M & M Cookies

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Whom amongst us doesn’t love a good cookie AND M & M’s? Exactly. So, combined, they make the perfect treat. I used mini M & M’s because I found a big bag of them in the grocery store and HAD TO BUY THEM.

I’ve made M & M cookies before using the Toll House Cookie recipe. They were okay. This recipe is just different enough that it is better suited for M & M’s. The same ingredients are used, for the most part, in different proportions.  I like soft cookies. There, I said it. The secret to soft cookies is cornstarch. You only need a little. I also chilled the batter. This process helps keep them from spreading out on the baking sheet. I left them in the fridge for over an hour. They didn’t spread and were chewy. Perfection!

I made 1/2 the recipe, just in case, the first time. Next time I will make the whole recipe and freeze the cookies. I do this with chocolate chip cookies. You can freeze the balls of batter and cook them later. I prefer to cook them all at once and freeze the cooked cookies. They taste delicious frozen. Ha!

Let’s bake cookies!

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. cornstarch

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup butter at room temperature, salted or unsalted

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

2 cups M & M plain chocolate candies, I like the mini ones

If you aren’t going to chill the batter, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a mixer, cream butter and sugars together. Add in the eggs and mix until the color lightens and batter seems to expand. It takes about 2 minutes. It will seem like eternity, and you can stop at 1 minute. You are trying to get air into the batter. Add the vanilla extract until combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer on a low speed. I’ve worn flour. It’s not a good look on me. When the dry ingredients are mixed in completely, stir in the candy with a spatula or spoon.

You can chill the batter now or proceed to baking them. Roll the cookie dough into balls, about 2 tablespoons of dough. Place on prepared pan leaving about 2 inches between the cookies.

Bake the cookies for about 10-12 minutes. Start watching them around 8 minutes. They are done when they start to become a light golden brown.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, so they can set. Then you put them on a rack or the inside of cut open paper bags. Paper bags are the old school method of cookie cooling! They absorb a little grease/butter too.

Here is the original recipe

Put on some tea water and grab a cookie or two. You deserve a break!

Note: You can gently press additional candies onto the warm cookies, for a prettier presentation. WHY?

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple soup

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Lovely weather for a bowl of hot soup! Butternut squash is so plentiful this time of year, so it’s easy to include it in your diet. It roasts beautifully for a side dish, or you can make a thick and delicious soup. For ease, I bought one pound of pre-cut butternut squash. It can be a challenge to cut and seed a whole squash

When I searched online, there were many simile recipes with a few ingredient variations of squash, liquids, and some spice. I decided to roast the butternut first, to intensify the flavor and remove a little liquid. I added one macintosh apple for sweetness and some spices to add to the flavor. It’s a little savory, a little sweet.

I omitted some of the liquid of other recipes. I wanted it to be thicker and not use any dairy. I had some blocks of frozen chicken stock in my freezer. You can absolutely use vegetable stock, homemade or store bought. The recipe doesn’t make so much soup, that you get sick of it. You can increase the ingredients to make more and freeze it. I topped off my bowl with roasted pumpkin seeds, for a little crunch. You can also used croutons.

As always, prep your ingredients so there are no surprises or delays. It makes the cooking experience much more pleasant.

Ingredients:

One pound of cut up butternut squash, cut in one inch cubes.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

3 cups chicken stock

olive oil or butter

1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

Pinch of cinnamon, ground ginger, cayenne, nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrot and celery with either butter or olive oil. Cook on a medium high heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened. This fragrance with waft through your home! Lower the heat if they start to brown. You only want them to soften.

In a 350 degree oven, add the cut up butternut squash to a cookie sheet. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast the squash for about 15-20 minutes, so that it softens and gets a little color.

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While the squash is roasting, add the stock to the softened vegetables. Stir and heat thoroughly. When the squash is softened, add it to the pot. Cover your pot and simmer for 30 minutes.

