On Baked Apples (aka. Rainy Day Away Apples)

My apologies dear readers for the delay. This season has been a busy one, but with Christmas only a week away, and all of my gifts now safely in transit or arrived at their various locations, I am able to finally breathe and get back to a more normalized schedule! Oh, and did I mention I was in New York City just a couple weekends ago to see Stephen Colbert live for Frankie’s birthday?! Because I was in New York City just a couple weekends ago to see Stephen Colbert live for Frankie’s birthday!! AND I GOT TO SEE BOBBY FLAY!!! AHHH!!! (Okay, that’s my one alotted school girl squeal out of the way.) But boy oh BOY was that a show to remember! And if you like Colbert and watch both Thursday, December 7th and/or Friday, December 8th’s episodes (we got to be the audience for both days, which was an added OH MY GOSH!! moment), Frankie & I are sitting FRONT ROW all the way to the right (right in front of Stephens desk)! And we’re somewhat coordinated/matching: me in a green sweater dress with maroon tights, and Frankie in his Christmas green plaid shirt with maroon khakis. And then we walked almost 28 miles total over the course of our one day in the city eating and drinking our way into food coma happiness! And before I forget, all the spots we ventured to are up on my recommendations page—while I would love to write more about the spots we ventured to, I have neglected some of my drafted blog posts for too long, so I had to prioritize, but feel free to comment/ask questions about the spots listed if you’d like to know more! Now, with housekeeping out of the way, onto this yummy little nugget!

5D2D5A79-5481-4433-9872-BFABD4FE52C3.jpg

94D535F8-4A82-4901-A8DE-F85392795446.jpg

The first time I made this, it was maybe the second week of my Graduate program, and I was a complete newbie to Chicago on top of feeling, well, a little homesick. How many of us, in times like these, have turned to food to help abate those bottomless cravings for home? And naturally, that’s where I turned as well. One of my favorite desserts to eat is Apple Crumble, and especially during the winter time, this was the most comforting thing to dig into while snuggled on the couch with White Christmas basically playing on repeat on our TV all season long. But given that it was the apex of summertime, and the last thing I really wanted to do was bake myself alive in my studio, or try and finish an entire casserole of apple crumble by my lonesome. So instead, I decided to miniaturize the recipe and remove the casserole dish entirely. May I present, mini baked apple crumbles!

D4722F0B-A68B-4110-8CD3-5D376E9B587C.jpg

Now, what makes this dish so easy is the lack of equipment that you need to use. Granted, I’ve now lived in the city for about six years and have since found myself owning an apple corer (very helpful) and a melon baller (slightly helpful, but I don’t really ball melons on a daily basis, so it’s a tool I don’t use as much), but you can EASILY cut/core/scoop out your apple with a paring knife and a spoon. Then after that, mix up your crumble (I usually use a knife because it won’t get as much filling stuck to it), pack them in, and bake the apples for about 20 minutes, which I think is the sweet spot between overly soft and not soft enough. You can cook it for a little less if you don’t like super soft apples, or a little more if you want it softer. And then voila! It’s warm, it’s sweet, it’s tart, and it’s just oh so good! Oh, and did I mention how easy it was to make? I’m realizing that the more complicated the recipe, the less likely I am to make it, especially during the week, so here is to easy and delicious!

1A34637C-D42D-4308-BA2A-22B16A94BCC0.jpg

Sorry again for the delay, but definitely keep an eye out for future posts in the coming week regarding Christmas Cookie making (with a guest appearance by none other than Momma Sully!) and the best baked garlic chicken you’ll ever have! Oh, and some Cooking-Maggie-fied Ragu Pappardelle! It’s all in the works, I PROMISE! OH, and I have some exciting developments for the blog in 2018, so keep an eye out for that announcement as well!

Wishing you & yours a very Happy Holiday! – Cooking Maggie


Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 apples, cored & sliced in half
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat) or gluten-free ‘flour’ of your choice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (or white sugar with date syrup or molasses or agave syrup)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Remove some of the inner apple, leaving a little center hollow
  3. Mix remaining ingredients together in a large bowl
  4. Fill all apples with the mixture, covering the tops.
  5. Bake for about 15-30 minutes, depending on preferred apple softness, until golden brown/apple swells.

