Post 123 – Frosted Peanut Butter Bars and Jam Crescent Cookies

Do you ever have cookie expectations? You know, you see this delicious recipe in a magazine or a cookbook (or let’s face it – these days it’s on Pinterest!) and you have a certain idea of what it will taste like and look like. And then you make it and it’s not quite what you wanted, but it’s still a cookie.

IMG_1545That’s kind of what happened with these peanut butter cookie bars. I mean they were sweetened peanut butter cookies with peanut butter frosting, BUT they were soft and cakey instead of hard and chewy like I was expecting. Expectations can ruin everything. I made these cookies, excited to see the results and then when I took a bite, it just wasn’t what I expected! I will admit I may have halved the recipe (though not all ingredients) and probably didn’t bake them quite long enough, so maybe I have no one to blame but myself.

IMG_1528Nonetheless these cookies check another cookbook off my Cookbook Challenge. Who knows where I got this recipe booklet called Bar Cookie BONANZA! but I certainly had a hard time picking out which recipe to make. It’s an older book, the kind without all the pretty food photos enticing you to try a recipe. Instead it has simple instructions and titles that require you to actually read the pages as you’re flipping. Oh reading recipes… who does that?

Just kidding – I do 🙂

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IMG_1541While I was making peanut butter cookies I figured why not make a jam cookie as well to go alongside it. These simple Jam Crescent Cookies come from another similar cookie booklet simply called Cookies! I’m assuming these two booklets were stuck into my collection at some point in my move to Boston by my mother. Just what I need – more cookie recipes!

IMG_1532These cookies start with what is essentially a cream cheese pie dough. It has a tiny bit of liquid and you will think no way this recipe is right, but if you use your hands you can bring this dough together. The dough is then chilled, like pie dough, to allow the fat to get cold again and then rolled out, filled with jam and sprinkled with sugar. Essentially you have simple (and mini) cookie-pies or even Pop-Tarts!

IMG_1542IMG_1544These guys can hold a lot less jam than you think. It oozes out with just a hint too much!

IMG_1549Bake them, sprinkle with powdered sugar, let cool slightly (that jam can burn your tongue – don’t say I didn’t warn you!) and enjoy! Pair with a Frosted Peanut Butter Bar and it’s like a really sweet (in both senses of the word, Sam) PB&J sandwich.

Bon appetit!

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Frosted Peanut Butter Bars

1/2 cup peanut butter, (at room temperature if you keep yours in the fridge)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Combine peanut butter and butter until creamy. Add sugars, beating well. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Spread in a greased, 13x9x2 inch pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and frost with the recipe below.

Frosting

1/2 cup peanut butter

2+1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup milk

Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread on cooled bars.

Jam Crescent Cookies

2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted (plus some for dusting)

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup salted butter (or unsalted plus 1/4 tsp. salt) – COLD

1 T. milk (yes that’s it!)

your choice of fruit preserves in some unknown quantity

In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar and cut in the cream cheese and butter until you have coarse looking crumbs. Add the milk, mix well though do not over mix. Press the dough into a smooth ball (with your hands is best). Flatten dough slightly, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate it for several hours or longer, though you make need to leave it out at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before rolling it out if you do.

Preheat oven to 350. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each half out carefully into a rectangle. Cut the dough into roughly similar size squares (the recipe recommends 3-inch). Put 1 tsp. (or less!) of preserves slightly off center. Fold over the dough to enclose the preserves and form a triangle (see photos above). Roll dough toward the point and smooth and seal the edges. Bend in ends of dough to give a crescent effect.*

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until light brown. Remove and cool. Dust lightly with more powdered sugar.

*Without a final photo, some of these instructions were lost on me, but I’m including them for your benefit, in case you’re smarter than I am!

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Post 72 – Catching up

March! Thank goodness. This is the month where I start to believe spring is coming soon (until I remember that last year on my birthday – the end of May – it was forty degrees and rainy!) Eh, I guess spring and warm weather may be a long way off, but here’s hoping. Why do I look forward to the spring? Sunshine, warmth, no ice to slip on, fresh fruit and vegetables in abundance! I will miss the snow days, but there’s always spring and summer break to look forward to.

