Monday, April 20, 2015

White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Blondies

I have told you before about my strange way of keeping track of the recipes I post on this blog; I take pictures of all of them (hopefully) and then use that as my order.  The problem comes when I can't remember where there recipe itself came from.  If it's not from a usual place or I have forgotten to pin it, I'm out of luck.  I am especially out of luck if I can't even figure out what the name of the recipe was.  I have been sitting here on this rainy day staring at a picture of streusel-topped muffins trying to figure out a) what they are; b) where the recipe came from; c) why I can't even remember making them.  Clearly this vacation was needed to give my brain a rest (and to rest Mark's brain too; he has been asleep on the couch since about 1:30).

So no muffins for you today.  Muffin Monday is canceled!  Don't be too mad: I have blondies as a peace offering.  Not just any blondies, mind you, but snickerdoodle blondies, with white chocolate chips.  Yeah.

I needed a dessert to bring to Mark's family party a few weeks ago, and after getting lost for hours in recipes (I do this all the time), I finally decided to give these a try.  I'm glad I did.  Mark's family went wild for them.  They're almost like what you would imagine would happen if snickerdoodles, blondies, and cakes all had a baby together (if 3 parents can have a baby...).  They're soft and chewy with a swirl of cinnamon and sugar, dotted with white chocolate chips.  And they didn't meet a single soul who didn't rave about them and maybe sometimes eat more than one!

Recipe:

white chocolate snickerdoodle blondies
yield 20 - 24 blondies

Ingredients:
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
cinnamon sugar filling:
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 11x7-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough overhang on the sides to easily pull the blondes out of the pan and cut. 

2) In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powered, and salt.  Set aside.  Using a hand or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl.  Beat for at least 1 minutes until creamy.  Add sugars and beat for 2 full minutes on high speed until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  

3) Beat in the eggs and vanilla on high speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  On low speed, beat in dry ingredients until just combined.  Using a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the white chocolate chips.

4) Spoon half of the batter into the pan.  It will be a relatively thin layer, but try to spread it across the pan evenly.  Combine the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle on top of the bottom layer, reserving 1 tablespoon for the top.  Spread the remaining batter over the top.  Some of the cinnamon-sugar will mix into the top layer as you spread it, which is fine.  Sprinkle to top with remaining cinnamon-sugar.

5) Bake for 30 - 25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely for about 1 hour.  Blondies stay fresh covered tightly at room temperature for up to 1 week.  Blondies freeze well up to 3 months.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Honey Ginger Tofu and Veggie Stir Fry

This meal is a crazy flavorful fish of goodness.  Healthy, vegetarian, filling, and with the most flavorful sauce you can imagine, what more could you ask for?  I know, you could ask for no tofu.  And if you're like Mark and refuse to even try to eat tofu, then I suppose if you really wanted, you could substitute meat.  I recommend that you don't, but hey, it's your kitchen.  If you do stick with the tofu, just trust me that the flavor is pretty great.  It gets fried in the sauce I keep waxing poetic about, and that's a pretty fantastic way to prepare something that is basically a flavor sponge.

Now let's talk about the non-negotiables.  Asparagus and carrots are the vegetable stars in this dish, along with scallions.  It all gets mixed with brown rice.  And the sauce!  Oh the sauce.  Fresh ginger and garlic, honey, soy sauce, and rice vinegar - just imagine all those bossy flavors mingling together in a sauce that really packs a flavor punch.  It ties everything together beautifully - yes, even the tofu.

This reheats really well; I brought it for lunch until it was gone.  Mark refused to eat the tofu and picked all of his pieces out of his bowl, but even he had to admit the rice, vegetables and sauce were delicious.  Go ahead, meatify this recipe if you must, but I promise that you won't regret making it.

On a side note, this recipe was from one of my favorite new blogs, Pinch of Yum.  Lots of amazing things going on there!

Recipe:

honey ginger tofu and veggie stir fry
from Pinch of Yum
serves 6

Ingredients:
for the stir fry:
1 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
2 tablespoons canola oil
14 ounces extra firm tofu
2 cups chopped asparagus
2 cups shredded carrots
3 green onions, minced
for the garlic ginger stir fry sauce:
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil

Instructions:

1) Make the sauce: puree all the ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.  Set aside.

2) Prepare the tofu: cook the rice according to package directions.  Cut the tofu into slices and press with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.  Wait a few minutes and press again.  Cut the tofu slices into small cubes.  Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is shiny, add the tofu and about 1/4 cup of the stir fry sauce; watch out because the sauce and oil will spatter.  Pan fry the tofu until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel-lined plates.