9BAE2872-AE9E-4CCF-92F9-1293D2D3CFAF

Advertisements

On Roasted Chili-Lime Cod

With the change in weather now in full effect, the sweaters have come out, the scarfs have been arranged, and there’s usually a cup of tea in my hand while I’m cooking in my comfy pants (oh yes, I am more or less cooking in my yoga pants and pjs because I like to be comfortable when I cook, and it’s not like I’m in front of the camera). And even though the fall makes me itch towards Chicken & Dumplings (smitten kitchen just revisited her recipe for it and it has LEEKS in it! Oh my gosh I can’t wait to make this soon soon soon!) and Baked Apple Streusel (a recipe I made for the first time on a whim during my first fall in Chicago, so worry not, a delicious recipe to satiate anyone’s fall craving is coming to a kitchen near you). And I’ve also been craving fish, oddly enough.

07617475-CDC6-4585-BBDF-D27B092932D0

Sure, Fall doesn’t scream “FISH,” but sometimes you need a break from the rich and heavy stuff for a moment, bring back some freshness to the table, so I turned to Cod fish, a white flaky fish with a seriously mild taste that can be easily applied to a ton of different flavor profiles (think of it almost like chicken). Cod can be fried (like chicken), it can be stewed (like chicken) or curried (like chicken), and it can be baked/pan seared (like chicken). I know fish can be scary, and believe me, it still sometimes scares me when I get the courage to try cooking with it, but with the right combination of spices and sauce, it’s something else! And so I tried a Roasted Chili-Lime Cod recipe from Fashionable Foods (topped with a lime butter sauce that was SO tasty) with wild rice (from a box because you shouldn’t feel you have to make EVERYTHING from scratch when a little help goes a long way) and roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil, garlic, thyme, and basil!

E3A0BCB2-A6CC-4572-8253-358A58B00A4FBDB66919-B4C3-4D3D-8957-741A4D80E49B

This cod dish is incredibly bright and vivacious on the plate, a dish that brings everything to life on your palate, and the spice does help kick things up a notch as well. It’s fast and easy to whip up all the ingredients in a bowl, and if you want things to get interesting, sub out the regular olive oil with a complimentary flavored oil. The oil I used (and is pictured) is actually homemade chili oil that my friends got as a gift from their wedding officiant. He gave them a ton of jars, and they were kind enough to share one with me, so I thought, what better way to accent and highlight the brightness of the spices than with a little kick to the oil that’s being absorbed into the fish? And then to top it off with a lime butter? That tang of citrus helps cut the spice a little too, not to mention that butter just makes everything better!

35C56852-9AA5-4E4E-80E2-808D4042CE7E22470FE6-7B10-48C0-A755-CDCF5D0E9239

I thought to pair the fish with tomatoes (just to add an extra note of bright acidity to the plate since the fish is pretty mild and the spice mix is pretty powerful on its own), and while fresh tomatoes on their own with a little salt on time is just a great way to feature the ingredient, I wanted to make use of the oven while I had it on anyway. I threw the tomatoes into the oven when I was letting my fish refrigerate, and took them out when the fish was done cooking, so that both components could be served together, piping hot from the oven! And they were so succulent and slightly sweet, but robust and juicy! These little tasty nuggets are just as easy to throw together as the fish, and pair great with chicken or pasta, in addition to fish, and you can let them cool longer to serve over top a salad as well! You can’t go wrong with this side, and you can also change up the herbs you’re using to make things interesting like subbing fresh for the dried (though I think those have a greater tendency to burn rather than bloom and develop into something more) or adding in some parsley instead of oregano. Maybe even throw in a sprig of rosemary!

