Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PSA (Popsicle Service Annoucement)

In the spirit of procrastination, I would like to make a brief statement and bestow my blessings on a certain snack food that one of Tommy's friends lives on.

Weight Watcher's Dark Chocolate Raspberry popsicles.

Yes, this friend is male.

Let me say here and now that I am not being paid by Weight Watchers to sponsor these popsicles. First of all, though I am narcissistic I know I'm not that famous (yet). And second of all, Weight Watchers is a crock.

Though I was skeptical when Lucas (happy 15 minutes of fame, kiddo) raved about these, they actually are really good for only being 80 calories. The raspberry flavor is good and they don't skimp too badly on the chocolate coating, though as you all know I always advocate for more chocolate with no exceptions.

Though I do not recommend these as a main food group, which is how Lucas treats them, they're pretty damn good and you don't have to feel guilty after you eat one. Or three.

You can get these in the ice-cream isle of the grocery store. Happy popsicle-eating. Lucas, you're welcome.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monster Cookie

Peanut butter. White Chocolate. Pretzels. All delicious in their own rights, even better (surprisingly!) when shoved into one gigantic sweet-and-salty, perfect for dunking in a glass of milk cookie. Be prepared to put ungodly amounts of fat into this cookie: 2 full cups of peanut butter and an entire stick of butter. Don't whine about it. Enjoy it. The cookie base itself is super-rich and crumbles/melts/dances in your mouth. I personally think this recipe could use more white chocolate chips but I always advocate for more. I think I might be the world's skinniest glutton? Whatever. I only had one 8-oz bag of chips but if I'd had more, I would have put them in. Also, dark chocolate chips. Maybe mini ones. Always more chocolate. Do not question this. These cookies are sort of obnoxiously labor intensive to shape because of the pretzels, but totally worth it. This recipe makes a lot of cookies if you make them small, and they're pretty rich so keep them golf ball-sized. Tommy and his roommates couldn't eat these fast enough, so consider that your green light.

DO NOT overbake these. No one likes burned pretzels and you will probably set off your smoke detector and everyone will hate you.
LET THEM COOL on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before you  move them to the wire rack. I got antsy and tried to skip that part and they crumbled and got everywhere and then my cat tried to eat the crumbs which is almost certainly bad for her tiny little cat digestive system. Heed my warning: let them cool.
NO ONE HAS A FUCKING COOKIE SCOOP unless they have a serious Sur La Table fetish so just use your best judgement when shaping. 

1 stick softened butter, 8 tablespoons
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup white chocolate chips, to melt
~2 cups creamy peanut butter (reserve 2 tablespoons to add to melting white chips)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour   
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups broken pretzel pieces
1 Cup additional white chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Melt white chocolate chips and 2 Tablespoons peanut butter over a double boiler until melted.  Add melted chocolate chips  and remaining peanut butter to beaten butter and sugars.  Beat in egg and vanilla.
2.  Place flour, baking soda and salt in bowl; mix to combine.  Add to wet ingredients until just combined then pour in pretzels and additional white chocolate chips.
3. With a cookie scoop, scoop dough onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet.  With the palms of your hand, gently press down each cookie to about 1/2 inch in thickness.
4. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges become golden and slightly crisp.  Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet before removing.

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Material Girl

Anyone who knows me knows that, on a scale from 1 to high-maintenance, I hover somewhere around a 6. I don't drink from water fountains. I will never wear knockoff brands. I certainly will never eat Cool Whip. This also means that I have a crapload of kitchen gadetry. Some of it is truly useless (I'm looking at you, miniature whisk) but some of it I genuinely could not live without. In my cooking life that is. I don't really need my collapsible bowl from Pampered Chef on a day-to-day basis. But on a meal-to-meal one? HELL YES. And I would buy like, 4 more. So here is a comprehensive list of 5 things in my kitchen I genuinely could not live without. It goes without saying that I highly recommend them all.

