September 6, 2014

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

When you're going on a 3 1/2-week vacation with two children under three that involves 6,600 miles spent in a vehicle, you know you need cookies to keep your sanity for the first part of the trip at least. I used this recipe from Love and Olive Oil to give us something delicious to erase some of the screaming for the first 1,000 miles or so. (It worked, too. A bit of cookie bliss is necessary when your older child wakes your sleeping younger child, who then screams the remaining 45 minutes until you get to the hotel. Of course the older child wasn't bothered as he promptly fell asleep after waking his brother.)

Good cookies. They save your sanity, at least temporarily.

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla 
1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
36 dark chocolate peanut butter cups

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a microwave safe bowl, heat butter and peanut butter until melted. Stir until smooth, and let cool.
Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, stir the melted butter and peanut butter together with sugars until it forms a thick paste. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla, and stir until incorporated. Gradually add dry ingredients, and mix until it comes together, using your hands if necessary. The dough may seem crumbly at first but should come together eventually. Mix in chocolate chips.
Scoop dough by the heaping tablespoon. Split and slightly flatten one half in your palm. Place peanut butter cup on top, and then squish remaining dough around to completely encase it. Arrange on prepared baking sheets, leaving about two inches of space between cookies.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until centers are set and edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool for 10 minutes (or longer) on baking sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 36 cookies.

Peanut Butter Pie

Sorry for my nearly 3-month hiatus from the blog. Apparently taking a month-long vacation and then moving into your new home takes a bit of time away from blogging. I have a list of about 10 recipes, though, to get on the blog to get caught up but most will be without pictures unfortunately.

I found this recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker and thought it would be the perfect easy recipe to throw together for my family who came to help with projects around our new home for a day. I made sure they earned their keep before pulling this pie out of the fridge, and everyone gave this pie rave reviews. Quite delicious, especially for the ease of preparation.

Peanut Butter Pie
24 Nutter Butter cookies, crushed
4 Tbsp. salted butter
6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. + 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Make the crust by combining crushed Nutter Butter cookies and melted butter until evenly moistened, and then press into a 9-inch pie pan. Place in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

Beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, powdered sugar and 3 Tbsp. of heavy cream on low speed to combine, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high, and whip until fluffy, about 1 additional minute. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and set aside.

In the empty mixing bowl, add the remaining 3/4 cup heavy cream, and whip on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high, and whip until stiff peaks form. (Note: I had a major lapse in mind control and tried to whip my cream with the regular beater attachment rather than the whisk one. Don't try that at home. Insanely messy and ineffective.) Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture with a rubber spatula. Then add the remaining whipped cream in two additions, folding gently with a rubber spatula until no white streaks remain. Transfer the peanut butter mousse into the prepared crust, and spread into an even layer.

In the empty mixing bowl, add the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, and mix on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to high, and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread evenly over the peanut butter filling, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. When ready to serve, garnish with peanuts. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. Makes one 9-inch pie.

June 22, 2014

Sweet Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli

This Cooking Light recipe earned such high marks from my husband that he said it could be a weekly meal. (That never happens in our house because there are way too many recipes to try to repeat that often.) You could easily leave out the chicken and amp up the broccoli in this recipe for a vegetarian dish.

Sweet Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Broccoli
8 oz. angel hair pasta
8 oz. broccoli florets
12 oz. chicken
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3 green onions, chopped (optional)
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Cook noodles in boiling water, adding broccoli the last 3 minutes. Drain noodles and broccoli. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Cool 6 minutes on each side or until done. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Combine remaining ingredients, except green onions and sesame seeds. Whisk together until well mixed. Stir into noodle mixture, and add chicken. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Serves 4.

French Toast Cake

Birthdays are an excuse for me to try some of the many cakes and desserts that have caught my eye, like this one from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. I made this and a TimTam cake from Raspberri Cupcakes for my mother and brother's birthday celebrations, along with Father's Day. Although the TimTam cake was good, it didn't wow me like I had expected.

This, on the other hand, lived up to my expectations for it. It tastes like breakfast, in cake form. It is incredibly sweet but wonderful. My cakes turned out a bit dry, so be careful not to overbake like I did.

No pictures due to the celebrations and devouring. Check out the original blog on Confessions of a Cookbook Queen for pretty pictures.

French Toast Cake
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 cup salted butter, slightly softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. maple extract
4 cups powdered sugar
drop of yellow food color
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp. maple cream

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour two (8-inch) cake pans, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and cinnamon.

Beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla.

With the mixer on medium low, add flour and milk alternately, starting and ending with flour mixture and scraping the bowl as needed. Pour about 1/4 of the batter in each pan. Divide cinnamon/brown sugar mixture between the two cakes, sprinkling evenly over the batter and then topping with the remaining batter. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cakes from oven, and let cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans,  and finish cooling on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat butter, maple extract and heavy cream on medium low speed until smooth. With the mixer on low, slowly add powdered sugar, and beat on low until just barely mixed. Increase speed to high, and beat for one minute, until fluffy and smooth. Set aside a couple spoonfuls of frosting. Color the small amount of reserved frosting with a drop of yellow food coloring, and place in the refrigerator.

Place one cake top side down on a plate, and cover with frosting. Place the other cake on top, and frost entire cake. Chill for about 30 minutes before pouring ganache over the top, so it doesn't melt the frosting.

To make the ganache, heat cinnamon chips and cream in the microwave, stopping to stir every 15 seconds until smooth. Add maple cream, and stir until combined. Let sit until thickened and slightly cooled.

Pour ganache over chilled frosted, cake, spreading to the edges so it can drip down. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop chilled yellow frosting, so it looks like butter, and place it in the center of the cake.

Rainbow Thai Salad

Periodically one of the (dessert) blogs I read links to someone's healthier recipes. That's how I discovered this salad from Gimme Some Oven. Even though I'm not sold on mangoes, I thought this sounded intriguingly delicious.

I thoroughly enjoyed it several days in a row. When I made it the following week, the mangoes and the avocados didn't work for me as much. I'm not sure why. Still, this was really good and worth repeating even without the chicken.

Rainbow Thai Salad
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional)
2 cups shredded purple cabbage
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 avocado, diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1 (large) carrot, julienned
1 red pepper, cored and julienned
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped cashews or peanuts
1/2 cup peanut butter
2-3 Tbsp. hot water
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of red pepper flakes

To make the salad, combine all the chopped ingredients together. Combine dressing ingredients, and stir until well blended. Pour over salad immediately prior to serving. Serves 3 to 4 as a meal, more as a side dish.