Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Soft and Fluffy Peanut Butter Cookies

Cookie time!

I remember, very clearly, the first time I realized that baking wasn't just tossing some ingredients together and throwing them in the oven. I was young, in elementary school I believe. Third or fourth grade. My childhood best friend and I decided to make some peanut butter cookies. In what kind of house are third graders allowed to pull everything out of the cupboards and turn the kitchen into a demolition zone? A house where my friend's mom ran a boutique out of the downstairs of their house, that's where. 

My friend and I had the fantastic idea to mix flour with some milk to make a batter. Yes, when you are in third grade flour and milk sound like cookie dough. I wasn't even aware ingredients like butter, baking soda, salt, and, not to mention, SUGAR were in cookie dough. We then took the flour mixture and wrapped it around balls of peanut butter. As in, balls of peanut butter plucked straight from the jar. I remember at the time feeling excited and expecting amazing cookies. We stuck them in the oven for about 5 minutes.

What we had when we were done was oh-so gross. Squishy, doughy balls of nastiness were what we had. All that plus a blob of thick peanut butter in the middle. We tasted them, and I think we were afraid to admit defeat. "Not bad!" I told my friend. "Hmmm." she replied. The moment I will never forget is the moment that my mom came to pick me up. She pulled into the drive, and immediately had 2 very enthusiastic children running up to her car.

"Mom! We made cookies! You have to try them!" I excitedly chattered to her.

And try them she did. Her face was, and still is, unforgettable. The memory can still make me laugh. Her face said, "What the hell did I just put in my mouth??" To her credit, I don't remember her spitting out her bite. I'm fairly certain she didn't finish that cookie, though.

This is the moment I realized baking is harder than it looks. I was teased about those cookies for years. I'm still teased about them today. Luckily for you all, I've come a long way!

This batch of Peanut Butter cookies is a lot more technical than flour, milk, and peanut butter. Thank goodness right? However, this is a really, really easy cookie to make. The dough took me about 20 minutes to throw together, I took a shower while the dough chilled, and then I was ready to bake. It was a really fast process, and if you are looking for an easy, tasty drop cookie recipe to share, you've found it! I actually made this batch for my dad, since I never got around to making cookies while he was here. I shipped these yesterday, so these cookies are literally crossing the country as we speak. They may be traveling across your state as you read this. There's a good chance, it is 2700 miles from Kentucky to Oregon. 

Not to say these weren't taste tested. I do taste-test every batch.

Don't worry Dad. I only taste-tested what was necessary :)

Happy Tuesday friends!

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen cookies):

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt


1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Mix in peanut butter. Mix in egg. Mix in vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour through salt. Whisk to combine. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, mix until just combined. Cover, and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray. 
4. Using a 1-tbsp cookie scoop, drop cookies onto cookie sheet. These cookies don't spread much so I baked 12 to a sheet. Slightly flatten the cookies after dropping them. 
5. Bake in oven for 9 minutes. Remove from oven. Cookies will look slightly undone, but will set as they cool. Leave on cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before storage. 

Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.

If you liked this recipe, you may enjoy these!

Linked to: Treasure Box Tuesdays, Weekend Potluck, Foodie Friday, Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party

Friday, September 26, 2014

Zucchini and Brown Rice Casserole

Bring on the fall recipes! I'm full of them lately :)

But today, I want to talk cats. You know, the 4-legged, furry kind. I was a cat kind of girl growing up, but somewhere along the way things changed. I think it was when I moved in with the hubby, and so began the era of little dogs. And I love dogs. I love their intelligence, their quizzical eyes, and the way they follow you adoringly through the house, looking for any opportunity to steal some pets. Dogs fit perfectly into my lifestyle. They may chase my birds but they certainly would never have the gumption to catch one. And even if they did, they have pretty blunt teeth and nails. Cats? Cats on the other hand... I just envisioned birds and feathers flying if a cat ever wandered into my yard. I just didn't think a kitty would fit in my lifestyle.

Enter Samuel.

I sat out on the patio last night for an hour, and Sam sat on my lap. Purring the whole time. And the birds came out of the woodwork. After about 20 minutes of sitting quietly, the turtle doves descended. Then came the cardinals. And then a few finches. They all waddled along the ground about 20 feet from us, chirping and scratching for seeds. I watched Sam closely, not sure if he would try to stalk them or what he would do. He did... nothing. Just sat there and accepted his scritches behind his ears. I was pleased. When I put him down, he went straight to his food bowl. And when I came inside, he went in his little house we made for him. 