Once the soup cooked and all the vegetables are soft, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can (carefully) use a blender or use a food mill. Add the seasonings to the pureed soup. You can add as much or as little of the spices. I suggest adding a pinch at a time, because you can’t take out the spice once it’s been added. I didn’t want the soup to be overwhelmed with seasoning, so I added only pinches of the spices. Salt and pepper to taste.

I garnished the soup with roasted pumpkin seeds. You can add whatever you want or leave it plain. This soup makes about 6 cups and freezes nicely.

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Here is one of the recipes I used.

 

InstantPot BBQ Pulled Pork

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This is the best pulled pork recipe I’ve made. It is so easy and quick. It was done, including the prep work, in a little more than an hour. It takes about 15 minutes to get the pressure to build. InstantPots are faster than stovetop braising, but still the process takes some time and planning. You probably have most of the ingredients in your house. I bought a 3 lb cryovac package of boneless pork shoulder from Shaw’s. There is even a picture of a slow cooker on the label. I guess I am a visual person.

I used Jack Daniels bbq sauce and Dr. Pepper for the soda. I didn’t want to use a sweet sauce, because there’s soda and brown sugar already. There is no browning, which makes it quick to throw together. A pinch of this, a splash of that and you are ready to cook.

My least favorite and favorite thing about this recipe is that you don’t keep the cooking liquid when the pork is done. You pull the pork and then add 1/2 cup of new bbq sauce. I think next time I might hold off on the bbq sauce if I use it for something other than in a bun. The meat is amazingly tender. I let the cooking liquid cool, then I put it in a container. Once it is cooled more, I put it in the freezer until trash day. A lot of fat cooks off the pork. You do not want to pour that down your drain. It’s a little work but so worth it.

3 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4 large chunks

1 can Coke or Dr. Pepper

2 1/2 cups bbq sauce,  divided

1/3 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

Rolls for serving if you’d like.

Add pork to a lightly greased InstantPot. Pour soda over the pork.

Add 2 cups bbq sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder to the pot. With a spoon, just lightly mix the ingredients over the pork. Swirly, swirly.

Place lid on InstantPot turning the valve to a locked/closed position. Set the pot, using the manual setting on high, for 45 minutes. It will take about 10-15 minutes for the pressure to build. I cannot rest peacefully until the cooking countdown starts. Do a natural release for 10 minutes after the cooking time. Open the float valve to slow release the rest of the steam. Once the float valve drops, remove the lid.

Using two forks to shred pork into small chunks. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a bowl, stirring in the remaining 1/2 cup of bbq sauce. If you think you want to serve the pork, not in a bun, it accompanies mashed potatoes and green beans sans sauce. The meat is so tender, you don’t always need the bbq sauce.

Serve the bbq pulled pork on hamburger rolls if you’d like.

Enjoy!

Here is the original recipe. It has some recipe notes and directions for a slow cooker.

Parmesan Pea and Pork Pasta Salad

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You’ll have to excuse my less than professional photography, but I was on my way to a cookout! And the actual recipe name is Parmesan Pea and Pasta Salad. I added bacon, hence the pork in the title. What isn’t better with bacon, besides the title of this page?

Summer is meteorologically speaking OVER, but we still have time for cookouts before the cold sets in. I’ve got applesauce simmering stovetop, pulled pork in the InstantPot, and this delicious, quick recipe to add to meals any night of the week.

There aren’t many ingredients, so buy the good bacon and parmesan cheese. Crack open a new jar of mayonnaise and search your freezer for some frozen peas. This could not be easier. For the pasta, find something bite-size. I used bow tie pasta. Perfect fork size pasta. To avoid messing up my already messy kitchen, I cook my bacon in the oven. It’s on foil and parchment paper. I’m all about the easy clean up. I used 3 pieces of bacon. Fine, I used 7 crisp pieces of bacon. SEVEN. Cook it so it’s crisp and dab off the grease with a paper towel.

If you haven’t already figured it out, here’s how to make this heavenly pasta salad.

