Sunday, October 3, 2010

banana stuffed french toast with blueberry compote

every april and october, our church has a general conference where we have the opportunity to hear from our church leaders. i love it for many reasons, one of them being it's a perfect opportunity to watch church in your pajamas. ever since being married, i've always tried to make it a tradition to make two new, fun breakfast items for saturday and sunday. this year, sunday was banana stuffed french toast with blueberry compote.

we first saw this made on diners, drive ins, and dives on food network. it was from a restaurant in florida and when mr. e saw it he began to drool and said to me..."let's make that.....pul-eeze?" however, when i printed the recipe it came with the disclaimer that the recipe had been reduced down from a bulk recipe and had not been tested by the food network kitchens so...good luck, basically. as i read through the recipe i decided to make a few changes. one, the original recipe calls for bananas cooked in butter and brown sugar but i'm not really a fan of cooked bananas, so i decided to just cut them up and put the in between the bread slices. also, the original recipe called for challah bread. well, if you can find challah bread--be my guest. i ended up using some soft french bread. also, i skipped mixing the cooked bananas in with the cream cheese--but that was only because i didn't have any. darn, that would have tasted good.

also, the original recipe called for 1 gallon of eggs. um, did you know that is 128 ounces? well, i was cutting the recipe in half anyway, but still! that is 64 ounces of eggs! you know, 5 eggs worked JUST FINE. sheesh food network, do you think i have all the money in the world to go buy 6 dozen eggs...WELL, I DON'T!

my modifications were few but this recipe was incredible. especially the blueberry compote. it makes a TON of compote, and i mean a TON. we will probably have it for weeks to come. i don't care. i plan to put it on oatmeal, ice cream, hamburgers, tuna sandwiches. anything. it's delicious.

without further ado, here's the recipe.
banana stuffed french toast with blueberry compote
based on this recipe

2 bananas, cut into 1/2 in. slices
fresh challah bread, or soft french bread, cut into 1 inch slices
5 eggs (or 1 gallon if you are crazy)
1/2 c. half and half
about 1 t. of nutmeg
about 1 t. of cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
16 oz. frozen blueberries
1/2 c. water
1 c. brown sugar (now you know it's good)
1/2 c. water + 1/4 c. cornstarch
16 oz. frozen strawberries

put a couple slices of banana onto a piece of bread and then sandwich with another piece of bread. push it down a little bit to get the banana to kind of soak into the bread. mix the eggs, half and half, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar in a bowl. heat a large skillet, sprayed with nonstick spray or use butter, over medium heat. squish the sandwiches one more time and then dunk in the batter. pan fry on all sides. keep warm.

(i really recommend having everything for the compote ready to go before you start cooking your french toast. since the blueberries have been frozen they are going to take a long time to get to a boil. so, start your compote at the same time as you start frying your french toast.)

blueberry strawberry compote
put the blueberries, water and brown sugar in a saute pan (i used a sauce pan) over medium heat. bring to a boil and add the cornstarch/water slurry mix. cook until the sauce becomes thick and coats the back of a spoon (fyi, that won't take long. once it is super thick, you are going to want to swim in it. refrain. it will be REALLY hot.) add the strawberries and cook for 1 minute.

once your french toast is cooked, put on a plate and spoon compote over the top of your bread. then sprinkle some powdered sugar. enjoy!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A new twist on zucchini bread

Time for a true story. Ready? Three years ago at a family reunion, several of my aunts and uncles were sitting around telling old family tales when the subject of zucchini came up. (Don't ask me how!) One of my uncles burst in to laughter saying, "Do you guys remember that mom always had zucchini frozen in the freezer? Who on earth freezes zucchini?" Laughter erupted again. Imagine my uncle's surprise when I raised my hand and said with a slight touch of embarrassment, "I have a bunch of zucchini in my freezer right now." He was shocked. He could not understand why someone would freeze something that is so easy to find at the store...not to mention its abundance once neighbors start to farm out their extra garden bounty.

Fast forward 3 years to this past May. As some of you know, I have a neighbor who graciously offered to share her large garden area with me this summer and teach me the art of gardening. There was no question that zucchini would one of the adventures I'd undertake. With great excitement...and visions of bread, muffins, and cakes...I planted 2 mounds of zucchini with 6 seeds in each mound. I told the seeds that if they'd grow nice and big, I promised to turn their hard work in to lots of yummy things.

Fast forward, again, to about a two months ago. The seeds did their part in producing nice big plants...thank you peat moss! However, because the garden is not right outside my back door, I don't check it as often as I should. What happens, you may ask, to nice large zucchini plants that do not get checked on a regular basis? I give you exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

And exhibit C:

Yes, yes, I know. Someone needs to pick the zucchini more often! Most of those zucchinis are close to 2 feet long and between 5 and 6 inches in diameter.

I realize that for most people who grow zucchini consider those baseball bat size squashes to be complete failures. NOT ME! When I see those monsters, I know it's time to pull out my food processor and freezer bags. WOO HOO! I spent a couple hours a couple months ago shredding up all the giant squashes I had and ended up with 40...YES 40!...cups of shredded zucchini.

And you know where most of it went?

Yes indeed, right in to my freezer! (My uncle would be so proud!)

Even though most of the shredded goodness ended up in my freezer, I did take advantage of my abundant supply by trying a recipe I've had kicking around in my "try this" recipe pile for about two years. Instead of a basic zucchini bread, this recipe is made with a box of butterscotch pudding. I'm not sure where the recipe came from (or I'd reference it for you), but whoever created it deserves two thumbs up!

Butterscotch Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 c oil
2 t vanilla
2 c sugar
2 c grated zucchini
2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 rolled oats
1 sm pkg butterscotch pudding
1 c nuts, raisins, or dates (optional)
Mix bread ingredients. Pour in 2 large greased, floured, wax paper lined loaf pans. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.

As far as the pudding goes, I've used regular once or twice, but I typically have sugar-free on hand and use it most often. The sugar-free does not seem to impact the bread in any way, so I say use it if that's what you have. I find that butterscotch can often be an overwhelming flavor. However, you don't have to worry about that here. The pudding simply adds a great deal of moisture to the bread without overpowering it with butterscotch flavor. Also, the first time or two I made the recipe I included the nuts. I've stopped doing that. I'm convinced that 99% of the time when a recipe says "nuts optional" they should be used, but not in this instance. The bread is so moist, the nuts get lost in it. With pecans nearing $5.50 a pound these days, they are wasted here.