It's still early, he's only been here a little over a week. But I have a feeling Sam the Cat may become a permanent fixture around here. Back to my childhood roots, perhaps? :) And maybe, while I'm outside sitting with the kitty, I'll have this perfect-for-two casserole in the oven.

I adapted this casserole from my Cheesy Eggplant and Orzo Casserole. I mean, I had zucchini on hand, I  had brown rice on hand, and these 2 cute cassoluet pans. Why not switch up the ingredients? Indeed, the casserole did not disappoint. The hubby and I scarfed it down with nary a leftover to be seen. There's so many vegetables in this casserole that you could consider this a one-pot meal. Or serve a salad on the side with some crusty bread and butter. Either way, you're in for some good eats.

Annnnd, we are already to the weekend! What a short week! Well, maybe for me since I started blogging on Wednesday again. Ah, the life of the unemployed :)

Have a great weekend friends!

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups Arrabiata sauce (I used Trader Joes's)
1 cup cooked brown rice (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tbsp parsley, minced


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly coat 2 cassoluet pans with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When warm, add onion, red pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini. Sauté for 4-5 minuets or until vegetables start to soften. Add garlic to pan, and sauté for 30 seconds. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to pan, stir to combine. Add Arrabiata sauce and rice to the pan, stir to combine.
3. Distribute half of rice mixture into 2 pans. Make a thin layer in the pan. Distribute about half of both cheeses over thin layers. Cover with the remainder of the rice mixture between the 2 pans. Cover with the remainder of the cheeses. 
4. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until cheese is starting to brown and getting bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
5. Sprinkle parsley over 2 pans. Serve immediately. 

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Garlicky Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce

with pappardelle and baby bellas

Ah, the first food recipe in 2 weeks. It's been too long. 

Let's talk cherry tomatoes! My tomatoes came on like crazy in September. I've made HUGE batches of marinara, spaghetti sauce, and this Roasted Cherry tomato sauce. I had my eye on a cherry tomato cobbler, but that will have to wait. I couldn't resist shoving all those red and yellow beauties in the oven to bring out their sweet flavor. 

They roasted beautifully. 

My secret ingredient? Cheese rinds! Here's one of the packages I got in Lexington. I'm already halfway through the container, that's how much I use them. I love them. I can't even put my finger on the flavor they give the sauce, all I can tell you is it gives the sauce a certain umami. If you read my blog, you know I preach about cheese rinds. Good things come in small packages. 

So, now my garden is just about done. I'm so sad! I've already started plotting what I'm going to grow next year and all the wildflowers I'm going to plant around the garden for organic gardening. It keeps me from remembering we are about to go into a very cold and desolate weather system here soon. I do miss all my green, leafy, bushy plants growing on my patio. My herbs are still going strong, and I still have to harvest a few straggler tomatoes and jalapeños. But for the most part, it's fall here. 

And fall is the perfect time for a bowl of this pasta! It's true comfort food. Roasted tomatoes. Roasted garlic. Baby bella mushrooms. Thick and chewy pappardelle pasta. And who can resist a sprinkle of garden-fresh parsley? Not this girl. This sauce takes a bit of time, but I think it's so worth it. For you busy mom's (and dad's!) this might be a weekend recipe for you. It's also one that I don't think anyone would object to. And a great way to use up a ton of cherry tomatoes. I know a lot of you out there are stuck with those!

Have I convinced you to make this yet? I certainly hope so.

Part of getting back to my routine is getting back into running regularly. So hard after vacation! But, it's going to be a lovely fall day so once I'm outside in the fresh air, hopefully it comes naturally. Ugh, reality. I loathe you sometimes :)

Happy Thursday!


1 head of garlic, top sliced off
3 lbs cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
4 cups water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1-2 cheese rinds
4 oz baby bellas, sliced
2 tbsp parsley, minced


1. Preheat oven to 400º.
2. Wrap garlic in aluminum foil. Place in oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to sit for 10 minutes before using. 
3. Spread cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place tray in preheated oven, roast cherry tomatoes until they begin to collapse and burst (about 15-20 minutes). You can roast the cherry tomatoes with the garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Heat olive oil over medium heat. When warm, add onion. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, or until onions soften. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the head into the pan. Discard used garlic head. Sauté for 30 seconds. 
5. Add wine to the pan. Let wine reduce more than half by simmering about 10 minutes. There should be very little wine left before moving on to the next step.
6. Add water, salt, pepper, red pepper, and cheese rinds to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for as long as you like. I prepare the sauce early in the day and let it simmer all afternoon. 
7. Remove rinds from the sauce and discard. Add mushrooms, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve over your favorite pasta, immediately. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Parental Visit: 2014

Long time, no see bloggy friends!

