Monday, November 18, 2013

Knock-Off Girl Scouts' Samoas Cookies

I have had this recipe in my bookmarks for a while and haven't worked up the courage to make them yet.  But I was looking for something a bit more challenging than just your average cookie, so I decided to make these.  I had never made a shortbread type of cookies before and I'll be honest, I had some really frustrating moments.  But overall, the result was fantastic.  I'm pretty proud of my first time at making these, because the next time I attempt these, they will be even better!

1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar (I used Splenda)
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
up to 2 Tbl. milk

3 c. shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened, I used sweetened)
12 oz. chewy caramels
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbl. milk
8 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate

To make the cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 350. 
2. Cream together butter and sugar; mix in flour, baking powder & salt at a low speed.
3. Add vanilla.  Add in milk in 1/2 Tbl. increments--use enough needed to make the dough come together without being sticky.
4. Refrigerate dough (mine was SO STICKY), then roll dough out in a few batches (I did 4) in between pieces of flour and wax paper.  Use a cookie cutter (or a glass) to cut out rounds.  You might want to add flour in order to help dough roll out better, it can be pretty sticky. 
5. Place cut out rounds on greased baking sheet and make a hole in the center.  Reroll dough and use until all dough has been used up.
6.  Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are very lightly golden brown around edges.
7.  Allow cookies to cool completely

To make the topping:
1. Preheat oven to 300.  Spread coconut evenly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and toast for 20 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden.  It might seem like that's a lot of coconut, but trust me on this.  You'll want it.  Watch the coconut carefully the last 8-5 minutes.  Let cool.
2. Unwrap caramels and microwave with milk and salt.  Cook on high 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir.  When smooth and melted, stir in toasted coconut.  And try not to eat it all, because it's very yummy.
3.  Spread topping on cooled cookies, using 1-3 tsp. per cookie. 
4.  After topping has set up, melt chocolate in a small bowl.  Transfer chocolate to piping bag or a large ziplock bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle chocolate onto cookies. 
*the original recipe says to dip cookies 1/2 way and THEN to drizzle, but my cookies were a bit too fragile for this to work.
**also the next time I make these, I think I will quickly dip the cookies into a thinner chocolate mixture before adding the topping, so it will stick to the cookie better.

Makes 3-4 1/2 dozen cookies--I personally got 41 from this batch.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mini Cherry Pies

Zack's grandparents have a farm in central WA and we were able to visit them over the weekend. We came home with big gallon bags of the three types of cherries they have. And I decided to make mini cherry pies because mini pies are adorable. So I bought myself a great little cherry pitter (does 4 at once!) and tonight we pitted 8 cups of beautiful pie cherries. I found a filling recipe to try but had to fiddle with the numbers to make the proportions right (using math in everyday situations, can't believe it) and it is great! I made some pie crust and threw these together in under an hour. Right now they are in the oven, the smell is killing us!

Here is the normal pie filling recipe, it's supposed to be enough for a 9" pie. (For future reference, one recipe's worth of dough makes enough for 5 mini pies)

1 c water
1 c sugar
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp almond extract
red food coloring
5 c pitted pie cherries

2 1/4 c flour
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 c shortening
8 - 10 T cold water

1.  Dissolve sugar and cornstarch in water in large saucepan over medium heat. 
2. Stir until thickened, clear and bubbly. Cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring. Remove from heat.
3. Add extract and food coloring. Slowly stir in cherries, let cool to room temperate. 
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. In a medium bowl, stir together flour and salt. Cut in shortening with pastry blender, until pea-size.
6. Add 1 T of water to mix, toss with fork. Continue adding in water 1 T at a time and tossing until dough is the right consistency to mold and roll on counter.
7. Roll dough into a ball, then use rolling pin to flatten out into shape(s) needed.
8. Place bottom of dough into pan(s), add a few spoonfuls of the cooled filling.
9. Top with second dough, cut slits or air vents in top layer. Pinch two layers of dough together. If desired, sprinkle sugar over the top before placing in oven.
10. Bake 45 minutes until golden brown and filling is bubbling. Let cool on wire rack.

pitting the cherries
all ready!
ahh so cute I'm dying

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blueberry Coconut Macadamia Muffins

Goodness gracious, are these muffins delicious!  They're packed with lots of different flavors that blend very nicely into a moist, crunchy but yet soft, delicious muffin.  I found the recipe on, through a google search looking for healthy but yet delicious brunch-type items.  I gave this recipe a try last night and on all accounts, it is a fabulous recipe.  I didn't have any problems with the batter, not baking time.  The only problem I had was waiting the suggested time after they came out of the oven.  I still burned my mouth a little because I couldn't wait, but it was definitely worth it!