I've made this recipe as a treat for my neighbors (hence the small plates of slices) and as a refreshment for a class I went to. It's been a huge hit each and every time! If you are fortunate to have a bounty of zucchini from your own garden, if you have to buy some at your local grocery store, or if you need to come raid my freezer, try this recipe. You won't be disappointed!

SIDE NOTE: I gave this recipe out at a class I went to. If you picked up the recipe at that class, I sadly forgot the cinnamon when wrote it down. The recipe really needs the cinnamon, so please add it to the recipe you have!

SIDE NOTE #2: I took 3 huge zucchinis to my family in California last week. My sister, and blog partner, now has 26 cups of shredded zucchini in her freezer! How hilarious is that!

SIDE NOTE #3: With the rest of the 40 cups that I did not freeze, I made mini loaves of pumpkin zucchini bread for Mr. C to take as Christmas gifts to families in the neighborhood he visits. My freezer currently runneth over!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What's in this cookie?

I don't know if you're like me or not, but I love to take fun treats to take with me when I go places--like to a dentist appointment or a church meeting. It's always nice to surprise a group of people with an unexpected goodie! And nothing brings a smile to some one's face quicker than a plate of cookies. Brownies? Sometimes. Chocolate? Oh baby! But still, there is something about a plate of cookies that warms the heart, fills the belly, and feeds the soul.

Several years ago a friend of mine shared some cookies with me that I had never enjoyed the likes of before. I loved them, but couldn't pinpoint the flavor. I finally had to ask, "What is in this cookie?" When she told me the special ingredient, I recognized it right away and kicked myself for not realizing it sooner. Since that day, I've made this cookie recipe countless times. (It was one of the first things I taught in a cooking class!) When I wanted to take a couple containers of treats to a church meeting a couple weeks ago, this cookies seemed a perfect choice. As I watched those at the meeting munch and smile and munch and smile, I was a happy gal. But, as it always happens with this recipe, I didn't leave that night without someone saying to me, "What's in this cookie?"

(Once again, please pardon the odd blue tint that comes from the so called "natural sunlight" bulbs in my kitchen.)

This recipe came from my friend Cheryl who got it directly from the cafeteria at the Jordan River Temple. She and her husband always enjoyed the cookie there, so she asked for the recipe. What is the secret ingredient in this ever-popular goodie you may be asking? The secret, my friends, is ROOT BEER!'re not talking a can of soda here. We are talking extract or concentrate. You know, the stuff that's on sale at your local grocery store during the summer because everyone is making homemade root beer!

In all the times I've made this recipe, I've always used root beer concentrate from the grocery store. I'd heard of root beer extract, but I'd never seen it. Never, that is, until I entered kitchen heaven a few months ago. (If you live in the Salt Lake area, or anywhere within driving distance, I suggest you get in your car and drive there immediately.) I decided to buy the extract and give it a try. The cost was more than the concentrate, but I bought it hoping the flavor would be stronger than the concentrate and worth the extra dollars.

It wasn't...on either account. The flavor level was exactly the same. Want my advice? Don't pay the extra for the extract. Just stock up on the concentrate during the summer when it's on sale and you'll be fine. (As a side note, contrary to popular belief there is no cocoa in this recipe. The color comes from the concentrate.)

Let's take a look at the recipe and we'll chat about it on the flip side.

Root Beer Cookies (makes 6 dozen)
1 c butter
2 c brown sugar
1 c buttermilk (I always use powdered)
2 1/2 (3) t root beer extract or concentrate
2 eggs
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
4 c flour (you may need more)
1/3-1/2 c butter
3 c powdered sugar
3 T water
2 1/2 (4) t root beer extract or concentrate
Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the buttermilk, extract, and eggs. Mix. Add the salt, baking soda, and flour. Mix well. If the dough is sticky, add more flour. Drop by rounded tablespoons on to a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. For frosting, mix all ingredients together until you get the consistency you want. Frost cookies when they are cool.

OK, now that you know what's in the recipe, let's talk about a few things.

First, the flour. You will, most likely, have to add extra. I've added up to 3/4 c. extra before. The dough should not be overly sticky. If you find your in the sticky zone, add extra bit by bit until you get a texture that is a lot like what you'd get with a basic drop/chocolate chip type dough.

The cookies should bake up puffy and soft. Try baking one or two alone. If they don't puff up, consider adding a bit more flour.

Second, the buttermilk. Basically, DO NOT leave it out and DO NOT try to substitute regular milk. I have accidentally done the former and the cookies were flat as pancakes. My sister tried the latter and the cookies were a miserable failure. I always cook with powdered buttermilk simply from a money-saving consumer aspect. It works great in this recipe. Whether you use fresh or powdered, it doesn't matter. Just use it!

Third, the concentrate. I've given you the amount called for in the original recipe and my own personal preference in parenthesis. I find that the lesser amounts of concentrate are just not enough. I want to be able to taste the root beer. I don't need to feel like I'm guzzling a cold frosty mug of it, but I want to taste the flavor of it. I suggest tasting the frosting before you top the cookies and making sure you're comfortable with the flavor level. Start small so you can add more if you're not happy. But, I'd be surprised if you didn't end up at the higher amount. I don't ever taste the dough. I'd just add the extra to the batter.

Speaking of batter, that leads us to number four. The actual cookie in and of itself is surprisingly low on flavor. (This is why I do not hesitate to add the extra concentrate to the batter.) The frosting really makes this cookie so DO NOT LEAVE IT OFF. My sister tried that too and won't do it again.

How about one more glance at this tasty treat!

Isn't it pretty! This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so it's great for sharing at work, church, or just brightening the day of your friends and neighbors. Make a batch. Eat some and then pass some around. And don't worry, it won't be long until you'll be hearing that ever popular inquiry, "What's in this cookie?"!

P.S. Is it just me or did you also not reazlize "root beer" is two words not one? Thank you spell check!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lemon Cookies

Not so long ago, I was but a single maiden living in Provo, Utah living with five other single maidens. (Let me tell you, living with five single maidens is not fun. TOO. MUCH. DRAMA.) Down the street from our single maiden apartment was a cookie shop where they would make bouquets of baked goods and deliver. However, you could also go in and buy cookies. I had one roommate who was a big fan of their lemon cookies. They only had them close to the summer but when they had them she went sometimes once a day. (Let me interject here to say this particular roommate was a RAIL. I mean stick thin. She only ate dessert once a day, which to mean sounds inhuman, so you know that the dessert she ate had to be good.) She always wanted to find a recipe for lemon cookies that was just as good as the ones from the cookie shop.

