Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monster Cookies (Gluten Free)

 These are the cookies that I am taking to a holiday cookie exchange party this afternoon. I love these cookies not only because they are delicious (because they are!) but also because of how easy they are to throw together. And with a fifth little one demanding my attention, I need things to be as easy as possible right now. Have you heard of a dump cake? Where you just dump the ingredients together and bake. Well, these are pretty much dump cookies. It takes minimal mixing and no fooling around with wet and dry ingredients separately. They are so easy my almost 5 year old can make them with no interference from me. So, if you find yourself needing an easy cookie for a party these might be your ticket! As an added bonus, they are gluten free (if you need that sort of thing) but don't taste like it. (I should note that if you have a high sensitivity to gluten then make sure you get products that specifically say "gluten free" on them. While all of these ingredients are inherently gluten free, some products -like the oats or the chocolate- might be made in a factory that handles gluten so just be aware of that.)
  Ok, onto the recipe:

First, get all of your mix-ins together. These are all the "chunks" in the cookies that you want to munch on. Really, they could be anything you like. I have a mixture of Christmas themed milk chocolate M&Ms, semi sweet chocolate chips, roasted and chopped pecans, and Craisins.

Then assemble the batter. It consists of room temperature butter, chunky peanut butter, white sugar, dark brown sugar, salt, baking soda, pure vanilla extract, and eggs. No need to cream the butter and sugars and add eggs one at a time like other recipes call for. Just put everything into the bowl of your mixer (or in a large bowl and use a hand mixer), and that's it.

Beat it together until smooth (there will be some tiny lumps from the chunky peanut butter), and that part's done!

Now, just add in the oats (I only keep old fashioned on hand, so that is what I use. I think they add a nice chew and texture to the cookies.)

When the oats are mixed in, then it's time for all your "chunks."

Just mix until everything is combined, and then scoop out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I use my smallest scoop, and my biggest pan so I can bake 1 dozen at a time. (This recipe makes about 6 1/2 dozen of this size.)

Sorry the color is so horrible in these pictures. It was very rainy and overcast when I was baking, and my florescent kitchen lights doesn't do the food any favors.
After baking @ 350F for 8 minutes, they come out looking like this:

Just let them cool before packing up to take to your party. (If you can keep your husband from eating them all. I needed 3 dozen cookies for the party, and he would eat some from every batch, so I ended up baking 4 1/2 dozen cookies so that I would have enough. I portioned out and froze the other 2 dozen cookie dough balls for later use.)

These pictures were taken this morning, when the light was a little better. It's still overcast and rainy, but at least the sun isn't setting. :)

I think they are called monster cookies because they are like every cookie rolled into one. Kind of like Frankenstein, they are just a jumble of parts thrown together that work.

They are so yummy. I actually made a batch of these two weeks ago, and I made the mistake of baking up all 6 1/2 dozen cookies. Then I proceeded to eat them all (OK, not ALL. I did let the family have some  . . . but not many). This time I was smarter, and froze some for later. :)
Here's the recipe:
adapted from Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies *You can use any mix-ins you like
makes 6-7 dozen cookies
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
1 stick butter, softened (I use salted, but either works)
*3/4 cup milk chocolate M&M's
*3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
*3/4 cup roasted, chopped pecans
*1/2 cup craisins, optional
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together the eggs, sugars, salt, vanilla, butter, peanut butter, and baking soda until smooth. (There will be small chunks from the chunky peanut butter.) Mix in the oats, then the *mix-ins: M&M's, chocolate chips, pecans, and craisins. When everything is combined, scoop out dough onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I use my smallest scoop and get cookies that are 2-3 inches across after baking. Bake for 8 -10 minutes (do not over bake! Mine only take 8 minutes in my oven.). Let the cookies set on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Creamy Pumpkin Pie (and Baby update)

I meant to post this pie before Thanksgiving, but things got a little crazy and it never happened. So, I am posting it now.
   My son's favorite pie is pumpkin pie. He takes after me when I was his age, and loves it as much or more than most desserts. For my 8th birthday I asked if I could have a pumpkin pie instead of a cake. So, of course my awesome parents complied and made me that pie. :) Well, it goes without saying that during the holidays, pumpkin pie will always be found in my kitchen. The recipes might vary (like this Chocolate Pumpkin Pie) but there is always some version around. Well, this year I thought I would try Paula Deen's recipe for Pumpkin Pie. It's like a cross between a traditional pumpkin pie and a pumpkin cheesecake. I tweaked it just slightly, and made two of these this year. They were a hit! A great recipe that I will use again and again in my pumpkin pie rotation.
   Before I get to the recipe, I wanted to give you all an update on the baby. She was delivered this last Sunday, December 7th. We came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon and we are recovering well. Thankfully I have an amazing women's church organization (Relief Society) that has offered to bring dinners for me and my family for the next few nights so I don't have to worry about that. We are really blessed. So, even though I will be taking a break from the kitchen for a little bit while I heal up, I can't ever stop thinking about food. :) I do have some posts (like this one) that I started before the baby came but never finished. And if I find a rare moment to myself, like now, then I will post those recipes for you. But we will see how things go.
   OK, so back to the recipe:

It starts with a block of softened cream cheese.

Then you need some pumpkin. Paula's recipe says to use a can, but I had fresh in my freezer so that is what I used. (If you use fresh pumpkin then the pie will be lighter in color. If you use the canned, it will be darker/more orange.) Also, if you use fresh pumpkin, you will need to put it into a fine mesh sieve/strainer and let it drain some of the excess water out of it. Otherwise it will take a really long time to cook your watery pie. I usually drain my frozen/thawed pumpkin for at least 1 hour before making the pie, and it releases about 3/4 cup of water.

The cream cheese, sugar and pumpkin go into a mixing bowl. (Mix the cream cheese by itself first so that you get out any lumps.)
Then add in the spices. I used Trader Joe's pumpkin pie spice because I like it, but you are more than welcome to use the separate spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg) to suit your own tastes.

The eggs, half and half, vanilla, and butter are whisked together and added in to the cream cheese mixture.

When it's a homogenous mixture, then the filling is poured into a 9 inch pie shell. (I often use the Marie Callender's frozen pie shell.) I like to pre-bake my crust a little, to make sure that it doesn't get soggy, but that is optional.

The pie bakes for almost an hour. It's done when the top looks set, but the center slightly giggles when you move the pie.

Let the pie sit and set up at room temperature, and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  After it's cool it slices beautifully.

A dollop (or more) of whipped cream is all that's needed.

See what I mean about the color? It's not the traditional orange, because I used fresh pumpkin instead of canned. Incidentally, I was once told that to make the best pumpkin pie you should use butternut squash instead of pumpkin! Definitely works and gives you that orange color too.

I made one pie for the guys at the fire station, for their Thanksgiving feast (the hubby had to work the holiday) and another one for us at home. Needless to say, my son made sure that the one at home didn't last long. :)
Here's the recipe:
adapted from Paula Deen's Pumpkin Pie

 Creamy Pumpkin Pie
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups pureed pumpkin (drained if using fresh)
1 cup sugar
*1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter (*if using salted butter, then omit the 1/4 tsp salt)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 9 inch pie crust shell

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

  Pre-bake the pie crust for 10 minutes, (either prick the crust with a fork first, or use pie weights to prevent the crust from bubbling up) or until the crust is dried out and beginning to color. Take out the crust and set aside.  Turn the heat down to 350F    
  For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin, sugar, and salt, and beat until combined. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, half-and-half, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix to combine.
   Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the pie looks set, but the center barely giggles when you move the pie.  Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate for 4 hours. Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream (optional).