Friday, January 29, 2016

Honey Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


I make a lot of cookies.

There is no denying that Andy and I like something sweet after dinner and my homemade cookies do the trick.  They taste great and I'll go as far as saying they are great for you.

One could argue that eating a cookie is not 'great for you' but I say nay.  There is something very different about a packaged cookie versus a homemade cookie.  With homemade cookies, I know exactly what is in them, and really, there are no ingredients that I would label as 'bad' or 'bad for you'.  The amount of sugar and butter in the recipe spread between 30+ cookies is nothing.  It is just food.

And this food makes my taste buds real happy.

It is already all in the name but honey, oatmeal and raisins make these beauties crispy, chewy and just the right touch of mild sweetness to make your mouth dance.  And, friends, it is Friday.  In January.  You need this :)


^^ This step is absolutely necessary.  You must grind the oats.



^^ A trick to speeding up softening butter sans microwave: slice it up on a plate while you wait!






^^ I highly recommend investing in a 1/2 tbsp cookie scoop.  The ease and perfection of these cookies is worth it and just look how charming they are once baked...adorable, right?







Honey Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ingredients

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
4 tbsp honey
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 c rolled oats, pulsed in a food processor
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c raisins

Directions

Grind your rolled oats in a food processor.  (This step is not to be skipped.  I tried to make these without grinding and you end up with raw oatmeal flakes in the middle of your cookie and it is not exciting.)

In a medium bowl mix the ground rolled oats with the rest of your dry ingredients and whisk to blend.

With a mixer cream your butter and sugar, then add the honey.  Cream a little more.  Using a stiff spatula you'll likely need to scrape the honey off of the bottom of the bowl and into the creamed butter/sugar.

Add your egg and vanilla, cream just until mixed.  Add your bowl of dry ingredients to the mixer and mix just until combined.  Add all the raisins, mix a few more whips and you've got a very special dough ready to be chilled...

Pop the dough into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  *To speed up this process, sometimes I'll use my cookie scoop to scoop about 12 cookie shapes, leaving them in the bowl and in the fridge.  That way the first round of baked cookies will get cold faster.  The others will continue to cool while you bake the first and so on...

On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, bake your cookie balls in a 350 F preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Once the timer goes off, let them cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before using a cookie spatula to release the warm, crispy cookie from the parchment paper and put at least one directly into your mouth.

Oh yes.  Honey oatmeal raisin cookie magic.  I'll leave you to eat approximately eight of them now...


If you like this recipe and also believe that homemade cookies are good for you, check out the rest of my cookies here:

Ginger Snap Molasses Cookies
The Best Wheat Flour Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies (with an optional Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie flair!)

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Healthy & Easy Lasagna Recipe


Over the years I've modified a few classic recipes to make them healthier and I've done this for so long that I have actually forgotten that this isn't the 'normal' way to make things.  Take my lasagna recipe for example: to me, lasagna is tomato saucy and packed with vegetables.  If you order lasagna at restaurant, it is packed with noodles and cheese.

While Andy and I love this kind of dish, I was a little embarrassed to serve this not-quite-lasagna to our recent house guest, Andy's cousin Emily who was in town from San Francisco.  It was the middle of the week, the middle of winter and I'm in the middle of the third trimester.  An extravagant dinner this was not.

To my surprise, she was actually very interested in this dish!  She really liked it and commented on how light but also delicious it was (yay!) and asked if it was on the blog.

Well here you are my sweet girl.  Thank you for turning my boring recipe into an internet sensation!!!


Instead of a compact recipe at the bottom of my post, I'll give you a play by play on how to get from a pile of groceries on the counter to a hot and healthy dinner like this beauty...


The ingredients are straightforward:

- 9 or 10 lasagna noodles
- a large jar of pasta sauce (24 oz)
- 2 cups of mozzarella
- grated parmesan to taste
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 Italian pork sausage, squeezed out of the casing
- Vegetables

I've used a variety of vegetables along the way, but I've recently been using veggies that I don't mind a little raw in this context:  mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, bell pepper (broccoli, chard, tomatoes, green peas).