1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
2 Tbl. flour
2 Tbl. brown sugar
2 Tbl. chopped macadamia nuts
1 Tbl. oil

3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 Tbl. chopped macadamia nuts
1 Tbl. canola oil
1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 c. nonfat buttermilk
2 Tbl. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. coconut or vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen (though not thawed) blueberries

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.  I used baking liner cups and sprayed them with spray.
2.  Combine all topping ingredients and set aside.
3.  Mix together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
4.  Whisk brown sugar, oil, egg, egg white, buttermilk and extract in a (different) medium bowl until well combined.
5.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
6.  Add blueberries and remaining macadamia nuts, stir just to combine.
7.  Divide batter among the muffin cups (about 1/4 c. of batter per muffin).  Sprinkle and gently press the topping on the tops of the muffins (about 1 tsp. per muffin).
8.  Bake muffins about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
9.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack at least 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts (per muffin)
calories: 204
total fat: 8.8g
sat. fat: 2.6g
cholest.: 23mg
sodium: 44mg
carb.: 28.9g
fiber: 1.8g
sugar: 13g
protein: 4g

Monday, March 4, 2013

Healthier Carrot Cake

This cake is awesome.  I have made it twice now and think I might have the (sheet cake) recipe perfected.  I may eventually try cupcakes and a full size round cake in the future.
The reason I love this cake is because I’m pretty proud of my skills in the kitchen.  The last few months have been a fun challenge for me, as I’ve tried to make our meals healthier and better for us.  We aren’t doing anything too hardcore, like moving straight into a vegan diet or cutting out sugar or anything like that.  We are just gradually trying to move into eating better, more organic and real food.  In the past when I’ve tried to cut something cold turkey, it doesn’t really stick with me and I give up and feel defeated.  However, with these gradually changes with substituting better and healthier ingredients to cut calories and fat but not compromising taste, it’s been pretty successful!  And I think I’ll be able to keep this up and eventually become a *True Master of the Kitchen*, which is a term I just made up.

My logic to this cake was to make a better, healthier cake so that I could have a more indulgent cream cheese frosting.  There are some things in this world that I can’t say no to and one of them is cream cheese frosting.  I didn’t want to make a ‘skinny’ version of the frosting because I wanted to make sure it tasted good.  I think it’s a fair compromise!

Ok, this recipe.  I can’t even remember where I found this recipe, but here’s the original one that I adapted can be found. It’s not a very involved recipe, but I like making sure that when I bake, everything is done accurately and well.  For this recipe, I substituted unsweetened, natural applesauce for the oil and splenda sweetener for the sugar.  I might try it with a combo of white and whole-wheat flour…we’ll see.

2 c. flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. unsweetened, natural applesauce
1 c. Splenda sweetener substitute
4 c. grated carrots (I used 1 small bag of pre-grated carrots and chopped them up so they’d be smaller)

1 batch cream cheese frosting:
            ¼ c. unsalted butter (room temperature)
            8 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
            1 tsp. vanilla
            3 c. powdered sugar

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 9 x 13” baking dish.
2.      Whisk together dry ingredients; beat eggs in with vanilla and set both aside.
3.      In a large bowl, beat together the applesauce and splenda in a mixer until they reach a uniform consistency.  With mixer on low, add in 1/3 of the flour.  Beat until incorporated.
4.      Add in 1/3 of the eggs mixture and beat until well incorporated.  Add another 1/3 of the flour, beat.  Add remainder of the eggs and beat well.
5.      Add last of the flour.  Stop mixing once last of the flour is barely incorporated. 
6.      Fold the carrots into the batter with a spatula, until no more dry flour remains and carrots are well mixed in.
7.      Pour batter into greased baking dish and tap against the counter a few times to get any air bubbles out. 
8.      Bake 40 – 45 minutes.  Let cake cool completely before frosting.
9.      For frosting, beat together butter and cream cheese.  Once they are well mixed, add in vanilla and powered sugar, slowly. 
10.  Beat until creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crispy Oven-Fried Tilapia

I have been trying to have us eat fish more often.  But I'm not great at seafood dishes, but I hope to get better someday.  I was pursuing my cookbooks and came along this one from Better Homes & Garden.  It sounded delicious & I was super pleased with the result.  I will definitely make this more often, it's simple, has plenty of flavor & crunch.

