Saturday, April 18, 2015

Greek Pasta Salad

I planned to make this recipe for 6 months before I finally made it!  Our puppy requires a lot of attention and this is the first dinner I cooked that was more complicated than hot dogs and a can of pork and beans.  I made it while she was milling around my feet, and she didn't pee on the floor or anything :D

That success apart, this is a really good pasta salad.  I halved the recipe, but it still made a lot.  You know it's good if you still are looking forward to eating it 4 or 5 days later!  We liked it so much that I plan to make it again once the weather warms up a bit.
The recipe is from the blog Rocky Mountain Woman.  My only changes (other than halving the recipe) were to use roasted bell peppers instead of sundried tomatoes (I couldn't find any at the store), and I cut way back on the dried oregano.  

As a side note, the dip pictured with the raw veggies in this photo is Dilly Dip.

Greek Pasta Salad

1 lb assorted dry pasta
15 oz can small whole olives, drained and rinsed
12 oz jar roasted bell peppers, diced
1/2 of a 12 oz jar sliced peperoncinis, drained
7 oz container crumbled feta cheese
for dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 C olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

Cook pasta in salted water, drain, and rinse with cold water until pasta is chilled.  Drain thoroughly.  Stir in olives, roasted peppers, peperoncinis, and feta.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until everything is incorporated.  Pour over pasta salad, stir, and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Yield:  Depends on whether you do this as a main dish or side, but about 8-16.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Peanut Butter Melts

This recipe comes from the murder mystery book The Blueberry Muffin Murder by Joanne Fluke.  The book is from a series, and all the book titles follow the "The (baked good) Murder" format.  Each novel has several recipes in it.  I first purchased one of the books randomly at the grocery store a couple of months ago, and have come to really enjoy the series.  The stories aren't particularly suspenseful, and the writing style doesn't charm me like some authors, but they just really appeal to me for some reason and are almost comforting to read.  They're the mashed potatoes and mac and cheese of my home library!
Anyway, I have a lifelong love of all things peanut butter, but peanut butter cookies rarely live up to my standards of peanut butteriness.  The flavor is usually too weak.  I love a really good PB cookie, but have only found two recipes that are good enough.  One is this one and the other I haven't posted on the blog yet.  I decided to try this version because the name appealed to me (Peanut Butter Melts, interesting!), the melted butter seemed interesting, and I liked that it has molasses.  It also has a full cup of PB, which seemed promising!
The recipe did not disappoint.  The dough is softer than most, but all the butter (both peanut and regular) means it isn't sticky.  They also spread out more than most PB cookies, but aren't ridiculously thin or anything.  Of course, the flavor is what's most important, and these ones are really good!  Lots of peanut butter (though I may experiment with adding a bit more), not too excessively sweet, and just all around yummy.  On the first day, they're nice and soft in the middle, but crunchy/chewy around the edges.  After spending the night in the cookie jar, they loose some of the crunch and firm up a bit in the middle, but are still relatively soft and definitely still yummy today, 5 days after I baked them.  Even my husband likes them, and he's not usually crazy about non-chocolate chip cookies.

Peanut Butter Melts
1 C melted butter
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C peanut butter, smooth or crunchy (I used smooth)
2 eggs
2 1/2 C flour
Preheat oven to 375 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Beat together melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and molasses.  Mix in baking soda, baking powder, and salt, then mix in peanut butter until well combined.  Add eggs and mix again until well combined.  Add flour and mix just until the dough comes together.
Roll dough into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Press the tines of a fork into the top of each ball in a cross hatch pattern.  Bake cookies until very light golden brown, 8-12 minutes (mine took 11).  Let cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.  Store cooled cookies in a covered container.
 Yield:  I got exactly 50 cookies from this recipe.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Deviled Ham Spread