733A684B-83C4-4508-85EF-008D26E32745BD9C5CC2-20F4-46FA-B99A-E76A75F5AAC8

Hoping the start of your Fall is as deliciously scrumptious as it is in my kitchen! —Cooking Maggie


Roasted Chili-Lime Cod from Fasionable Foods


Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 18 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Thyme
  • 2 teaspoon dried Oregano
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450F, line a baking sheet with foil, and spread out the halved cherry tomatoes all over the sheet.
  2. Sprinkle minced garlic evenly over tomatoes. In a separate small bowl, add the basil, thyme, and oregano, then sprinkle the mixture overtop of the tomatoes, trying to cover all of them with a little bit.
  3. Pour olive oil over tomatoes and top with salt & pepper (sprinkling from farther up, think close to your forehead, will make it easier to cover all the tomatoes with enough of the seasoning.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through the cooking time till they look wrinkled, but not burned. Let cool for two minutes, then serve with fish, chicken, pasta.

D572C482-BC4A-4F14-A58C-F50396165EBC.jpg

On “Just Get Off Your Butt & Bake” Apple Raspberry Crumble

Okay, I lied. No chocolate cake this time, but I had had so much chocolate the last few weeks, I needed a reprieve. So I turned to fruit, and one of my FAVORITE desserts of all time: Crumble. I LOVE CRUMBLE. The tart sweetness of the fruit, with the crunchy, sugary top? I mean, you can’t get much better than that! Not to mention that I am really enjoying this new baking blog I found: Just Get Off Your Butt & Bake. I mean, it just…spoke to me, given all the dragging my feet and constant anxiety about baking…but it’s a good skill to practice, to perfect, so I got off my butt and baked!

B0A2B119-F085-4AD1-858D-176635D7D04A
LOOK HOW BIG AND BEAUTIFUL THESE ARE!!

The best kind of crumble, I think, is strawberry rhubarb, mostly because I love the texture & tart taste of rhubarb paired with subtle sweetness of strawberries. Some will disagree with me on this, finding rhubarb to be too strong a flavor or really fibrous, but perhaps it was because I was introduced to rhubarb really early in life by my Papaw, who used to make a really fantastic rhubarb pie! And if it’s done properly, while strawberries turn to mush, the rhubarb can stand up to the heat, but not be cumbersome to get through either! And now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I haven’t cooked with rhubarb more at home…but I digress from the recipe I found: apple and raspberry crumble. Apples, in this case, are also great for all sorts of preparation, and can withstand heat fairly well without loosing its composition (unless you’re making homemade applesauce, another to do on my list for when my stomach doesn’t want to cooperate, or a kind of puree, then apples tend to be pretty flexible and will gladly mold itself into whatever form you’d like it too). However, as I was grocery shopping, I found myself in the midst of another freak shopping trip. NO RASPBERRIES! Blackberries? Okay, I can see not always having those. But raspberries?! I’ve never gone to a store and not been able to find raspberries…but cest le vie I guess…so when I found these big, beautiful strawberries, which I think are a great first alternative to raspberries, I just went with it (NO ANXIETY IN SIGHT EITHER! Winged it like a champ!).

But crumble is such a nonchalant kind of dessert, and I felt myself approaching the whole process in very much the same way (not going to lie, I was totally in my PJ’s when I made this, and I’m not sorry for it one bit), and perhaps that’s the whole point with something as homey and gooey and sweet as this. It’s too easy a recipe that it makes intentionally messing up or get the proportions wrong incredibly difficult, even for someone as nutty about particulars as myself. So long as there is equal fruit to crumble (or a little more fruit because that’s the best part, though some may disagree), then it’s a success! And this, was a success! I really wanted to do something traditional this time, just to say that I did it/could do it, even though I think most anyone could make this without breaking a sweat, despite being WAY too much food for just two people, but I have a great recipe alternative that I may end up baking in the next few days to sweeten up this downpour of damper rain (single servings for the win)!

AC0D0C38-36E8-4EFA-A40F-5A9752399DA1

But for those of you who don’t have a strong sweet tooth, or aren’t the biggest chocolate, cookie, brownie, cupcake, etc. kind of muncher, then this may be the dessert for you! Easy, delicious, and really enticing with that golden brown crust! How can you not sneak a secret spoonful of this stuff straight from the oven?