Veggies that I would saute ahead of time if I were to include them in this lasagna are:  carrots, onions, butternut squash, sweet potatoes.


Okay so I don't like raw zucchini.  But I dice them small and thin enough that they bake in the short time they are exposed to heat.  One thing I can't stand is an overcooked zucchini and this raw approach ensures that won't happen!




While dicing the vegetables, I cook the ground turkey and sausage in a 4.5 qt pot, using a spatula to break the meat into crumbly pieces.  Once the meat is cooked all the way through, I add the raw veggies to the hot meat, turn off the stove and set aside.


Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare 9 to 10 lasagna noodles as instructed.  I prefer al dente and keep a close eye on these.  I used to try the type of lasagna noodles that don't need to be boiled ahead of time but those never turned out for me - probably because my lasagna recipe is atypical so not enough time in the oven to cook them.  Plus with so few noodles used in this dish, why not get the good ones?


Of the 24 oz jar of pasta sauce, I set 1 cup aside to use on the top of the lasagna and about 1/4 cup to use on the bottom of the lasagna.  Use a spoon to spread it around.  The rest of the pasta sauce goes into the pot with the meat and raw veggies to create the filling.

At this point, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Layer 3 al dente noodles before piling on the good stuff...


Add one half of the filling from the pot, top with a generous handful of spinach and about half of your mozzarella.


Add another noodle layer of just 3 to 4 noodles, top with the rest of the filling, more spinach and the rest of your mozzarella cheese.


By now all the filling should be in the dish.  Top with your final 3 noodles, evenly disperse the reserved 1 cup of pasta sauce directly on the noodles.


It is important to cover any exposed noodles with the sauce.  Any noodle uncovered may get unpleasantly crisp while baking.  Use a spoon to spread the sauce around where it is needed.


Top your lasagna with some fresh grated parmesan.


This lasagna is PACKED with veggies.  No eggs, no ricotta, no long bake times.  25 minutes at 350 degrees and you have yourself a healthy, easy and delicious meal.  And there will probably be leftovers for a day or two which makes it even better!




All the cheesy, veggie, meaty, saucy flavors you want out of lasagna without all the extra calories and crap (seriously, what is ricotta?!) that comes with traditional recipes - hooray!

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Wine Trick


Tee hee hee, I just love wine.

I was having it for breakfast here ^^ in Paris on our honeymoon.  Une cafe was way less cafe than I like to drink in the morning and instead of getting the stink eye for ordering an excessive amount of coffee, Andy and I would get du vin with our cafe instead.

And salads for breakfast too, because you never know when your next butter-free vegetable will be in France...


Not only is wine delicious for drinking, leftover wine that has gone stale - I know it probably doesn't happen often, but it does sadly happen - is good for cleaning pots and pans!

The other day when I arrived home from work Andy was looking pretty devastated because he thought he ruined my favorite saucepan by boiling water that eventually evaporated and then burned the inside of the pan until it was black.  I use this saucepan literally every day to make oatmeal for breakfast.  And then probably at least two other times a day for various food warming that we do (we don't have a microwave).

But I said, don't worry!  Let's boil a little wine in it and see if that helps.  I had heard this trick before a long time ago but hadn't used it before so I wasn't sure if it would work or not.

As you can probably guess since I'm writing this post, IT TOTALLY WORKS!

We poured just enough wine in to cover the bottom, brought it to a boil for about a minute and then dumped out the wine, used a regular, non-scratch sponge with dish soap and water...voila!  The black stuff came off and the pan is as good as new. 

Isn't wine amazing?

Speaking of wine, here are a few more photos from the Loire Valley France where we drank lots and lots and lots of French wine....great now I'm drooling...