Yes, it has been 2 weeks since I've opened or thought about my blog. Heck, it's been 2 weeks since I've even looked at my blog. Sometimes, you just need a little down time to reinvigorate.  It's not like I was too busy to blog, that wasn't even the case. Except in Minnesota, where my 80-is-the-new-40 year old aunt ran us ragged. We were all exhausted after the Minnesota weekend. I laugh, because who says that after attending an 80 year old's birthday party? WE DO! All I can say, is you haven't met my aunt. The gist of that tangent? No time to write in Minnesota. Plenty of time to write in Kentucky. Writing still didn't happen.

What did happen in the 2 weeks I've been gone?

- The hubby and I crossed 6 states in 14 hours driving to Minnesota. Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota! Oh, and a word of advice- If you are going to drive through Chicago, expect to spend about $20 in tolls. And Illinois' toll booths don't take debit cards. Are you kidding me? In Chicago. In 2014. For the love.

- My aunt's birthday party was amazing. It was wonderful to be there for her, plus I also met tons of family that I'd never met before. And they were definitely my kind of people!

- We had a huge spaghetti dinner and family baseball night with my parents and Jerame's side of the family back in Kentucky. My favorite moment from the baseball game? My niece and nephew accidentally running full speed into my dad, and everyone collapsing on the ground.

- A cat has made our yard his home.

- We drove my parents out to Lesage, WV to visit Hillbilly Hot Dogs. My dad was in hog heaven.

- We toured our local Brewery.

- The Ducks beat Washington State!

- The hubby made his homemade wings for the fam. Always a highlight!

- We found a fantastic restaurant in downtown Cincinnati, right before dropping the parents off at the airport. It's called "The Senate" and if you are in downtown Cincy, it's a must-try. They had an awesomely eclectic menu of fresh food combinations. The hubby had a Lobster BLT that was to-die-for. My dad's Korean Dog was filled with flavorful short rib and homemade kimchi. Trust me, I'll be back!

And, oh yes- I stole a bunch of pictures from my Mom's iPhone. My blog-vacation included a vacation from my camera :) Without further adieu-

Taken at Grizzly's in Minnesota. Our waiter just couldn't believe that my aunt (white sweater) was turning 80. "No way!" were his exact words. My aunt was stoked :)

Me with my aunt, my mom, and my mom's cousin (my 2nd cousin). 

Another picture with my mom's cousin, her, and I. Taken at my aunt's birthday party. I'm not sure who took this picture, an iPhone newbie perhaps ;)

This was my aunt's name-tag for the party. I love it!

My aunt opening gifts with her great-grandchildren. I can't believe she has great-grandchildren.

Back home in Kentucky, I made Turkey Pesto Sandwiches for the fam. 

Lunch at the local brewery. I apologize for the bad lighting!

Getting a tour of the brewery.

Our trip to Hillbilly Hotdogs.

No one left hungry. Or without a couple of beers. Correction- Dad easily passed on the beer, but found it rather difficult to turn down a vanilla milkshake :)

The parents loved Hillbilly Hotdogs!

Here's the cat that just showed up. He (she?) showed up about a week ago. He was passing through the yard and when the hubby went to shoo him away, the cat came to him. The poor kitty was skin and bones, so we fed him. Thank goodness for my animal shelter donation pile in the basement! Anyhoo, it's been a week and he hasn't stepped one foot off the property. Not one foot. He now has a cat house, a food and water bowl, and a name. Samuel. Samuel the cat. We aren't exactly a cat family, having 2 small dogs and being backyard birders, but we'll see how it goes. Sam hasn't shown any interest in the birds. So far...

Scotch, wings, and Monday night football. It doesn't get much better. The hubby made wings for my parents the night before they left, and they were a hit. As usual :)

My parents and I outside the Senate, right before we dropped them off at the airport. It was a wonderful trip. Too short, as usual, but tons of fun!