To burning my mouth over and over again (and not feeling bad about it one bit) — Cooking Maggie


Apple Raspberry Crumble from Get Off Your Butt & Bake

On Dog Treats 2.0

As much as I love my pup, sometimes, he can be just a little pathetic when he stares at me in

IMG_3626
Mom, I think you need to make me something now…
the kitchen, but I don’t blame him! Here I am cooking and baking away for me and the main man of the house, and the little fur ball only gets table scraps (and by table scraps, I mean, he gets a whole apple, or a piece of my breakfast banana, or just regular old-fashioned dog treats from the store). So I thought, you know what, tonight is the night to do something sweet and special for the little nugget, in addition to sharing said treats with some of my fellow canine owners at work. So last night, I outdid myself in fine fashion—the result of which means there will be no Sloppy Joe post this time around, BUT never fear, there will be more Sloppy Joes had over the next few months, so no doubt I’ll get to it and be able to share away!

The first treat I made was the easiest. Sweet Potato. (Check.) Mandolin. (Check.) Baking Sheet. (Check.) Thin slices of sweet potato (I did mine this time at 3/8″), baked at 300° for 25 minutes on one side, then 25 more minutes on the other. Let cool on sheet. Keep in airtight container. I won’t quote Thug Kitchen—my family does peruse these posts every so often—but they were so freaking easy to make. However, a few notes that Thug Kitch doesn’t mention in their own recipe. 1) Don’t bake two sheets at once. One at a time is best. 2) They said 1/8″ was a good thickness, but honestly I think that’s too thick. I think next time, I’m going to try 1/4″ and see what happens. 3) For my slices at 3/8″, I needed a little longer than 25 per side. It was more like…35-40 per side, but you gotta gauge by your own eye whether it’s done or not. I think more experimentation is in order, and given how simple and hassle-free it was, I think I’ll be making these weekly. Other than that, a very, very happy puppers!

The second thing I made was a Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Pumpkin Cookie! I’ve noticed that when I made the oat balls with regular milk, it messed up my pups digestive system a little, where as these cookies seem to do him more good! Perhaps it is also the use of all purpose flour that doesn’t help, over the gluten free variety that I used this time. All I do know is that my pup eagerly looks at me in the hopes that I’ll pull a sweet treat out of the boxes I’ve kept them in for a mid-day munch, rather than silently judging me for being stingy with the yummy food I’ve been making. It’s not like he’s asking for too much, right?

To keeping all our beloved fur worms happy! —Cooking Maggie


Sweet Potato Jerky Dog Treats from Thug Kitchen

Gluten Free Dog Biscuits from H20 Bungalow

On Chocolate Chip Cookies: The Final Chapter [OR IS IT?!]

Part 3: Nope, this is not it…and browning butter? Yeah, definitely not a fan of that. I didn’t even get to baking this batch because 1) I couldn’t stand the smell, or taste, of the butterscotch embedded in the batter, and 2) My batter basically hardened like a caramel…ugh, baking is hard ya’ll. I’m telling you! SO, there will be one more baking session, since I had to toss the solidified mass I had managed to create, and stuck two sticks of butter on a plate to soften up over the next 24 hours…I swear, there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

B95945FA-E5F3-4C86-BC5E-594B71138435Part 4, The ACTUAL Final Act: Okay, I’m officially done making chocolate chip cookies, that’s for sure. Maybe most cookies actually…I just don’t think I’m a cookie person, BUT I know I can make cupcakes like a boss, and I had mentioned that bitter chocolate cake that I have my eye on, so I’m going to see if my baking strengths lie in other categories…though, now that I think about it, I don’t think I have made a cake in…maybe ever? At least not from scratch…But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this entire experience, I’ve learned how NOT to make chocolate chip cookies, which is something in itself.

