Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Neiman - Marcus Cookies

I have a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to cookies. If I made cookies as often as I actually want them, I'd be baking every few days! It's just too hard to work off those cookie calories these days. But during the last Christmas season, I followed Barbara's blog very closely as she was posting some wonderfully addictive looking cookie recipes. There are several I want to make, but I'm starting with the Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie Recipe. With oatmeal and chocolate chips whats not to love? I really had to watch them as they bake. Once the edges start to get golden, they are done, if you like your cookies chewy that is. I really didn't change the recipe, other than I used only half of the nuts called for in the dough, and Barbara didn't use any nuts. But these cookies are winners for sure-we couldn't stay out of them! It's a good thing I gave some away, because we all turned into cookie monsters! Here's the recipe.
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups blended oatmeal (pulse oatmeal in a blender to make it flour like)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 - 4 ounces Hershey bar, grated
3 cups chopped nuts ( I used 1 1/2 cups)
Cream the butter and sugars; add eggs and vanilla and mix well. In another bowl, mix the flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips, grated chocolate and nuts. I used a rounded tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Roll each cookie into a ball and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. These cookies do spread out, so don't crowd them. Bake at 375 degrees for about 9-10 minutes. As soon as they began turning golden around the edges, I removed them from the oven and let them set on the cookie sheet about 30 seconds before removing to cooling racks. They stayed nice and chewy down to the last cookie! I will be making Neiman-Marcus Cookies again, and again! They are just so good. Give them a try!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

A few weeks ago I had a craving for Red Beans and Rice, which is odd considering that I had not made it before, except from a box many years back. So I looked for a recipe on Mary's blog where she has all things southern and Cajun. I was not disappointed as it is so good! I've made Red Beans and Rice twice now, and it has been deliciously spicy and full of flavor. I found that I can handle more pepper than I thought I could. I used a ham bone that I had left over from Christmas, stored in the freezer. This gave a wonderful, smokey flavor to this dish, more so than just using ham pieces. Ham hocks would be a good choice to use also. Here's how I made it;
adapted from Deep South Dish
1 ham bone with ham cut off in pieces, or some diced ham, or ham hocks
1 package (14 ounces) Hillshire Farms Beef Sausage
1 pound dried small red beans (store brands were all that I could find)
2 tablespoon oil, or bacon grease
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon, or more of cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper to taste
salt if needed (you'll get lots of salt from the meat)
2 quarts, or more water
cooked rice
1. Sort through the beans and remove any dirt or debris. Place in a soup pot and rinse with water. Drain. Add fresh water to the pot and bring the beans to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let set for 1 hour. Drain well.
2. In the soup pot, heat the oil or bacon grease over medium high heat. Add the diced onions, bell pepper, and celery to the pot. Stir and cook until softened. Add the sausage and ham, if using and stir and brown lightly. Stir in the garlic, basil, thyme, cayenne and black pepper. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add the drained beans and the water to the pot with the vegetable meat mixture. Add in the ham bone and simmer until done, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, or until beans are tender. I added the cooked ham the last 30 minutes of cooking. Taste, and add salt if needed. When I used the ham bone and smoked sausage, I did not need any additional salt. Serve over hot cooked rice and a pan of hot, crusty cornbread fresh from the oven. Enjoy!
NOTE: You need to make sure beans do not get too dry while cooking. Add more water if necessary.
The first time I made this, I used less water, but my family wanted more broth, so, this time I have more broth to make them happy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick Rigatoni with Italian Sausage - A Skillet Meal

Our family loves pasta, especially my daughter and I, so I make it almost weekly. I don't always have time to make a sauce that requires a long cooking time. Actually, a quick, light sauce can be just as flavorful as one that has cooked much longer. I have found that putting canned tomatoes in a blender and pulsing a few times, gives you a quick sauce to work with. I learned this trick out of necessity, because my boys would not eat a tomato based sauce that had chunks in it. So I've used the blender to just break up the tomatoes, whole or diced, but not puree them. It really works.
The other evening, I needed a quick meal as I had 5 people to feed, instead of just my daughter and I. So, I turned to this quick pasta dish. This sauce is not a heavy, gravy type that I would use for spaghetti, but is a light sauce that clings well to the pasta. The Italian Sausage adds wonderful spicy flavor to this dish, filling each pasta tube with its goodness. Ground beef could be used instead, but it won't have as much flavor. The only thing I missed was fresh basil, but since my plants are long gone, and my grocery store didn't have any, I had to use dried. Can't wait for gardening weather! Let me show you how to make this delicious skillet dinner.

from Lynda's Recipe Box
12 ounces Rigatoni or other tube pasta - can use Penne
1 pound Italian Sausage, casings removed ( I used mild Italian sausage)
3 cans (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes, pulsed in the blender
NOTE: If you like chunky sauce, don't pulse the tomatoes.
2 tablespoons tomato paste, or 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 onion, diced - about 1 1/2 cups
3 cloves minced garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons dried Basil, or 3-4 tablespoons fresh chopped Basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if needed
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 - 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the rigatoni according to the package directions. Add salt to the cooking water. When done, drain in a colander and put aside.
While pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon, or more of olive oil. Break up the sausage in the skillet with a fork or spatula and let the meat start to brown. Add the onion and stir and let the meat and onion cook together. Lower the heat if the sausage begins to burn. Cook until the onion is soft, then add the minced garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes more. Add in the canned tomatoes that have been pulsed in the blender, and the tomato paste or sauce. Add the Basil, oregano and sugar; mix well and simmer on low heat, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the cooked rigatoni and top with the cheeses. Remove the pan from the hot burner. Place lid back on pan and let it set for 5minutes or so, to let the cheese melt. Serve with salad and a good crusty bread. Enjoy!
The Italian sausage adds so much flavor to this dish that little, if any salt and pepper is needed, in my opinion. But be sure to taste before adding the cheese to adjust the seasonings.
If using fresh herbs, add them at the END of the cooking time for full flavor.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Homemade Chicken and Noodle Soup (with cheater noodles)

