Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Is it time for another cookie recipe? I think so. ;)
   Today's cookie is Peanut Butter Chocolate (or Candy) Chunk Cookies. I found this recipe during my never ending quest to find a chewy peanut butter cookie. I don't know about you, but it seems like all peanut butter cookies end up hard and crunchy once they cool. I'm a chewy kinda girl, so I know there must be a recipe out there that satisfies my needs - I just haven't found it yet.
   That being said, this peanut butter cookie recipe is good - it's just not chewy. I used peanut butter filled M&M's as my "chocolate chunks" and I really like the cookies this way. There's a nice texture and flavor that the M&M's give that I don't think could be duplicated using anything else . . . not that something else wouldn't be equally as delicious. (A Butterfinger candy bar chopped up might be nice, but I digress.)
   What I'm trying to say is that these cookies are good. Really good. But if you are looking for a chewy peanut butter cookie keep looking (and let me know when you've found it please!).

Let's get started:

1 stick of salted, softened butter is put into the bottom of a mixing bowl.

Next comes 1/2 cup of peanut butter. Crunchy or smooth is up to you - I chose smooth today.

Cream the butters together and add in the sugar.

Both white and dark brown.

After the sugars and butters have creamed together (gotten lighter in color and smooth) add in some vanilla,

 and 1 egg.

When the batter is smooth again, add in the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Mix the batter together and add in about 1 Tbsp of milk (just until the dough doesn't look dry).

Now comes the add-ins. This is what I used, but you can substitute anything you like.

1 cup of the "chunks" go in.

When the chunks are fully combined into the batter, it's done!

Nothing left to do but scoop. I like to use my smallest scoop. It's probably about 1 to 1 1/2 inch in size.

Place the balls of cookie dough onto a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet.

As always, I scooped the rest of the dough onto a plate (or cookie sheet) and placed them in the freezer. Once they get rock hard I put them into a labeled zip-top freezer bag for later use. I say this is to keep me from eating so many cookies at once (which is partly true). But it also allows me to have freshly baked cookies in a moments notice. Also, since I usually keep 4-8 kinds of cookies in my freezer, I can have multiple flavors of cookies at once (for those days I just don't want to choose). ;) In any case. This is a good habit to get into - unless you like having 3 dozen baked cookies in your house at once.

They are cooked @ 375F for about 7 minutes.

After they cool on a cooling rack they are ready to eat.

Have one . . . or two . . . or  eight. You don't judge me and I won't judge you. :)

Here's the recipe:
from Idea Room

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup peanut butter 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 tablespoon milk (add this at the very end just to make dough smooth and creamy) 
1 cup Peanut Butter M&M's (or chocolate chips) 

In a large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Cream together until light in color and smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat baking soda, baking powder and flour. Add milk (from 1/2 Tablespoon to 1 Tablespoon just enough to make the dough moist and creamy). Add M&M's (or chocolate) and mix until just incorporated.  If necessary, cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle. 
Preheat oven to 375F. Drop cookies by scooping them out of the bowl with a spoon dropping them in small balls onto your greased cookie sheets.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 36 cookies.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Maple-Oat Scones with a Maple Glaze

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This morning I woke up to a very windy, cold and overcast day. So, baking was definitely on the agenda. My usual "go-to" on an overcast day is to make Tea (herbal of course) and scones. I love my Strawberry Scones with Vanilla Glaze but it's no longer strawberry season. I wanted to try something new and decided to go with a Maple and Oat Scone.
   Since baking is more of a science than cooking is, I usually glance at a recipe or two before concocting new recipes. I would hate to not have something rise properly. So, to the Internet I went. I remembered watching Ina Garten make a scone with maple syrup and oats on the Food Network. I looked up her recipe, and then used it as a jumping off point. (But to be clear, this is NOT her recipe.) The result is a really moist, slightly sweet scone with a welcoming maple flavor.
   I do have to apologize for not having step-by-step pictures to show you, though. I took a couple and then realized that my camera memory was full from our recent Disneyland trip. I ended up just deleting the few beginning pictures I had, in favor of showing you the finished project. The process is very similar to what I did in my Strawberry Scones recipe, though the ingredients are different.
  As the name suggests, the two most ingredients are the Maple Syrup and the Oats. You need pure, dark maple syrup (grade B is best) and cracked 'n' toasted steel cut oats. I get the Coaches Oats brand from Costco. They give a nuttiness to the scones that you just can't get from regular rolled oats. Although, if you were in a pinch, I suppose these scones could be made with just old fashioned oats. But they would be missing the nice nutty texture and flavor that I love.
   We all really enjoyed them (I think I'm enjoying my 5th one right now). I took a heaping plate to the hubby's fire house and they seemed to like them - although there is probably not much that firefighters won't eat. ;) I think these are pretty special, and something deliciously different from your everyday scone. I hope you do too!