Fast forward to my dear sister, Jackie's, Christmas cookie party. At these cookie party , the winning cookie was none other than a delicious lemon cookie. I took the recipe home to my roommate and we decided to make them. My roommate loved these cookies, in fact I made them for a bridal shower I hosted for her a few months after. Once I was a married maiden I made them for a party with my husband's family and for all the parties after that it was requested that I bring these cookies, with the recipe attached.

These cookies are amazing. They taste just like summer. They are heaven and what makes them so great is how easy they are to make. The recipe suggests putting the glaze on once the cookies have cooled but I like putting it on while they are still warm because it melts into the cookie a little bit adding another layer of flavor. Also, the recipe for the glaze calls for a little lemon zest to act as a little decoration on the top which is completely optional. In fact, I can say with 100% honesty, I've never done it.

These are the PERFECT addition to your summer parties!!!!

Lemon Cookies
Makes A LOT depending upon the size of your dough balls

3/4 c. shortening (not butter shortening)
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 pkgs. (9 oz.) instant lemon pudding
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
3/4 t. soda

1 1/2 T. milk
1 T. butter
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. grated lemon

Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs and beat. Add pudding (dry mix) and dry ingredients. Mix well, roll into balls. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

For glaze: melt butter with milk in a pan. Take off heat and stir in powdered sugar--wisk until smooth. Add lemon juice and rind--wisk. Spoon over the tops of warm or cooled cookies. (***Note: this is NOT a lot of glaze so make sure you don't go crazy with the glaze on the first batch. You only need a small amount per glaze as the glaze spreads a ton! Also, make sure you taste your glaze so you know how much powdered sugar and lemon you like best. I like to test and add either lemon or sugar depending on the flavor I like.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Peanut Butter Krispie Bars

There are a few combinations that I am sure were just MFEO (made for each other). Some of these would be french fries and ranch dressing, lobster and butter, and Mr. E and me. But, the combination that I am so sure was destined for greatness is peanut butter and chocolate. I will eat anything that has peanut butter and chocolate. In fact, I'd probably eat it on chicken, in soup, in a box, with a fox, and wearing socks. It's heaven. Heaven.

Did I mention that chocolate and peanut butter are heaven? Because, they are.

I was excited to find this new recipe in the newest issue of Everyday Food. It was the final recipe and in my mind, they saved the very best for last. I decided to make some to give to my husband as he attended to his ecclesiastical duties in visiting some families.

These are really delicious but there is only one thing I would change...MORE CHOCOLATE. The recipe originally called for one bag which you put between the layers of the rice krispies and then a thin layer on top but this recipe needs a TON more. A TON. In fact, add three bags if you really need it and please, while the recipe called for semi-sweet chocolates, use milk chocolates. Semi-sweet chocolate just seems unnatural.

If you are curious what I really added to this recipe it would be the use of the foil (or you could use parchment paper) in he dish. I put the foil in so that there was a could couple of inches hanging over the sides. This way, when I went to pull the dish and cut it in to the bars I was didn't have to try to work around the sides of the pan. Instead I just pulled the sides of the foil out and then could cut really I didn't have to clean a dish!

If you are curious what I really added to this recipe it would be the use of the foil (or you could use parchment paper) in he dish. I put the foil in so that there was a could couple of inches hanging over the sides. This way, when I went to pull the dish and cut it in to the bars I was didn't have to try to work around the sides of the pan. Instead I just pulled the sides of the foil out and then could cut really I didn't have to clean a dish!

Peanut Butter Krispie Bars
makes one 8x8 pan

3 T. unsalted butter
4 c. miniature marshmallows (plus an extra cup to snack on whilst you bake)
1/3 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 t. coarse salt
6 c. puffed rice cereal
nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
2 packages (24 oz.) milk chocolate chips (I think it might even be delicious to try dark)
1/4 c. chopped, roasted salted peanuts
aluminum foil or parchment paper

Put a layer of aluminum foil or parchment paper in the 8x8 pan with some of the foil/paper overlapping of the sides. This will make the bars easier to remove and keep the pieces together. Spray the foil/paper with nonstick spray or butter. In a large pot, combine marshmallows, peanut butter, butter, and salt. Cook over medium, stirring CONSTANTLY, until melted, about four minutes or so. Add cereal and stir. With a wooded spoon greased with cooking spray or oil, press half the cereal mixture into dish. Spread half of the melted chocolate on top. Repeat with remaining cereal mixture and chocolate. Sprinkle top with peanuts.

(Store in an airtight container for up to three days.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Caramel Heaven

I love homemade caramel. Then again, who doesn't? I learned to love homemade caramel candy after feasting on a batch made by my friend Cheryl. The delightful little candies were creamy and smooth. I could have eaten a hundred of them. (I probably have since first trying them.) Cheryl also showed me the joy of licorice caramels when she added anise extract to a batch of her fabulous creations. Since I love black licorice, there was no question about whether or not I'd love the caramels. When Mr. C and I were dating, I took licorice caramels to some of his family members as I met them. (The C family is a black licorice loving bunch!)

Imagine my joy back in May when some homemade caramels were given to me as a favor at a Mother's Day tea party I went to. It had been a while since I had nibbled on some homemade goodness, so I dove in and had a piece. HELP ME RHONDA, my caramel world stopped. These caramels were, far and away, THE BEST homemade caramels I'd ever had. They were so soft, chewy, and bursting with that unmistakable caramel flavor. PLUS, they had a layer of nuts on the bottom. In all my years of caramel munching, I'd never had homemade caramels with nuts. Having tried this new version of my old classic, I knew I'd never go back to where I'd been. There was one good/bad thing about my gifted treasures. They had been made with walnuts. This was bad for Mr. C who is deathly allergic to walnuts. But, this was good for me because it meant I got to eat them all myself! (I did tell Mr. C I was sorry he couldn't have any as I repeatedly stuffed them in my mouth!)