I have been rather absent from my blog lately, due to not feeling well, and taking care of my granddaughter. My daughter-in-law had to go on a business trip for several days, so I stayed at their house at night, because my son goes to work very early in the morning. So my cooking has been rather erratic at best. But I'm back with Chicken and Noodle Soup, using purchased frozen noodles (gasp!), instead of making my own like I usually do. When I don't feel well or I'm not wanting to spend a large chunk of time in the kitchen, I cheat! How about you?
I did use a whole chicken for this flavorful soup because whole chickens are the best value for your buck out there. It cooked for about 1 1/2 hours and then cooled a bit before I took the meat off the bones. However, boneless chicken pieces may be used, but the broth will not be as rich as it could be using bone-in pieces. The best cheater noodles, in my opinion, are Reames noodles, found in your grocers freezer department. They are the most like homemade noodles that I have found and were highly recommended to me first by my Mother-in law many years ago. Enjoy!

HOMEMADE CHICKEN and NOODLE SOUP (with cheater Noodles!)

1 1/2 pounds boneless or bone-in chicken pieces
8 cups water
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots (about)
2-3 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
about 1/2 cup frozen peas
12 ounce package frozen Reames noodles
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Add 8 cups water to soup pot and add chicken pieces OR a whole, 3 1/2 pound chicken. Bring to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover pan and reduce heat to a simmer. Boneless chicken pieces need to simmer 20-30 minutes; bone-in pieces about 40 minutes. A whole chicken, about 1 1/4- 1 1/2 hours. Remove chicken to a plate to cool. Skim off any fat from the broth. Add the chopped vegetables and the frozen noodles to the broth and cook about 20 minutes, or until noodles are as tender as you want. Remove chicken from bones, if using a whole chicken. Dice or shred meat. Add chicken to the soup and add desired amount of salt and pepper, if desired. Add in the herbs and serve steaming hot. There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of this delicious soup!
By the way, I use Reames because I like them; I'm not receiving any compensation for this post.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chicken Pomodoro - Great Food in 30 Minutes!

I found this quick meal in the latest issue of Cook's Country magazine and immediately wanted to try it. It uses boneless chicken breasts, which are perfect for quick, healthy meals. I only altered the recipe a bit. I couldn't get fresh Basil, so had to use dried. And I only used half an onion, instead of a whole one. I also used less garlic, because this much garlic at the evening meal can make me feel not so great at times. But this dish had lots of wonderful flavor going on with the chunky, but creamy sauce that had a bit of a spicy kick to it. You may want to omit the red pepper flakes if serving small children. Who am I kidding? My kids would have never eaten this dish just because of the diced tomatoes! They never ate things that were chunky. But my husband and I loved this very flavorful dish. I hope you will too! CHICKEN POMODORO
slightly adapted from Cook's Country

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2pounds)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 an onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)-Cook's used 1 whole onion,diced
2 cloves minced garlic- Cook's used 4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil - Cook's used 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can small diced tomatoes
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar, optional-if sauce tastes acidic, add sugar(see note below)

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken about 3 minutes per side, until golden. Remove chicken to a plate.
2. Heat remaining oil in skillet and cook diced onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and dried basil, if using. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, cream and bring to a boil. Return chicken and accumulated juices to the skillet. Lower heat to a simmer and cover skillet. Cook until chicken is cook through, about 10 minutes, (depending on size of chicken breasts).
3. Transfer chicken to platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Continue to simmer sauce, uncovered, until slightly thickened, 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat. If using fresh basil, add it to skillet at this time, and season with salt and pepper. I only needed about 1/4 teaspoon salt and no pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and pasta. I served the chicken over Angel Hair Pasta. It was delicious! Serve over pasta, rice or polenta.

NOTE: My husband prefers more sauce than this, but I thought it about right for this spicy, creamy sauce. Enjoy!
ALSO NOTE (added 9-10-10)- I think some tomato brands are more acidic than other brands, so after tasting I sometimes add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the sauce. I've added this info to the recipe.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Peanut Butter Bars

I made these Peanut Butter Bars a few days ago, not knowing what to expect exactly. Does that ever happen to you? This recipe uses a cake mix for the base, and I have only used a cake mix for a cake. I thought these cookie bars would be more like brownies, gooey and chewy. But they are like a soft cookie bar, with a chocolate chip and sweetened condensed milk filling. I somehow thought these two ingredients would kind of melt together, but they really don't. But the bars do taste great. They just aren't what I expected. You spread half the cake mixture in a
baking pan, top it with the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk, and the top the whole thing with the rest of the cake mixture, like the picture above. After baking, it will look like this.

Cool the bars completely before cutting into squares. They have a wonderful peanut butter flavor, which is perfect with the chocolate center, of course. Or, you can use peanut butter chips for an all the same flavor bar. So, these bars are delicious, but not what I was hoping for. But my whole family enjoyed them, even if they didn't turn out to be the chewy, gooey bars of our dreams!

from Mr. Food of "oooh it's so good!" fame
1 package (18.25 ounces) yellow cake mix
2 large eggs
1 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 package, 12 ounces, semi-sweet chocolate chips, or a 10 ounce bag of peanut butter chips
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, mix the cake mix, eggs, butter and peanut butter together. Press half of the mixture evenly in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chocolate chips and drizzle with the sweetened condensed milk. Crumble the remaining peanut butter mixture over the top. Place pan back in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy! A perfect snack for any occasion!
Note: To make all chocolate peanut butter bars, just use a chocolate cake mix with the chocolate chips.