Friday, September 14, 2018

Raspberry Oatmeal Jammies/Copycat Franz Bakery Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies

The only packaged cookie I have ever liked other than Oreos or some of the Pepperidge Farm ones is these lightly cinnamon flavored, raspberry jam filled oatmeal cookies from Franz Bakery.  I would buy about a pack a year, so it wasn't exactly a common indulgence.  One day, it occurred to me to try to make them, I did a Google search, and ta da!  Oatmeal Jammies from the blog Bake or Break!  I made them immediately, with a few fiddly little changes to the ingredient list and preparation.

Boy, are these good!  Undoubtedly better than the packaged ones.  They are chewy around the edges but soft in the middle, are a little caramelized from the dark brown sugar, have way more raspberry jam than the packaged ones, and have that perfect little hint of cinnamon. They're best the day they're made because the chewiness dissipates and the jam may start getting a wee bit soggy, but they're tasty regardless a couple of days later.

I've only made these once, but can tell they for sure will be made many more times.  Next time I'm going to experiment with adding a teaspoon of baking powder just to see if they'll puff up a bit more, but really, they're pretty perfect as is!

Raspberry Oatmeal Jammies

1 C salted butter, softened
1 C dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 C old fashioned oats
about 1/2 C raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, then beat in eggs and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Mix into butter-sugar mixture in 3 additions.  Add oats and mix just until everything is completely combined.

Make walnut sized dough balls and place them 2 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets- this dough spreads come.  Use your thumb to make an indentation in each dough ball.  Don't press too hard because you want a cookie layer thick enough under the jam that the jam won't seep through!  You can kind of shore up the dough around the indentation to keep the jam contained.

Spoon about a teaspoon of jam into each thumbprint.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.  They are a bit fragile, so let them cool for 20 minutes or so before moving them to cooling racks.

Yield:  About 2 dozen cookies

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Baked Ziti

This is a really simple but delicious baked ziti recipe.  Believe me when I say I've tried a lot of ziti recipes over the years and they've all been varying degrees of tasty, but this is our favorite for sure.  I'm always looking for new recipes, but laid my baked ziti quest to rest after I first made this recipe four years ago!  It's a bit unique in that all of the cheese (except for some mozzarella sprinkled on top) gets mixed in with the pasta.  This both saves time with layering and makes sure each noodle is very cheesy!  The nutmeg also gives it a really nice, subtle, slightly unexpected flavor.  The sauce recipe itself is quite solid and is a good, basic sauce to serve over spaghetti.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember where the recipe came from originally, but I do know I've changed it substantially.
If you want to add a few minutes of prep time and make it more hearty, you can saute a pound of ground beef or turkey to start with, then add a finely diced onion and two cloves minced garlic to the browning meat in place of the onion and garlic powders, then continue making the sauce as written.  
Quick Note: You can use any large, tube shaped pasta.  For some reason it's really hard to find ziti around here!  I've also started using mostly whole wheat pasta and finding whole wheat ziti is impossible.  The recipe photo shows it made with whole grain penne.
Baked Ziti
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
28 oz can whole fire roasted tomatoes, blended
6 oz tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 lb ziti pasta
cheese mixture:
1 lb ricotta cheese
3 C mozzarella, divided
1/2 C grated parmesan (optional)
1 egg
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper 
1/2 tsp salt
Put all sauce ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, cover with a splatter screen, and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While sauce simmers, cook the ziti in salted water until just shy of al dente.  It will continue cooking in the oven and you don't want it to get too soft..  
While the pasta cooks, stir together ricotta, 1 1/2 C mozzarella, the egg, and seasonings.  Drain pasta and return to pot.  Stir in cheese mixture. 
Grease a 9 by 13 pan and spread half the pasta mixture in the pan.  Spread half the sauce on top.  Add remaining pasta, top with the rest of the sauce, then sprinkle the remaining cup of mozzarella on top. 
Bake ziti at 350 until bubbly and cheese is golden, about 45 minutes.
Yield:  8 servings