After arriving home from the tea party, I immediately emailed the hostess BEGGING for the recipe. She kindly obliged. (Thanks Kristi!) When I needed a treats to put with a church message this week, these caramels seemed the perfect option. Plus, the recipe gave me a chance to finally use the new digital thermometer my dad's wife had given me for Christmas. (I've been on a year long hunt for a reliable digital candy thermometer and Donna surprised me with one from Williams-Sonoma!)

Homemade Caramels with Nuts
1 c butter
1 16-oz pkg. brown sugar (2 1/4 c)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 c light corn syrup
1 t vanilla
1 c chopped nuts (I use pecans)
Line an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with foil extending edges over the pan. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle prepared pan with nuts. In a heavy 3 qt. saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add brown sugar, condensed milk, and corn syrup. Mix well. Cook and stir over med-high heat to boiling. Cook and stir over med heat to 238 degrees. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Immediately pour caramel mixture in to the prepared pan. Let cool. When caramel is firm, use foil to lift it out of the pan and lift the caramel piece off the foil. (I cut mine directly on my countertop.)  Use a buttered knife to cut in to 1" squares. Wrap squares in wax paper squares. Makes 2 lbs.

This recipe was very similar to the version I had been using with a couple of exceptions (besides the nuts). My old recipe calls for 1 1/2 c of light corn syrup. This one only uses 1 c. And, my old recipe called for 2 c of white sugar while this one uses 2 1/4 c of brown. (I'm convinced the brown sugar is one of they keys to this version being as fabulous as it is.) If you don't like nuts, you can easily not use them. If you like nuts, USE THEM. It takes your candy to a whole new level!

Oh yeah, and the digital thermometer worked like a dream. I'll never go back to the dial kind.

Two quick side notes. First, make sure you have your caramel off the heat when you pour in your vanilla (or other extract you are using to flavor your candy). Even off the heat, the extract will react a bit with your hot caramel. On the heat, it's just plain dangerous. I always stand back just a bit when pouring my extract in so I'm free of splatters and the inevitable vapors that result. Second, the recipe says you can use 2 c of light cream in place of the condensed milk if you want, but it will double the time it takes to get to 238 degrees. You'll be stirring for 45+ minutes rather than 15-20.

Mr. C was so kind to wrap all my little beauties as I tried to cut them. (The recipe isn't kidding when it suggests a buttered knife. I had to spray my knife with Pam after cutting each row.) He ran in to a bit of trouble when some of the wax paper squares I'd cut were too small for square caramels so he started rolling and wrapping them in an oblong shape. I will confess a couple got gobbled up before being wrapped. I still had quite a few left after what I needed for my church stuff and also filling a container for Mr. C to hand out at work. After having 2 of them for breakfast the next morning, I started farming them out to friends. They're a great way to add a little to happiness to some one's day. Plus, I knew I was doomed to eat them all if they continued to live in my kitchen. Double bonus!

Go make a batch of these...right now...go make them. And just so you won't get too sick from eating them all, share them with your friends and neighbors. I will confess to still having a couple here in the house. Just thinking about them is making my mouth water. OK, that's it. I'm going to find one.

P.S. If you want licorice flavored caramels, or any other flavor for that matter, add a dram or two (depending on how strong you want your flavor) to the caramel mixture when you add the vanilla. But, stand back. The oil will react like the vanilla and cause some vapors for a few seconds. It's nothing major, but I thought you should know. Consider yourself warned!

P.P.S. on 10/6/11...So, I've done a little revamping of this post.  After making my caramels again, I'm back to my original 238 degree stopping point.  I have updated that in this post.  Also, the bigger your pan, the thinner your caramels will be, so choose your pan size accordingly.  (I typically use a 7 X 11 pan because I like my pieces about the size of a caramel square you'd get at a candy shop.)  I've also found an easier way to cut my pieces, rather than getting my knife all gummed up, is to roll a pizza cutter back and forth really quickly.  The thicker the caramels the gummier your cutter will get, but it can be better than a knife at times.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm still here!

My deepest apologies to all our faithful blog readers! Mr. C and I made a big decision a month ago to put our home up for sale. The past few weeks have been a blur of home repairs, paint, packing items for storage, and cleaning places in this home that have NEVER been cleaned. Sadly, those projects left no time for blogging. I'm happy to say that the house is now ready, and on the market, so it's time to get back to cooking. (I swear, we ate more 3 for 1.00 tacos over the past 2 weeks than we have in the past year.) Stay tuned...a yummy recipe posting is on the way!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

summer apple blueberry tart

this past sunday, my parents were stopping by on their way back from las vegas. let me take a break here to say that my mom rarely cooked when i was in high school so i never cooked. in fact, upon graduating and attending college i moved into dorms so i still didn't cook. it was not until i was in my second year of college and moving int an apartment that i finally decided to try out cooking and i mean real cooking. not just macaroni and cheese or rice-a-roni. i mean actual, starting from scratch cooking. wanna know the first thing i really cooked? chicken rolled in bread crumbs with mashed potatoes (ok, those were from a kit i think. i know they were not real potatoes) and fried asparagus (sprinkle some olive oil and salt over the top and fry on a fry pan until bright green--so delicious!). oh the pride.

yes, my name is amanda and i didn't start cooking until i was 20 years old. seriously.

so, i have always felt a need to show people that while i've only been cooking for four years, i can actually cook. sort of. i've improved with time but i can cook. so when my parents visit our house for dinner, i try to cook something really yummy to attempt to impress. i decided on this visit to cook the baked ziti (remember it was my mom who introduced us to the costco ziti) with some salad and garlic bread and something delicious for dessert.

i wanted a dessert that felt summer with lots of delicious fruit. i thought maybe about an apple pie but couldn't find a recipe i thought looked good. finally in one cookbook that shall reman nameless due to the following story, i found a recipe for apple raspberry tart. i thought that sounded delicious but when i found that costco did not have a raspberry to speak of i decided to replace those with blueberries.

on sunday, shortly after feeding little e her customary rice cereal with fruit, i made the tart shell. after letting it chill in the refrigerator for a short time i made my filling of apples and blueberries and rolled out my tart to the necessary size. after placing the fruit in the middle. the tart shell met it's doom. it soaked up the juice from the fruit and turned into a soggy paper towel, basically. after throwing a small fit and being annoyed that i had done everything i was supposed to i decided to come up with my own dessert.