3) Cook the veggies: return the pan to the heat and add the asparagus with 1/4 cup stir fry sauce.  When the asparagus is bright green and tender crisp, add the carrots and toss together.  Arrange the veggies and tofu over the cooked rice and cover with more sauce to taste.  Sprinkle with the green onions.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Albanian Tea Cookies

Ahhhh, April vacation.  Suffice it to say I have never needed it more in my career than this year.  Once we enjoy this lovely week off, we are down to 30something more days until summer break.  The end is in sight!

But for now, let's rewind back a few weeks to a Cookie Sunday where I decided to whip out my mother-in-law's Albanian Cookbook (yes, that's the title).  I flipped through the dessert section and came upon a recipe for tea cookies.  They're so pretty with their little awareness ribbon shape, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

I decided to give them  try, even though for some weird reason I was out of all-purpose-flour and had to use whole wheat.  This obviously led to a denser, drier cookie, but then again, they're tea cookies.  They're supposed to be hard and crunchy and dunked into coffee or tea to soften!

Unfortunately when I brought a bunch up to Gram's, my relatives weren't super keen on them.  I think they may have been expecting sugar cookies or something.  With only half a cup of sugar, these are not overly sweet, but they are pretty and dainty and have that lovely sesame taste.  Trust me when I say that the tea cookie name is no joke; you want to take these for a swim in your coffee and tea.  Dare I say they could be acceptable breakfast fare?

Recipe:

Albanian tea cookies
from Albanian Cookbook by the Woman's Guild of St. Mary's Albanian Orthodox Church in Worcester, MA, 1977

Ingredients:
3 to 4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons baking powder
4 eggs (reserve 1 yolk)
1 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
sesame seeds

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar.  Add slightly beaten eggs, milk, baking powder, and vanilla.  Add flour until right consistency is attained.

2) Take a small amount of dough, roll out pencil thin, 8 inches long.  Make a U with the dough then flop one end over the other and twist once.  Alternately, make a figure 8.

3) Brush with slightly beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Place on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Crispy Baked Matchstick Fries

Guys, I have become a real believer in fake meat.  I know you probably all have your doubts, but I have been intrigued by vegetarian meats since I made the no chicken vegan pad thai a year or so ago. It's so meat-like, it's almost too meaty for me.  I like to call the fake chicken ficken, because it's funny and it freaks people out. Besides ficken breasts, I've also seen ficken nuggets, fake tips, fausage, fot dogs, forn dogs... you name it.  And lately I have been trying more and more of these (forn dogs anyone!?) and being happily surprised with the results.

So, yeah, I bought some ficken nuggets.  And they are so good.  I know you probably don't believe me, but it's true.  Back in my meat eating days, I usually liked chicken nuggets.  I say usually, because half of the time, you bite into a chicken nugget and your teeth bounce off something like a tendon or something, and then you're disgusted and can't finish your meal.  I swear this is the worst part about meat.  But ficken nuggets?  No tendons.  Nothing gross.  And no one died for your nugget. They're quite chicken-like, but you can chomp right into them without fear!

Okay so get to the recipe, right?  What better lunch than ficken nuggets and french fries!?  I had the ficken, but I was on my own for french fries.  I found this recipe and decided to try it out.  There was no soaking or frying involved, and they promised to be crispy and delicious.  Sold.

The hardest part about the recipe was cutting the potatoes into matchsticks.  I don't want to tell you how long it took, or how much my arm ached when I was done.  But the good thing is, every other step in this recipe is quick and simple.  Fresh, salt fries coming your way fast.

What I do want to tell you about is the fries.  They really were crispy and delicious.  Salty, crispy, and wonderful, these guys were the perfect addition to a ficken nugget for lunch.  Or, I suppose, they'd be fine with real meat too.

The original recipe suggests flavoring them with freshly sautéed garlic, but I wanted my fries to taste like salt and potatoes, so I left them out.  If you want to give it a try, visit the original recipe and enjoy your garlic breath!

Recipe:

crispy baked matchstick fries
from Minimalist Baker
serves 4

Ingredients:
3 - 4 russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and dried
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
sea salt and black pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Chop potatoes into matchsticks by halving, halving once more, then cutting into wedges, then strips.

3) Line two baking sheets with foil and generously spray with nonstick spray.  Add fries plus a generous drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.

4) Arrange fries in a single layer, making sure they aren't touching too much.  This will help them crisp up and cook evenly.

5) Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, tossing/flipping at least once to ensure even baking.  When fries are finished, remove from oven and sprinkle again with sea salt.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Quick and Homey Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

Muffin Monday time!

