Sunday, September 29, 2013

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

 A sweet reader of my blog, named Jessica, saw my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies post and heard my plea for anyone with a good chewy peanut butter cookie recipe. She e-mailed me two recipes and this is the first of the two that I tried. It was perfect! The cookies definitely live up to their name: they are absolutely soft and chewy. She found this recipe in an article from Cooks Country Magazine, and I'm so glad she passed it along to me! I did change a couple things, but the bones are the same. I still want to try her other peanut butter cookie recipe, but I can't imagine it turning out better than this one. I am keeping my Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (Take 2) in my repertoire for when I want a peanut butter and chocolate combo cookie - but if I'm in the mood for a straight peanut butter cookie, this will be it. Thank you Jessica!!
     I made them in a hurry to take to the guys at the fire station, so I didn't take step by step pictures, but it's really easy to whip together. I honestly just turned my stand mixer on and left it mixing until all the ingredients were in. Super simple.

I did freeze more than half of the batter, but instead of just scooping it and freezing it like I usually do - I pressed each cookie with a fork to make a cross-hatch pattern. This way I don't have to wait for them to fully defrost before baking. :) I just put the cookie dough in the freezer like this, and when it's frozen solid I put the individual cookie dough disks into a labeled zip-top freezer bag. This way I can bake as many or as few cookies as I would like on a whim.
These cookies smelled so good while making them (both in the dough form and the cooked form) that it made me want to make my mom's peanut butter fudge recipe. (My favorite childhood peanut butter smell memory.) Hopefully I can make it soon and post it so all of you can enjoy it too! (Just in time for the holidays.)

Here's the recipe:
adapted from Cooks Country Cooking

Soft & Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter (processed peanut butter makes chewier cookies)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 Tbsp) salted butter, very soft
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugars. Turn the mixer on medium speed. With the mixer running, add the salt, vanilla, corn syrup, egg, egg yolk and baking soda. When everything looks well combined, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides. Then turn the mixer on low and SLOWLY add the flour a little at a time until completely combined. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides again (if needed). Scoop the dough into about 1 inch balls (I use the smallest scoop I own) an place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. (If you find the dough is too soft, you can refrigerate it for up to 1 hour before scooping.) Using the tines of a fork, make a cross-hatch pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake @ 350F for 8 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown and the tops are no longer shiny. Cool for a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before moving to a cooling rack. Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 dozen (depending on cookie size).


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Party Delight

 I was watching my son's second favorite Food Network show with him the other day (The Great Food Truck Race) and the food trucks had a challenge to cook with SPAM. My son was so interested in this "SPAM" product (probably because I serve it only once in a blue moon, when we've eaten everything else out of the cupboards but this one can of processed meat that no one remembers buying). He really wanted me to make a dinner with SPAM in it, so that he could taste it and relate better to the "challenge" presented on the show. (I'm so proud of the foodie I'm grooming.) So, reluctantly, I asked my mom for a can of SPAM (because I didn't have one, and they usually do) and made the one SPAM recipe I know: Party Delight.
    Why it's called "Party Delight" I have no idea. It's something that my dad would make for us sometimes growing up, and when I asked him for the recipe he pointed me in the direction of an old church cookbook from when he was younger. His sister (my Aunt and part name-sake) Lurlene submitted this recipe for the cookbook, and I still think of her every time I make it. I did modify the recipe a smidge, but not much. It really is a tasty dish - sort of a warm ham and egg salad on bread, and covered with cheese. There might be better SPAM dishes out there, but this is the one that I grew up with, and therefore made for my son the other night. (FYI - My son enjoyed the dinner (even took some to eat cold for lunch the next day) and doesn't think that the "challenge" on the food truck show was really that hard. Haha.)
      This is the recipe card from my Family Recipes Cookbook, that I'm scrapbooking together: So this will be the recipe my kids turn to when they want to know how to make Party Delight. :)

It all starts with this process meat wonder. Did you know it originated in Minnesota, but that it's mostly associated with the Hawaiian community? (Just some useless SPAM facts to pull out at your next party.)

For this recipe we need to dice the meat into small pieces. To do this, I first slice the loaf into 1/4 inch slabs.

Then I cut the slabs into 1/4 inch strips. (Just stack the slabs on top of one another and cut again.)

Then the strips get cut into 1/4 inch cubes. They don't have to be exact, just close enough.

The next main ingredient is boiled eggs. We need 6 for this recipe. Try and cut them as small as the meat, but again, don't drive yourself crazy trying to get exact sizes. Just chop it pretty small. (I slice the eggs, and then dice them.)

The SPAM and egg pieces get put into a mixing bowl.

Then add the supporting characters . . . sweet pickle relish,


onion powder,

and mayonnaise.

Mix everything together until thoroughly combined. (Please note that we never added salt. SPAM is extremely salty so the dish needs nothing else!)

The next step is to lay out the hamburger buns. Top each half of a bun (cut side up) with some of the meat/egg mixture. (The recipe calls for 8 buns, but I only had 6 and it worked out o.k.) -Sorry about the poor lightening. It got dark in my kitchen and the fluorescent lights are horrid!

Grate how ever much cheese you want to put on top. I grated between 1 1/2 and 2 cups, but this is to taste.

Top each half with the cheese.

When they are all cheese-topped sufficiently, the whole thing gets put under a low broiler until the cheese is melted and the bread is a little toasted.

When it's done it will look something like this:  (My dining room has much better lighting!)