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Savory Cornbread

Here's another cornbread recipe!  The other cornbread recipe on my blog is just as good, but the sweet type.  This one has no sugar at all and is a little smoky if you use bacon grease rather than butter.  Unlike a lot of cornbread, this is not dry at all.  It pairs very well with chili or as a topping for any casserole that calls for cornbread batter poured on top since it isn't sweet.  I'll bet it would be very good dried and used for cornbread stuffing as well.
This recipe comes from Southern Plate.  My main change is to cut back on the buttermilk by 1/2 a cup, it just turns out too wet when I make it with the 2 C buttermilk described in the original. I also bake it at 350 instead of 450 and use a glass baking dish.  The glass baking dish is because I don't have a cast iron pan, and the lowered temperature is because it bakes much more evenly at the lower temp.
I suppose I should add that if you want to get really picky, you should use white cornmeal instead of yellow.  Apparently yellow cornmeal is a no no in southern cooking because livestock typically eat yellow corn.  I, however, like the color of yellow cornmeal better and the brand I like only comes in yellow, so yellow it is.
Classic Cornbread
1 1/2 C fine cornmeal
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp bacon grease or butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 7 by 11 baking dish.  Set aside.
Stir together dry ingredients.  Pour in buttermilk and egg, stir to combine, then stir in bacon grease until mixture is smooth.  Pour into prepared baking dish.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Yield: 6 large servings

Monday, August 27, 2018

Chicken Scratch Seasoning & "Rotisserie" Baked Chicken Breasts

This is one of our favorite and most commonly made chicken dishes.  It really could not be any simpler to make and is shockingly delicious, considering how easy it is.  Surely there are even easier chicken recipes out there, but I don't bother making something easy if we don't also enjoy it.  I'm not sure why exactly the chicken is so good.  The seasoning blend doesn't look particularly awe inspiring and the cooking method is very basic, but it really is very good.  The paprika gives boring old boneless, skinless chicken breasts a nice color, and the seasoning blend tastes makes the chicken taste like somewhat spicy rotisserie chicken.
The cooking method is my own (if I can even call "bake with butter" my own method!), but the Chicken Scratch recipe comes from the blog South Your Mouth.  I changed it by using more black pepper, leaving out the white pepper (I hate white pepper), and leaving out the cayenne (didn't want it that spicy).  I would like to experiment sometime with smoked paprika in place of regular paprika, and adding a tablespoon of chili powder.  For now, I've always just made it as written below!
Chicken Scratch Seasoning:
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp pepper
1/2 Tbsp thyme
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
Put everything in a jar, shake to mix, and store in the pantry.

Chicken Scratch Chicken:
cleaned boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless thighs
butter (1 tablespoon per chicken breast/1 tablespoon per 2 chicken thighs)
chicken scratch seasoning to taste
Pick a metal baking dish big enough to hold all your chicken.  Put in the butter.  Place the pan in oven and preheat to 350.  As soon as the butter has melted, remove the pan from the oven and swirl around to coat the pan.  Coat chicken breasts on both sides with butter, and sprinkle both sides generously with chicken scratch. Rub the seasoning in a little bit.  Arrange chicken evenly in pan.  Bake until chicken is cooked through, between 20 and about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

This is definitely the healthiest mac and cheese on my blog.  Whole wheat pasta, a whole can of pumpkin, and less cheese than most of my other recipes.  It's also not as decadent as my other mac and cheese recipes, but is a great everyday meal!  Who doesn't like a quick to make, creamy, cheesy pasta dish?  It also whips up in less than 20 minutes, which can't be said for that many other healthy-ish recipes.
The original recipe is from Paula's Plate.  I doubled it, added a little butter, changed the type of macaroni to whole wheat, and significantly cut back on the amount of nutmeg because nutmeg overwhelms dishes so easily.  I also added hot sauce and mustard to punch up the flavor a bit, plus mustard accentuates the cheesy flavor in mac and cheese.  My method is also a tiny bit different.
Even though this is a really quick recipe, please do try it at least the first time with freshly grated cheese.  You can easily grate it (and stick some frozen veggies in the microwave to steam) while the macaroni cooks.  The powdery stuff on pre-grated cheese may negatively affect the texture of the finished mac and cheese.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
2 1/2 C chicken broth (or veggie broth to make it vegetarian)
2 C milk
3 Tbsp butter
1 lb whole wheat macaroni 
16 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, only ingredient should be pumpkin)
1/8th tsp nutmeg
2 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot, not something too over the top spicy)
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
2 C freshly grated sharp cheddar
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Pour broth, milk, and butter into a large nonstick skillet.  Milk burns easily, so nonstick is very helpful!  Heat over medium-high until it starts getting a little bubbly, but watch it carefully because milk boils over very quickly.  Add macaroni noodles, stir, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until macaroni is cooked through, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes.  This took about 12 minutes for my box of pasta but how long it takes will 100% depend on the brand and type of macaroni you're using.  If the liquid gets completely absorbed, add a little more milk and broth.
When macaroni is cooked through, stir in the can of pumpkin, nutmeg, hot sauce, and yellow mustard until nice and hot.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in cheese, then salt and pepper to taste.  It's important to remove the skillet from the burner before adding the cheese so the cheddar doesn't get too hot and become grainy!
Serve immediately.
Yield:  About 6 main dish servings