With this batch, I did the butter traditionally, softening it using a cool trick because my kitchen is almost the second coldest room in our home! The trick: Fill a tall glass—big enough to fully cover a stick of butter—with water, and microwave until hot. Dump out water, and cover a standing stick of butter with the glass. Leave for about 5 minutes before checking to see if it needs more time, but as soon as it’s soft, get it in the bowl and start to cream. Ta-da! And I adjusted the sugars, just as I had mentioned I would, which I think allowed the cookies to stay soft, just how I like them! There’s structure around the edges, but it’s soft in the middle. But since I was going on my second batch of batter in 24 hours, I stopped caring about making each scoop PERFECT, and the ones I just scooped & plopped onto my pan, those were the ones that turned out the best I think…oh! And I also realized, when I was trying to prepare a second round of trays to go in, while my first batch was baking, that I liked the cookies that were baked on parchment paper MORE than the ones I baked on my silicone pads! WHO KNEW THERE WOULD BE A DIFFERENCE!? As I understand it, parchment paper is better for crisper edges, and that’s I think why I like the parchment paper better. I like it when there’s a little structure/crispness to the edges, but the cookie stays soft and gooey in the middle. Those are the best, and that makes them great for dunking into milk, which is my favorite way to eat a cookie! YUM!

So, without further adieu, I would like to present my FINAL go-to Chocolate Cookie Recipe! Bye bye cookies, hello cake! —Cooking Maggie


Chocolate Chip Cookies
Thank you Mama!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, slightly ground up
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 10oz bag of chocolate chips (roughly 1 1/2 cups, but you can add less or more depending on your preference for cookie chocolatey-ness)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your over to 375°F. Prepare your baking sheets with either parchment paper, or silicone pads. (See blog note above about the difference between parchment paper & silicone pads.)
  2. Cream together butter & sugars.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just till incorporated, then add the vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, add all the remaining dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon or whisk, then add the dry to the wet just a little at a time, mixing to fully incorporate before adding more (so you can gauge if you have enough versus too much).
  5. Scoop 3 tablespoons work of the batter on your sheets (about 1-2 inches between each ball), and bake for 8-9 minutes.
  6. Let cookies rest on cookie sheet until completely cool (I even let them sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes, then let them set out over night). Then ENJOY!

On Fantastic Finds & Mini Cheesecakes

img_2752
YAY NEW COOKBOOK!

So, I wasn’t expecting to expand my cookbook shelf so soon, but as I was perusing Barnes & Noble for a couple copies of Goodnight Moon for a couple of couples I know who are expecting (it’s my most favorite children’s book ever, so it’s one of my go to gifts), I figured I would check out the cookbook section, not really planning on finding anything. Well, that did not turn out to be the case…Barnes & Noble currently has a GREAT sale on Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs (as shown) for 50% OFF! Yes, 50% off, or rather 60% off if you are part of the B&N Member Program (like Mama Sully is)! So how could I not jump at this amazing deal? Simple, I couldn’t, so I didn’t! Ta-da! The sale is still going on now (as of February 10th!) so if you’ve also got this on your to read/buy list, GO GO GO! I have not had the chance to peruse it yet, but I’m very excited to!

img_2825

However, this week’s baking challenge was cheesecake! Now, I know not many people like cheesecake (Frankie being one of them), but I happen to adore them, especially ones made for our monthly office birthday celebration by one of my coworkers! She makes all sorts of delicious flavors and they’re always gluten-free, which makes these cheesecakes even more incredible! So of course, when I decided I wanted to make my own in mini (because I don’t have a spring form pan yet, and since Frankie isn’t a fan, it would just be me eating the whole thing unless I brought it into work), I picked her brain a little before I even attempted to make it!

 

Important thing #1: Put a pan of water in the oven while it preheats and during the baking process! My coworker said that this will keep the oven humid and prevent cracking (which for small bites, was not likely to happen, but for future reference as well when baking a big one)! And important thing #2: Get the eggs & cream cheese to room temperature (you can even heat up the cream cheese for about 10-15 seconds), which also helps prevent cracking and makes the blending easier.

 

 

 

And this was so easy! Like…way too easy! As in, watch me make this again and try some additional modifications to make them even more delicious! So if you’re looking for something delicious and easy, TA-DA! Look no further! Enjoy my fellow bakers and munchers! Cooking Maggie Out!

img_2858

Revision 2/13/2017: Upon further conference with my cheesecake guru at work, she made mention the following tips. 1) Add your eggs in one at a time, and mix at the lowest settings. And 2) If you want a creamier cheesecake, use 1/4 cup sour cream per 8oz cream cheese, OR 1/8 cup heavy cream per 8oz cream cheese. These additions will be reflected below.