That's it for tonight folks. I've got a couple of recipes to share this week, and then hopefully, I'll get back on track next week. I apologize to my fans to who check the blog in the morning with their coffee for the lack of new reading material as of late. Ahem, Norm. Yes, my parents let me know how much you read and enjoy the blog. A big, hearty "thank you" from me to you :)

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Extra-Crumb Coffee Cake

Ok, ok, I have food to talk about.


Let's talk "House of Cards". Does anyone else watch that? Who am I kidding? Tons of people watch it. You can add the hubby and I to that list. I'm utterly fascinated with the show. Love, love, love it! For those of you not familiar with the show, it's a highly fictionalized look at the inner workings of Congress and the Presidential Administration. It stars Kevin Spacey as the House Majority Whip who weasels himself into the Vice-Presidency with majorly manipulative plans to take on the presidency. The writing is superb, the characters are complex and full of nuance, and honestly, I can't stop binging on it. The hubby and I will soon be done with Season 2. If not today, then soon. Kevin Spacey is quickly working his way to my shortlist with his take on this character. I've never watched a show where I'm so acutely aware of how much I loathe the main character. Yet, I'm rooting for him. All the way. It's a full on love-hate relationship. I love to hate the guy. My brain realizes that this guy is seriously twisted, yet my heart says, "Wow, he's good!". I find myself secretly hoping the "good guys" lose. Who am I kidding? There are no good guys on this show. There's only the seriously corrupt and the sort-of corrupt. It really does make you wonder if the government is really like that. I'm sure it really is. The name of the show is so appro. A "House of Cards" built on [male cow poop] that could come tumbling down at any moment. Take one card from the wrong spot, and the whole sham collapses. "Breaking Bad" may have some competition on my list of best show and character development of all time.

Ok, now we can talk about Coffee Cake :)

This was made by special request for my mother-in-law. She was having her pastor and his wife over for coffee, and wanted to serve a cake. We finally settled on coffee cake. Coffee cake, forever and always, will remind me of Christmas. There wasn't a childhood Christmas morning to be had without a freshly baked coffee cake. Indeed, the smell wafting throughout the house as I baked this had me pining for eggnog and candy canes. Alas, it's not Christmas yet, it's not even close to Halloween! Oh brother. Coffee cake is similar to regular cake, in that I creamed the butter and sugar, mixed in eggs, mixed in dry ingredients and milk, etc. The difference is I creamed a lot less butter and sugar than I normally would. Waaaaay less. One of the biggest reasons I hear people say they hate coffee cake is because it's dry and flavorless. Here's the thing- it can be. Coffee cake is one of those baked goods where it's super-duper important not to over-bake the cake. Over-baking will leave you with dry, humdrum cake. Pull the cake at the right time though, and you will be rewarded. Therefore, it's very important to keep a vigilant eye on the cake when baking. 

I made sure to pick a recipe with plenty of crumb. The crumb is one of the best parts. I received a call late the afternoon that my MIL was serving this- the cake had been a hit. Not only did the pastor's wife proclaim it delicious and ask for the recipe, but their son ate 2 big pieces! I was pleased since coffee cake rarely makes any kids list of favorite baked goods. In fact, my MIL confessed to sneaking a couple of pieces before her guests arrived. Coffee cake success, if you ask me!

Now for some bad news. I'm going to be hit-and-miss here on the blog for the next couple of weeks. The hubby and I are headed to Minnesota at 4 am tomorrow, and as I mentioned before, we will be returning from Minnesota with my parents in tow. They'll be staying with us until the 23rd, so I imagine I won't be around the computer much until after then. That's just how the cookie crumbles, folks. 

Or maybe how the coffee cake crumbles. Oh, how I crack myself up! :)

Have a great week friends!

Ingredients (serves 9):

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 cup butter, cold

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp vanilla coffee creamer


1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly coat a 9 x 9 square pan with cooking spray.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour through salt. Whisk to combine.
3. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Mix in egg. Mix in vanilla. 
4. Add half of flour mixture to bowl, and mix. Mix in half the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk. Spread the batter into prepared pan.
5. In a small bowl, make the topping. Combine flour through butter. Cut into mixture with a fork or pastry cutter. Continue to mix until you have a coarse, crumbly mixture. Spread topping evenly over the cake.
6. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. I started checking my cake at 15 minutes, and pulled it at 18. Prepare icing- whisk powdered sugar and creamer together. Add more creamer to get desired consistency. Drizzle over coffee cake. Cool, then slice into 9 squares. Serve immediately. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from Sweet Anna's

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Baked Jalapeño Poppers with Raspberry Dipping Sauce

I have two things to discuss with you today- jalapeños and football.

