any type of 9-inch prepared or baked crust can be used for this cheesecake, depending on what type of flavor you would like.
For a homemade crust, a general rule is to combine 1 1/4 cups cookie or cracker crumbs with 1/4 cup melted butter or hard margarine, and 2-4 Tablespoons of sugar if using crackers or less sweet cookies. 
Graham crackers, chocolate wafer cookies, gingersnaps, and shortbread cookies all work well. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cakey Molasses Cookies

I love ginger cookies, but I prefer the soft, moist cookies as opposed to gingersnaps. These cookies are soft, cake-like, gingery, and easy to make.

Cakey Molasses Cookies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/8 cups buttermilk
2 Tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line baking sheets. 
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the molasses, then the egg. Stir in the buttermilk, then the soda, spices, and salt. Stir in the flour, one cup at a time. Dough will be soft, ensure all flour is fully incorporated.

Drop dough by teaspoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for about ten minutes, until set and lightly browned on the bottom. Let cookies stand on the baking sheet a few minutes to set before removing. Makes 4-6 dozen cookies.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Big Batch Fettucini Alfredo

Fettucini alfredo is a classic, comfort food dish, and it is not too difficult to make either. I recently made a huge batch of it, and it only took me a few minutes. Here is how I did it: I brought a big pot of water to a boil and cooked rotini until al dente. Actually, I did not have quite enough rotini, so I used two-thirds of rotini and one-third egg noodles, which are very close in shape and essentially have the same cooking time. The flavor is similar enough as well. I drained the pasta, then transferred it to a large pan. I then prepared the sauce, making it nice and hot. This was not only an alfredo sauce, but was also flavored with a little garlic, Parmesan cheese, and roasted red pepper. The sauce to pasta ratio depends on your personal preference. Personally, I like enough sauce to coat the pasta and provide flavor, but I do not like when there is so much sauce the pasta is liquidy and you need a spoon at the end of the dish. I stirred in a little chopped, leftover cooked turkey into the sauce at the end, though this is optional. Chicken, shrimp, lobster, ham, or vegetables may be used instead. I then poured the hot sauce over the pasta and tossed to coat. I then like to bake the pasta to ensure it is nice and hot and bubbly, and I usually cover it with foil so it does not dry out. However, for advance preparation it may be cooled then covered and stored in the refrigerator to be baked later or the next day. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Easy Peasy Gravy

Gravy is not something I can say I make very often. Actually, not really at all. I don't like gravy. But you cannot serve people hot turkey sandwiches without hot gravy. I used to watch my father make gravy all of the time, so I kind of used the methods I used to see him do. He used a simple roux of butter and flour, then a flavored bouillon and hot cooking water. He always made small batches, just enough to put on a few mashed potatoes, and he always did it quickly in a small pot. This is how I made my batch of gravy, which was a fairly large batch:

  1. I began with making a roux. I melted 1/2 cup butter in a medium pot over high heat, then stirred in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour until completely smooth.
  2. Slowly pour in chicken broth, stirring. Begin with about 2 cups, stir it all in and then bring it to a boil.
  3. Once boiled, add more chicken broth slowly as needed, boiling the mixture and bringing it to the proper consistency.
  4. Stir in one packet on onion soup mix.
  5. Adjust seasoning and consistency by adding salt and pepper, an additional packet of onion soup mix, or more chicken broth. 
For a darker gravy, use extra onion soup mix.
For a different flavor gravy, use a different type of broth - beef or vegetable.
For a creamier, lighter gravy, use some milk or cream in place of some of the broth. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Potato Machine Bread

Potato Machine Bread
1 cup warm water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup leftover unseasoned mashed potatoes, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order given, or according to manufacturer's instructions for whole wheat cycle. This makes one large loaf, although size setting will depend on machine.

The potato in this bread makes the loaf slightly heavier, but it has a nice flavor and texture and is quite moist. The honey and olive oil also contribute to the flavor and texture of this bread. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Pie Overnight Oatmeal

Apple Pie Overnight Oatmeal
½ cup old-fashioned oats
1 Tablespoon whole grain hot cereal mix (see {Hot Cereal Mix} )
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 small apple, diced
3/4 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a jar, bowl, or large mug. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight to thicken. Enjoy cold or microwave until warm.

