Sweet and salty peanut butter/chocolate cookies

I’ve already mentioned my lifelong love of all things sweet and salty. So when I see a sweet and salty recipe, I take notice, and my mouth starts to water. This recipe for sweet and salty peanut butter cookies from Hershey’s caught my eye, particularly since Max, the youngest spawn of He Who Must Be Fed, shares my love of sweet and salty concoctions (along with my acerbic wit, but that’s another topic for another day).

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-2/3 cups peanut butter and chocolate chips
  • 3 to 4  cups crushed pretzel pieces

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place pretzels in a zippered plastic bag and crush them. I used a meat tenderizer, which worked really well.

Beat butter, sugar and peanut butter in a bowl until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl, stir together flour and baking soda then add it to your butter mixture. Be sure to blend them together well.

RollingcookiesinPretzelsStir in your chocolate and peanut butter chips. Shape into 1-inch balls then roll in the crushed pretzel pieces, gently pressing the pretzels into the dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 12 to 13 minutes or until light brown around the edges. Cool one minute then transfer to a write rack to cool completely. FinishedePretzelCookies

If you go to the recipe from Hershey’s, you’ll notice a few differences in my ingredients. Here’s why:

  • Max suggested using a combination of peanut butter and chocolate chips, and he was right. The added chocolate made these even more delicious.
  • I crushed four cups of pretzels – the recipe calls for four to five cups — but I only needed about three. It wasn’t a huge problem because I used the remaining crushed pretzels to make bark. But, if you don’t have any plans for those additional crushed pretzels, you may want to crush three cups and see if you need any more before crushing more.
  • I also crushed my pretzels into slightly smaller pieces – ½ inch and smaller — so they’d be easier to add to the cookie dough.
  • I didn’t bother with the optional coarse salt. The salt from the pretzels was more than sufficient.

Enjoy. I hope you like these.

Bacon and cabbage pierogies

Did I have you at bacon? I hope so. There are many fillings for pierogies, including potato and cheese and potato and onion, but the one that makes He Who Must Be Fed — and all of his very hungry offspring – beg for more is the bacon and cabbage kind.

First, we have to start with the pierogi dough. I found a great pierogi recipe from the Food Network courtesy of Chef Emeril Lagasse.

This recipe is great because the dough is sticky and pliable enough so that you can seal the pierogies easily. That’s important because if your pierogies aren’t properly sealed, all of the delicious filling oozes out when you cook them. Ick.

PierogiToolIn previous years, I’ve sealed the pierogies with my fingers, which worked fine. However, awhile back we bought a handy little tool called a dumpling and pierogi (it’s misspelled on the box) maker, which is even easier. For less than $4, this little gadget can help you make pierogies easier. The box contained three different sizes. I used the medium-sized maker for mine.

This handy gadget is easy to use:

  • Press its flat side into your dough to make a circle.
  • Turn the maker over and lay your dough circle on it.
  • Add two teaspoons of filling in the center.FillingPierogi
  • Close and press. Voila! you have a beautiful pierogi.FinishedPierogi

Now for that filling.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cabbage, chopped CuttingUpCabbage
  • 1 pound of bacon, chopped

In a large, deep skillet, cook the bacon until brown. Drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside. Cook the chopped cabbage in the bacon renderings left in your skillet. (There should be enough bacon grease to cover the bottom of your skillet. If you have too much, pour some off before you start cooking your cabbage. You want it bacon delicious, not bacon gross.)

Cook the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until it is a nice golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. CookingCabbage

Once the cabbage is brown, add the bacon and stir together.

Super-secret hint: I refrigerate the bacon and cabbage mixture for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. If you use the filling immediately, it might be a little slippery (greasy), which might make it harder to seal the pierogies. If the filling is cool, you won’t have that problem.

If you try these, let me know how they turned out.  Better yet, if you live close by, invite me over to try them. I’m free most nights. 🙂

Delicious green bean casserole

If you’ve been following along, you know I’m trying to get He Who Must Be Fed to eat more vegetables. I wouldn’t call it his/my New Year’s resolution because that makes it too official sounding. Let’s just say it’s his/my unofficial resolution because if he suspects I’m trying to veg him up in 2014, my plan will be foiled. (So don’t tell him, OK?)

However, I need to be covert. In other words, I need to hide the vegetables in a sauce or under something delicious and crunchy. This green bean casserole recipe from the Novice Chef blog is not only delicious, but it also features two vegetables — green beans and mushrooms. No, this is not THAT recipe, the one you see on TV around the holidays. This one is all from scratch, baby.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1.5 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 6 oz french fried onions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.