on sunday, shortly after feeding little e her customary rice cereal with fruit, i made the tart shell. after letting it chill in the refrigerator for a short time i made my filling of apples and blueberries and rolled out my tart to the necessary size. after placing the fruit in the middle. the tart shell met it's doom. it soaked up the juice from the fruit and turned into a soggy paper towel, basically. after throwing a small fit and being annoyed that i had done everything i was supposed to i decided to come up with my own dessert.

this was HEAVENLY. everyone loved it! it was gobbled up, literally in 15 minutes. it was delicious. the blueberries were the perfect compliment to the apples. and the pie crust turned tart shell was perfectly flaky. it was an amazing dessert and so easy! i plan on making this again with different fruits. it is the perfect summer dessert!

i wanted a dessert that felt summer with lots of delicious fruit. i thought maybe about an apple pie but couldn't find a recipe i thought looked good. finally in one cookbook that shall reman nameless due to the following story, i found a recipe for apple raspberry tart. i thought that sounded delicious but when i found that costco did not have a raspberry to speak of i decided to replace those with blueberries.

summer apple blueberry tart
makes 1 9-inch tart

2 1/2 c. thinly sliced peeled tart apples (i used granny smith, this equals about 2 medium sized apples)
1 1/2 c. blueberries
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
3/4 t. cinnamon
1 pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

combine apples and blueberries in a large bowl. combine sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. add to the fruit and toss gently. put pie crust in pie tin. spoon filling into pie crust and fold the edges over the fruit so it holds in the filling. (i suppose if you really wanted to you could leave the edges up and make it a pie. it's all personal preference.) brush edges with milk, water, or butter, or egg and brush over top of fruit. sprinkle sugar over the top.

bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

chicken pot pie

there's a few things that I look at and think "oh my gosh, I could NEVER make that. it would just be WAY too far above my skill level." i used to think that about things like homemade pizza, apple pies, and chicken pot pie. well, i've since conquered the homemade pizza and apple pie (which are surprisingly easy as long as you have a good recipe) and felt it was time to move on to the chicken pot pie. i felt the heat of the challenge as i pulled "chicken pot pie" out of the recipe jar a few weeks ago. i was ready.

i have made a similar chicken pot pie from "Hungry Girl". (if you haven't tried any of her recipes, please do!) it was so simple and SO delicious. for hungry girl's you just mix a bag of frozen mixed vegetables with some cooked chicken and then mix that all with some cream of chicken soup. you let it bake and then put a crust of crescent rolls on the top and finish baking. simple right? so i felt a little concerned when i began reading pioneer woman's recipe that i was to accomplish that week. it was a bit more detailed but let me tell you...worth every last second.

i only made one change to the entire recipe. once i made the filling of vegetables, chicken, and cream (which is sinfully delightful, so much so that i could NOT stop eating it out of the pot before it ever made it to the pie) i felt it needed just a little kick. just a little something extra. so what did i add?

ladies and gentleman, only my favorite spice on the planet earth.

curry powder.

oh my gosh. i did wonders. now, i never measure curry powder. frankly, i don't measure any spices when i'm cooking or backing so i really couldn't tell you how much i added. it was probably somewhere close to a tablespoon. remember, i'm a HUGE fan of curry. mr. e is not, so i refrained from letting him know about my addition until after he'd consumed a second helping of chicken pot pie and given it a thumbs up. if you aren't as big a fan, i would still add just a little. curry isn't really spicy, at least not to me. it just has more of a heat to it. a nice heat that will balance out all the flavors in your filling.

this was truly heaven. it's going into my permanent collection. oh! and pioneer woman explained that this is a GREAT freezer recipe. so it's going in the "freezes beautifully" section of my recipe book as well. (note: i do not have a recipe book...i have three overflowing binders that scream "organize me" everytime i walk by my cookbook shelf. someday.)

pioneer woman's chicken pot pie
makes one 9 inch pie

3 celery stalks
3 medium carrots, peeled
1 large yellow onion
4 t. butter
1/2 c. frozen peas
2 cups cooked chicken (dark and light) cut into bite sized pieces (i recommend just getting a rotisserie and ripping the heck out of it
1 c. AP flour
2 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 c. heavy cream
1 t. ground thyme
1 t. kosher salt, or more to taste black pepper to taste
1/2 - 1 T. of curry depending on feelings about said curry
1 pie crust (homemade or store-bought)

finely dice all vegetables. Melt butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. add the vegetables (including frozen peas) and saute until the vegetables start to turn translucent. add the chicken and and stir to combine. sprinkle the flour evenly over the mix and stir. cook for a couple of minutes, stirring gently.pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly as well as the chicken boullion cube. (i should mention here that P-Dub also adds 1/4 white wine but we are a nonalcoholic family here so we leave those ingredients out.) pour in the cream and stir. let the mixture cook over low heat to allow it to thicken. let it cook for about 4 minutes. season with thyme, salt, pepper, and curry. taste and adjust as needed. (see! she gave me permission to add the curry! add whatever you want!) pour the chicken mix into a deep pie pan or small casserole dish.

roll out the crust so that it's 1 inch larger than the pan. place the crust on top of the chicken mix and cut small slits in the top. press the crust into the sides of the dish to seal.

bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. cool 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Easy and tasty...that's my kind of treat

Confession time! A couple months ago, it was time for the semi-annual conference of our church. I got what I thought (at the time) was a brilliant idea. Actually, I still think it was a brilliant idea. I just never carried all the way through with it. My idea was to make a bunch of yummy treats for my neighbors and friends and put them in a basket to enjoy over the 2 days of the conference broadcasts.

I'd seen a recipe on a blog for a peanut butter crispy treat that looked intriguing and thought it would make a great addition to my "basket o'treats." Sadly, when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it. I did some searching around online and found a lot of recipes that seemed similar. I combined a little of this one and a little of that one and came up with my own version of this tasty, easy treat.

The great things about this treat are numerous: you can make the recipe in a matter of minutes, it utilizes ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen, it's very inexpensive, and the flavors really compliment one another. It's a great blend of crunchy and creamy, salty and sweet. Want to know how to make it? OK, I'll tell you!

Peanut Butter Cereal Treats
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
6 c. corn chex cereal
1 c. salted peanuts
Spray a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray; set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the corn syrup and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in peanut butter. Combine cereal and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour syrup mixture over cereal and peanuts; stir to combine. Press cereal mixture in to the pan. When cooled and firm, cut in to bars.