1. Silpat Baking Mat, $24.99
The Silpat is a strange animal. It is simultaneously sticky and slimy, almost amphibian. It seems unlikely that it could do better than Pam cooking spray at keeping your stuff from sticking to the baking sheet, but it does. Not only is it non-stick, it is so much more. It keeps the bottoms of your cookies a light golden-brown and not charcoal black. It spreads the heat from the tray around so everything cooks evenly. Also, it wipes off easily with soap and water and keeps you from having to scrub and hack at the crap that gets left on your cookie sheet. They're kind of pricey individually but if you bake a lot, I recommend getting two at the very least.

To buy: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=11556167

2. 4-Quart Pampered Chef Collapsible Bowl, $20.99
When my mom got this collapsible bowl for me, I told her it was a waste of money and that I would never use it. I am forced to eat my words nearly every time I cook. The fact that this dumb bowl pops into shape when you want it and squeezes flat when you don't is so useful I can't even begin to describe it succinctly. Suffice it to say that the cabinet space in my apartment's kitchen isn't so much limited as it is built for giant people. This means I have to shove everything I use regularly into about three small cabinets...which means things that take up less space are in high demand. Cue the collapsible bowl.

To buy: http://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=26444&words=collapsible%20bowl

3. Room Essentials Silicone-Backed Potholder, prices vary
Generally, a potholder is a potholder but these go above and beyond the call of duty. Aside from coming in about 9 different shades, the no-slip back is a godsend for baking dishes that have gotten gooey in the oven or slippery non-stick pans that have slid all the way to the back. With a regular potholder I find that I live in constant terror of dropping whatever scorching-hot apparatus I'm holding onto my (usually) bare feet. Not so with these oven mitts. Honestly, football players should probably wear them so they can hang onto the ball better.

To buy: Target

4. Wilton Disposable Decorating Bags, 12 for $5.50
This is another must-have for anyone who bakes and ices with relative frequency. I love being able to just throw the stupid pastry bag away when I'm done with it, instead of having to scoop out the excess icing with my hands and then wash it. Plus, the fact that the set comes with 12 means you can use a few at a time if you're decorating something particularly intricate. The seams can occasionally burst if you're too heavy-handed but overall, the price and convenience makes it very worthwhile.

To buy: Sur la Table stores or http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-560748/Wilton-Disposable-Decorating-Bags

5. OXO Silicone Basting Brush, $9.99
For the grill master supreme, or anyone who cooks meat on a regular basis, a good basting brush is a necessity. I like this one because first of all, it's dishwasher safe and second of all, the silicone brush part actually hangs on to the basting marinade instead of dumping it all over the counter or whatever. As an added bonus, the handle is non-slip. Since silicone is pretty resilient, you don't have to worry about the brush bursting into flame if you baste over the grill/fire-pit/etc.

To buy: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=14082557

Friday, March 9, 2012

When the moon hits your eye...

like a feta and spinach pie you might say disgusting. But you'd be wrong. Because this Greek(ish) pie is not only delicious but also super healthy and pretty easy to make. There are tons of ways to cheat and make the recipe even easier or fancier if that's what you want. I used to hate spinach as a kid and this is the only way I would eat it. It's a great weeknight meal but it does have to bake for about 40 minutes so keep that in mind. It freezes well if you wrap it in foil. Is it the most exciting thing on here? No. Showstopper? Ehh, not really unless you want to make your own pastry crust and a lattice topping (in which case you're an overachieving asshole). Low-calorie and easy? Yeah. And honestly, when I'm sick of canned tuna or frozen food, this is a great standby. It is my ugliest polar fleece I just can't give away. It is my 1998 gold Maxima that will outlive us all. It will not fail you, and you will not be disappointed.

1 premade pie shell
1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 box frozen spinach or take 4 cups fresh spinach (microwave for 1-2 minutes first)
1 small head of broccoli, lightly cooked
Handful of mushrooms (if you want)
Handful of kalamata olives (if you want)
1 package of feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbs. italian seasoning
1 clove of garlic

1 egg
1 tbs. flour
Salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp of each is fine)