4 tilapia fillets
1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. flour
1/2 - 2/3 c. regular Panko crumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. Old Bay garlic & herb seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3-4 Tbl. butter, melted

1.  Place milk in a shallow dish, flour in another shallow dish.  In a third dish, combine panko crumbs, cheese & spices.  Add melted butter to panko-cheese-spices dish & mix until well combined.
2.  Dip fish in milk; coat with flour.
3.  Dip again in milk, then in crumb mixture to coat all sides.  Place fish on a greased baking sheet.
4.  Bake, uncovered in a 450 degree oven for 4 - 6 minutes per side until fish begins to flake when tested.

Baked Chicken Fajitas

I can't believe I haven't posted this recipe yet!  I've made it about half a dozen times and each time it's so yummy and everyone raves about it.  It's a very simple, tasty dish that is easy to throw together in the evenings.  My current tactic is to have Zak prep the veggies, since I'm not a fan of cutting onions or peppers.  He has it done by the time I'm home from work, I throw everything into a big pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Simple and delicious, makes a ton and is great for leftovers!  The original recipe can be found here, below is what I've modified for us. 

1 - 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1/2 onion, sliced
1 (total) bell pepper, seeded & sliced (I usually do 1/3 from a red, orange/yellow and green to give it a variety of color & flavor)
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbl. vegetable oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. taco seasoning

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish.
2.  Mix together chicken, tomatoes, peppers and onion in the dish.
3.  In a small bowl, combine the oil and spices.  Drizzle over the chicken & vegetables and toss to coat.
4.  Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

We usually get about 9-10 servings out of this!  Sorry there is no picture for now, maybe I will add one later!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Turkish Baklava

I made this recipe for the Bethlehem Dinner we had with Zak's family in Connecticut.  I was pretty nervous because I had never made baklava and while I've cooked for his family, it's always been recipes I've made before.  But I am super proud to say that this turned out very well!  Next time we will be sure to add pistachios and raisins and to work on letting it sit to soak up the syrup for a longer period.  It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but it did require some skill.  Zak was a great helper with assembling it and I plan on making this again for our friends.

2 c. (8 oz.) finely chopped almonds
1 c. (4 oz.) finely chopped walnuts
1/4 c. caster (superfine) sugar (used regular sugar)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 stick cinnamon
1 Tbl. lemon juice
12 oz. packet filo pastry, thawed
melted butter

1.  Place all filling ingredients in a bowl, combine until well blended.
2.  Place syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Simmer for 10 minutes and leave to cool.
3.  Brush a 9" x 13" baking dish with butter.  Add 10 sheets of filo, brushing each with butter before placing on top of the other.
4.  Spread the filling evenly in the dish.
5.  Add 10 - 12 sheets of filo, brushing each with butter as needed.  Be sure to press down on the layers to get it soaked in well.
6.  With a large knife, score the top into large diamond shapes.
7.  Bake in oven preheated to 325 degrees for 1 hour or until top turns slightly brown.
8.  Remove from oven and slowly pour the syrup over the top.
9.  The most difficult part: letting it sit for at least 5 - 6 hours before serving.

right after pouring syrup on, don't have any of it after

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

My mother-in-law made this fabulous soup while we were in Connecticut, for the annual 'Bethlehem dinner' on Christmas Eve.  I fell in love with the delicious flavors of the soup and asked for the recipe when we returned back home.  She sent me the recipe (from Whole Foods Market) and the only variation I made was to use some chicken broth along with the vegetable broth; it turned out phenomenally well and I will be sure to keep this in rotation. It's very easy to make and is a good, flavorful, vegetarian soup that is enjoyable with warmed pita bread or by itself.

1 1/3 c. (about 8 oz.) red lentils, picked through & rinsed
7 c. vegetable broth (I used 4 c. vegetable broth, 3 c. chicken broth)
1 large onion, diced
1-2 large carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbl. tomato paste
1 tsp. cumin
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
3/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)

1.  In a large pot, combine lentils, broth, onion, carrot(s), garlic, tomato paste, cumin and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and lentils begin to fall apart (about 25 minutes).
2.  Remove pot from heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is creamy but not completely pureed.  Add salt and serve with warmed pitas.