The peanut buttery sauce that glues the cereal and nuts together is heavenly. It's almost like a peanut butter caramel. It takes some gently stirring to get the mixture to go from this... this...

...but it's well worth the effort. I've found that if I stir slowly with a rubber spatula, the cereal stays relatively whole and the peanuts distribute nicely. Also, if you don't have chex cereal, use crispy rice cereal. It will work just as well.

I've made this recipe both as bars and as individual cookie-type snacks; both work great. (For my treat baskets I was going to do the cookie-type.) Individual treats can be made by spooning the mixture on to wax paper to cool.

Please pardon, once again, the blueish tint of my fluorescent kitchen lighting.)

Back to my confession. I still maintain my treat basket idea was a brilliant one. The planning was a blast. Even the baking of several different goodies went off without a hitch. The problem I must confess is that the treats never made it out of my kitchen. (If you are my neighbor, I sincerely apologize.) Distractions kept me from ever putting together my baskets. Pathetic! I must sadly report that several (and by that I mean WAY more than should have) treats ended up in my own tummy. I eventually farmed the weekend's bounty out to Mr. C's co-workers. However, the good news is that conference comes twice a year, so I can start planning now to surprise my neighbors in October.

Note to self: follow through with your plan next time.

In the meantime, I think I'll go make a batch of these:

I bet my neighbors would be just as happy with a plate of them today as they would have been 2 months ago.

P.S. Welcome to any new friends visiting after hearing about this blog at my cooking class today! I'm so happy that you're here!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A no-fail family favorite

The summer potluck and picnic season began on Monday with Memorial Day. Ah, how I love it...sharing meals, coming up with special dishes to take to a potluck, and dining in the great outdoors. (Incidentally, I will publicly admit that eating outside--whether at home or at a restaurant--is one of my most favorite things in life.) I'm always on the hunt for a great recipe to take to a neighbor's house or church party. Quite often I try something new, but every now and then I take an ol' family favorite.

These little beauties have a lot of names in our family. My aunt calls them Abracadabras. Some people call them wraps or pinwheels. But, in my immediate family, we call them "Little Burrito Things." We love these things. It's rare for any family event to go by without little burrito things being there.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking there are 1,000,001 roll up type recipes out there. You're right. There are. I've found this one to be different than others I've tried because it's more of an appetizer type roll up than a meat and cheese sandwich type roll. Whether I've made them for a casual craft day with friends, or a formal open house, the recipe has been a hit. In fact, on year I made about 500 for a church Christmas party and not one came back home. (Good thing since I was sick of them by that point!)

The ingredients are few, simple, and cheap. Let me show you!

Little Burrito Things
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cans chopped olives
2 can green chilies (undrained)
1/2-1 t. Bon Appetit seasoning (or seasoned salt)
4 packages of pressed ham lunch meat
10 8" flour tortillas
Mix the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Add seasoning to taste. Layer 4 pieces of ham on each tortilla. Divide the cream cheese mixture among the tortillas and spread leaving a 1" border on one side. Roll up beginning from the edge opposite the 1" edge. Cover the wraps and chill. Slice before serving.

Could it be more simple than that? I think not! Let's review a couple things. First of all, the Bon Appetit. If you don't have this incredible seasoning in your home, RUN--don't walk--to the store to get some. It's a lovely combination of celery seed, onion, and salt. The not so lovely part? It can be difficult to find. And, when you find it, it can be 5.00-6.00 a the small spice bottle. I think it's worth the investment though. It will last you for a very long time, it can be used in other things, and I think it makes this dish. But, you can substitute basic seasoned salt if you prefer. Second, the ham. Buy the cheapest pressed stuff a the store. You know, the super thin stuff that is about 60 or so cents a package. Each package has 10 slices in it and 4 packages will divide perfectly among the 10 tortillas. Third, the chilies. Don't worry about them being spicy. They are mixed in enough cream cheese that they add flavor without spice.

Just a couple side notes. I ususally cut my rolls about 3/4" wide, but you can cut them as wide or thin as you like. Cutting them at 3/4" will give you about 70 or so little rolls. Also, this recipe is super easy to half or multiply (remember the 500 Christmas rolls), so it's great for small or large gatherings.

Want to know one of the best parts of making little burrito things? These:

The ends! The ends of each roll up never stay closed, so they get tossed aside. In our family, it's always a race to see who gets to them first! I suggest slicing the rolls when nobody else is around. That way you don't have to fight over the ends. They'll be all yours!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I am obsessed with Mexican cheese

I've always loved cheese, even throughout my college and adult years when I was lactose intolerant. Blue, provolone, curd, Parmesan, feta, string, brie, Gouda--you name it, I love them all! About a year ago I had some Oaxaca cheese on a salad at a Mexican restaurant. I can't even tell you about the salad because I was so enthralled with the cheese. It's all I remember. I loved it so much I went back the next day and had it again. I suppose that's when my love of Mexican cheese began. That loved deepened recently when Mr. C and I had chicken chilaquiles for dinner.

I've heard of chilaquiles before on Food Network, but I'd never considered making the dish. Chilaquiles is a Mexican dish that was created to help people use up leftovers. It's traditionally made using meat, cheese, corn tortillas, and chiles. I recently checked out the Everyday Food "Great Food Fast" cookbook from my library and found a recipe for chicken chilaquiles inside. (I am still on a "no cookbook" buying restriction for another month so I check out A LOT of them from the library.) I decided to give the recipe a try. Oh happy eating, am I ever glad I did! Look at this gorgeous dish:

I worried the recipe might be too complicated or time consuming, but it was surprisingly quick and easy. (I guess that's why it's in a cookbook called "Great Food Fast.") It came together in under 30 minutes. I had to buy a couple ingredients I don't usually have on hand. The recipe calls for chiles in adobo and queso fresco or queso anejo cheese. Both were easy to find at Walmart. And, happy for me, they were not expensive. There was one ingredient I couldn't find, but I was able to make do without it.

