It is one of those December days, dark skies and a tad chilly. I was feeling a bit nostalgic, remembering days past of winters where the aroma of fresh baked cookies filled the kitchen and permeated the entire house. Hmm. Baking cookies, December, and a chilly day go together like peanut butter and jelly. It came to me that one of my favorite, easy cookies to make is oatmeal chocolate chip. Back when the kids were little and we were just starting out, money was tight, so I used margarine to bake my cookies. I have since switched to butter but realize that sometimes certain fats make for better textures and tastes of certain foods. I decided to use margarine today to see if they come out the same way as I remembered. Not to sidetrack too much, but, lots of our ingredients used today are not made the same as they were 20 years ago. For instance, Crisco was altered in 2007, removing the trans fat. It does cause some recipes to have a different texture, etc. Anyways, back to the cookies, I used margarine and they came out absolutely perfect, just as I remembered them: delicious!
Here is the basic easy recipe I used!
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1.Preheat oven to 350*
2. Beat together margarine, sugars, egg, and vanilla
3. Stir in flour and baking soda.
4. Add in oatmeal and mix well.
5. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for about 12 minutes depending on your pan and your oven. I used an insulated baking sheet and baked them for about 13 minutes and they were perfect. Remove to wire rack when done (light brown). Enjoy! Made 24 cookies.
Today is National Ice Cream Day and should be celebrated with the correct festivities: eating an ice cream cone made with your favorite ice cream! My favorite is Purple Cow made with black raspberry ice cream and with both dark and white chocolate chips added. Yum. This holiday was established by Ronald Reagan back in 1984 and it is today the 3rd Sunday in July that has this designation. Way to go Reagan, a man who new the important things in life! He also made July National Ice Cream Month. I say, make the year National Ice Cream Year! Why not? If we can’t enjoy the small things in life what do we have? So, today is the day anyone in the good ole’ USA can have a cone of their favorite ice cream and feel no guilt. After all, they are just being American!!
Here are some great little corn muffins that are beyond simple to make. I usually make most of my baked goods from scratch (half the time you scratch your head wondering what the hell am I doing when there are very good mixes out there that will accomplish the same result). However, I recently cooked turkey chili for a buffet and wanted to have some little mini muffins to accompany it. I wanted an easy way out and I wanted the muffins to be tender so here is what I came up with. I also baked them the night before the buffet and froze them in a large freezer bag. I removed them from the freezer on the way out the door and they were very fresh and moist at lunchtime! This is definitely a keeper!
Easy Mini Corn Muffins
2 packages Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 can cream style corn
1 tbsp. sugar
Follow the package directions and add in the cream style corn and sugar.
Spoon into paper lined mini muffin pans
Bake for 12 minutes at 350* or until slightly lightly brown on top.
Serve warm. Makes about 44 mini muffins.
There is something warming about a cup of chili. I am not talking about the added spices or the heat used to create it. I am talking about the soothing effect it has on one’s being. Troubles seem to slip away, though I must admit that food tends to do that for me anyways. This is the reason chili is called a comfort food. Duh. I just got it!! I just made this batch of chili for a recent buffet and I am pretty sure it was a hit as there was none left! I made it with very lean turkey to make it healthy. I served it with some mini corn muffins which were also very easy to put together. (Gotta love Jiffy).
1 1/4 lb. lean ground turkey
1 pkg. hot Italian sausage
2 cups tomato sauce (canned is fine)
1 large can diced tomatoes (I used Italian seasoned)
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup each: diced green and red peppers
1 small diced onion
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup hot chili seasoning
salt and pepper
1. Saute the onion and peppers in the oil til tender.
2. Remove the casings from the Italian sausage and add to onions and peppers. Drain the fat. Add the ground turkey and cook til done.