1 pound bite-size pasta

1 cup green petite peas (maybe an overflowing cup) fresh or frozen

1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise

2/3 cup fresh grate Parmesan cheese (use good quality and you can be a little heavy handed)

salt and pepper to taste

Boil pasta according to package directions using salted water and until the pasta is al dente. The last 5 minutes of the pasta’s cooking time, throw in the peas. When finished cooking, drain and let cool. Taste test the pasta to make sure it’s finished cooking.

Place the cooled pasta and peas in a large bowl, add the mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined, season with salt and pepper, cover, and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It’s best cold. You can make it your own by adding celery, a few shakes of red pepper flakes, whatever you want to add, you can. I like it simple, with lots of bacon.

Here’s the original recipe. Credit, where credit is due!

Enjoy!

 

Lemon Sponge Pie

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If you love Lemon Meringue Pie, but don’t love making one, this is the pie for you! My mother got this recipe from a dear friend. It’s her Yankee family’s recipe that has been passed on through generations. My mother makes the best Lemon Meringue pie, but sometimes she would make this pie, to switch things up a bit.

I have made this pie many, many times and it has not yet failed me. Sometimes it comes out a  little differently.  Can I blame global warming? It’s usually my impatience or blunder, but it always tastes great. It may not be the prettiest of pies, but it’s an easy pie and bursting with lemon flavor. You want pretty, toss on some fresh raspberries and some mint leaves. BAM. Pretty pie!

Let’s bake us some pie!

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 egg yolks (slightly beaten)

3 egg whites (stiffly beaten)

1 1/2 cups milk

2 lemons (juiced and rind grated)

1  9inch UNBAKED pie shell

Blend melted (and slightly cooled) butter with sugar and beat thoroughly. I use a hand mixer for this step. Add flour and blend well.

Add egg yolks, lemon juice, grated rind, and milk. I use 2 lemons, because not all lemons are the same. Some have more juice than others. I’d rather a little more, than a little less lemon juice.

Fold in beaten egg whites and pour into shell. Folding in the egg whites will test your patience. Try not to have lumps of egg white (see MY pie). Do your best, but make sure you use the folding action. You don’t want to deflate the egg whites.

I use a glass pie plate, but any will do. I also often buy my pie crusts or my name is Nora Pillsbury. If you can make a great pie crust, please do so. I cannot seem to get it right.

Baked in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Don’t walk away….wash the dishes or something. Reduct heat to 325 degrees and bake about 25 minutes longer. Since every oven is different, set the timer for 20 minutes and check. You can add minutes, but you cannot remove the taste of burnt pie from your tongue.

The pie is done when the top cracks open. If you get nervous around 20-25 minutes, or the crust is getting darker than you like,  pull it out of the oven. It is absolutely done.

Refrigerate for several hours before serving. You don’t want to eat this pie hot. I recommend making it in the morning or the night before if you are short on time.

If you want to get fancy, delicately place some raspberries on the serving plates. Lemon and raspberries are a wonder flavor team!

 

Chrissy Teigen’s Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal

 

Chrissy has yet to steer me wrong. I made this last weekend for Hubs and myself. I am a yellow cake fan and an oatmeal fan. Putting them together seems natural to me and I guess Chrissy. I usually make these kinds of dishes for a celebration. It was Sunday, so why not celebrate? It made a tad too much for the two of us. We enjoyed it ALLLLL week. I might make it again, making half the recipe and using an 8 x 8 pan.

I’ve made baked oatmeal before with hopeful glee that I will save myself from breakfast cereals. The other attempts were meh. This recipe includes fruit, oatmeal, eggs, milk and (cough, cough) yellow cake. How can that be wrong?

This is not a “do-the-night-before” recipe. Plan accordingly. It takes a bit of time as you heat the milk and oatmeal, and let it cool to thicken. You have to melt butter and let it cool. I used frozen peaches and let them defrost on the counter, then zapped them for a minute in the microwave.  Some of the slices were a little large and still hard. The combination of peaches and raspberries are perfection. Next time I might sprinkle some cinnamon sugar on top.

