Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grill, Baby, Grill

Last weekend it was bee-yooty-ful so we decided it was the perfect time to christen the new grill.  In March!  While folks in the South or West may grill year-round or even a majority of the year, in Iowa, grilling in early spring (winter was LAST WEEK!) is generally unheard of.  Plus, we had chuck eye steaks in the freezer that I had stocked up on last fall (an excellent thing, because at current prices, we won't be buying any time soon).  So we were excited.

Since it was the first grill of the season, we decided to go all-out.  That meant putting garlic butter on our steaks.  Garlic butter makes any steak at least 200 percent better.  Guaranteed.

Garlic Butter
Adapted from Weber's Big Book of Grilling

2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Land O' Lakes Light Butter, softened
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Combine ingredients together in a small preparation dish or bowl.

Mix together with small whisk or fork until well-combined.

Refrigerate until ready to serve, then dollop a scant tablespoon on top of hot steak just prior to eating.

Doesn't that look awesome?  Definitely 200 percent better.  At least.

Calories:  37
Serves: 4 (scant tablespoon)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Eureka! Cookies

I have a thing about cookies.  I don't like them dry.  Or crumbly.  I like them moist, and I want them to stay moist once I've stored them.  And, as you may have seen on my last post, I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that is my go-to.  They're perfect (in my opinion anyway).  But I haven't been able to find a comparable chocolate cookie recipe that meets my standards.  Yes, I'm picky.  So I've been on a quest to bake the perfect chocolate cookie for a very long time.  And I think I've finally found it.  Hence...Eureka! cookies.

Eureka! Cookies (Chocolate Peanut Butter-Chunk)
Adapted from Triple Chocolate Oreo Chunk Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 scant teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet cream butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures, chopped (approximately 15)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa into a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs and continue mixing.  Add vanilla extract and mix until completely blended.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and cream together.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add chocolate chips and chopped peanut butter cups, mixing until evenly combined.  Using a medium-size cookie scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheet in rows.  Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, rotating cookie sheets between racks at 4-5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes to allow the cookies to set up.  Then move to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

Makes approximately 3 1/2 dozen medium-sized cookies
132 calories per cookie

Click here for a printable copy. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Potential Loss of An All-Time Favorite

Lately I've been working on organizing my cache of recipes (more on that to come in a later post).  I thought I had all my favorites in their respective binders, until I went in search of my tried-and-true chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It's an adaptation of a recipe that used to be on the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda box and I've been making it for years (like, at least 20 10, but I'm not quite ready to admit that!).  I pulled out the "Desserts" binder, flipped to the "Cookies & Bars" section and...not there.  What?  No!  Where could it be?!  E gads...disaster!!  Although I pretty much know it by heart, I wanted to have it, because you never know.  The phone might ring while I'm baking, and I'm notorious for being a poor multi-tasker when it comes to phones and cooking.

Needless to say, I did track it down, but not before realizing I better put pen to paper (or printer to paper, as the case may be) and put it in the right place.  And I might as well post it, so it's a win-win all around.

All-Time Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, placing oven racks on the second and fourth levels from the bottom.  Mix sugars and eggs in mixing bowl until well blended.  Add vanilla, salt, and baking soda and mix well.  Add Butter Flavor Crisco and mix well.  Add flour, mixing until completely incorporated.  Finally add chocolate chips and mix until evenly incorporated throughout the batter.  Using a medium-size cookie scoop, place dough on cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, switching the pan from the lower rack to the upper rack of the oven halfway through the baking time.  Remove cookies when golden.  Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet to firm up, then move to a cooling rack until completely cooled.  Store in an air-tight container.   (I prefer mine frozen!)

Makes approximately 3 dozen medium-sized cookies
128 calories per cookie

Nestle used to make a caramel-milk chocolate swirl morsel that really made these cookies to die for.  Sadly, they discontinued it despite my objections.  I've yet to find a comparable substitute, but I like to make life interesting on occasion and mix in different morsels.  This time I used a cup of milk chocolate chips and a cup of Reese's peanut butter chips.  Which ever chip you choose, you can't lose!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chicken. It's What's For Dinner (Or, Another Fix For Chicken Because Beef Is So Pricey....)

Chicken breasts were on sale at our grocery store this week.  I would have rather bought lean ground round and made chili or burgers, but if you've seen the prices of beef lately, you understand why I held back.  With no price reductions in sight, we'll probably be eating a lot of chicken in the next few months, so I wanted to mix it up a bit and have something a little more unique than our average fare.  Evan had requested calzones again, and Mike and I thought barbeque chicken calzones would be a nice change of pace from the standard Italian-style we had last weekend.  I pulled one package of my sale-priced breasts out of my now-organized deep freeze, seasoned them and baked them, a la rotisserie chicken, since I have pathetic skills when it comes to roasting a whole bird.  And because I only used a tiny bit of the chicken in the calzones, I had quite a bit leftover.  How could I use it?

I recalled that back in our high calorie consuming days, we would throw together a balsamic chicken penne dish at least twice a month.  It had a lot of olive oil and loads of carbs, but it was always good.  It had asparagus, which added a nice crunch and the flavors in the balsamic, along with some sun-dried tomatoes, really complemented one another.  I decided to recreate that old favorite, still using olive oil, just A LOT less.  And guess what?  We hardly noticed the difference.  Our old favorite is STILL good and much, much lighter! 

Balsamic Chicken Penne with Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

8 oz. high fiber penne pasta, uncooked
3/4 lb. roasted boneless, skinless chicken, chopped
1 9-oz. box frozen asparagus cuts
1 oz. julienne-cut sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle seasoning
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic powder

Cook pasta to al dente, according to package directions.  While pasta boils, place chicken and sun-dried tomatoes in a large pasta serving bowl.  Partially cook asparagus in microwave according to package directions (for the lowest recommended time) and add to serving bowl.  Drain pasta and add to serving bowl.  Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the top of the mixture, toss to coat.  Add seasoning blend, black pepper, salt, and granulated garlic powder.  Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan or red pepper flakes if desired.

Serves 4

Calories:  Approximately 338