3. Stir in the seasonings, sauce, beans, and tomatoes and simmer for at least an hour.
4. Serve with shredded cheese on top and some delicious little corn muffins.
Italian food always seems to be a favorite of most people, especially in the winter months where comfort food is a plus. I know it is summer, but, I for one, need comfort all through the year. I know I wouldn’t be making this on a stifling hot steamy day, but there are plenty of cool days here in the northeast and BTW, isn’t that what they make air conditioning for? Lasagna is very easy to make and it is the sauce that makes or breaks the recipe. You can have all the freshest ingredients, like freshly grated parmesan cheese or fresh picked herbs and spinach, but if the sauce is less than perfect, so follows the lasagna. There are some wonderful, commercial sauces out there that are perfect for those that don’t want to start from scratch. Since it is summer and it is getting to tomato picking time, I love to make my own sauce with freshly picked, vine ripened tomatoes, fresh parsley, oregano, basil, and garlic. I use a variety of tomatoes and no matter what type the end result is always very pleasing! I add hot Italian sausage and homemade meatballs to the sauce for even more added flavor. Add a loaf of crusty bread and the perfect meal will be yours for the eating!
homemade tomato sauce (or jar of your favorite brand)
1 box of lasagna noodles
2 cups cooked, chopped spinach
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Boil the lasagna noodles according to the package directions.
2. Mix the ricotta cheese, eggs, spinach, and parmesan cheese in a large bowl.
3. Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of a 13X9 glass baking dish.
4. Place noodles on top (3 laying the long way and then 4-5 on top of those laying the short way). Place a couple ladles of sauce on the noodles. Spread half the ricotta mix over the sauce. Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese over this.
5. Repeat the layering of the noodes, sauce, and cheeses. Top this with the final layer of noodles, ending up with 3 nice long beautiful noodles on the top. Cover with a layer of sauce.
6. Bake in a 325* oven (if using a glass dish) and bake for 45-60 minutes or until bubbly.
Homemade Tomato Sauce (Fat Free)
10-12 large tomatoes
fresh herbs-garlic, basil, parsely, oregano
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Blanche the tomatoes in boiling water: wash and remove the stems, drop in boiling water for 1 minute or so, remove and place in cold water. Remove the skins.
2. Chop the tomatoes and drain in a colander which is over a large bowl to catch the tomato juice.
3. Place the tomatoes in a large pot. Add chopped garlic, onions, peppers,and fresh herbs of your choice. Toss in a little salt and pepper to taste.
4. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and let cook. The longer the time of cooking the more flavorful the sauce will be. Using a cover keeps in the flavor of the tomatoes but will result in a more watery sauce.
5. Remove the cover to thicken the sauce or add a can of tomato paste. If the sauce gets too thick add some of the remaining tomato juice.
Okay, so I have been not posting lately and I apologize for that but I have been one busy person. I have had a lot of changes in my life (not the usual woman changes thank God for that) but nonetheless my time has been consumed by some good and some bad times. I decided that my to-do list, sometimes referred to as a bucket list, was growing and needed to be addressed in the here and now and not the later. Why wait? So, I took the first thing on the list, learning to play the piano the proper, classical way, got my butt in gear, signed up for lessons, bought a piano, and have been busy ever since with that. I also took care of my ailing soon to be 15 Bichon and had to euthanize her. That was the saddest day in my life. Having a pet can consume even the coldest of hearts. God I miss that little girl! But, being the softhearted soul that I am and having never lived without a dog, I decided to give a needy dog a new home, so I rescued a beautiful black lab. Lucy arrived yesterday at Logan airport, she is here now, and is settling in quite nicely (obviously as she took my place on the couch), so now it’s back to writing and cooking since I lost my comfy seat. Back to the normal part of life. Back to blueberry muffins and all the good stuff. BTW, I must also mention that a very good friend of mine that retired from teaching and is enjoying life to the fullest, approached me and informed me that I needed to post more recipes as she had already tried all of mine. So Carol, this one’s for you!! Perfect for summer, fall, anytime, and is healthy. I began adding resistant starches to my recipes as a way to increase the fiber content of baked goods. Turns out that resistant starch resists digestion (duh, should’ve seen this coming) and settles right into the large intestine where it acts like fiber and improves digestion. This is not new nor is it a quacky diet phase. It did improve my recipe, my old faithful chocolate cake recipe, as it gave it a different texture. Adding resistant starch to a recipe does not change the flavor. I purchased mine at King Arthur Flour. I read about resistant starches in the CarbLovers Diet Book. Interesting read, some great recipes, and I believe it is a natural, non-diet way to eat and live. All diets work if you stick with them, keeping off the weight is another matter, and CarbLovers does keep one satisfied and happy and is balanced, touching all food groups. Anyways, (not anywho), I made these muffins, they were very flavorful, packed with blueberries, and are a great anytime snack. I’d love to hear comments about these muffins. If you don’t have resistant starch (Hi-Maize Natural Fiber) then substitute flour. That means this recipe would have 2 1/4 cups flour without the added starch. Also, the batter is thick and if you are using frozen berries do not thaw them!! Mush if you do. Using frozen berries ups the baking time a couple minutes. You can also sprinkle some large crystal sugar mixed with a smidgen of cinnamon on the top of the muffins before baking. Enjoy!!