Before you blanch your beans, cut them into bite-size pieces. Usually into thirds, depending on the length of your beans. To blanch them, bring a large pot of water with two tablespoons of salt to boil. Add the beans and boil for five minutes. Drain and then immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain again, picking out the ice cubes, and set them aside.

Melt your butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions, stirring occasionally until the onions soften,which takes about four to five minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook another minute or two.

Sprinkle the flour and stir to combine. Cook for two minutes. Add the chicken broth and stir. Then add the half and half  and simmer until the mixture thickens. Stir occasionally and cook for about six to eight minutes.Mushrooms Cooking

Remove from heat and add your beans. Transfer the mixture to your casserole dish. Top with bread crumbs and french-fried onions.

Bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes.

GreenBeanCasseroleUSETHIS

Two veggies from one dish that is delicious. What more can a girl ask for? (If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that my pan is 8×8, not 9×13. When I made this, I halved the recipe, since I was cooking just for the two of us.)

No-fry shrimp chimichangas

I love Mexican food, and I really love chimichangas. But deep frying them, at least the way I did it, was always messy and kind of unhealthy. So, I was pretty excited when I found a “oven fried” chimichanga recipe in the Food Network magazine that I adapted a bit for He Who Must Be Fed.

They’re delicious. I’ve made numerous versions of them, including beef and chicken, but the shrimp chimis (all the cool kids say chimis) are really the best.

Ingredients:

  • Eight 10-inch tortillas
  • 1 pound shrimp chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeňos
  • 8 tablespoon refried beans (1 tablespoon for each chimi)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Zest from one lime
  • Handful of chopped cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar or monetary jack/ jalapeňo cheese

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter and vegetable oil in a skillet. Then transfer the mixture to a bowl. Sprinkle the shrimp with garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in the skillet and add the shrimp, cooking until they are pink and pretty. Add the garlic and minced jalapeňos and give a couple of quick stirs.ShrimpCookingChimis

Brush a rimmed baking sheet with some of the butter-oil mixture that you set aside. Lay each tortilla flat and spread  one tablespoon of refried beans on the lower edge.SpreadingBeansChimis

Next, add a small handful of shrimp. Again, stay close to the lower edge. Top with cheese and pinches of lime zest and a cilantro.

Roll tightly once, then fold in the ends and tightly roll the rest of the way.

RollingUpChimis

Lay the chimis seam-side down on the baking sheet and brush each with the butter-oil mixture. Bake 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, then turn them over and brush the chimis again with the butter-oil mixture. Return them to the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes.

They’ll be beautifully brown and crispy. You can top them with cheese sauce and more cilantro, which is what we did, or salsa and sour cream, or you can get really loco and top them with a little bit of all of it. I also like to add a little lime juice just to jazz things up even more.FinishedChimis

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do.

Mmmmminestrone

Happy New Year, my foodie friends. So, did you resolve to eat better in 2014? I think we’ve all made – and probably broken — that resolution at least once. We all know that one way to eat better is to eat more vegetables, but c’mon, that’s not always easy. He Who Must Be Fed is not a big veggie lover, so it’s always a challenge to find one or a good way to cook one that he likes.

One word: minestrone. It’s chock full of vegetables. It’s delicious. It’s easy. And it’s pretty tasty on those cold January nights.

I created this minestrone recipe after making these drip beef sandwiches, which makes the tastiest broth. So, instead of using the cooked beef to make sandwiches, I shredded the beef, added it back to the broth, then tossed in a bunch of veggies.

Delizioso.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 pound chuck roast
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1½ teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 1 can of kidney beans drained
  • 4 stalks of celery chopped
  • 4 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 8 ounces of fresh green beans cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 3 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 quart stewed tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/3 of a pound box of ditalini pasta

Put your roast in a large pot with water to cover. Add the bouillon, salt and garlic salt. Place the bay leaves, peppercorns, oregano, and rosemary in a coffee filter and secure tightly with a rubber band. Add this to the pot.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for about six hours. Depending on the size of your roast, it may not take quite that long. Remove the coffee filter and discard. Remove roast from the pot and shred.

Once it’s shredded, add the meat and the remaining ingredients — except for the pasta — to the pot. Cook for about 10-15 minutes to let all of the flavors get to know each other.

In the meantime, bring another pot of slightly salted water to boil and cook the pasta until tender. Drain it and immediately rinse with cold water. Gradually add the pasta to the soup. I say gradually because you don’t want to add too much and end up with a thick, goopy mess.

You can top it with a little grated Parmesan and some fresh basil.Minestrone

Mangia.