Monday, October 31, 2011

One of the Most Amazing Cookies EVER


I have some awesome cookie recipes. I mean, for REAL. One of my all-time favorites was an oatmeal raising cinnamon chip cookie I stumbled on. You know how sometimes you are flipping through the Sunday paper coupon sections, and there, next to a coupon for something or other, sits the most delicious looking recipe that makes you reach for the scissors to clip that coupon because "OMG I HAVE TO MAKE THAT!"?  That's what happened to me with Hershey's Cinnamon Chips, and the cookie recipe below. I mean, I love oatmeal raisin cookies anyway. And I love cinnamon. So combine the two and I am in heaven. I do have to say that one year the Hershey's chips were not available in grocery stores, so I had to get some mini (and not quite the same) chips from a baking supply store. In the past year or two, they seem to only have them around the holidays, so it's not a bad idea to buy an extra package or two if they are up your alley.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

1 c (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 c packed light brown sugar
1/3 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 c quick-cook oats
1 2/3 c cinnamon chips
3/4 c raisins

Heat oven to 350 F. Beat butter, eggs, brown sugar and granulated sugar in bowl until creamy. Combine flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in oats, cinnamon chips and raisins (batter will be stiff). Drop by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute, remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Makes about 4 dozen.

I may have mentioned before that I have begun using the Splenda for Baking blend, and I cannot taste a difference. Just be sure you follow the directions, as you need half the Splenda for Baking as you do granulated sugar. Also, Sun Maid has baking raisins, I try to get these when I can. They are extra moist, and great for recipes like this.

Believe you me, this recipe will amp up your average oatmeal raisin cookie. And I thought I had the best cookie recipe ever until I stumbled on this recipe on

Notice a trend here with me and cookies that involve chips of some sort. These are so easy and so delicious! These are requested frequently--I most recently made them for a fall work party. Know that most times, when I bake, I usually give it all away. I love spreading the joy of baking (no pun intended...OK, maybe a little), and I also kind of feel "better on their lips than on my hips". However, when it comes to either of these cookies, I ALWAYS save a few for J & I, as they are such a treat.

Spice up your Fall with either of these great cookies, you will quickly find they are among everyone's top favorites!

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This Time of Year Is Perfect...

...for soups and baking!

While neither J or I are a fan at all of cold weather and winter, we do like fall (when we have one). Look, I'm a baseball fan. You know why? Well, part of it is because my Grandma W was a huge baseball fan, took Papa W to many games, making him a fan, and Papa & Mama W took us to several games as kids and, while I know I was not always interested (once asking during warm ups at Three Rivers Stadium if it was "over yet"), somewhere along the line I latched onto it as "my" sport. Papa W have spent several years as somewhat season ticket holders at PNC Park, our 10-game package only most recently becoming an "official" season ticket package, official card and all.

The other part of it is, that aside from the early and later season games, which can be on the shaky side of Pittsburgh weather, baseball is a season of warmth, fireworks, and cold beers that taste oh, so good, at 12:30pm on a day when you would usually be at work. Football season, however, screams to us "OMG IT'S COLD AND YOU DO NOT WANT TO SIT OUT HERE!" So J & I typically opt for Steeler games at home (thank you, digital converter box which allows us to get wayyy more channels without cable--particularly football games we can see clearly), with home-cooked treats throughout the day.

J likes to make wings, we like to bake, and we love soup. And we started a trend of "Soup Sundays", where we try to make a different soup recipe each week. Don't get me wrong, we have a couple standbys, but we really are trying to be better about trying different recipes from cookbooks and magazines.

A couple weeks ago, we opted for a mushroom soup and homemade herb biscuits. The soup recipe comes from Timeless Treasures, the cookbook I bought on our anniversary trip at Bedford Springs Resort. (I don't see it available on the website, but I'm sure if you call the hotel direct, and ask for the gift shop, they can ship you a copy.) The recipe was provided by Lester Wallack, an employee at the Bedford Springs Resort.  I found it to be a very easy and delicious recipe.

12oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 c chopped onions
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1c milk
1-2 tsp dill
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp tamale
1 tsp salt
2c water
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4c parsley
1/2c sour cream

*So I will give you the actual instructions then tell you what I did*

Saute onions in 2 tbsp butter. Add mushrooms, 1 tsp dill, 1/2c water, tamale* & paprika. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Melt remaining butter in large saucepan. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking a few minutes. Add milk. Cook 10 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently, until thick. Stir in mushroom mixture and remaining water. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes. Just before serving, add salt, lemon juice, sour cream and dill. Serve garnished with parsley.

*I know what tamales are in relation to Mexican food, but have never seen it as an ingredient. I tried to Google what to substitute for tamale in a recipe, and came up with nothing. If anything, I might add a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick, otherwise, the soup is great as is!

