Monday, April 29, 2013

Crispy Peanut Butter Cookies

The old adage that "good things come in small packages" describes these cookies perfectly. While I've had delicious, chewy peanut butter cookies, there's just something about that satisfying crunch when you bite into something sweet and salty. The dough goes together very quickly, though it does require an hour in the fridge before baking, so plan accordingly. The recipe yields 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
additional sugar


In a bowl, cream butter and sugars. Add peanut butter, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture, mixing well. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each ball by criss-crossing with the tines of a fork dipped in sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. YIELD: about 4 dozen.

Nutritional Info:  2 cookies per serving; 125 calories; 7 g fat; 15 g carb; trace fiber; 2 g protein

These little bites were perfectly crispy and nutty. Best enjoyed with a glass of cold milk, they are a peanut butter lover's delight.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Italian Beef and Lentil Slow-cooker Soup

Each week at our Weight Watcher meeting we are given a weekly brochure which contains, among other things, recipes for healthy meals. A few weeks back the weekly contained a recipe for a slow-cooker stew. I was attracted to it both for the ingredients and because it offered a generous serving yet was low calorie. You'll notice the title of this post indicated a "soup." As you'll note when you peruse the ingredients, other than a small amount of tomato paste, there is nothing in the list that would serve as a thickening agent. This was a soup, not a stew. I also should have followed my instinct and replaced the lean beef round called for with chuck, which has a good marbling of fat. The small amount of beef in each serving would have still qualified the dish as healthy. With that understanding and the replacement of chuck for round, I can heartily recommend this soup.

Serves 6
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups fresh green beans, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 lb beef chuck, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
14 1/2 oz canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tbs tomato paste
3/4 cup dry lentils
4 cups lower sodium beef broth
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup fresh, slivered basil

freshly grated Pecorino-Romano

Place all ingredients except the basil in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir well. Cook on low setting for 6 hours. Remove cover and stir in basil. Cover and cook 5 minutes more. Yields about 1 1/2 cups per serving.
Despite the lean round being a bit dry, the flavor of this soup was excellent. I did remove the beef and shred it then add it back to the pot before serving. I also took the liberty of adding some grated cheese before serving. With some garlic bread and salad, this made a satisfying dinner.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Roast Prime Rib

When I saw prime rib on sale right before Easter, I bought one and put it in the freezer. I've made prime rib before, mostly roasting it though I did once grill it on the advice of the butcher. Somehow it just tastes better as a roast. While it isn't difficult to do, the smaller the piece of meat, the more vigilant you need to be to roast it to the desired temperature. I bought a five pound roast which had 3 ribs. That's very small, though it can feed 4-6.  I had bookmarked a site (here) and followed the guidelines suggested. The most important advice:

  • do NOT salt the roast before cooking
  • place melted butter on the two cut ends prior to roasting
  • sear the meat at 450 degrees for 15 minutes
  • roast at 325 degrees for the remainder of the time
  • check well before you think it will be done
  • be sure to use accurate thermometers (I used 2 to be sure)
Though the chart indicated my roast would be done between 60 and 70 minutes, it actually took 80 minutes to get it to 120 degrees, perfect for medium rare meat. The incidental cooking while the meat rests for about 15 minutes will raise the temperature to about 125-130 degrees.

My mom used to make prime rib for Easter and it always tasted better than what you are served in restaurants. Of course, mom used to make a huge roast. I would have loved some popovers to go with the beef, but exercised restraint and served it with baked potatoes and spinach sauteed with garlic.

Don't be intimidated by this cut of meat. When it's on sale, give it a try. With a little care and an accurate thermometer, you can master this dish and enjoy it at home.
Served with a horseradish sauce and some au jus the first night, leftovers are tagged for some upscale cheesesteak sandwiches and some hash. You should have smelled the kitchen!

Monday, April 8, 2013

S'mores--Grown-up Style

  • I have a confession to make. I was never a Girl Scout. In fact, it took just one Brownie meeting to convince me that this wasn't something I cared to pursue. I will also confess that the only camping I've ever done (outside of staying at a Red Roof Inn one time) happened while I was Principal of an elementary school and took the entire fifth grade on an overnight each year. There weren't any tents, but the bunk beds in the very austere cabins assured me that I'd made the right decision regarding my brief encounter with scouting. All this by way of explaining that s'mores are not something I've much experience with. 

