Cinnamon Overload

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I bought steel cut oats on a whim.  I’d been wanting to try them, so as I was cruising down the cereal aisle at the grocery store, I tossed a cylinder into my cart.  This was a week or so ago, and since I’m a lazy bum and hate making a breakfast that takes more than 5-10 minutes, I just got around to trying them today.

Steel cut oats are purportedly the superhero version of regular rolled oats (what you typically get when you see the Quaker man).  Instead of being pressed, the oat kernels are left whole and then cut, which means they retain more of their nutritional value.  It also means they take longer to cook, and are chewier than “regular” oats.

I decided to use this recipe from Oh She Glows.  Since I was only making breakfast for myself (J was fast asleep), I halved the recipe.  I also subbed agave syrup for the banana (bananas rarely make an appearance in this apartment), and wheat germ for the flaxseed and chia.  Since I was halving the recipe, the logical thing would be to use half of the cinnamon, right (1 tsp)?  That’s what I did and it was….very cinnamon-y.  Very, very cinnamon-y.  It was definitely still edible, but next time I think I would use maybe a 1/2 tsp, and then add more if necessary.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the chewiness of the oats.  It made me feel like I was eating something more substantial than regular oatmeal.  I had some left over, so I packed it into a tupperware container to use tomorrow morning for breakfast.  I could add some almonds, but other than that, I can’t see adding anything else since it’s so very…cinnamon-y.  But now I know, right?

The Summer Cookie Project

I’m not very good at following through with projects.  I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.  When I was in elementary school, I started one of those embroidery samplers.  I got about halfway through before it got shoved into the back of my closet.  I think I found it about a year later and finally finished it.  And I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a mission to organize my closet/dresser/shoes and just ended up trying everything on and making a huge mess.  The organization eventually happened, though.  So maybe I’m just really slow at finishing projects.

Regardless, I like projects.  Especially ones that force me to cook (cough, this blog, cough).  Enter the Summer Cookie Project.  Since J will be at school this summer, I figured a nice thing to do would be to bake him cookies.  A lot of them.  Plus, I just bought that new recipe book I mentioned yesterday, and this will be a good way for me to try out a variety of recipes.  The plan is that every weekend I will bake a new batch of cookies (hopefully different ones each time).  Then J can take them to school if he wants (and he better– I don’t need a whole batch of cookies sitting around the house every week!).  And hopefully I’ll find some new favorite cookie recipes along the way!

A Cookie Request

Yum

A couple of weeks ago, I received a special request from J to make M&M cookies.  It just so happened that I had already ordered Milk and Cookies, which is a cookbook written by the pastry chef of the famous Milk and Cookies bakery in NYC.  It also just so happened that the book had a recipe for M&M cookies.  Score.

The neat thing about this cookbook is that the cookies are divided up by five different “base doughs.”  Then, you just tweak the recipes from there to make a variety of cookies.  The M&M cookies use the sugar cookie base dough.  The recipe was straight-forward, a lot like any other cookie recipe I’ve run across.  The unique thing is that you don’t mix the dough all the way; instead, you knead the dough in the final stage before adding any mix-ins (in this case, the M&Ms).

One thing is for sure, these cookies have A LOT of M&Ms.  In fact, I had several stray M&Ms after using up all the dough (that probably wouldn’t have happened if I had combined them better, but the book was adamant about not overworking the dough, so I erred on the side of caution).  I don’t think they were quite the M&M cookies of J’s dreams (“They’re not flat!,” he exclaimed when he saw them.), but they are very, very good.  The sugar cookie base is excellent, which is encouraging for future variations of that recipe.  The cookies are exceptionally soft for a sugar cookie, also a plus.  But a word of waring:  these are decadent.  I can usually eat an unlimited amount of chocolate chip cookies, but halfway through my third cookie of these I was done.  But hey, maybe that means I can exact some self control.

Maybe.

Late-night Baking Adventures

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Muffins fresh out of the oven!

Ah, finally a baking post!  This, my friends, is my forte.  Or more honestly, just where my interest lies.  Once again, I’m making baked goods for work, this time for an end of the year breakfast.  I didn’t actually sign up to bring anything (whoops), so I last minute decided to bake muffins (hence, the title…I didn’t start until after 10 pm).  I picked these raspberry and jam muffins since I had almost everything on hand, and they seemed pretty simple.

The recipe is straightforward, and it’s easy to assemble the dry ingredients while the butter is melting on the stove. The muffins turned out great.  Not too sweet, with a hint of tart from the fresh raspberry.  The only thing that really didn’t work out for me was the crumb topping– it just didn’t clump up like I expected it to.  So I only put a scant sprinkling on the muffins instead of piling it on like the picture.  I think the topping would really take it to the next level, so I will be adding more next time, regardless of consistency.  I might also up the amount of jam.  Either way, these are a great, easy fruit muffin recipe.  Added to my baking rotation!

Long Time, No Cook

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Soooo I definitely have not been cooking.  Combine the end of the school year with good weather and a bf who is willing to grill out, and…where’s the motivation?

I finally got around to assembling something today, which I’m going to count as “cooking.”  I’ve been on a berry kick recently, and had the idea to pick up some spinach, walnuts, and feta to assemble a berry-spinach-vinaigrette salad.  No recipe, just tossing some things together.