1. Saute the onion in a little bit of olive oil with the garlic
2. Thaw the frozen spinach (or cook the spinach) and DRAIN WELL otherwise the pie will be soggy and nasty
3. Put the cooked broccoli on the bottom of the pie shell
4. Saute the onion, spinach, olives and mushrooms.
5. Add any other meats (like ground turkey or beef) you want
6. Add the crumbled feta and the Italian seasoning just before you take it off the stove
7. Pour into pie shell
8. Beat the topping ingredients together in a separate bowl and pour over the filling
9. Bake in oven at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until knife comes out clean from middle of pie.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Euphoria Muffins

I found the recipe for these muffins in my enormous recipe folder. It was just sitting there, with proverbial internet dust on it, waiting to be opened and made. In a foul mood this Sunday, I printed it out on a whim. Baking typically cheers me up when babies or animals are unavailable. The recipe was ridiculously easy and didn't seem all that special. The apartment smelled nice while they baked. And then...and then...I dipped the tops in melted butter and cinnamon sugar. And I ate one. And I creamed my pants and came to Jesus and there was a double rainbow and I cried tears of joy and the Bears won a Superbowl. Okay maybe not the last one, but pretty much everything else. A tiny little muffin filled with cinnamon and nutmeg...and it tasted just like a doughnut. Warm and soft and fluffy and delicious and full of cinnamony goodness. SO MUCH FUCKING CINNAMONY GOODNESS. I intend to bake another batch as soon as I have time, only in mini muffin tins so that they are bite-sized blobs of cinnamon-sugar covered beauty. Make these. Do not share. You will not be sorry.

Coffee Cake Muffins with Cinnamon and Sugar
(makes 12)

1-¾ cup flour
1-½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup oil
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
¾ cup milk
For the Cinnamon Sugar Topping:
2 tbs. butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

2. In a separate, large bowl, combine oil, sugar, egg and milk.

3. Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine.

4.Coat your muffin pan well with nonstick cooking spray and divide the batter evenly among the cups. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

5. Run a knife around the sides of the muffin and shake them out of the pan while still hot.

6. Melt the butter in a bowl.

7. Combine the white sugar with the cinnamon in another bowl.

8. Dip muffins in butter, then into the sugar/cinnamon mix. Chow the fuck down. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stepford Wife Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry orange has always been one of my favorite flavor combinations. When Starbucks decided to get cute and totally fuck up and discontinue the almost-perfect cranberry orange muffin they offered, a  part of me died. Anyway, this bread is stupid easy and tastes really good, duh. If I had had fresh oranges in the kitchen I definitely would've zested part of one and used it in the bread for extra orange (and probably nixed the orange extract). It's up to you. I also put vanilla yogurt in this, but I forgot to put it in the picture. Cry about it. This is from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, slightly adapted.

Cranberry Orange Bread:
2 C. flour
1/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C.vanilla yogurt
1/2 C. pulp-free orange juice
1 tbs. milk
1/4 C. cooking oil
1/4 tsp. orange extract
1/3 C. craisins

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Grease a standard loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture and set aside.

3. In a separate bowl combine egg, milk, yogurt and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Fold in the craisins and stir just until moistened (batter should still be lumpy).

4. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick or other stabbing apparatus comes out clean when inserted into center. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Serve warm, with marmalade or butter if you're feeling fat and fancy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Better Way to Eat Your Veggies

Popeye was undoubtedly the world's most famous lover of spinach, and I can't say I blame him. It's probably one of the least offensive vegetables there is. Plus it's almost laughably good for you. It's the superfood of superfoods. Like Batman + Superman + Mr. Incredible = Spinach. Anyway, Popeye sure as fuck missed out on probably never having had this spinach dip because it rocks. Besides being so simple you could probably make it after a hard night at Bentley's, it's also not that bad for you. Someone call Charlie Sheen and tell him I just won at winning. This dip is great with any sort of vegetables or pita but I especially like it on carrot sticks. This one is another where you can FFTFW. Add more spinach or pesto if you'd like but watch out for garlic breath.

Spinach Dip:
1 C. low-fat (or fat-free depending on how obsessed you are with your calorie intake) plain yogurt
5 oz. cooked spinach, chopped
1/4 C. pesto (premade or home made if you're an overachiever)
1/4 tsp. each cracked pepper and kosher salt

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl
2. Eat your heart out