When will I stop posting overnight oatmeal recipes? I suppose not until I run out of ideas and different flavor options, which isn’t likely to be anytime soon. I love overnight oatmeal recipes for the convenience, portability, speed, taste, and nutrition they provide. It’s one complete breakfast in a bowl, already ready to eat in the refrigerator when you awake. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Blueberry Grunt

Blueberry grunt is a cross between blueberry cobbler and blueberry buckle. It supposedly gets its name from the noise it makes while cooking. Traditionally it is steamed, but I like to bake it to make it easier and neater to serve. You cannot go wrong with a sweet, thick blueberry filling, and a crispy, doughy biscuit topping. It is good warm or cold, but especially nice warm if you happen to have a scoop of vanilla ice cream hiding in your freezer. 
Blueberry Grunt
5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter or hard margarine
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 425F.
FILLING: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring all ingredients to a boil. Simmer while preparing dough.
DOUGH: In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Work in the butter, then stir in the milk to form a soft dough. 

Pour the hot filling in a 9x13 inch pan. Place the dough in spoonfuls over top. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until dough is golden and cooked and fruit is hot and bubbly. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecakes

Recently I received a nice treat - you just cannot beat home-baked goodies! These are miniature cheesecakes my mother sent me. They consist of a moist, chocolate cake base that is marbled in with a pumpkin cheesecake filling containing chocolate chips. These miniature cheesecakes contain a nice dose of chocolate, and a hint of pumpkin flavor. They are very moist, and have a nice cheesecake consistency as well. They actually improve a bit with age in the fridge, as they soften even more and the flavors mellow.  I like the mini, individual size of these and how everyone can get their own. It is also a clever way to make some cheesecake go a long way - as cream cheese can be an expensive ingredient. This is a nice fall dessert, but I would enjoy it any time of the year as they are refreshing as well. 

Friday, November 14, 2014


Flammkuchen or Tarte Flambée is a dish I fell in love with while travelling this past summer. It is something like pizza, but don't call it pizza, because it is so much better. It is a bread dough rolled really thinly and baked to be really crisp. Regular pizza dough recipes rolled extra thinly may be used, but this easy recipe does not even contain any yeast or leavening agent. Restaurants serving flammkuchen usually have special boards and cutting implements to bake and serve them, but a really hot oven will do the trick at home. The crust must be thinner than a cracker, and crispier to. Mine turned out a tad too thick because I made too much dough and didn't have the baking sheet, oven space, or fridge room to bake a separate batch. 
3 cups flour (all-purpose, or half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
1 cup water

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Stir in the oil and water. Knead if needed, just until dough forms a smooth ball. Set aside to rest.
Roll dough as thin as possible, almost paper thin. Flammkuchen does not have an outside crust like pizza, but mine has a bit of one to keep the toppings on and use the extra dough.
At this point the dough can be placed aside to rest again, or topped and baked, or topped and refrigerated until baking time.
Preheat oven to the highest temperature possible. Heat a baking sheet or wooden board in the oven to heat.
Place crust on the prepared tray and bake for 10-20 minutes until crisp and golden.

Toppings: traditional flammkuchen toppings are crème fraiche, onions, and ham, but there are a variety of different flavors just like pizzas, Mediterranean, artisan, Mexican, etc.
I topped mine with a homemade tahini-Greek yogurt and spice mixture to imitate crème fresh, caramelized onions and mushrooms, and parsley. 