Only thing left to do is serve it up with some veggies. 
Do you have a favorite SPAM dish? Drop me a note and I'll try it out. If I like it, it might even end up on the blog! :)

Here's the recipe:

Party Delight

1 can of SPAM, finely diced (about 1/4 inch pieces)
6 boiled eggs, peeled and finely diced (about 1/4 inch pieces)
2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
1/2 tsp mustard
1 Tbsp onion powder
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 package (8) hamburger buns
grated cheddar cheese (about 2 cups - to taste)

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients completely. On a baking sheet, line up the hamburger bun halves (cut side up). Top all 16 halves with an equal amount of the meat/egg mixture. Top with grated cheese. Place under a low broiler for 5-10 minutes (until the cheese is melted, and the bread is slightly toasted). Serve warm or room temperature. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

100% Fruit - Peach Fruit Roll Ups (Fruit Leather)

 *I should note that this method to make fruit roll-ups can be used with any fruit, or fruit combinations, but I used peaches.
  This year (like most years) we were abundantly blessed with peaches. We only have the one peach tree, but it annually gives us more peaches than we could ever use in one summer. So, I went about making my usual summer peach treats (Peach Pie, peach cobbler, peach smoothies). I gave peaches away and I froze bags and bags of peaches to use during the winter months.  I was still left with a ton of peaches, and I had my fill of peeling them. My wonderful husband has been home in the past to help me peel and process the peaches but this year he was gone most of "peach season" fighting forest fires. I debated making more of my Homemade/Homegrown Peach Preserves but that would require more peeling and I was over it already.
    My friend Lynn had mentioned that they like to make fruit leather with their peaches. She puts the peaches in the blender with a little fruit preservative (completely optional) and the pours the fruit puree onto a baking sheet and then dries them outside by her pool all day. I loved the idea of making my own fruit leather, but since critters, birds and insects in my neck of the woods rules out the option of drying outside, I looked online for an oven-drying option.
   I found one from for Homemade Fruit Leather, but it called for peeling the peaches. (You know I wasn't going to do that.) I always try to use the whole food whenever possible to get the most nutritional bang for my buck out of my food. So, I got the basic idea (puree fruit, pour it onto a baking sheet and dry on your lowest oven setting for 6-8 hours) and went to work.

I made two batches, and debated even blogging this "recipe" because it's so simple. I ended up taking pictures with my second batch.
  Here's what I did:
I washed a bunch of peaches. Then I cut them in half, took the pits out and then roughly sliced them.

I loaded up my parents VitaMix blender (one day I'll be able to spend a few hundred on a blender, but for now I'm o.k. with just borrowing one). A blender with a good motor is best. It ended up being 8 cups of sliced peaches. (Again, this was my second batch so the blender is a little cloudy with peach puree - sorry.)

Here's a better view from the top:
Now, at this point you could leave it like this. 100% fruit, and that's perfect. I like to add a little lemon juice so that the final product isn't so brown, but that's completely optional. I should note that the final product is going to be a little darker than others you might find on the Internet (like the one mentioned above), because I'm using the skins as well as the fruit. If your fruit isn't as sweet as you would like it, you can also add your sweetener of choice (i.e. agave, honey, granulated sugar, etc.).

Just put the lid on, and blend it up until completely smooth.  (Think baby-food smooth. This is actually how you can make your own baby food - just FYI.)

The next step is to have a baking sheet (or two cookie sheets) lined with parchment paper ready.

Then pour enough puree onto the paper to be about 1/4 inch thick (that's 1/2 the puree for my blender)

 Spread the puree evenly over the cookie sheet. (And offset spatula is best, but a regular one works too.)

When it's evened out, put it into the oven at the lowest setting (that's 170F for me) and let it dry for 6-8 hours. You want to be able to touch the fruit leather in the center, and have it not be squishy. (Like my technical term?)

 This is what it will look like: I like to take my clean kitchen scissors and cut strips of the paper and the fruit leather together. I prefer the thinner strips (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide) but my hubby just rips off large chunks before I can even cut them. Really, any shape would be acceptable. But I wanted to make it look like the store-bough kind.

Then I just roll them up.

Now it looks like a fruit roll-up you buy at the store (but without all the sugar, dyes, syrups and crazy chemicals - only 100% fruit here!) The paper easily peels off the fruit, when you're read to eat it - and it's less sticky and messy this way.

I like to store them in a zip-top bag, but any air-tight container will do. I'm not sure how long they will last, because we always eat them up rather quickly, but I'm guessing you could get a week or two out of them easily.  My 7 yr old says that these are "the best fruit roll ups in the whole world." It makes my happy when I can give my kids wholesome treats that they love. Who knew it was so easy? Now you do. :)

Here's the "recipe"

Peach Fruit Roll-ups (Fruit Leather)

8 cups of sliced peaches
juice of 1/2 a lemon (optional)
sweetener of choice (i.e. agave, honey or sugar - to taste) (optional)

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Puree the peaches (and lemon juice and sweetener, if using) in a blender until completely smooth.  Pour about half the puree onto each lined cookie sheet and spread out into an even layer, about 1/4 inch thick. Place into the oven and dry it @ 170F (or the lowest your oven can go) for 6-8 hours or until the puree is set and no longer sticky in the center.
   Using clean kitchen scissors, cut the fruit leather and parchment paper into strips. Roll up the strips and keep in an air tight container at room temperature until ready to eat.