Thank God today is NOT Monday, by the way.  I am so tired.  This is going to be the most needed April vacation ever (5 work days to go!).  Last night, Mark and I had grand plans to watch Dateline after we went out to dinner, but I was asleep before it started at 9:00, and I have a feeling he was too. We went to bed at 1:00 and I was up at 9:00 this morning - so, yeah that's about 12 hours of sleep.  And I would be lying if I didn't admit to contemplating a nap after I make some lunch.  This year is draining me!

Now, back to the muffins.  When you're drained and exhausted, you need something to get you through the day, something tasty and delicious and healthy.  And, as the name of the recipe suggests, something quick and homey!  Oatmeal raisin cookies are delicious, so why not turn them into muffins?

I think these muffins are fabulous.  They have oats and only a quarter cup of oil, so they're not terrible for you, and they're soft and moist and sweet.  Definitely a good way to start another exhausting work day.  Oh, and they are so quick to throw together that you'd be able to do it even on a Monday night when you're feeling tired :)

One note: the recipe called for olive oil to be used.  I just can't allow myself to put a quarter cup of olive oil into a muffin, so I used vegetable oil, but if you're not as psychotic about your oils as I am, then go for it!  I just feel like olive oil is expensive enough that if I don't believe it's going to add much of its flavor to something, it's not needed.

Recipe:

quick and homey oatmeal raisin muffins
from The Kitchn
makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
cinnamon topping:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon oil

Instructions:

1) Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a muffin pan or line the wells with paper muffin cups.

2) Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl.  Stir in the oats and raisins.

3) In a large measuring cup, whisk the oil with the egg and milk.  Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients just until combined.  Fill the prepared muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter.

4) Mix all the ingredients for the cinnamon topping together in a small bowl until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over the muffin batter.

5) Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a rack until they are cool enough to be handled.  Remove from the pan and eat while warm, or let cool completely and then store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

This was, as of yet, the most popular cookie I have made for Cookie Sunday.  Everyone who tried one said they were delicious, and my mom went as far to say they were among the best I've ever made!

It's not surprising.  This is an interesting cookie.  It's a sugar cookie, but amped up.  It's spiced with chai spices - cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, even black pepper.  Your whole house smells like a spice cabinet while they are baking (that's meant to sound like a good thing).  Besides having these spices mixed in, they also get rolled in the spice mixture before they're baked.  That makes them have a little crunch and spice on the outside, while the insides are chewy but just as spicy.  These cookies are basically the ideal cookie for tea time, or coffee time, or breakfast (I'm talking to you, Mark!).  Try them out.  You won't be sorry.

Recipe:

chai spiced sugar cookies
from My Baking Addiction 
yield about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
2 3/4 cups all-purose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.  Set aside.

2) In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, and black pepper.  Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar-spice mixture and set aside to reserve for rolling the cookies.

4) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar-spice mixture until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5) Beat in egg and vanilla extract.  Combine until fully incorporated.

6) Slowly blend in dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

7) Using a small scoop (2 teaspoons), roll dough into balls and then in the reserved sugar-spice mixture.  Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart.

8) Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Let stand on baking sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chocolate Mini Muffins with Chia Seeds

Happy Muffin Monday!

That may be all there is to be happy about today.  It's the last day we are going to see the sun for a while, and it's about to get cold again, and there are still 2 weeks till vacation.  And honestly, how is it only Monday?  Multiple people today at work said it felt like Friday.  I think this is why we get April vacation.  Spring is rough.

Anyway, if you need to be cheered up on a Monday, Muffin Monday may be something you need to try out.  This week's Muffin Monday installment is the chocolate mini muffin with chia seeds.  They're kind of hard not to like: they're chocolate, first of all (chocolate based and with chocolate chips). Second of all, they are kind of healthy.  Whole wheat flour gets mixed with all-purpose so they're better for you but not too tense.  Also, they have chia seeds.

Now, before you scoff at them for having chia seeds, I am fairly certain you'd hardly notice them if I didn't tell you they were in there.  They just pack a nutrient-filled punch with protein and essential fatty acids and omega 3s.  I may or may not have made the fact that the muffins had chia seeds in them public knowledge.  Shhhhh.  What you don't know won't hurt you.  In fact, it will help in this case!

Recipe:

chocolate mini muffins with chia seeds
from Classy Clutter
makes 24 mini muffins

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon black chia seeds
1 large egg
1 6-ounce container low-fat vanilla yogurt (I used Greek)
1/2 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup canola oil

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a mini muffin with cooking spray (or use a 12-cup muffin tin and line with paper liners or spray with cooking spray).

2) Combine flours, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa, baking soda, and chia seeds in a large mixing bowl. In another small bowl, combine egg, yogurt, milk, and oil with a whisk.  Pour into the flour mixture.  Stir to combine.

3) Scoop into muffin tins.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until muffin springs back when touched on top.