Revision 6/7/2017: And upon further reading and munching, you can also turn this recipe into no bake by first removing the eggs, and then swap out the 1/2 cup regular sugar for 1 cup powdered sugar and add 1/2 cup sour cream and 3/4 cup heavy cream, and you can add a tablespoon of regular sugar to the crust, but this is optional [tested and approved by my friend Ms. Carly Jo! She even brought me some and boy are they creamy and tasty!]


Creamy Mini Cheesecakes
img_2854

Ingredients:
For Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1 Cup Graham Cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened

For Cheesecake

  • 16 ounces cream cheese (2 bricks), softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or more to taste)
  • 1 bunch fresh strawberries
  • Optional: 1/2 cup sour cream OR 1/4 cup heavy cream (if you want a creamier cheesecake)

Instructions:

  1. Prior to Baking: let eggs and cream cheese sit on counter to get to room temperature for 1-2 hours, OR heat cream cheese up in microwave for 10-15 seconds.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Place a pan with water in the over during the preheating and baking process.
  3. Add cupcake liners to cupcake/muffin tin. Place graham crackers in a food processor and pulse/blend into a fine crumb. Mix crumbs with softened butter, blending with a fork or cut the crust with  your fingers (which is just a fancy way of rubbing the crackers and butter together between your fingers). Set aside.
  4. Blend cream cheese in a medium-sized bowl, mix until soft and creamy. (You can use a fork or an electric mixer on low.)
  5. Add eggs (ONE AT A TIME) and sugar, (and sour cream/cream if using), and mix on the lowest setting until well combined. Add vanilla and mix for 3-5 minutes until creamy and soft. (Note: if using an electric mixer, mix for only 1-2 minutes.)
  6. Add 1-1 1/2 tablespoon of graham cracker crust mixture to the bottoms of each cupcake liner, pressing firmly with spoon or finger until firm and level. Then add about 2 large tablespoons of cheesecake batter, distributing any remaining. (There should be enough of both mixtures to make exactly 12 mini cheesecakes.)
  7. Place the cupcakes in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the top of strawberries, and either halve or slice them (making sure there are enough for 12), then set on top of cheesecakes for garnish.
  9. Allow cheesecakes to chill before serving.

On Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

img_2717It’s baking time! Last week’s brownies were a big hit, so I thought this week, since Frankie was craving them just a little, I would make Oatmeal Raisin cookies! Not the most complicated thing to make, but I’m working up to it! My hope is, one day, I’ll be making adult birthday cakes (or Funfetti cupcakes) from scratch rather than from a box! I mean, I have the cake tower, courtesy of a lovely work friend who didn’t have a use for it, so now I just need the cake!

But back to these cookies! Now, I’ve tried the Quaker Oats Vanishing Cookies, and I know they are [usually] everyone’s go to, but my thing is, even when I follow the recipe, my cookies end up cooling to a hardness I don’t really like in any kind of cookie. I like them soft and chewy, and it got me wondering if there was something I wasn’t doing right, or did I just over cook them, which would be on me, but I’d like to think I’m not that hopeless of a baker. So I started to hunt around for other cookies recipes that would produce true soft, chewy, oatmeal raisin cookies (that were also fully cooked!) and I found one thanks to Sally’s Baking Addication!

img_2715
Ooey, gooey Molasses! By far my favorite twist on this classic recipe!

The trick? MOLASSES! I think that adds just that extra sweet, gooey note that the Quaker Oats recipe is missing. So now, I can’t make these cookies without molasses. It’s that one thing that’s missing, that really plays up the brown sugar and scrumptiousness of these cookies! Oh, and there’s a full tablespoon of vanilla extract, which I happen to have a homemade bottle of in my cupboard that a couple of friends made as a Christmas gift! It even got me into thinking of making some of my own, and when you find adorable bottles to make them on Amazon, I mean, how could you not want to get crafty in the kitchen?! Plus, it looks super easy to do, so perhaps that’ll be a future experiment, and it’ll give me a nice excuse to go to my favorite spice shop: Savory Spices.

 

img_2712
You can’t go wrong with homemade Vanilla Extract!