No Guilt Blueberry Muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup hi-maize resistant starch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/2 cup vanilla or lemon yogurt
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1) Preheat the oven to 375°F and get muffin tins ready. This makes 12 muffins.
2) Mix the flour, resistant starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then set aside.
3) Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4) Add in eggs and mix thoroughly.
5) Mix in the extracts and yogurt.
6) Stir in the dry ingredients.
7) Fold in the berries, fill the muffin tins 3/4 full, and then bake for about 20 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.
Meatloaf is often the butt of many jokes, but in reality it is a very tasty dinner if prepared correctly. I have been using this recipe for years and it has never failed me. The best thing about meatloaf: there is no problem getting rid of the leftovers. They make perfect sandwiches, especially when topped with a hot pepper relish. The leftovers can also be chopped up and added to your favorite tomato sauce and served over pasta, tortellini, or any pasta concoction desired. Best of all, it is easy to make and is perfect when accompanied with au gratin potatoes and a favorite vegetable. I love it served with a baked yam or sweet potato. What is not to love about this comfort food? Substitute the beef for ground turkey. Still delicious!! For something a little extra special, make the meat mixture, pat it out in a rectangle, sprinkle with chopped spinach that has been squeezed out, and roll it up. Put in the dish and top with a tomato sauce, and bake the same as below! Try topping it with a couple of slices of bacon. Very tasty. Very nice. Mmmm.
1 pound 85% lean chopped beef
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
3 tbsp. of tomato sauce
1 tbsp. Montreal steak seasoning
1. Mix all ingredients. Shape into a ball and place in a glass casserole dish.
2.Bake,uncovered, in a 350* oven for about 1 1/4 hours.
Yay!! Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year. Spring ahead! When I was a kid, the best day of the year was Christmas or my birthday. Hmmph. Not anymore! As the years move on, so does the quest for warm weather and sunlight. I live in the northeast and am stuck here due to the housing market, (bad time to sell) and my career (teaching). The northeast is great if you want to ski, go to the beach in the summer, and freeze your butt off in the winter, never mind slipping all over the place on the icy days. Well, that is now in the past for another year. I am moving on to spring. The greens have been removed from the buckets and window boxes, crocuses are starting to pop up, pussywillows are out, and the Easter Bunny is getting ready to deliver those delicious chocolate concoctions. Ahh, spring!! Daylight!! No more feeling like a truck hit me everyday at 6PM. Funny how the daylight makes such an impact on my lifestyle. Now I can walk after dinner. Speaking of which, after dinner is also the perfect time to enjoy a little treat. I tasted these cookies over Christmas and still have yet to post them. They were part of a cookie exchange made by a fellow teacher, Lisa G. They were awesome and though these are in the shape of mittens, they would be perfect in a bunny shape for Easter or any springtime buffet as they are light and quite tasty. If making these a couple days ahead of serving, do NOT assemble. Bake and store, and then fill on the day of the event. Mmmm.