To read more about flammkuchen, look here: {Flammkuchen}.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apple Pie Pancake

Well, this isn't exactly apple pie in breakfast form (who says apple pie isn't breakfast already anyway), but it is a healthy, all-inclusive breakfast that is quick to make, hot, and delicious; and does have the apple, cinnamon, and nut flavors. Just not the buttery crust and whipped cream topping. 
Apple Pie Pancake
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons hot cereal mix (or oats, or flax, or a mix)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 small finely chopped apple, peeled or not, whatever kind
1/3 - 1/2 cup milk of choice, depending on desired thickness of pancakes
optional: pinch of salt, splash of vanilla extract, sugar, honey, or other sweetener

Heat a little oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. 
In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Fold in the apple. Stir in the milk. Pour batter into prepared pan - I like to make one large, thick fluffy pancake that could serve two, but you can make miniature pancakes too.
Cook for a few minutes per side until golden.
I topped my pancake with some almond hazelnut butter, chopped walnuts, and additional chopped apple. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Petite Parfait

Not too long ago I whipped up two quick, petitie individual parfaits. I don't know if they exactly qualify as a parfait, as they were not really layered in a tall dish, but rather in a small heart-shaped bowl, but that was all for presentation and sentimental purposes. The parfait mixture was relatively simple - mostly plain, fat free Greek yogurt, a spoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, a dollop of creamed honey, a dab of smooth natural peanut butter, and a hint of vanilla extract. This made a quick and relatively healthy chocolate mousse. It isn't sweet and airy like a regular chocolate mousse, but takes a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost to make, and is probably much better for you. It certainly is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Then I dressed up the mousse with some leftover chocolate shapes and shavings, a few fresh raspberries, and I piped "I love you" on the parfaits with a little leftover simple sugar icing I had.

This is a perfect small and light dessert to end off a heavier meal or to enjoy late at night when you just need a small chocolate fix. The mousse recipe is quick to make if you have all ingredients on hand and you may make as much or as little as needed. It is very versatile and can be dressed up with fresh fruit, nuts, cake, cookies, etc. In addition, you can control how 'dark' chocolate the mousse is by the amount of cocoa and honey used. Alternately, maple syrup or agave nectar could be used instead of honey without much flavor change. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Miniature Bread Puddings

Miniature Bread Puddings
8 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups raisins
6 cups dry bread cubes

Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon, then both sugars. Stir in the raisins and bread, folding well. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy warm, cold, or reheated. Makes about 18.

Bread pudding is a classic comfort food. Normally it is made in a large pan and then cut into squares, but making them in individual muffin cups makes them easier to serve, or enjoy for breakfast on the go, as they can easily be frozen as well. For this recipe, I used mostly white French or Italian bread or baguette, but also some sweeter challah bread as well. If you use all of a sweet bread, you may want to cut back on the amount of sugar slightly. I would describe this bread pudding as halfway between a really eggy, custardy pudding and a dry, firm pudding. To make them extra special, add a dusting of icing sugar, a dollop of whipped cream, or a warm caramel sauce or caramel icing. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Poached Egg On Toast

Poaching is my new favorite way to enjoy eggs. I like the soft texture the white keeps, encasing a delicate, gooey, slightly liquidy golden yolk. I don't think poached eggs need much to go with them, and they are a quick yet elegant easy protein source. A sprinkle of paprika often works well though. Here I have served a poached egg on a crisp piece of baguette, allowing the consumer to soak up every last bit of that egg. I used some crisp broccoli strips to garnish the plate and create sort of a star appearance, but celery, carrot, or pepper strips would work as well.

I cheat when poaching my eggs, and always poach them in the microwave. It is definitely quicker and just as tasty, the only downside is only one to three eggs can be cooked at one time. All you need is approximately one tablespoon of water per egg. Break the egg into the water and gently stab the yolk a few times, then microwave on HIGH (100% power) for one minute. The 'setness' of the egg and yolk will vary slightly depending on how much water is used and how long the egg is cooked, so vary this according to your personal tastes. 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Fudge Pudding

Fudge Pudding
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 1/2 cups hot water
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 inch rectangular pan.
CAKE: In a large bowl, stir together the first five dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and oil. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
SAUCE: Stir together the sugar and cocoa. Stir in the water. Pour over cake in pan, but do not stir. Bake for about 30 minutes until cake is set. Serve hot or allow to cool for the sauce to thicken. 

Cake? Pudding? Or Fudge? How about all three together. This is a chocoholic dream dessert and so easy to make. It is like having a slice of cake and a hot fudge sauce together in one dish - no frosting required! 

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Fruit and Nut Overnight Oatmeal

Fruit and Nut Overnight Oatmeal
1/2 cup oats or whole grain cereal mix
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup mixed fruit, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
Combine all ingredients together in a jar or bowl. Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy warm or cold in the morning. 

