Monthly Archives: November 2009

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cornflake Cookies

Source: Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy
Makes: about 4 dozen bite-sized cookies

Are you ready for cookies? I hope you are, because I’m declaring this Cookie Week on my blog.

Why? Because it’s almost December, otherwise known as the Season of Cookies. Plus, I’ve been obsessed with cookies for the last month, trying new recipes every weekend and, um, also during the week. I’ve been baking so many cookies lately that when I had time to bake an apple cake for Thanksgiving, I had to look up the definition of “cake” in the dictionary. No lie.*

See, I’m trying to find the perfect recipe that will win me the “Best in Dough” competition my office holds every December, and I’ve used this as an excuse to try pretty much every cookie recipe that has caught my eye. The competition is next Tuesday, December 8, and I think I know what cookie recipe I’m going to use. You can read along as I post all these cookies I’ve tried and see if you can guess which one is my choice for competitor.

So, let’s talk about these no-bake peanut butter cookies. These are titled “Holy Crap These Are Amazing” Cookies on Susan’s Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy blog, so of course I had to try them. “Holy crap, these are amazing” is pretty much the reaction I’m looking for from my coworkers.

You’ve probably had the traditional butter, sugar, cocoa, peanut butter, and oats no-bake cookies before — they were one of the first things I learned to make when I was a kid, and they are deliciously simple. These cookies follow that formula, and they are indeed ridiculously easy to make. They are also very good. Crunchy and chewy and very, very peanut buttery. Rich and mellow at the same time. I’ll admit, though, that my first response was not “holy crap, amazing.” It was more “mmmm, yummy.” So if you’re looking for a simple, tasty cookie recipe that’s ready for eating in about 15 minutes, these are for you.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 jar (18 oz.) peanut butter
6 cups corn flakes
3 oz chocolate of your choice (I’d recommend milk chocolate — I used bittersweet and it didn’t really do anything for me)

Mix together sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter; mix well.

Place corn flakes in a large bowl. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the corn flakes and mix well, making sure to coat all the corn flakes. Scoop out cookies and form into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.

If you’re using chocolate, melt it in a small bowl in the microwave at 15-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Drizzle melted chocolate over cookies. (I put the melted chocolate in a plastic bag and poked a hole in the corner, then drizzled from there.)

*Yeah, actually a lie.

Advertisements

Happy Thanksgiving!

Terwilliger and I are heading up to Joshua Tree National Park today for a camping trip with friends. We’ll be heating (not cooking) our Thanksgiving treats over the fire. I roasted my first-ever turkey breast yesterday to take along, and I was surprised by how long it took. I was also reminded that I’m not a fan of handling uncooked meat. But the finished product looks pretty good. I also made apricot-glazed yams and an apple cake. I am much more excited about those two things.

And in the spirit of the holiday, five non-sentimental things I am thankful for:

*my husband’s sense of humor
*living in a warm climate
*lemons & oranges & pomegranates in my backyard
*baked goods
*feather pillows

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Pecan Blondies

Source: Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes: 20 bars

A letter to squash:

Oh, pumpkin, you irresistible minx. You lure me in with your promise of mingling so sweetly with cinnamon, buoyed by brown sugar. And then the health benefits! You are full of vitamin A and fiber! You are a wonderful, delicious squash, and I very much like you. I especially like you when you are paired with butter and sugar in a delectably moist bar cookie that takes all of 15 minutes to whip up and put in the oven. I daresay you are exquisite that way.

Love, Jill

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking pan.

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in spices and salt, then add the egg and the pumpkin puree. Stir in flour until just combined, then add pecans and distribute evenly.

Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the blondies are lightly browned at the edges and the center is set (it may look moist, but it shouldn’t be sticky when lightly pressed).

Cool in pan, then slice and serve.

Butternut Sage Orzo

Source: Simply in Season
Serves: 4 – 6

Oh my God, this was good. I feel like I should just leave it at that and tell you to go make it. But it’s Thanksgiving week, and this is a food blog, and I should probably explain why this dish deserves a place at your holiday table. And even if you don’t want to make it this week, since you probably already have traditional dishes that will take up your time and stomach space through next Sunday, you should give it a try the week after, when you’re tired of rich food but are still craving the quintessential flavors of late autumn.

This faux risotto is light and buttery from a kiss of parmesan, sweet and creamy from tender butternut squash, and zesty with fresh sage. It is like November in a bowl, comfort food laced with good-for-you squash.