Raspberry White Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
extra confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1/3 cup shaved white chocolate
1. Mix the flour and salt.
2. In a separate bowl, beat butter til smooth. Add in the sugar and beat til smooth.
3. Mix in vanilla.
4. Stir in the flour mixture and chill for one hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350*.
6. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut out.
7. Using a tiny cookie cutter, remove the middle of half of the cookies as this will be a little window for the jam to show.
8. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, chill entire sheet for about 15 minutes, then bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
9. Remove and cool.
10. Spread the jam on one cookie, sprinkle with the white chocolate shavings, and cover with the window cookie.
11. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
This coming Monday is President’s Day so in honor of dear ole George I am posting a great recipe for Cherry Chocolate Cookies handed to me by my friend Brigitte. Yum. They are easy to make, delicious to eat, and everyone needs a reason to indulge in something sweet. Well, not everyone, because I often eat without any rhyme or reason, just because foods are tasty and satisfying! Who really needs a reason? There are ways to make this recipe a little healthier and weight conscious appropriate: replace 1/4 or 1/2 of the butter with cherry applesauce, but beware that the texture might not be so delightful. Applesauce is a better replacement for oil. Also, skip out on the drizzling of the icing. You could also eliminate the kiss, but in doing so you are breaking my heart.
Cherry Chocolate Kiss Cookies
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 c. softened butter
2 tsp. maraschino cherry liquid
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3-4 drops red food coloring
1/2 c. maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
48 milk chocolate kisses (use dark to make it more heart healthy)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
Icing: Mix 1 cup powdered sugar, 2-3 tsps. water, and 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract.
1. Unwrap kisses (duh) and preheat oven to 350*.
2. Combine sugar, butter, cherry liquid, almond extract, and food coloring, blending well.
3. Add flour and salt and mix well.
4. Fold in cherries.
5. Shape dough into 1 inch balls around kiss and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, remove, cool, and drizzle with icing.
7. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
Here’s an option: , When finished cooking, remove, and immediately press kiss into each cookie instead of baking it on the inside.
Tuna Wiggle? That’s right. It is the epitome of comfort food. There is no rocket science to this recipe. It isn’t really very healthy for you though if you drink lots of water the sodium will wash out kind of quickly. It is the meal to make on a cold winter’s evening when the wind is howling and the temps are below 0. This recipe came down from my mother-in-law who used to make it for my husband when he was growing up. I decided to make it last night just as a reminder to him of what life was like and what it is now. Make sense? Probably not, but I won’t go there. You could spice up this recipe quite nicely with some sauteed onions and mushrooms, along with fresh garlic. You could also make this more heart and body friendly by using low sodium canned soups. I didn’t as his mother’s recipe didn’t call for it and my husband would have shoveled it on anyways. I also would have added the onions, mushrooms, and garlic if I was eating it, but it is his remembrance of years gone by, the way his mom make it. Actually, I used to make this on Thanksgiving Eve since the next day, even week, we would be eating turkey and this is such an opposite. Funny, today we are having turkey! Enjoy Dan!
An update!!: When it was time to have this meal as leftovers, I added about 1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes to the casserole. After heating it, covered in the microwave for about 2 minutes, I topped it off with 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and zapped it for another 30 seconds on High in the microwave and as all microwaves vary in intensity, use your own judgement. (You might want to add a little bit of water to the dish if it is dried out).
1 bag of broad egg noodles (this is what makes the wiggle)
1 can Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup (Cream of anything works really. Broccoli and cheddar soup is very good too.)
1 large can of tuna in water (chunk light or solid white)
1 cup of frozen peas or broccoli if desired
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper
For the topping some people like crumbled potato chips but I like French’s fried onion bits.
1. Boil the noodles. Drain tuna.
2. Rinse peas (if you are using frozen) so they are not all clumped together.
3. Put cooked noodles, drained tuna, soups, water, and rinsed peas into 2 quart casserole dish. Mix and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with Italian bread crumbs.
4. Bake in 350* oven for 1/2 hour or until the bread crumbs brown and the casserole is bubbly.