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from my blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking (of course). I haven’t been bloggin because I haven’t been cooking anything crazy interesting lately, due to my continuing issues with GERD. I’ve resorted to fairly simple (boring) recipes as the list of foods that I can’t eat seems to grow longer and longer and so I haven’t taken many pictures of them. I am back to eating wheat and gluten (for now), but still experimenting with other foods that might upset my system. It’s frustrating for someone whose job and life revolve around food, but I’m figuring it out.

Here are a few photos of what I’ve made since my last post (all carbs and sugar since those seem to be the most photogenic recipes I make):

photo 1(20)Homemade chocolate peanut butter cups for my valentine

photo 2(17)

The simplest, freshest, crustiest, homemade, hot-from-the-oven oat flour bread (from this book!)

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Classic Chocolate Chip cookies (my future mother-in-law’s recipe, with a twist)

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I hope to have more interesting recipes to share with you soon, but until the next time I hope these pictures will get you by. I only wish I had equally tantalizing pictures of beautiful fruits and vegetables! If that’s what you’re looking for check this out.

 

Cheers and here’s hoping spring comes soon!

 

 

Post 71 – Peanut Butter Tofu Stir Fry

Now I know what you’re thinking – Peanut butter and tofu? Yuck! So maybe you’re not into tofu, but really why not? If it’s a texture issue then I totally understand. If it’s a flavor issue, that is a whole other story – tofu can be any flavor you want! If you can’t get over the idea of eating tofu and peanut butter together than fine. Just think of this dish as a Thai peanut sauce served over your favorite meat and veggies.

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The first time I remember making the original version of this dish I was headed to a concert in Yellow Springs with my sister, Chelsea. I don’t remember what concert or how long ago it was, but I do remember the warm feeling of summertime happiness and the delicious peanut butter noodles with veggies that would be our picnic dinner.

Now thanks to Sam’s love for peanut butter and my wonderful influence exposing him to so many new foods, (Tofu! Who would have thought?) this recipe has morphed into one of our go-to dinners. We cook up a pot of brown rice and serve it up with this peanut buttery comfort food. The best part – this recipe is totally adaptable. Use whatever veggies you want, sub out cooked chicken for the tofu, and even switch out honey for the brown sugar if you so choose. Whatever you may change, maybe you’ll find this dish makes it into your menu rotation.

Peanut Butter Tofu Stir Fry

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

1 14-oz package extra firm tofu

your choice of veggies (asparagus, onions, bell pepper, mushroom, carrots, snow peas, broccoli)

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or crunchy if you’re into that)

1/4 – 1/3 cup soy sauce (to taste, depending on saltiness of PB)

1/3 – 1/2 cup warm water (again, to taste and depending on consistency of PB)

2 T. rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)

2 T. brown sugar

1 inch fresh ginger (or more) minced or grated

juice of 1/2 a lime

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)

To start, prep your veggies by chopping them into even sizes. We used asparagus, carrots, and mushrooms though we used to always use onions and red bell peppers. Keep in mind the texture of the vegetables when choosing what size to cut. For example carrots are crunchier than mushrooms so they will take longer to cook. If you are using both carrots and mushrooms, consider cutting the carrots smaller, add them to the pan to saute first, or enjoy the extra crunch!

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Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a splash of canola oil. When hot, add veggies and cook, stirring every now and then until almost to your desired tenderness. They will cook longer when the tofu and sauce is added so unless you like soggy veggies, don’t cook them too long. You can add them one at a time if you need one to cook longer or add them all at once.

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While the veggies are cooking, drain, lightly squeeze and cube your tofu.

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Prepare the sauce by mixing peanut butter, soy sauce, water (start with the minimum and add more later if needed), vinegar, brown sugar, fresh ginger, lime juice, and crushed red pepper flakes. When the veggies are cooked to your liking, add cubed tofu and cook for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until the tofu is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

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Peanut butter sauce with fresh ginger! Yum!

Turn down the heat to a simmer and stir in your peanut butter sauce. Cook for just a few minutes, just long enough that the sauce starts to bubble. If it is too thick add additional water, carefully stirring it in so as not to splash. Remove from heat and serve over rice.