Here's the recipe. We'll chat more about it on the flip side:

Chicken Chilaquiles from Everyday Food
1 T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped (I always used minced garlic that I buy in bulk at Costco)
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes in puree
2 chipotle chiles in adobo (from a small can), finely chopped
1 T adobo sauce (from the same can as the chiles)
1 c water
4 c shredded chicken
1/2 c lightly packed cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/4 c crumbled queso fresco or queso anejo cheese (can substitute feta)
4 c tortilla chips
1/4 c sour cream
Combine the oil and garlic in a large (3-4 quart) saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling (about 1-2 minutes). Add the tomatoes with their puree (breaking tomatoes up), chipotles, adobo sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, season with salt. Reduce the heat and simmer rapidly until lightly thickened (6-8 minutes). Add the chicken and cook, stirring, until hot (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in the chopped cilantro. Divide tortilla chips among 4 shallow bowls; top with the chicken mixture and sauce. Garnish with cilantro, sour cream, and cheese.

Remember when I said there was an ingredient I couldn't find? Believe it or not it was the tomatoes in puree. Search as I might, I couldn't find any. I ended up just using regular diced tomatoes and they worked fine. The sauce may have been a little thinner than it should have been, but neither Mr. C nor I cared. It was delicious. Also, there is something to keep in mind about the spice level. Adobo sauce and chipotle chiles carry some heat. If you don't like a lot of spice, ease off on the tablespoon of sauce and the chiles. Mr. C always sweats when he eats spicy food. He was dripping with this one. Next time I think I may half the chipotle chiles and the adobo sauce. I like spice, but it was a tiny bit overwhelming. (Ironically, the leftovers the next day didn't seem as spicy.)

Now, the cheese. Ahhhhhh, the cheese. Just look at that gorgeous cheese!

The recipe actually calls for feta, but the top of the recipe page says, "For an authentic touch, use fresh Mexican place of feta." Do it. DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! The recipe recommends queso fresco which is a fresh soft cheese or queso anejo which is an aged cheese. I used the fresco and, like my experience with the salad at the Mexican restaurant, I was enthralled with it. It's a crumbly cheese so I broke off pieces like I would with feta. I had plenty left over after making our 2 plates. The extra is happily hibernating in my freezer awaiting it's next lovely appearance.

I cannot say enough about the cheese.

We loved the tortilla chips on the bottom of the dish. For the first few bites, the chips were still crispy and the texture of the dish was fabulous. The longer the sauce sits on top of the chips, the softer they get. The tortillas become almost a soft corn meal, yet they stay just as tasty. We opted not to put the sour cream on top.

This dish is so easy and so tasty. Go make it, right now! Unless you don't have any Mexican cheese. Go get some and THEN make it. It's the one ingredient that takes this recipe from delicious to out of this world. But beware! Once you try the fabulousness that is Mexican cheese, you'll be hooked.

(I'm finally posting the recipe because it's time for the cookbook to go back to the library and I need the recipe for my binder of recipes!)

Monday, May 24, 2010

low calorie brownies

today i saw a blog claiming they had a recipe for 25 calorie chocolate chip cookies. then i read that the cookies were only 2 t. of cookie dough. BLAH. not ENOUGH! but last night i wanted a treat to watch celebrity apprentice. so i lucked out when i pulled a hungry girl recipe for brownies on saturday.

let me start off by saying, these are obviously not the really chocolate-y, fatty, high calorie brownies you may want for your girls night outs. they do lack a little bit of sugary flavor but let me tell you, you really aren't missing out on a whole lot. and the comfort of knowing if you eat the whole pan you really aren't out that many calories is really nice.

mr. e was skeptical when i told him i was making low calorie brownies. he was unsure of how big they were going to be. i noticed they were only 133 calories a brownie but i thought that meant the suggested serving size was going to mean they were only going to be the size of a quarter. not so! this recipe makes 16 brownies! out of a 13x9 pan that means your brownies really are decent sized so you aren't giving up that much.

please be aware though, knowing the brownies are not as high calorie will make it easier to talk yourself into eating half the pan.

i did change a few things in the actual recipe. hungry girl calls for 1 t. coffeemate sugar free french vanilla powdered creamer. now, i don't drink coffee and so i had zero desire to buy this. in the recipe you mix it in with water and then add it to the cream cheese. i just added a bit more vanilla. it was perfect.

hungry girl "swirls gone wild" cheesecake brownies
makes 1 13x9 pan, 16 brownies

1 18.25 ounce box devil's food cake mix
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
6 oz. fat-free cream cheese, room temperature (PLEASE have enough patience to make sure this is at room temperature)
1/4 c. Splenda No Calorie Sweetner (granulated)
1 t. creamer (remember, i got rid of this)
1/4 t. vanilla extract (remember, i added more of this)

preheat oven to 400 degrees.

in a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix and pumpkin stirring until completely blended. batter will be really thick. i mean, REALLY thick.

spray a 13x9 pan and spread batter into the pan. now, the batter is not going to be all that willing to spread so i had to push it with my fingers. i was really sad to have to do this since i ended up with batter all over my hands. oh, how devastating.

place powdered creamer in a medium mixing bowl. add 2 T. of warm water and stir until creamer is dissolved. (remember, i skipped this step). add cream cheese, splenda, and vanilla. using a whisk, or fork, mix vigorously until completely blended, smooth, and lump free.

(FYI... I just mixed the sugar with the vanilla and cream cheese. then stirred. i did add a little bit of warm water to just make sure it was nice and smooth. )

spoon cream cheese mixture over the batter and use a knife to swirl it in. don't worry if it isn't perfect. i ended up just spreading it on top actually.

bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

once these were made i actually had to put them in a bag and in the freezer so i would leave them alone.

it has these warnings because if i am craving anything, trying to lose weight or alone and open this bag i will eat the whole thing myself.

delicious baked ziti

our mom doesn't cook. can you believe it? she just doesn't. she hates it. our parents eat out nearly every night and when they eat in it is mainly prepared foods. one of the things my Mom would heat up when I was in high school a lot was ziti from costco. oh my deliciousness. it's heavenly. and sometimes when i would come home from college on breaks, this managed to find itself into the oven. even still, going home as a new mommy myself, this finds its way into the cart.

so i was excited to find a recipe for baked ziti on a recipe blog. i figured it wasn't going to be nearly as good as the costco one but i thought it would be a decent replacement since my costco doesn't supply the delicious ziti. boy was i wrong. it tasted EXACTLY the same! I was shocked! I went back for seconds...maybe even thirds.

then I had it for lunch the next day (2 bowls) and dinner the same day (1 bowl, because there wasn't enough for Mr. E and I to both have seconds).