Remember how I said I was super-scared for when all my jalapeños were going to come in? Because 2 of my bell pepper plants turned out to be jalapeño plants? 

Well... they're heeeeere. 

Luckily, luckily I came up with a fabulous solution to my problem- jalapeño poppers! I decided to serve them up for our draft party last weekend. I'd put some serious thought into these poppers when I met my friend for lunch at the local cantina last week. She suggested making a raspberry sauce to dip them in. The thought had never crossed my mind. I'd never tried jalapeño poppers with raspberry sauce before, although I vaguely think I'd at least heard of the combination. Never one to turn down the possibility of eating those succulent red berries, I decided to foray ahead. 

The morning of our draft party, I ambled out to the jalapeño plants and proceeded to harvest approximately 20 of them. A word of advice when handling these peppers? Wash your hands afterwards. Immediately. I have on occasion removed all the seeds and membranes, only to forget to wash my hands. This inevitably leads to me touching either my face or the hubby's. You want someone to jump six feet in the air and run down the hall to the bathroom yelling? Put a jalapeño hand on someone's face. That'll do it. Wash your hands my friends, just do it. After the harvest, I stuffed the pepper halves with a mixture of cream cheese and bacon. Dip the poppers in a little panko, place them on the baking sheet, and get them in a nice, hot oven. In 15-20 minutes, you'll have melty, bacon-y peppers with a nice crisp topping. Super simple. 

And the raspberry sauce? Raspberries and sugar. That's all you need. It's the perfect foil to the savory, spicy peppers. 

When I was younger, I avoided any combination of savory and fruit. In fact, I avoided lots of combinations that sounded weird. As I got into my late 20's however, it's almost like my tastebuds became bored. All I wanted was new and different combinations that I'd never tried before. Combinations like strawberry and gorgonzola, chicken and waffles, and smoked duck with pickled blackberries were revelations to me. I know a lot of combinations (or dishes) I post on here are unconventional, but that's what makes life fun. I know it may be tempting to stay in your comfort zone, sticking to "normal" food ideas, but what if, just for today, you tried something you've never tried before? You might just like it. You might just love it. Life is short people, and the world is so very big. Try some raspberry sauce on your creamy, bacon-y jalapeño popper :)

All right, I've talked jalapeños. Let's talk football. The NFL kicked off last night, and with it an ominous foreshadowing of my fantasy year. As I was setting my roster yesterday morning, it occurred to me that this year's strategy of drinking a pitcher of margaritas pre-draft did not a good team make. Let the ribbing begin as I tell all of you that I drafted not only Aaron Rodgers, but Randall Cobb. I'm not necessarily against taking a quarterback with a corresponding wide receiver, in fact, I was most successful with Peyton Manning and Wes Welker last year. But that's Peyton Manning. Man who is more machine than human. Last night's combination of Rodgers/Cobb, well, sucked. The 12th man was in Rodger's head like white on rice. Granted, I always give my fantasy teams a couple of weeks before I start to panic and begin rowing for shore, but anxiety is already setting in this year. After the first game. 

Oh brother.

It's Friday! Does everyone have fun plans for the weekend? The hubby and I have dedicated ourselves to housework this weekend, as we are leaving for Minnesota super-early on Wednesday morning for my aunt's 80th birthday. We'll be bringing my parents home with us from Minnesota, so we need to get stuff done NOW. Hopefully your weekend will be more enjoyable than mine :)

Ingredients (makes 20 jalapeños or 40 halves):

2 (6 oz) packages of fresh raspberries
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese, softened
5 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
20 jalapeños, seeds and membranes removed, halved
1 1/2 cups panko


1. Preheat oven to 400º.
2. Prepare the raspberry sauce- in a small saucepan, combine raspberries and sugar over medium-low heat. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until raspberries have broken apart. Remove from heat. Place a sieve over a small bowl and push raspberry mixture throw the sieve. Discard the raspberry seeds caught in the sieve. Set sauce aside to cool.
3. In a medium size bowl, combine cream cheese and bacon. Place panko in a small bowl. Fill a jalapeño half with a tablespoon of cream cheese mixture, then dip jalapeño half in panko. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with all jalapeños.
4. Bake jalapeños in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until panko has browned. Serve immediately with raspberry sauce.

Looking for other jalapeño recipes? Try these!