Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies

Did you know that peanuts are not really nuts, but are members of the legume (bean) family? I had no idea until I took a botany classification class in grad school. It is also known as a groundnut because the flower of the peanut plant bends to the ground and pushes the ovary underground where it matures. Peanuts were domesticated around 2000 BCE in South America.

They can be prepared many different ways, but one of my favorite ways is in the form of peanut butter. Peanut butter is one of life’s comfort foods or at least it’s one of my comfort foods. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich can instantly take you back to your childhood. Peanut butter cookies are one of my absolute favorite cookies. I’ve spent a long time and made MANY batches of them and according to my husband I have perfected the recipe. I don’t know if it’s really perfect, but I LOVE them. While it’s not necessary to put the fork marks on the top of the cookies (I skipped that part for a while), I kinda like having the marks. They are characteristic of peanut butter cookies and they do seem to alter the texture just a little bit by compressing the center of the cookie. I have tried several different brands and types of peanut butter. We prefer the results that I get with Jif’s creamy peanut butter*. I tried using their natural peanut butter, as that is the one I use on my toast and for sandwiches, but we didn’t care for the texture of the cookie. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

*I do NOT receive any compensation from Jif. This is just the particular brand I use and I like the results that I get. You can use whatever brand you like.


1¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup Fleischmann’s unsalted margarine sticks
cup creamy peanut butter (you can use chunky if you prefer)
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ all-purpose flour for making cross marks (optional)

·      Preheat oven to 375°F.
·      Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. (I use both)
·      Combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk.
·      Beat the margarine and butter on high in your mixing bowl.
·      Add the brown and granulated sugars. Beat until combined.
·      Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until combined.
·      Pour the flour mixture in to the mixing bowl and beat until completely combined.
·      Roll 1 tbsp of dough into a ball and place on a lined cookie sheet.
·      Place balls about 2 inches apart.
·      If you are going to make the cross marks, lightly rub the tines of a fork in the flour.
·      Press the tines across the center of the cookie twice, once going horizontally and then vertically.

·      Bake for 7-9 minutes. The bottoms should be lightly browned.
·      Cool on a wire rack, if you can wait that long.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Frustrating Frosting

I've been taking a cake decorating class and for the most part I love it. It's been a lot of fun and I like improving my decorating skills and learning new techniques. I don't care for the "buttercream" recipe, though. As you know from several of my recipes, I usually use all margarine in my "buttercream" frosting. The instructor's recipe calls for mostly shortening and a little margarine. I really don't care for the taste at all. Even with flavorings and extracts, the taste and texture is not pleasant to my personal palate. For a long time I have wanted to try my hand at Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream. For those of you who aren't familiar with this type of frosting, it's a egg white frosting (like a 7 minute frosting) with butter whipped into. Obviously, I can't use butter. I have tried several times to use margarine and so far, all attempts have been met with failure. It's been quite frustrating. I've asked someone who is quite adept at baking and unfortunately for me, they are a baking purist. You never use anything other than butter. Well, that's all well and good if you can eat butter, but if you are allergic or intolerant, that's just not possible. I am not giving up, yet! I will keep trying. I will try adding more margarine and also try a different dairy free brand.  Hopefully, I will get it and will be able to share a dairy free Italian/Swiss meringue buttercream frosting recipe with you all. Keep your fingers crossed!!!

Update: The frosting is frustrating no more! Check out my Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe. This is the ultimate chocolate frosting!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day! 3.14159…. The number used by mathematicians to calculate the circumference of a circle. In honor of Pi Day I am posting my recipe for Chicken Pot Pie.  Chicken pot pie is not only great comfort food, but also a great way to use left over chicken (or turkey for turkey pot pie). In this recipe, I use a whole chicken that I’ve picked up already cooked at the grocery store, but you can use left over chicken just as well. The Pilsbury piecrust is dairy free, but I ALWAYS check the ingredients just in case they have changed. You can use your own homemade recipe if you prefer. I have one, but sometimes this is just quicker at the end of the day.

1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1 (10oz) bag peas and carrots
3 cups southern style hash browns (the ones that are cubed)
zest of 1 lemon
4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
32 oz chicken stock
1 whole chicken, meat cut up (or your left over meat)
1 pkg of Pilsbury piecrust

·      Sauté onion and celery until tender.
·      Add garlic, peas, and carrots.
·      Cook for 5 minutes (stirring occasionally)
·      Add hash browns, lemon, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper and stock.
·      Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 min.
·      Add chicken.
·      Remove from heat and let cool.
·      Preheat oven to 400°F.
·      Place the bottom crust into the pie pan.
·      Pour ½ of the cooled filling to crust.*
·      Place the remaining crust on top.
·      Fold edges under and crimp.
·      Cut some steam holes in the top of the crust.
·      Cover edges of crust with foil.
·      Bake for 20 minutes.
·      Move pie to the bottom rack for 10 minutes (it helps to brown the bottom crust).
·      Remove and cool for 10 minutes.

*Place the remaining filling in a container or zip top bag and place in the freezer for a quick and easy dinner at a later date!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Potato Soup

I like to try and keep a variety of soups in the freezer during the winter months.  Steaming hot soup and some fresh bread is a great quick and easy dinner. When you don’t feel like cooking it's always nice if you can pull some soup from the freezer.  Most potato soups have milk and/ or cheese in them. You’ll never miss the milk/cheese in this diary free potato soup.  The ingredients in this hearty soup are simple and straightforward, but the ham and prosciutto add fabulous flavor. The prosciutto is optional and don’t worry if you decide not to use it because you will have plenty of flavor with the ham.

4 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes, 1 inch cubed (I leave the skin on)
2 onions, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
6-8 carrots, chopped (approximately 1 lb bag)
1 tsp garlic, minced
1-1.25 lbs ham (2-3 ¼ inch thick slices), cut into ½ inch squares
2 slices of prosciutto, very finely chopped (optional)
70-78 oz chicken stock
1 tbsp dried parsley
1-2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

·      Cut your ham.
·      In a stock pot, heat oil at medium-high heat. .
·      Add your ham and sauté until the pieces are slightly caramelized.
·      Remove from pot and set aside.
·      Add the prosciutto to the pot and cook until it starts to become crispy.
·      Add the chopped onions, celery, and carrots to the prosciutto. Cook until tender, approximately 20 minutes.
·      During the last 2-3 minutes of cooking the vegetables, add the garlic.
·      Dump the potatoes and ½ cup of ham into the pot of vegetables.
·      Pour 70 oz of stock into the pot. Add additional stock until the potatoes are covered.
·      Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Make sure the potatoes are tender.
·      Turn of the burner.
·      Blend with an immersion blender (food processor or blender) to desired thinness. I prefer to be pretty chucky.
·      Add the remaining ham and parsley to the pot and simmer for another 15 minutes.
·      Taste the soup before adding the salt. The ham (and prosciutto) will add plenty of salt.