I added:

  • Baby spinach
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Crumbled feta
  • Raspberry vinaigrette

This was DELICIOUS.  I was ravenous by the time lunch rolled around, because I forgot to bring snacks to work today.  I was thinking about snagging something from the snack box in the lounge, but didn’t have enough change to buy anything.  This salad totally filled me up.  The vinaigrette was amazing.  I used Olde Cape Cod, which upon inspection of the nutrition label, has sugar listed as the second ingredient.  Which may explain why it was so tasty. Either way, I enjoyed the salad.

I would like to explore homemade raspberry vinaigrette recipes in the future, especially with easy access to fresh local berries at the farmers’ market.  But for now, store-bought will do.  And I’m definitely making this salad again.

Pre-fast Dinner

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Tonight, I fast.  Not because I’m detoxing, or going on some crazy diet, or have actually gone crazy myself, but because I have to have bloodwork done tomorrow morning.  Which unfortunately means fasting.  J joked that he was staying away from me for the night, since he knows that I get…testy…when I don’t eat.  So, in an effort to not bite his head off (since I can’t bite into an ice cream cone), I decided to make a nice dinner to last me for the night.  Because, you know, it would be a travesty if I go too long without food.

I decided on this baked chicken parmesan because the only thing I had to buy was pasta sauce.  This was SO EASY.  I used Meijer organic tomato basil pasta sauce, and J made gnocci with butter and salt (healthy, right?) on the side.  Super easy, super good, super full.

Spinach is Healthy, Right?

And now for something completely different.  Well, not really.  Obviously, I’m interested in eating healthy food.  I feel better and have more energy when I’m not eating pizza/take-out/junk food all the time.  But I don’t want to cook strictly “health” food.  Life’s too short to not eat delicious food, which is why there are cupcakes (that I made!) in my banner picture.  And why I’m posting on spinach dip bread bowls.

These things are so delicious.  And so ridiculously easy.  The most annoying part (for me) is having to tear apart the dough and shape it into the muffin pan.  I don’t even mind cooking the spinach (what!?!).  I’ve made these a few times now, both in regular muffin tins and mini muffin tins, and they always turn out well.  I follow the recipe exactly, except I use regular salt instead of sea salt, minced garlic instead of fresh (we really need to get a good garlic press!), and I use a hand mixer to mix the dip ingredients together.  I’ve found that’s the best way to make sure that the spinach is really spread throughout.

To be honest, my quest of cooking at home is more about knowing what’s going into my food and using “real food” instead of processed (when possible).  Yes, this uses pre-made dough.  I would be very interested in trying a variation using my own dough at some point, simply because I like making bread.  But overall, this recipe isn’t THAT bad for you.  I mean, it has spinach, right?!?

Sneaky Quinoa

Sometimes I like to see if I can slip a healthy recipe by J and see if he notices.  Once, he told me that the spinach-chicken meatballs that I made tasted “too healthy.”  Since then, I haven’t tried another ground chicken recipe.  Until now….dun dun DUN!

I was originally planning on making another recipe from Ambitious Kitchen (the sweet potato & chicken Mexican stirfry), but I saw this one for Enchilada Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers and was sold.  Anything I can mush up and shove into the oven always wins.

I followed the recipe as stated, except for leaving out the cilantro and adding in jalapenos.  I was a little worried about not cooking the meat beforehand, but the recipe turned out really well, and the meat was fully cooked.  It was moist and flavorful, and J didn’t even notice that there was quinoa in there (bwahaha).  The enchilada sauce really helped make the dish, and as far as canned sauces go, it’s surprisingly healthy, with few ingredients (and no weird chemicals).

The verdict?  I would make it again.  It was a nice “set it and forget it” type of dish.  I think I would add hotter enchilada sauce next time (I used mild here).  And I’m curious to see how it holds up for left-overs.  But all in all, I call a win.

Lunch Dilemmas

Lunch is usually by far my least healthy meal of the day.  Why?  Because I’m lazy.  Pure and simple.  By the time 10:00 pm rolls around, I don’t really feel like making my lunch for the next day.  And I’m certainly not motivated enough to make it before I go to work.  The result is that I end up either a) skipping lunch and snacking when I get home, b) bringing a granola bar and snacking when I get home, or c) getting something from the snack machine…and snacking when I get home.  As one of my students would say, “Yikes!”

There was one week when I was super-motivated, and ended up making a variation of this layered salad from Oh She Glows.  Basically, I left out the wheatberries and the ginger and parsley, and left everything else the same.  It was SO nice to just be able to grab a container every morning, and know that I had lunch at the ready.  And guess what?  I was full enough, so that I didn’t have to eat when I got home from work.

So, the mission for today is to make this recipe so that I’ll have lunch for the rest of this week.  I’m planning on using the wheatberries and parsley this time, but still skipping the ginger.  Sunday is the new lunch day.  Or something like that.

Ky…Cooks?

A cooking blog?  Shocking, I know.  Coming from a girl who loves baking but not so much cooking, a cooking blog seems like a stretch.  But that’s the point.  I’m 25 years old, and although I have a wonderful boyfriend who is a fantastic cook, I really should contribute more to our culinary relationship other than baked goods once or twice a month.

Plus, I like to eat healthier foods, like whole grains and vegetables.  And we do probably eat healthier than most couples our age.  But we could do better.  And I don’t see J whipping up any dishes with brown rice and quinoa anytime soon.  So here we are.  Let’s do it!