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog Sid's Sea Palm Cooking! Sid cooks up a variety of really interesting recipes, and hosts a tapas night every month. That sounds like an awesome idea and I wish I was organized enough (and social enough) to do that! Besides, who doesn't love tapas?
My recipe choice was Deviled Ham Spread. I picked it mostly because I've never had or made anything like it, and it isn't really something I'd usually make. This recipe club seemed like a good opportunity to make it! I also considered Light and Airy Biscuits for a Crowd, and Tijuana Tilly Cheese Enchiladas. In the end, I went with the ham spread because I could prepare it quickly and didn't have to actually heat anything up, which is great if you may be faced with frequent interruptions. Why am I facing interruptions? We got a puppy :D She's beautiful, sweet, and adorable, but she also has a teeny tiny bladder and requires a lot of my undivided attention and frequent spur of the moment trips outside! She's actually pitching a fit in her pen right now because Mama's paying attention to the computer instead of playing with her. I think I chose the right recipe!  Needless to say, very little cooking has been happening since we got her two weeks ago.
I did make two little changes to the recipe. First, I used mayo instead of sour cream because sour cream in large amounts upsets my husband's stomach and I knew he would end up having the ham spread on sandwiches for lunch during the week. I also used onion powder instead of shallots, but that's only because I remembered the shallots as we were driving out of the grocery store parking lot. Oops! No harm done, but I'd like to try the shallots next time.
Verdict? Yummy, and unlike anything either of us have had before! I'm glad I tried it. Next time I make it, I'll do the shallots instead of onion powder like the recipe says, and I may actually halve the amount of cream cheese so the ham is a bit more prominent. No complaints though, this is a solid recipe and makes a lot!
Deviled Ham Spread

2 C cubed ham
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C mayo
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 clove garlic, minced
salt to taste

Place ham in the bowl of a food processor and process until fine.  Stir together all other ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, then stir in ham.  Add salt to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours, then serve with crackers, pretzels, veggies, or as a sandwich spread.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Buffalo Chicken Pizza

My Secret Recipe Club assignment for this month is Sarah's blog, Things I Make (for Dinner)!  Sarah lives in Canada, is married, and has been blogging since 2012. 
I considered making her Rustic Plum Tart, Baked Egg Boats, Hot Cheese Sandwiches, Volcano Sandwiches, or Spaghetti Carbonara, but I couldn't resist her Buffalo Chicken Pizza.  Believe me when I say this is one yummy pizza!  We love homemade pizza (this was the 4th weekend in a row I've made pizza), but in spite of loving buffalo chicken, I've neither had nor made buffalo chicken pizza before.  How could I resist it when I found a recipe on Sarah's blog?  No regrets, either, because it's delicious!  My husband really enjoyed it, too.  It's definitely one I'll make again and I'd like to use the sauce for other pizzas.
You can really make this pizza your own.  The type of pizza crust you use (store bought, homemade thin, pan, whatever) and even the size of the pizza is up to you.  The recipe makes a cup of sauce and it was nice and rather thin (but still delicious!) on my large pizza, but you could make a smaller pizza if you want and just have a thicker layer of the amazing sauce.  You can also use however much hot sauce, cheese, and green onions you want.


 Buffalo Chicken Pizza

 for sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C milk
1/4 tsp salt
for pizza:
pizza dough (2/3 of this recipe works great, just freeze the other 1/3 for later)
2 C shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1/3 C Frank's Red Hot Sauce or other hot sauce of choice (can use more to taste)
shredded mozzarella or crumbled blue cheese
shredded cheddar
green onions, sliced
for sauce:
melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute until golden.  Add cream cheese, milk, and salt, and whisk until smooth.
for pizza:
Preheat oven to 450 and grease a large baking pam (I use butter).  Press or roll dough out to fit pan and prick all over with a fork.  Spread sauce over crust, then top evenly with the chicken, cheese, and green onions.  Bake until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 12-20 minutes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Oatmeal Coconut M&M Cookies