OK so here's how it went in the Diva's Test Kitchen...

I did substitute Fage 0% Greek yogurt for the sour cream, which is a staple in my house. Also, it didn't specify mushroom type, so I opted for 8oz sliced white mushrooms, and 4oz mixed mushrooms--portabello, oyster and shitake. This is where the reading the recipe beforehand comes in. And my whole visual thing with eating as well. Like "if it doesn't look good, can't eat it". Not that it's anything major, but I'd (incorrectly) assumed that some of the mushroom mix was pureed. And because some of those shitake and oyster mushrooms can look a little funny, I couldn't possibly leave them just floating around. So I blended much of the mushroom mix, but left some sliced mushrooms whole.

I will say, though, that the mushroom mix sauteed beautifully, making a deep, rich broth. And even though I didn't follow the exact recipe, the soup was absolutely delicious! I have to learn to school myself to read the entire recipe beforehand, try the recipe AS IS first, THEN try it again with my own twists and turns if I am not 100% satisfied. I think next time I will try the original recipe, and use basic sliced white button mushrooms so as not to throw off the mojo.

The biscuit recipe is courtesy of Real Simple magazine. Pretty basic and OMG, so delicious!!!

We cut this recipe in half since it was the two of us, and it still made about a dozen biscuits. I am so happy I still had fresh herbs in the garden, I used fresh basil, rosemary and sage. DELICIOUS!

I enjoyed leftovers for lunch a couple days, and both the soup and biscuits were just as good. And even though I pureed some of the mushroom mix when I wasn't supposed to, I think the amazing flavor of the original recipe really came through. Just wonderful and I am excited to try more from the Bedford Springs cookbook. All of the recipes were provided by resort staff, seem to be very easy, and look absolutely delicious.

As opposed to ordering the cookbook from the resort if you are local to Pittsburgh, I still 100% recommend taking the 2 hour drive to Bedford to walk through the resort, visit the gift shop (buy the cookbook) and have dinner at the Crystal Room. An amazing fixed price dinner, well worth the $42 per person, will leave you full but wanting more! Reservations are highly recommended, and the restaurant is closed on Sundays.

Happy Eating, and Happy Fall!

Friday, October 7, 2011

How Time Flies!

I honestly couldn't believe when I logged on and saw that my last post was in AUGUST! I thought, my goodness, that CAN'T be right! Indeed it was though!

I promise to be more attentive and active, and with fall and (gasp!) winter coming, I have to say the one thing I love about those seasons is baking and making soups and casseroles. So I hope to share more of my favorite fall recipes in the upcoming weeks, as well as anything new we may try!

One recipe I stumbled on a while back and have adjusted to my own liking was an egg & spinach bake. J & I tend to have eggs for breakfast on the weekends, and once we started the low-carb kick, I was looking for something to make occasionally for something different and bread-free. What is so great about this recipe is that once you have the basic mix, you can add anything you want to it, and make it different every time.

Egg Spinach Bake

12 eggs (or 3 cups Egg Beaters)
1/2 cup 0% Fage Greek Yogurt
1 1/2cups (6oz) shredded cheese, plus extra to sprinkle on top
8-10oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, then squeezed dry

Mix the eggs and yogurt together, beat well.

Mix in the cheese and spinach, mix until blended.

The amount of spinach depends on what kind you buy. I used to get the 10oz Birds Eye or Giant Eagle packages, but lately I have been buying 16oz bags from Whole Foods & Trader Joe's and using about half the bag. I have to say, I think Whole Foods chopped spinach is the best--seems to hold the least amount of water that needs to be squeezed out. You can also use 16oz of fresh, sauteed spinach if you like. And if you don't like spinach, you can omit it and add other ingredients. I have also used a variety of shredded cheeses--Mexican blend, Cheddar, Parmesan. (The original recipe even called for grated Parmesan sprinkled on top.)

Once this base recipe is mixed, you can really get creative. Bacon crumbles, sausage, or ham. Chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, jalapenos. The possibilities are endless. I have added ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, herbs, as well as different cheeses--crumbled goat, feta, or Gouda.

Pour the mixture into a greased 15x10x1 inch baking pan, and sprinkle with shredded or grated cheese.

Bake at 350 F for 25-35 minutes, or until a knife or cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into squares. Makes 12-15 servings.

Since it's just the two of us, we usually make 12 squares, then we each have a couple days' worth of leftovers. I have made this for both breakfast and dinner. I like it because it is also an easy mix-ahead meal. Often the night before, I will mix in a large Pyrex bowl and bake the next morning or evening.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and please let me know if you come up with your own winning combination to add to the basic mix!

Be happy & well!