It took a while to prepare, what with all the chopping and sauteing and simmering, but it’s easy prep. I was on the phone with a good friend for the duration and didn’t make any critical errors, so I consider it an excellent meal for multi-tasking, actually.

Try it. Phone-chatting optional.

Ingredients:

1 T. olive oil
1 C. onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 C. butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (what you’ll get from about two pounds of squash)
1/2 C. vegetable broth
1/2 C. white wine
1 C. orzo, uncooked
4 C. water or broth
1/2 C. parmesan
2 T. fresh sage*
salt and pepper to taste

*I definitely recommend getting some fresh sage for this recipe. But if you use dried, throw it in with the squash while it’s cooking, instead of stirring it in at the end.

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and saute until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute longer. Add squash to pan, stirring to mix all veggies together. Add broth and white wine. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until squash is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 12 – 15 minutes. (Or longer if necessary — you want the squash to be very tender but still holding its shape.)

While the squash is simmering, bring 4 cups water or broth (I used one cup of broth and 3 cups of water) to a boil. Add orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta in colander and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Stir butternut squash mixture into pasta. Add parmesan and sage and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Orzo on Foodista

Savory Kale

Source: Simply in Season
Serves: 2 – 4 as a side dish

I am currently obsessed with kale. Before last Sunday, November 8, I had never eaten kale in my life. And now? I’ve cooked and eaten it four times in one week. Because it is awesome. It tastes kind of like a cross between spinach and romaine lettuce, but with a piquant bite to it. It’s earthy, green, and dry. Smooth and sharp at once. It’s what they would serve as the pièce de résistance at banquets for rabbit royalty.

Molly Wizenberg piqued my curiosity about this unruly leafy green with a delightful essay she wrote for the October issue of Bon Appetit. She references her own fear of kale and then describes a friend coming to visit, bringing a bunch of kale, and cooking it with olive oil, butter, and squeeze of lemon. I was intrigued.

I found a recipe for kale in my Simply in Season cookbook, and I gave it a shot. And you know what? I now have it memorized, because I’ve made it so much. I mean, it’s not that hard to memorize, as you will see, but still… I have a recipe for kale committed to memory. If I ever lose all of my cookbooks along with access to the internet (in the apocalypse), I will still be able to make this kale side dish. And if I am dedicated enough to this leafy green to want to make it after the apocalypse, you know it’s gotta be good.

Ingredients:
One large bunch of kale
1/2 an onion, very thinly sliced into rings*
1 – 2 T. olive oil
1 T. tomato paste, stirred together with 1 – 2 T. water
Additional water for steaming

*The original recipe calls for a whole onion. I haven’t tried it that way. But if you’re a fan of crispy-sweet fried onions, go ahead and increase the amount.

Wash and dry the kale. Snap off exposed stems. Stack leaves together and roll into a large cylinder, then slice across in 1/4-inch cuts. Pull out any obvious stems. Set sliced kale aside.

Heat olive oil in a large frypan. Saute onions in pan until browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Be careful not to burn the slices – it’s a fine line between crispy-and-brown and crispy-and-carcinogenic, I’ve discovered. Spoon onions into a bowl and set aside.

Add kale all at once to frypan. It will crackle like spitfire. Saute kale, turning over leaves with spatula, for 1 minute, or until slightly wilted. Add a few tablespoonfuls of water to pan, reduce heat, and cover. Kale will take 10 – 15 minutes to become tender. Remove kale from pan, drain in colander, and set aside. (It may not need draining if you’ve steamed off all the water. But still, set it aside.)

Add onions back to pan and stir until heated. Stir tomato paste mixture into onions, adding more water if needed. (It shouldn’t be gummy.) Return kale to pan, stir together with onions and tomato paste, and heat through.

Serve. Swoon. Over kale.

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Source: Cookies, Brownies, and Bars
Makes: 48

slices_close2

I’ve gotta be honest about something: I don’t get that excited about cheesecake. If I’m faced with a dessert buffet, it’s is the last thing I’m going to consider. (Though I do love The Cheesecake Factory for its massive, motley menu.) I do love the little muffin cakes with cherry pie topping that my mom makes at Christmastime, but those are practically diet food compared with the richness of a slice of standard cheesecake.

So it follows that I’m not much of a cheesecake baker. But I had some leftover cream cheese from some icing, and I had some graham crackers I needed to get rid of, and blueberries seemed awfully festive at the time (I’ve had this recipe sitting in my drafts folder for about two months), so I whipped up these blueberry cheesecake bars for a party.