I enjoyed my first two with a cup of hot Chamomile Tea.

My second two I ate plain . . . with a glass of milk.

This is the plate full that I took to the guys @ the fire station. (Hence the paper plate. - No need dirtying a fancy plate for them. Who knows when I'd get it back.) I still had probably 15 left at the house.
They really are scrumptious. I hope you try them.

Here's the recipe:
adapted from Maple-Oatmeal Scones

Maple Oat Scones with a Maple Glaze

3 cups flour
1/2 cup rolled, old-fashioned oats
1 cup Coaches Oats, cracked 'n' toasted 5 minute steel cut oats 
2 Tbsp baking powder 
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter, increase salt to 2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
1 pound cold (salted) butter, diced small
1/2 cup cold buttermilk (or milk with 1 Tbsp white vinegar)
2/3 cup pure, dark maple syrup
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

 Maple Glaze:

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (you can add a splash more if it's too thick)

Preheat the oven to 400F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will be sticky.
Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Press the dough flat until it's 1 inch thick, and in a rough rectangle. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into about 3 inch squares. Cut the squares in half on a diagonal so you end up with triangles.  Dust off any excess flour and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are crisp and the insides are done.
To make the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, and maple syrup. When the scones are done, cool for at least 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with the glaze. While the glaze is still wet, sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be. (Depending on how you cut them, it makes about 30 scones)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Zucchini and Potato Cakes

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I realize that fall is settling in, and there's not much zucchini summer squash growing fresh out of the garden these days, but my zucchini plant decided to give one more gift before closing its doors for the winter. This zucchini recipe happened to be my wonderful husband's favorite squash recipe (out of Zucchini Bread, Baked Zucchini Fries - which are my personal favorite, Sauteed Zucchini Ribbons, Fried Zucchini, and Honey Chicken and Squash). I think he really enjoyed the combination of the zucchini and the potato mixed together with the crunchy Panko crust.
   They really couldn't be simpler, and the pay-off is worth the messy hands you get while making them. ;)

Start by grating one medium zucchini - or summer squash of your choosing. Use the large holes on the box grater.

Next, grate two small to medium potatoes that have been washed and dried. I used gold/yellow potatoes.

This is what it looks like when they are both grated.

Place the grated veggies on a kitchen towel,

Grate on 1/4 of an onion, (using the small holes on the box grater)

and then bring up the sides of the towel and twist. Squeeze out all the moisture.  You'll be surprised at how much water is in the veggies! Do this over the sink - it would make a mess otherwise.

Next, put the now dry veggies into a mixing bowl.

Add a little salt (to taste).

And some freshly ground black pepper.

Next, 1/4 cup flour is added.

Along with 1/2 tsp granulated garlic.

Stir the flour, salt and garlic until all the veggies are coated. Then in goes one egg.

Just use your hands to mix the egg in, and then form little patties.

Hopefully you have a plate standing by with some Panko bread crumbs on it. Sorry. I should have mentioned that earlier. Well, just wash your hands, get the bread crumbs and then get messy again.

Carefully lay each patty down into the bread crumbs.

Make sure they get evenly coated on both sides.

When They are all coated, They go into a large skillet with a little oil and butter mixture.

When the patties start to turn brown on the first side they are ready to flip.

Just a few minutes on the second side. When they are brown and delicious looking on both sides they are done!

I suppose you could serve this with some sort of sauce or dipper, but we just ate them plain.

To tell you the truth; they were mostly eaten before I could get them to the table for dinner. :)
This recipe is definitely a keeper! It's completely versatile too! If you wanted to swap out other veggies you could totally do that. (Sweet potatoes might be nice.) It's the method that is the most important. Have fun with your food and cook what you enjoy!

Here's the recipe:

Zucchini and Potato Cakes

1 medium zucchini, grated
2 small to medium gold/yellow potatoes grated
1/4 medium onion, finely grated
salt (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
about 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp oil (I use EVOO)
2 tsp butter, salted

Place the bread crumbs (and a little salt if desired) onto a plate or wide dish and set aside. Place the grated zucchini, potatoes and onion into a tea towel or cheese cloth. Bring up the edges, twist and wring out all the moisture from the veggies. Dump the now dry veggies into a mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, garlic and flour. Stir to combine. Add the egg and stir well. Form the veggie mixture into small patties. Carefully place the patties, one at a time, into the Panko bread crumbs. Coat the patties in the bread crumbs evenly on both sides. In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the oil and butter. When the oil/butter mixture is hot, add the patties one at a time to the pan, in a single layer. Cook until brown and crisp on the bottom. Use a spatula to flip each patty and cook until brown and crisp on the second side. Plate and serve.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