i only made a few alterations to the recipe and i would make just some slight alterations later. but i'm sure the original correct recipe is just as good! the original recipe is: HERE.

baked ziti
makes 1 13x9 pan

1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped (i love delicious)
1 pound hot Italian sausage---USE HOT ITALIAN SAUSAGE. if you forget to buy it, you can use ground beef but please use hot italian sausage. it's perfect. and make sure you have one pound. i only had 12 oz. and it was not nearly enough for my palate.
2 t. minced garlic
2 t. italian seasonings + 2 more teaspoons
35 oz. your choice of spaghetti sauce (I used Prego because if Ragu stepped into this house, Mr. E would step out)
6 oz. Provolone cheese, sliced (9 rounds) anything with provolone is heaven to me.
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup ricotta (if you really need to you can use just sour cream or just ricotta, but the sour cream really does help the ricotta to spread well once it is in the dish.)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

bring water to a boil, make sure it has a good sampling of salt in it and pour in your ziti. cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. make sure it isn't overcooked because it will continue to cook a little in the oven. no one wants dry pasta, trust me.

in a large skillet, and i mean large people, brown the onion and sausage over medium heat. add minced garlic and cook for a minute. please don't burn your garlic. i manage to burn it just about every single time i use it. add the spaghetti sauce and italian seasonings and summer for about 15 minutes.

while your sauce is simmering, make your ricotta mix. mix your ricotta and sour cream and put 2 t. of the italian seasonings into a bowl and mix well. you may find you need more italian seasonings. let's be honest, i don't measure seasonings. or vanilla...but that's another story.

preheat your oven to 350. spray a 13x9 dish. then layer as follows:
  • 1/2 ziti
  • 1/2 sauce mixture
  • provolone cheese (oh delicious)
  • ricotta mix
  • remaning ziti
  • remaining sauce
  • mozzarella
bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

please make this. you will love it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's Not A Recipe, But.... could I not post these hilarious pictures. This is Mr. C attempting to rescue my largest sheet pan that has taken a flying leap out the back of the oven drawer and is now trapped under the oven.

Don't you just love the giant flashlight!

I am happy to report the rescue mission was an eventual success.

You Made Those Cookies How?

About a month ago I decided to follow through with every good intention or thought I had during the week. I always have ideas to do things for people, but so often my good intentions fall by the wayside or I forget as the days go by. That week, I was determined to do every single thing that popped in to my head. One thought I had was to take a treat to a woman who had really impressed me recently and attach a note of gratitude to it. Since I also needed to bake cookies for a church activity that week, the timing was perfect.

Enter Martha...Stewart, that is. I started hunting through cookbooks for something fun and yummy. I love trying new things, especially with sweets. When I couldn't find anything that intrigued me, I turned to Martha. I have both her cookie and cupcake books. I wish I could say they are well used. I cannot. In fact, until last month, they were both UNused.

As I looked through Martha's Cookies, I found something different and fun...CHOCOLATE WAFFLE COOKIES!

I should say that I've had waffle cookies once before. They were sadly disappointing. I did have a moment of worry that these would be equally as blah as those were, but I decided to risk it anyway. The cookies appeared be a quick bake so I figured if they were disgusting, I'd just scrap them and make something else. Plus, I reasoned that if the recipes is in a Martha book, how bad could they be. Time consuming and complex, probably. Yucky tasting, not likely.

I am so happy I didn't bypass these cookies because of that bad experience in the past. I loved these! They were a nice change from a basic round cookie or cookie bar. The fact that I was able to make them super fast was a bonus.

I ended up making 2 changes to the on accident and one on purpose. (I am the queen of screwing up a recipe and not realizing it until it's too late to fix.) More on that later! For now, here's the recipe:

Chocolate Waffle Cookies (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate

1 c butter
4 eggs
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 c + 2 T cocoa powder
1 1/2 c flour
powdered sugar for dusting
Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over med-high heat, stirring constantly. Let cool slightly. Put eggs, vanilla and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed until pale, 4-5 min. Mix in chocolate mixture (I only let mine cool the 4-5 min), salt, cinnamon, cocoa powder and flour. Heat a waffle iron until hot; lightly coat with cooking spray. Spoon about 1 T of batter onto the center of each waffle iron square. Close cover; cook 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, bottom sides up. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining batter, coating grids after each batch. Dust with powdered sugar. Makes about 4 dozen. (I got about 4 1/2.)

So, what were my changes?

The unintentional change/mistake was to put 1/2 c PLUS the 2 T of cocoa in the cookie batter. I missed the word "divided" when reading the original recipe. I didn't realize the 1/2 c was for the batter and the 2 T was for a glaze to dip the baked cookies in. However, I won't leave out the extra cocoa next time. If you prefer, use the original 1/2 c, but I highly recommend the extra tablespoons.

What was my intentional change? Eliminating the glaze I just mentioned. The recipe says to make the glaze and then dip the raised part of the cookie in it. I actually made the glaze. I even dipped a few cookies in it. But, a few was all it took to realize I didn't like it at all. It was too bitter and, in my opinion, added nothing to the cookie. I liked them with just the dusting of powdered sugar on top.

I tried varying the cook time just a bit. I wanted to make sure my waffle iron wasn't a little hotter or cooler than Martha's. I guess it wasn't because the 90 seconds she recommends was right on. I'd recommend you stick with it.

Just one tip for removing the cookies from the iron: A FORK. I tried a variety of ways to get them off the iron like poking them with a knife or lifting up the corners. The cookies are still quite soft when you open up the iron, so just about everything I tried tore the cookies up or broke off the edges. (My mistakes made for good testers though!) I finally found that using a fork and inserting it in to the side of the cookie--level with the raised parts of the iron--worked perfectly. I could put the fork in far enough to lift the cookies off and flip them over to put on the cooking rack.

I'm not sure if the lady I took a plate of cookies to liked them (I can only hope), but they were a big hit at my church event that night. Everyone kept saying, "Cookies from a waffle iron? I've never seen that before."

While my cookies were a success, I'm afraid I won't be making them again anytime soon. Sadly, about 2 weeks later, my waffle iron did a swan dive off the kitchen counter and fell to its death. I wanted to try and keep using it. Mr. C was opposed citing possible electrocution from the now exposed cords and plates. Oh well. Maybe now I can talk him in to getting me one of those cool flippy irons like you see in hotels!