They were good.

Enough to make me think that perhaps my reluctance to eat cheesecake is actually more an act of self-preservation than preference. Because if I really let myself love cheesecake, well, let’s just say my pants wouldn’t fit. And I hate shopping for pants.

slices_close

For the crust:
2 & 3/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
2 T. sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
4 large eggs, at room temp.
1 & 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, at room temp.
1 C. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. sour cream
2 C. blueberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 325. Press a 20-inch piece of aluminum foil onto the bottom and over the sides of a 13 x 9 baking pan. Butter the foil.

In a bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the butter and stir until moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until slightly darkened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly.

To make the filling, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended; set aside. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Using a mixer on medium speed, beat until well blended, about one minute, scraping down bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and beat just until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add half the beaten eggs and beat just until fully blended. Add the sour cream and beat just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using a large spoon, gently stir in the blueberries. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake until the filling looks set and does not wobble when the pan is shaken, about 40 – 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until the top is room temp, about 1 hour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Holding the ends of the foil, lift the bars onto a cutting surface. Use a warmed knife to cut the bar into 48 pieces. Store the bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

slices3

Fudgy Family Brownies

field of chocolate3

One-bowl (really, one-saucepan) brownies are one of the first baked treats I learned to make on my own. My mom and I made brownies together with such frequency that once I was allowed to man the stove by myself, our family-recipe brownies were my fail-safe choice. They were a simple combination of a stick of butter melted with two ounces of unsweetened chocolate, with a cup of sugar, 1.5 eggs (yes, 1.5), a teaspoon of vanilla and a cup of flour all poured into an 8×8 or 9×9 pan and ready for devouring in 20 or so minutes. Eventually, they became my oh-dear-God-I-NEED-chocolate-RIGHT-NOW brownies, because they are so easy to whip up, and because the combination of salted butter, chocolate, and sugar (before you add the eggs) is, I think, better than cookie dough. Yes, I said it.

The chocolate base in my mom’s traditional brownies has always been Baker’s unsweetened chocolate blocks. They were a staple in our kitchen throughout my childhood, and I learned very quickly that even if it smells like chocolate and looks like chocolate, it tastes like bitter, bitter disappointment. I had a gleeful I-told-you-so moment with my best friend in 7th grade when she grabbed a cube and insisted that it would be delicious, because it was chocolate, for goodness’ sake. She tried valiantly to eat the whole thing to prove me wrong, but not even stubborn tweens can get through a one-ounce hunk of unsweetened chocolate.

Anyway, my point is that the butter-sugar-unsweetened chocolate mixture is the holy trinity of the recipe I’ve been using for twenty years, but recently, I started experimenting a little.

And I made it better.

That’s a big statement from me, people, because my family recipe brownies have ever been my favorite brownies in the whole wide world. I’ve tried fancier, richer, more chocolate-y brownie recipes. I’ve tried two-bowl recipes, three-bowl recipes. I’ve tried 8-ounces-of-chocolate-in-a-little-square-pan brownie recipes. And I’ve always gone back to my family favorite. And I probably will again, because it’s easy, and always always good.

But with a few (admittedly very minor) tweaks, I’m pretty sure I’ve created my best brownies ever. A little more chocolate, a little more egg, a little less flour. They are not crammed full of butter and chocolate, but they taste like they are. They are just the family recipe, glammed up for a night on the town.

Try them. Cut them into little pieces. Refrigerate them. You’ll see.

field of chocolate1

Ingredients:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 ounce high-quality bittersweet chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger)
1/2 C. salted butter
1 C. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

In a saucepan over low-to-medium heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. You could probably be a purist and use a double-boiler for this step, but I’ve never had a problem with scorched chocolate. Once your butter & chocolate are melted and smooth, remove the pan from heat and stir in one cup of sugar. (Taste this combination. If you have an incorrigible sweet tooth like I do, you will love it. If you don’t, well, I feel sorry for you.)

In a small bowl, beat eggs well. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and stir quickly. Add vanilla. Gently stir in flour until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with crumbs still clinging to it.

Cool, cut, and eat. Or eat before they’re cool. You’re welcome to do that, you know. (But do try them chilled — I put these in the fridge after I cut them and they turned into little fudgy squares of awesome.)

stacked

Don’t kind of wish those fingers were yours, reaching for a brownie?