  • Nevertheless, a few weeks ago there were recipes for s'mores cookies and cookie bars all over the internet and ever since I've been keeping an eye out for a jar of marshmallow fluff (something else I have no experience with). Today I found a jar of that ingredient during my weekly shopping trip and decided that I'd whip up a batch. "Whip" generally means a quick in-and-out of the kitchen before I move on to more interesting things like quilting and beading or vegging out in front of the TV for a housewives' marathon. This did not happen. 

  • I had no idea what I was getting into with this marshmallow fluff. Suffice it to say that next time I'm inclined to reach for the epoxy or the Crazy Glue, I might just reach for the fluff instead. After breaking a plastic spatula trying to wrestle it out of the jar and working up a sweat cleaning it off my hands and counter, I have new respect for chemistry in the kitchen.

  • Ingredients - 16 squares (7 Points Plus per serving)
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 oz dark chocolate chips
  • 7.5 jar marshmallow creme/fluff 
  • OPTIONAL:  a glass of your favorite wine, beer, or cocktail (see paragraph above and photos below)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish or pan.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla.  Whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.
  3. Divide the dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared dish or pan. Place dark chocolate chips over the dough. Drop the marshmallow creme or fluff in blobs all over the chocolate, spreading as well as possible. Take the remaining dough and pat out in small pieces on a sheet of waxed paper. Lay over the fluff, smoothing and patching as best you can to cover completely.
  4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Notwithstanding my battle with the marshmallow fluff and the ensuing clean up, these cookie bars were absolutely delicious. A little bit is more than enough between the sweetness of the graham cracker cookie and the fluff tempered with the richness of the dark chocolate. If you plan ahead--have that glass of wine at the ready and a sturdy wooden spoon to spoon out the fluff--you can make it out of the kitchen in less time than it took me. I'd also recommend not making these at the same time you're preparing dinner and making caramel for flan. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Let me begin this post by saying that I haven't been paid by or even contacted by anyone for product endorsement and the opinions expressed here are solely my own.

It wasn't until I became a serious cook that I started using King Arthur products. I grew up using Gold Medal flour, as I'm sure many people did, and  I didn't expect there to be any difference in my baked goods when I switched brands.  I was wrong and I've been a convert ever since. If you haven't visited the King Arthur website, you should (click here). I've used quite a few of their recipes, mostly for baked goods, and I haven't been disappointed yet. I've never ordered any of the products they sell online, so I won't comment on those, but their flours are available in most grocery stores.

It was my turn to bake for one of my quilt guilds last week and I had bookmarked this recipe for cinnamon streusel coffee cake. If you've followed my blog, you'll know that cinnamon is a favorite ingredient of mine, particularly in baked goods. I've cut and pasted the recipe right from the site. It did take me the 30 minutes to put the cake together, but it was well worth it.

streusel topping

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
  •  1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted (I will definitely use more butter next time, at least 1 1/4 sticks since the crumbs were a bit dry)


  • 1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder


  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt (1 ¼ teaspoons if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (anything from skim to whole)
  • 3 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

  • Directions

    1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, or two 9" round cake pans.
    2) Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stirring till well combined. Set the topping aside.
    3) Make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Note that the cocoa powder is used strictly for color, not flavor; leave it out if you like. Set it aside.
    4) To make the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
    5) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    6) In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk till well combined. You don't need to whisk out all the lumps.
    7) Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine.
    8) Pour/spread half the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared pan(s), spreading all the way to the edges. If you're using two 9" round pans, spread 1 1/3 cups batter in each pan.
    9) Sprinkle the filling evenly atop the batter.
    10) Spread the remaining batter atop the filling. Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter, as though you were making a marble cake. Don't combine filling and batter thoroughly; just swirl the filling through the batter.
    11) Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.
    12) Bake the cake until it's a dark golden brown around the edges; medium-golden with no light patches showing on top, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes for the 9" x 13" pan, 50 to 55 minutes for the 9" round pans. When pressed gently in the middle, the cake should spring back. (*In fact, I baked my cake for 70 minutes and it probably could have used another 5 minutes, though it was delicious, so the time frame is a guide)
    13) Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve cake right from the pan.

    nutrition information

    Serving Size: 1 slice (98g) Servings Per Batch: 24Amount Per Serving: Calories: 340 Calories from Fat:100 Total Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g. Cholesterol: 55mg Sodium: 250mg Total Carbohydrate:56g Dietary Fiber: 1g Sugars: 36g Protein: 5g.

    If you like cinnamon, you will love this cake. If you like streusel topping, you will love this cake. If you like coffee cake, you will love this cake. Seriously, I cannot imagine anyone not loving this cake. I wish it were a vegetable so I could eat it with impunity, but I'd rather enjoy a small piece than never to eat it at all.