This overnight oatmeal recipe could be varied within itself, depending on what type of fruit and nuts used. My version here is more of a tropical oatmeal - using melon and pineapple. But you could also use berries, bananas, apples, or whatever you wish!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chip Drop Cookies

Peanut butter - yum! Oatmeal - yum! Chocolate chips - yum! Cookies - yum! So put them all together and make one amazing, flavorful cookie that is quite easy to make, doesn't take long, and is a good cookie jar keeper.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chip Drop Cookies
1 cup butter, hard margarine, or shortening
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated (white) sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 Tablespoons hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line cookie sheets.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, followed by the peanut butter. Mix together the hot water and soda and add into the mixture. Stir in the oats, flour, and salt, then the chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, bake for about 15 minutes. 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Camera Cake

Every cake has a story behind it. Some cake stories are more interesting than others. This one, though began relatively simple, turned into quite the tale.

My roommate requested I make her birthday cake, and requested a white cake with vanilla buttercream, and no fondant. It sounded simple enough, and I decided on making the cake into a camera, because she is into photography and searching camera cake showed me some designs that did not seem to tricky to pull off. So her birthday was today, but the party was yesterday, and I had the cake all baked on Monday. I planned to decorate it either Tuesday night or Wednesday afternoon. I did not get the chance Tuesday, so Wednesday it would be!

Wednesday comes. I go to my early morning classes, and am on my way to my lunch break, something unexpected comes up. After a trip to the emergency room and 8.5 hours later, the patient (not me, I was fine) is safely back home and I have spent a good thirteen hours of my day away. I'm tired, behind on everything, not in the greatest cheer, and really late for the party already, and I was supposed to bring the cake. I didn't want then to go cakeless any longer than necessary, and I knew today would be an even longer day - more like 15 hours, so I had to get the cake done late last night.

So of course I was in a rush and losing patience, but despite this I think the cake turned out all right. Due to my rush though, I was unable to capture a quick photo before the cake had candles stuck into it. 

The cake is simply an 8x8 inch square cake, cut into two rectangles that are turned on their sides and sandwiched together for the camera base. Then I used a round cookie cutter to cut out a lens, and I cut a top shutter out as well, and still had some more cake left over. You can get a lot from a small cake. I frosted all of this in my signature vanilla buttercream, then added some detail in brown. I have never really seen a white camera like that, but white frosting was requested, and is much more natural looking for cake nonetheless. Anyways, the reason for the long story was really to explain that this cake is not nearly as polished as I would have liked it to have been - as I definitely did not have time for a crumb coat to set before adding a second coat, though I do really like the design concept! 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Big Batch Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is such a staple for an easy, cold side dish to go with a variety of quick, home-style meals. Every pasta salad is different, even when using the same recipe, there is variation within each batch. Pasta salads can be creamy and rich like potato salads, or light and oil-based like green salads. This is a big batch pasta salad I made recently. I find the best types of pasta to use for salads are short, medium ones with some ridges to hold the sauce, but not really tiny pastas such as orzo or alphagetti. Macaroni is good, but macaroni salad is an entire different type of pasta salad on its own. Pastas like spaghetti, linguni and fettucini are just too long for salads. The best pastas are rotini, fusili, short egg noddles, bow ties, or shells. Here I have used broad egg noodles. Although it is fun to mix different shapes of pastas sometimes, that is better for sauces and not ideal in salads. 
In this salad, I have used minced green onion, chopped celery, diced red pepper, and tomato strips, although I change up the vegetables I use slightly every time depending on what I have on hand in the refrigerator. A few chopped vegetables add a little extra color, flavor, and crunch. I also use a fairly creamy-based dressing, with some mayo and coleslaw dressing, and a little bit of garlic, parsley, and a touch of paprika. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Simple Oatmeal Banana Muffins

Simple Oatmeal Banana Muffins
3 large overripe mashed bananas
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease or line muffin tins.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and bananas, then add the oil and the milk. Stir in the dry ingredients until combined. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Banana muffins. Banana chocolate chip muffins. Banana sour cream muffins. Banana nut muffins. Banana date muffins. They are all awesome banana muffin variations, but what about banana oatmeal muffins? Oats add a little bit of texture and heartiness to a regular banana muffin recipe, and certainly some extra nutrition. Of course you can still add in the chocolate chips, dates, or nuts as well if you wish.