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Post 14 – English Muffins (and other childhood dislikes)

Lately I’ve been reminiscing about my life as a kid. I think it has something to do with being on a school schedule and seeing kids daily at work (I work at a school so it’s a given). Of course reminiscing is all about remembering everything in the sunniest of light, the most perfect way possible. I want after school snacks and easy homework. I want play dates and adult supervision.

I remember some of my favorite kid foods. Though I can still replicate many of them, the effect is not necessarily the same. Kraft macaroni and cheese does NOT taste as good as it always did on Sundays after church. Taste buds change and memory forever keeps the flavors as perfect in my child mind.

When I packed my lunch, I used to put cheddar cheese in a tortilla, microwave it in the morning, and take it to school, the cheese a solid blob by the time I ate it. My mom used to make us peanut butter “balls” for a snack – they were gooey and sweet and delicious – globes of peanut butter, honey, oats, and chocolate chips or raisins. Sometimes we’d pack them in bags and they’d get smushed a little, but they still tasted good (I have since tried making those and boy are they good!) Then there were the foods I disliked – chunky tomatoes in spaghetti sauce, tuna in my mac and cheese (my parents looooved it), and English muffins. For some reason I remember not liking English muffins. (Weird, right? It’s just different shaped bread). I didn’t like the dips and holes in them, I didn’t like how hard it was to spread jam right across the surface, and I didn’t like the slight sourdough tang. My dad liked to toast his and eat it with apricot jam.

Needless to say I’ve grown up since then. I still don’t like canned tuna and I prefer my tomato sauce not too chunky, but I have been recently reacquainted with the craggy breakfast bread and have grown to like it. I recently bought a pack at the store, but when I failed to eat it all before they molded, I decided that I could easily make my own. Now if I ever want English muffins, I can have them in a pinch (well maybe a big pinch). It is these kinds of recipes that are especially useful on days like this past Friday where all of Boston was on lockdown and I was going antsy stir-crazy… So I made English muffins – twice actually – because they were that good and that easy. Naturally I ate my first one spread thick with apricot jam.

English muffins are basically a stove-top yeasted biscuit, which makes them great in the summer if you don’t want to turn on your oven or great in a pinch because they don’t have to rise that long (the first recipe I found they only need a 30 minute rise. Granted this recipe takes longer. For a recipe with a shorter rise, check out Alton Brown’s).

Start with some warm milk and sugar, melted shortening, water and yeast, and whole wheat flour. Combine and add all-purpose flour and salt. Dump into a greased bowl and let rise for two hours.

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I love my Kitchenaid mixer!

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Punch down and roll out into a thick slab. The recipe I followed said to cut out circles with a biscuit cutter, but I’d rather not re-roll scraps so I opted for non-traditional square muffins by cutting the slab into 16.

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Let these babies rise on a cornmeal covered sheet pan.

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When ready to cook, heat a skillet or two (or a grill pan) and cook each muffin until lightly browned – 5 to 10 minutes per side.

Look at how risen they are!

Look at how they rose!

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Cool and enjoy with our favorite jam or make into your own “McMuffin” sandwich.

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I enjoy mine with turkey, cheddar, apricot jam, and Dijon mustard!

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Homemade Whole Wheat English Muffins

Adapted from The Sweets Life

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 package (2+1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (90-110 degrees F)

1/4 cup melted shortening

3 cups whole-wheat flour

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1. Heat milk in a small saucepan until warm. Remove from heat, add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

2. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Combine milk, yeast mixture, shortening, and 3 cups flour in a mixing bowl. Beat with dough hook until smooth. Add remaining 2 cups flour and salt, beating until dough comes together. Knead for 2 minutes before placing dough in a greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 2 hours.

4. Punch dough down. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/2-inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut into even squares or cut rounds with a biscuit cutter. Place on sheet pans sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes to an hour.

5. Heat ungreased griddle or skillet over medium heat and cook muffins 5-10 minutes a side (just until lightly browned). Flip and brown the other side. Cool on wire rack.