Monday, October 31, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

White chocolate macadamia cookies were always my favorite growing up. Although nothing beats a homemade chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven, there was just something about these cookies that beckoned me. They were like a special treat. I would choose them over any other cookie if they were offered at a party or gathering. Sometimes I would even snag one at Mrs. Fields or Subway when I was at the mall hanging out.

That having been said, I never ONCE made them all that time! People don't really make white chocolate macadamia cookies do they? I mean, I know you can get them in large quantities at your local Costco and such, but really, I don't think I've ever eaten a homemade one! Do you even see many recipes for this wonderful cookie in many cookbooks? I'm sure the recipes are actually there, even if they are few and far between.

I don't know what prompted me to make these the other night, but I'm so glad I did! Well, actually, I have this love affair with the bulk foods section at WinCo every time I go there and the last time I was there I grabbed a small bags worth of macadamia nuts. I had great intentions to use them but never did. So, I figured there's no time like the present. Sunday nights my girls and I are almost always in the kitchen together making treats; usually brownies or cookies. So, as I opened my cupboard and saw all the little bags of bulk food goodness, I spied that little bag of nuts and naturally my mind went to cookies...and the rest is history.

So, long intro, I know, but I have to say these cookies are superb (and I'm pretty picky about my cookies)! They are a little crunchy around the outside edges but nice and chewy in the middle and they have that nice contrast between slightly salty and sweet. Stick this recipe in your cookie file, you're going to want to make them. (You can probably find good deals on nuts and chocolate chips now or soon with the upcoming holiday baking season, so stock up!)

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cups chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the melted butter*, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the egg, then beat in the egg yolk, then beat in the vanilla. (*Do NOT skip cooling the butter down to room temperature, you may encounter problems with your dough if it is too hot.)

Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just moistened. Gently mix in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips either by hand with a rubber spatula, or with a few pulses of your mixer.

Using a small scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets. Slightly press down on the cookies with the palm of your hand a bit to flatten. but not too much. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges look golden brown and the middles don’t look quite set. Allow to finish cooling on the baking sheet. Remove cookies to a cooling rack and repeat with remaining dough, scooping dough out onto COOLED baking sheets (this will prevent them from spreading too quickly).

SOURCE:Slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pepita Granola and Pumpkin Butter

If you like granola, you're in for a treat for today's post! I daresay that this has become my favorite granola...ever...I think. I first discovered it last fall, when I fell in love with it. Then I waited all the way until this fall to make it again, don't ask my why. Maybe because it seems strange to eat pumpkin other than during pumpkin season.

I usually eat my granola on top of some plain yogurt, but I couldn't resist mixing it together with some pumpkin butter to take it over the top. If you've never heard of or had pumpkin butter, it's pretty similar to apple butter in that you let it cook down with some sugar and spices. It's very easy to make and very tasty, but you only need a dollop because it packs a spice-packed punch.

If you have a hard time finding the nuts and dried fruit that you want, try shopping where they have a bulk foods section. I usually buy all my ingredients to make any kind of granola from the bulk section at my local WinCo. They are also less expensive there as well and you can just buy the quantity that you want.

You can also experiment with dried fruit by drying your own, especially if you have a dehydrator. I like to buy boxes of fruit, in season, to can and dry to use throughout the rest of the year. This year I got about 40 lbs. of delicious pears; you wouldn't believe how yummy they are dried! I'll hopefully be doing apples soon as well.

Pepita Granola
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1/4 cup ground flax seed (optional)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds (I used about 1/2 cup each of sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, and green (hulled) pumpkin seeds-not roasted)
2-3 cups mixed dried fruit (I used pears and cranberries; you could also use apricots, cherries, raisins, apples, figs, or whatever else you want.)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or other oil)
1/4 cup mild honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 - 1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch salt
splash of vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, flax meal, coconut and nuts. In a microwave safe bowl, gently melt the oil and honey; add the sugar, applesauce, cinnamon, salt and vanilla and stir until incorporated. Pour over the dry mixture and stir until it's evenly coated.

Spread granola over two cookie sheets and bake about 15-25 minutes, until lightly golden, stirring every 5 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Let granola cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Pumpkin Butter
1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin, or about 3 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin puree
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of half a lemon

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently. Adjust spices to taste. Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.

Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge

SOURCE: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Moroccan Fall Salad

I feel like the boy who cried wolf a little bit right now. Although it's been nice not having to worry about scheduling posts (while making preparations for baby instead), I still find myself wanting to share with you the yummy things I've been making!

I like food...a lot, and I love sharing it all with you. So, here I am again; I just can't stay away.

Baby is still due in 2 weeks. This will be girl #3-heaven help us! Some say #3 is the hardest, some say #2 was hardest. I guess we will see.

This is a truly unique salad! I had it for the first time about a year ago and tried to recreate it last fall but didn't do so hot. Recently I found myself with some root veggies that had been given to me and this salad came mind again. So, I went about trying to recreate the salad. Well, it made it on the blog, so this time was definitely a success!

I just love how loaded it is with different veggies; not to mention the dried fruit and nuts. When I ate this salad before, it was topped with Moroccan-spiced chicken. I didn't want to use chicken but still wanted those authentic flavors to pull the dish together. So, I created a vinaigrette that has some of those same spices, and I think it worked great! Here's some healthy eating inspiration to use up those fall veggies!

Moroccan Fall Salad
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup butternut squash, diced (boiled or roasted*)
1/2 cup beets, diced (boiled, roasted* or canned)
1 avocado, diced
1-2 small carrots, peeled and sliced (or shredded)
1/2 cup button mushrooms, sliced or diced
1/2 large bell pepper, diced
1 hard-boiled egg, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dates, small-diced
1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds
Feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

*You can roast the squash and beets at the same time if you wish. Just wash, peel and dice them. Throw them on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I kept them separated on the same cookie sheet so the beets wouldn't bleed onto the squash. Roast in a 425 F oven for about 15-20 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so and tossing them around a bit.

Prepare all the rest of the ingredients while the squash and beets are roasting, setting aside the eggs, avocado.

When beets and squash are finished cooking and cooled down, toss everything but the eggs and avocado together in a large salad bowl. Dish out salad onto individual plates and top with egg, avocado and feta cheese, if desired. Serve with Moroccan vinaigrette.

Moroccan Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. each cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, ginger (I actually used fresh)
1 garlic clove, minced

Put all ingredients into a small mixing bowl and whisk until combined.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Easy Pizza Sauce

Just taking a second to throw this up here, especially since it goes with my last post for pizza. I love this pizza sauce. If you make pizza a lot, you should try it.

For over a year now I have been using an easy pizza sauce that you just add a powder mix to a can of tomato sauce. I liked it ok, but I realized it wasn't the freshest option, nor the healthiest (since most pre-packaged spice mixes have anti-caking agents in them for a long shelf life.) I don't know about you but I'd much rather have something fresh, plus the taste is always better. This sauce is pretty close to fresh and it's super quick and easy to boot! It also tastes loads better than the stuff you can get in a pre-packaged spice mix.

Easy Pizza Sauce
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
drizzle of olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

Add everything together in a small mixing bowl and mix well. Let sit for an hour or so before you're ready to make your pizza.

SOURCE: Adapted from Alli-n-Son

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza

This has been my new favorite pizza lately. I actually made it twice within a week once and didn't even get tired of it. The flavors of all the fresh veggies and two cheeses really go together well; I especially love the pop of the fresh basil. I know it's nearing the end of the season, when you can get all this produce cheap, but if you have a chance, squeeze this into your menu before it gets too cold!

Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza
Makes 1 large (about 16-inch)pizza
1 recipe Perfect Pizza Crust
your favorite pizza sauce
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup julienned red and yellow peppers
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn or chiffonade

Make pizza crust according to directions. Preheat oven (and pizza stone) to 450 degrees F. Roll pizza dough out onto either a pizza stone or the back of a cookie sheet that's been generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread sauce on top.

If you're using sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in oil, place them in a small saucepan and add water until they are just covered. Boil for about 5 minutes, until soft; drain and chop.

Layer Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and peppers on top of pizza dough. Top with feta, mozzarella and basil. Bake for about 7-10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown.

SOURCE:Adapted from the Costco Cookbook
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