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Strawberry Swiss Roll Cake

I've always been fascinated by cake rolls.  They just look so pretty and yummy!  A while back, I finally decided to make one and settled on this recipe over at Home Cooking Adventure.  For once in my life, I followed the recipe to the letter.  I know when it is and is not safe to tinker and this type of cake definitely seemed like one to follow precisely!
Mine turned out beautiful and delicious.  The lovely, moist sponge cake is perfect with all the creamy, fluffy filling and strawberries.  It was also very heavy on the filling, which was not a problem at all!  To my surprise, it lasted quite a few days in the fridge without the cream filling deflating.
I will for sure make this again and would like to experiment with different fillings.  I'm not too eager to mess with the cake itself because it was so good and rolled so perfectly, but adding citrus zest or spices certainly wouldn't change it any.  I wonder how many chocolate chips would fare?  Next time, I want to make the cake and creamy filling as written, but substitute Nutella for the strawberry part, just because I can.  Lemon curd or, ooh, rhubarb curd would be great as well.  Lots of options!
Strawberry Swiss Roll Cake
strawberry filling:
10 oz strawberries, chopped finely (this is by weight)
4 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp canola oil
creamy filling:
1 C whipping cream

9 oz cream cheese, softened (I know this is a weird amount, but go with it)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C powdered sugar
Make the strawberry filling first so it has time to cool.
Combine strawberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened and jammy.
Move it to a separate bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the cake next!
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 12 by 16 inch jelly roll pan.  Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit exactly in the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside.
Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract until foamy and light yellow.  Mix in oil.  Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix just until it's completely combined.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly all the way to the edges of the pan and corners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes.
Spread a large, thin, very clean dish towel (not terry cloth, regular cotton) on the clean table and sprinkle generously and evenly with powdered sugar.  Carefully flip the cake onto the cloth (it may help to have two people).  Remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper.  Sprinkle with more powdered sugar.  Use the towel to roll up the cake nice and tight, starting from one of the short ends- don't roll the towel into the cake, though!  When the cake is all rolled up, put it aside, seam side down, and still in the towel until completely cool.  Don't refrigerate it, room temperature is good.
When you're ready to fill the cake, make the filling.  First, whip the whipping cream until (shocking!) you have whipped cream.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar.  Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Gently unroll the cake and spread the strawberry filling evenly over the top, then spread on the creamy filling.  Gently roll it up again, place it seam side down on a platter, cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out, then refrigerate it for a few hours so it has time to firm up.
Cut into slices with a serrated knife and serve!
Yield: about 8 servings

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Lemon Sugar Cookies

I made these lemon sugar cookies a while back and everyone liked them.  They're just a classic sugar cookie with lemon flavor, so nothing super unusual, but very tasty and way more interesting than plain sugar cookies.  They have the perfect sugar cookie texture- soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside with nice contrast from the turbinado sugar sprinkled on top- and the 3 sources of lemon flavor (zest, juice, and extract) make them so bright and cheery!
The original recipe is from Taste of Home.  I added lemon extract and vanilla extract, made most of the cookies smaller, did NOT flatten them because some of the reviews said they were very thin (the thickness is completely normal if you don't flatten them), and sprinkled extra turbinado sugar on them when they came out of the oven.  
The original calls for you to make giant cookies.  I did make two great big ones with the last of the cookie dough.  They were very good!  Plenty of soft, chewy center and crunchy rim and there's something so appealing about an enormous cookie, even if you don't eat the entire thing in one go.  The smaller ones are more practical for sure since the jumbos are way more than one serving each, but if you want to make big ones, go for it!   Just make dough balls with 1/3 C dough, place them about 6 inches apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, bake until just barely turning golden (about 12 minutes for mine), then sprinkle with more turbinado sugar.
Lemon Sugar Cookies
1 C salted butter, softened
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
turbinado sugar (for topping)
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream together butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs, extract, zest, and lemon juice.  
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Add to butter mixture and mix just until completely combined.  The dough will be rather soft.
Use a 1 1/2 Tbsp capacity cookie scoop (or roll the dough into 1 1/2 Tbsp balls) and place 3 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  
Bake until ever so slightly beginning to turn golden, about 12 minutes.
When cookies are done baking, immediately sprinkle the tops with a little more turbinado sugar.
Cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight container.
Yield:  about 40 normal sized cookies, maybe 10 or so if you make jumbos.