When cooked, this baked oatmeal has different textures, unlike other baked oatmeal recipes. If you have food texture aversions, you may want to think twice. As it bakes, the mixture separates. The bottom is a cakey, custardy mixture, while the top is oatmealy.  Chrissy says to bake it so the center is still jiggly and serve in bowls. I have enough jiggly things in my life, so I baked it a few more minutes. It was a little firmer, but still two separate textures. While this was cooking, I made bacon in the oven and timed them to be done at the same. I’m clever like that. You have to watch bacon in the oven, it’s a tricky creature. I used this recipe as a guide, but cook at the same temperature as the oatmeal. It’s not messy and the cleanup is so easy.

I brought the leftovers to work, for breakfast. The jello-like texture is great as it doesn’t slop around the container or your lunch box.  It’s a great way to start a work day. Why save everything yummy for the weekend?

Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal

5 cups of whole milk

2 cups quick-cooking oats

2 cups yellow cake mix

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 cups raspberries

1 large peach, frozen works too

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10 x 12 inch baking dish with butter. If you don’t have one this size, 9 x 13 works too. You can always pour 6 cups of water into the pan. If that overflows, the pan is too small. I used a ceramic baker that I use for my egg strata and it was perfect. Don’t stress  too much about it.

With a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the milk and oats and microwave on high, stopping once to stir, for 5 to 6 minutes.  Make sure the milk/oats mixture gets very warm. Give it a few minutes more if it’s not at least warm after the first  5 minutes. You want the oats to start cooking in the very warm milk. Let the oatmeal mixture sit on the counter to thicken for 10 minutes. You don’t want it to sit more than 10 minutes. The pressure is on!

Stir the cake mix into the cooked oatmeal until smooth, then mix in the eggs, melted butter, and salt.

Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish, then scatter the berries and peaches on top. You can use more than the recipes says, within reason. Bake until the center is just set and seems almost undercooked, 30 to 35 minutes. (It will jiggle a little, and when you spoon into the cake, it may separate into 2 layers)

I like to let it set for about 10 minutes before serving. It will cook a little more, and prevent the jiggles, and not scorch your mouth as you hurriedly spoon this into your face.

Enjoy!

The $250 Neiman Marcus Cookie

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Rumors, rumors, rumors. It was once told that the recipe for these cookies cost someone $250 from a Neiman Marcus clerk. The story supposedly has been debunked by the company. It made a good story, but it also makes a good cookie. The prep work takes longer than a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. You blend the rolled oats in a food processor to make an oat flour. This cookie, cleverly, requires a “good” 4 ounce milk chocolate bar along with semisweet chocolate chips. Instead of grating the cookie into a melted grated mess, I chop it up with a knife. I find this to be the best method. I also replace the walnuts with raisins, that I’ve soaked in hot water. Totally optional, but I love raisins. I use a stand mixer as the dough is very thick. I have to mix it by hand for a bit, to get at everything left in the bottom of the mixing bowl. It’s a bit of a workout, but worth it. I keep some out in a container and freeze the rest. You will be happy to know, they taste great frozen too. Who has time to wait for a cookie to defrost? Not me! I like to fool myself into believing they are healthy. I mean, there are over two cups of oats in it, right????

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not one-minute oats)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup light or dark brown sugar

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

4 ounces grated or finely chopped milk chocolate bar

1 cup of chopped walnuts or raisins

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Blend the oats in a food processor or blender, to a fine powder. In a medium bowl,, which together the blended oats with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips and the chopped candy bar, with the walnuts and/or raisins.
  4. Roll the dough into balls, about 2 heaping tablespoonfuls. Place them on the parchment lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time, until the edges of the cookie are set but the center still looks undone, about 10 minutes. The cookies will set up as they cool. Let them cool on the cookies sheets. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days (so I’ve heard). They can be frozen for up to 2 months (has never happened).

These make a great work snack, with that second cup of coffee. They will get you to lunch without hunger rumbles.

Enjoy!

Here is the recipe I have used.

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