If you don’t have a spice store nearby (which I recommend just doing a quick google search for, because I’ve found that their quality and price for any spice is always better than it would be at your grocery store), check this place out! They will mail spices to your home—and likely throw in a spice mix sample too—and they offer bagged refills so you don’t have to always buy new jars or containers! And their labels offer super great tips on how to use them, sometimes including an actual recipe for them (and many recipes on their website)! So, if you’re looking to up the ante on your spices, I highly recommend seeking out your own small spice shop if you can that guarantees a fresher quality of product.

Now, because I’m always looking for tips and tricks, here’s one I didn’t know about/hadn’t really tried before: soaking my raisins in warm water for 10 minutes. According to Sally, this is just to plump them up a little bit, and frankly, I think it was a great way to thicken these cookies a little too and keep the raisins nice and chewy during the baking process!

The last tip I have actually comes from Mama Sully! I was telling her about my baking task this week and she told me to try putting my oats in a food processor to break them down a little before mixing them into my batter. She said it would also help with making sure the cookies spread out nice and evenly, rather than making oatmeal lump cookies. Now, being that I’m all for trying new things, I soaked my raisins, I broke down my oats, and wouldn’t you know it, they came out BETTER than when I hadn’t done either of those things! (It’s the little things that make me, and my man, happy.) Soft, chewy, and just sweet enough that it’s not cloying. These are by far the best batch I’ve made, so if you’re looking to spice up your own go-to recipe, here are some ways to do it!

Happy Eating (and Baking)! Cooking Maggie Out!


Soft & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction

 

Wednesday Night Delight: Brownies from Scratch!

img_2349

And I started those aforementioned brownies around 9pm…yeah, I did that, AND I cooked, because we needed dinner too, but I late night baked, which I now believe is the best kind of baking! There’s something really satisfying about ending your day on a sweet note, the feel of flour soft on your hands in evening light…or maybe that’s just my exhaustion talking. To be honest though, I’m not much of a baker, mostly because baking is so precise and I don’t always like to play by the rules, even though I know why the rules are there. Baking is where I find myself most challenged in the kitchen, but because it’s 2017, and this is the year to be bold, I’m going to try baking something every week. Yes, every week…because much like anything you do in life, you only get better with practice, so tonight, I’m going to practice. And sure, that doesn’t really coincide with my healthy habit goals for the year, but no one said I had to eat everything I baked! This is why Frankie (and my coworkers & friends) make GREAT guinea pigs! #shameless

img_2364But first thing’s first! Dinner, picked by my most frequent, full-time critic: Sun-dried Tomato, Basil Orzo with Chicken and steamed Green Beans (I am also trying to find additional ways to love my veggies other than roasted or pan seared). Did I mention that it was late? 8:30pm was when my apron strings were officially tied and I got to work, but there’s a story behind it. (Fun) Fact: Wednesday nights are Dog Training nights for Tuggs up in the North burbs, which doesn’t even end till 7:30pm, so I try very hard not to cook on training days, but it couldn’t be helped! Why? Because, apparently everyone in Chicago was making Orzo on Tuesday, which was when I went grocery shopping originally…

I went to three (THREE!) different stores—two Jewel Osco’s (one by my work, one in Lincoln Square) and the one Tony’s by my apartment—before the third Jewel I went to in Wilmette rewarded me with their last two boxes…I mean, I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a single box of orzo anywhere! I now plan to keep orzo handy at all times in one of my tall storage jars in my cupboard, and will buy it if I see it so I don’t have to postpone cooking and resort to take-out Thai food, which isn’t bad, but I was all geared up to cook! Ugh, but whatever, we got there eventually didn’t we?