Paré, Jean. "Banana Oatmeal Muffins." Recipe. Muffins & More, Edmonton Alberta: Company's Coming Publishing Limited, 1983. 12-13.

Monday, November 03, 2014


Pizelle are Italian waffle cookies. They are made with a special type of waffle iron called a pizzelle maker. Pizzelle makers differ from waffle irons simply by pattern, as pizzelle cookies usually have a pretty pattern and indentation pressed into them. The second major difference is pizzelle makers are much thinner than waffle irons, because pizzelle cookies are much thinner than waffles. The taste is also slightly different, because pizzelle are always thin and crispy and waffles can either be crispy or thick and fluffy.

Pizzelle are made with a simple batter - more like a waffle batter than a cookie batter, but slightly thinner. They usually get their rich flavor from the butter, sugar, eggs, and splash of vanilla, though they can be flavored differently, such as a small addition of unsweetened cocoa powder for chocolate pizzelle.

Some pizzelle makers are automatic, which means it'll let you know when they are cooked. Others, like the one I have, are not automatic, leaving a little more guesswork. I actually had a little trouble with my cookies this time - even though I oiled the maker, they were sticking a bit, or I was checking them to early before they were cooked, or they were a little over cooked. Also a major problem was they kept breaking when I tried to remove them. They still taste delicious, but they do not present as well. Actually I love the little pieces. Pizzelle are very delicate, so if they are not transported properly, they will break as well. One more tricky thing about pizzelle is finding the perfect amount of batter to put in the pizzelle maker to make one cookie. Too little, and you won't get a full cookie, too much and the batter will ooze out of the maker.

I learned how to make pizzelle from my grandmother, who always had them around when I cam to visit, so I grew up enjoying them. They are good plain, or with a little dusting of icing sugar, but they also make nice garnishes for ice cream, cake, and mousses - just like waffle cookies!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Streusel Bars

This is one of those recipes that tastes like pumpkin pie, but is not in pumpkin pie form. This is in bar form, which is quicker and easier to bake and eat. The crust is not a traditional crust either, but a cake mix mixture which is very simple and quick, and is also used for the streusel. And of course, the filling tastes just like pumpkin pie!
Pumpkin Pie Streusel Bars
1 white cake mix
3/4 cup melted butter or hard margarine, divided
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, divided
1 can (approximately 3 cups) pumpkin pie filling
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan.
In a small bowl, combine 1 cup cake mix, 1/4 cup of the butter, the sugar, and the cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine remaining cake mix, 1/2 cup butter, and one egg. Press this firmly into prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the pumpkin pie filling, two eggs, and milk. Pour over bottom. Sprinkle with streusel mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until set. 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Orange Poke Cake

I know Halloween is over again for another year, but this is another Halloween-ish treat I made recently that I did not get a chance to feature yet. This is a "poke cake" which is a term referring to a cake that is poured with gelatin after baking. The process is relatively simple: bake the cake, then cool slightly. You can remove it from the pan, or keep it in, depending on the type of pan. For this type of tube pan, I find it easier to remove the cake first. Pierce the cake with a fork at half-inch intervals. You want to make the holes fairly big so the cake can soak up the liquid. Next, prepare a package of gelatin (any flavor) using one cup boiling water to dissolve the gelatin, then 1/2 cup cold water. Beat for two minutes, then pour this mixture over the cake, allowing the cake to absorb it. Refrigerate the cake for a few hours so the gelatin sets a bit. This will not create pieces of gelatin within the cake, but rather streaks of flavor throughout the cake, which makes the cake very moist.

Now you can decorate the cake as you wish. Since the gelatin adds a lot of flavor and moisture, the entire cake need not be iced, so I simply added some swirls of icing, a bottom border, and decorated with pumpkin-shaped orange sprinkles. I used orange gelatin of course, and a white cake batter.