I quickly made these the other night as a surprise for my husband.  They're so good!  We both loved them, they're perfect.  Oats, coconut, M&Ms, and lots of vanilla flavor in a thick, chewy, moist cookie.  Yum!  Next time I may try toasting the coconut first, but that's the only thing I'd be at all interested in changing.  Also, holy moly, for once in my life a cookie recipe actually made exactly the number of cookies it said it would!  Proving once again that my normal cookies are huge, we thought these were cute and tiny.
This recipe is from a Pillsbury recipe booklet from 1991 called Cookies, Brownies, and Bars.
Oatmeal Coconut M&M Cookies
1 C butter, softened
1 1/2 C packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk
2 eggs
2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 C rolled oats (old fashioned or quick)
1 C sweetened coconut shreds
13 oz package M&Ms, divided
Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Mix in vanilla extract, milk, and eggs.  Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix in just until combined.  Add oats, coconut, and all but 1/2 C of the M&Ms and stir until combined, being careful not to over mix.
Roll dough into small balls (I made them slightly larger than a cherry), place 1 1/2-2 inches apart on the baking sheets, and press 2 M&Ms into the top of each cookie.  Bake just until golden, about 10-12 minutes.
Yield: 4 1/2 dozen small cookies

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spam, Rice, & Eggs

This is one of those recipes I'm kind of embarrassed to share, both because it's incredibly easy and incredibly unrefined.  Everyone makes fun of Spam, and here I am tossing it into dinner.  My husband convinced me to post the recipe anyway because we enjoy it and the ingredients are basic enough that you can always have them on hand.

Spam, Rice, & Eggs

1 1/2 C raw rice, cooked according to package directions with 1/2 tsp salt (I use this baked brown rice recipe)
1 T butter
1 can Spam, cubed (I use turkey Spam)
6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
soy sauce to taste

Keep the rice warm while you cook the Spam and eggs.  Heat butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high and add Spam.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned: about 10 minutes.  Remove Spam to a bowl and remove skillet from heat.  Crack eggs directly into skillet, then whisk them with your spatula.  Return pan to stove and scramble eggs over medium low.  When cooked, add salt and pepper to taste.  Return Spam to skillet as well as cooked rice.  Stir to combine and heat the rice through.  Let everyone top their own bowls with soy sauce.
Yield: about 6 servings

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Brown Sugar Oat Scones

Got another great recipe from Catherine Newman's blog, Ben and Birdy.  It's called Brown Sugar Oat Scones!  I've wanted to make this recipe for over a year, and finally did this morning.  I'm not entirely sure why I've been so fascinated with the recipe- maybe because all the recipes I've tried from that blog have turned out amazing?- but the scones were definitely worth the wait!  The only thing I'd change is that I wish I'd made them sooner so we wouldn't have been scone-less all this time.
Let's see if I can describe the scones.  They look very rustic and are sort of pretty in their own way.  They're really brown because of the whole wheat flour and brown sugar.  Just looking, you'd think they have cinnamon in them (maybe an idea for the future?).  They have a very tender, rather crumbly texture to them, and a little bit of sweetness, but not too much.  The whole wheat and oat flavors are very toasty and savory and perfect.  These scones have instantly gained the status of #1 scone in my book!  My husband called them little oat pizzas when he saw them, and he loved them, too.
Quick Note: According to Catherine, this recipe is originally from the book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.  In the original, Deborah says to use cream or milk for the liquid.  Catherine uses half and half in her version, but I happened to have exactly 3/4 C cream in the fridge left over from another recipe, so the perfect amount for the scones plus a tiny treat for the kitties.  I'm sure cream makes for the best texture.  Next time I'll try milk and will update the recipe then!
Brown Sugar Oat Scones
1 C rolled oats (not quick oats, they're too fine), plus more
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/3 C packed brown sugar (I used dark, added some extra flavor)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 t salt
7 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces (wait to do this until right before you use it)
2/3 C cream (or half and half)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir together dry ingredients.  Whisk together cream, egg, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and set aside.

Cut butter into flour mixture either with a pastry blender or just use your fingers to rub the dry ingredients and butter together until the butter is mostly mixed in and the mixture looks very sandy. 
Pour in the cream/egg mixture and stir just until it comes together, being careful not to over mix.  After I stir it a a little bit, I dive in with my hands because it's easier to tell whether the dough is evenly moist that way.  Gently form dough into a ball.
Sprinkle about 1/3 C oats on a clean work surface and place the dough ball in the center.  Gently pat it out until you have a circle about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut the dough into 8 wedges and carefully move them to the prepared baking sheet.
Bake scones until they begin to turn golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Serve with butter, jam, and honey.
Yield: 8 scones