 

With orzo in hand, I have to say, there’s nothing quite like the versatility and texture of orzo pasta. It lends itself so well to all sorts of flavor profiles that other pastas like spaghetti can’t. Plus it’s just fun to eat, a little party in every bite that dances on the tongue! Same with risotto (if done right with some good wine, and I do have an AWESOME looking recipe for risotto that I want to try soon)! And what’s an orzo without Parmesan cheese? I swear, I love my cheese, it’s the one thing I don’t think I can live without (even Blue cheese, which isn’t my favorite), but almost everything I make has cheese on it or in it. Not a lot, because, you know, I’m trying to be healthy, but it’s usually there, and if it isn’t, I end up eating some cheese at lunch, or a little plate of cheese and crackers before dinner (I’m also on a Manchego obsession right now, and I’m not sorry about it one bit).

img_2369

I went with the jarred sun-dried tomato this time, just for ease of time and prep, but I also grabbed a little container of natural sun-dried tomatoes, which I think I will let simmer with the pasta to re-hydrate and lend itself to the broth sauce that would be left behind post-pasta cooking. I think it would be a little more pronounced as well, rather than having a slightly oily note, which isn’t always the best. OH! And did I mention that recently I purchased my first ever cruet for my olive oil the other day? I couldn’t resist and I felt very chefy using it last night for the very first time to saute my garlic! That’s the greatest thing about being in the kitchen and cooking as much as I do (which incites vast amounts of research on better ways to do what I’m already doing), I’m always learning something new!

 

img_2385Overall, a successful dish that warmed my tired soul after a long hard day! Soft, velvety, rich, a little tangy, a little sweet (on top of my green beans, which I tossed in a little butter, salt, and pepper). But then it was time for the hard part, the baking.

Now, I had only heard of Smitten Kitchen once before I started this whole blogging adventure, and that was to make Chicken Noodle Soup when Franklin was very ill one not so fine Friday night. And funny enough, the first dish he ever made for me, before we were actually dating each other, was his own version of Chicken Noodle soup in the basement of his fraternity house nearly 8 years ago, the same night we knew we were meant for each other [cue the awe sounds here]. But Frankie’s sister-in-law swears by Smitten Kitchen’s chicken noodle soup, so I looked it up, and found more than I bargained for. I even bought my very first cookbook from her because it just seemed like the right time and opportunity, not to mention my mom got a BUNCH for Christmas and I was feeling a little envious. Is it bad to say that I don’t own a cookbook? Well, it’s out there, so don’t judge me too harshly, especially with all the great things like Pinterest & Food52 with their online recipes. But as I was perusing her site and buying a cookbook (and pinning every other cookbook I want to own eventually), I came across a brownie recipe and I realized it had been over a YEAR since I last had a brownie from scratch, not a box. So, I said “screw it” and here we are!

 

And after going through the whole making brownies process, there are definitely some things my kitchen is lacking: Glass, heat proof bowls. I mis en place all the time, but I use my Fiesta ware that I got as a moving gift from my mom, and having the glass bowls you see in kitchens all the time has been a dream of mine, but it also makes the process of double boiling SO MUCH EASIER—but since I didn’t, an extra sauce pan was the perfect vessel to melt the butter and make the chocolatey goodness you see before you! (Or is it above you?)

img_2406

Anyway, these brownies are awesome, but! I know I didn’t do the parchment paper right. Since cooking it, I have talked to one of my coworkers (who bakes WAY more than I do) about how to make it behave and do what I want. The secret she says? Just a little water. Wet the bottom of the pan, eye ball the size of the paper you need, cut, and press it against the water and use your nail along the crease to make it stay. Put a little water on top of that sheet when you layer on the second. Just enough to get it a little damp, not totally wet. Then, PERFECT EDGES! See, this is the great thing about cooking too! It always manages to bring people together in ways you wouldn’t expect, but find INCREDIBLY helpful in the long run.

img_2405

These were utterly delicious and I think next time I’m going to try making them with dark chocolate cocoa powder, or go to my favorite spice shop to see what interesting cocoa powders they have on stock. (I shall reveal my secret spice shop in the next post, but let me tantalize you with this sneak peek of a recipe I’ve been perfecting for over 10 years: Chicken. Pot. Pie.)

And with that, I bid you ADIEU and very happy eating (while I track my first cookbook)!!

Cooking Maggie Out!


Sun-dried Tomato, Basil Orzo with Chicken from Cooking Classy
Best Cocoa Brownies from Smitten Kitchen

BONUS RECIPE! Chicken Noodle Soup from Smitten Kitchen