These used to be my favorite cookie. (They only got knocked off the top spot because I have since fallen in love with my Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies With Toasted Walnuts and my Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies.) But that doesn't mean that this cookie doesn't still hold a special place in my heart. In fact, I still close my eyes and let out a satisfied "Mmm" every time I eat these. They are crisp and chewy. A little tart from the dry cherries and there is some always welcomed lusciousness from the melt-y dark chocolate. Yes, I'm still a big fan!
   I first discovered the original version of these cookies while reading a young adult book called Scrambled Eggs at Midnight. Throughout the fictional book there are recipes that the characters cooked. One of those recipes are for "Cal's Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies." I looked all over the Internet to find the recipe, but ended up having to get it from my mother in law. She copied it directly from the book, and I wanted the original to work from.  The other ones out there are all variations on this cookie (that I've found at least). So, of course, I changed the recipe a little too; and this is what you have. (If you want the original recipe you should check the book out @ your local library!) A new twist on an old favorite (the chocolate chip cookie), and a cookie that I always make sure to have on hand in my freezer stash. :)

I start by getting my "mix-ins" ready - in reverser order. So when the time comes, I can just pour them into the cookie batter and all will be well . . . and easy!
Start with the chocolate chips. I prefer to use dark chocolate chips, but whatever you like would work. (Sorry, the picture is tilted. Tilt your head to the right . . . See? All better now.)

Next come the dried cherries. You can chop them up if you wish, but I kinda like the big chew pieces.

Next come the pecans. Don't skip this step! It's important to toast the nuts to bring out their full nutty potential. You can do them in either the oven (spread out evenly on a cookie sheet for about 5 minutes @ 350F) or in a dry skillet like I show here. Just toast them over medium heat, stirring occasionally until you can smell them and they are warm and slightly darker in color (no black please!).

When the pecans are toasted, just chop them up,

and add them right on top of the cherries.

Lastly, we have the oats. I use old fashioned rolled oats.

See the pretty layers?

Now for the batter. Some butter goes into the bowl of a stand mixer - or just a large mixing bowl if that's what you have. 2 sticks please (I just cut my 1 lb brick in half, that's why it looks like my 1 stick is on steroids.)

The sugars come next. Both dark brown and white sugar.

Cream the butter and the sugars together for a good 4-5 minutes.

When the butter and sugars are creamed (lighter in color and almost smooth) add an egg,

some pure vanilla extract

and just a touch of pure almond extract.

Mix it all together with some baking soda,

(scrape down the bowl)

and the flour.

When the batter is well combined, it's time to start adding the "mix-ins" we got ready earlier. Now you'll see why we needed to put them in reverse order. (To tell you the truth, the only ones that matter much are the oats and the chocolate. You want the oats to go in first and the chocolate to go in last.)
In go the oats, while the mixer is running.

Then go the nuts,

the cherries, and then finally the chocolate chips.

I stir the batter a few extra times with my spatula to make sure it's all mixed well.

This is the batter when it's complete. Pretty thick looking, huh?

Now, as a rule of thumb, unless I am baking for a crowd I always only bake one batch of cookies. The reason being that if I bake more than one batch I will eat more than one batch . . . by myself.
So, the solution is to scoop out the batter onto a cookie sheet or plate (shown here) and stick the cookie balls into the freezer. When they are rock hard I put them into a labeled zip-lock freezer bag for later use.
I started this method to keep myself from eating more cookies, but it all honestly, it also makes it easier to have cookies anytime I have a craving and my oven is hot. I also get to have multiple flavors baking at the same time! I don't even remember the last time I bought the pre-packaged, store bought cookie dough. I just always have homemade on hand. I usually keep anywhere from 4-8 different types of cookies in my freezer at all times. The 4 that I always must have are these Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies, my Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies With Toasted Walnuts, my Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies, and my Double Chocolate Chip Cookies. In case you were wondering. ;)  (Anyone have a fantastic CHEWY peanut butter cookie recipe? I'm always on the hunt!)

OK, so these are the ones I baked. Just scoop them onto a cookie sheet and they go into a 350F oven. I use my smallest scoop that's about 1 inch and the cookies take 10 minutes exactly. You're scoop and oven could be different.

This is what they look like when they come out.

Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Or at least, let them cool enough to not burn your mouth. (I usually can't wait even that long.)

Just plate and eat. (Or share if you are feeling generous.)
Here's the recipe:

Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter (salted), softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup oats
3/4 - 1 cup dried cherries
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in the flour, baking soda. Stir until well combined. While mixing, add in the oats, pecans, cherries and chocolate. When everything is thoroughly combined, scoop out into 1 inch balls and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes (until the cookies are set and slightly golden around the edges). Let cool on the cookie sheet for a minute before moving to a cooling rack. Depending on the size of your cookie, it makes about 3 dozen.