Monday, November 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

I am…how would you say, a bit of a rule follower. I don't like driving off the map. I don't like sneaking into somewhere I don't have a ticket. And I don't like to deviate from baking recipes. I really don't. And you know what? That's usually why I am a pretty good baker. And that's why I find comfort in baking. I know that with this amount of flour, this amount of butter and this amount of sugar is going to create something amazing. It's not up to chance with baking. It's a science, not an art.
Alas, when it's a cold Wednesday night and you've promised to bring dessert, and you get home late, and you forget your wallet at home, you improvise. I had no flour. I had no butter. I didn't even have milk. So, I did everything against my moral (read: baking) fiber, and I did my own thing. And I was so so happy about it. Peanut butter. Chocolate. Sugar. Perfect.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2 cup peanut butter 
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups Bisquick Mix
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Vegetable Oil (in case)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In one large bowl, beat peanut butter and brown sugar with a mixer. It will not cream the same way butter does, but keep mixing until it's well combined. Add a drizzle of oil it it's stubborn.
2. Add in vanilla and eggs until well combined. Add Bisquick. Again, if necessary add a touch more oil. Fold in chocolate chips.
3. I used a 2 tbsp spoon to make perfectly rounded mounds. The dough at this point wasn't too sticky and was easy to work with. Bake 8-12 or until edges are golden and cooked through. Cool completely

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roasted Corn and Potato Chowder (Slow Cooker)

This morning, before the sun came up, before the roosters were out and before even Dunkin Donuts was open, the alarm went off and I dragged myself out of bed. I work for a race events company, and at 5 AM, I was standing on the edges of the woods on a dark street across from a cemetery unwrapping Chewy bars and fruit snacks. It was c-o-l-d. Not just chilly. It was bitter. I had at least 5 layers on, a fleece hat, boots and gloves, and despite all of that, my hands absolutely froze. It's 9:30 PM now, and my  fingertips are still sore. It was a sorry sight.
There aren't a ton of perks that come along with cold weather. People are crankier, snow ruins your commute, usually we all get fatter - full disclosure. It's just not a redeeming time of year. But soup, yes, soup. That is something I can get down on. A wise man once said that soup is the best food because it's the only thing that can encompass so many flavors in one bite (what does he know, anyway?), but I agree. And tonight, as I thaw, I ate the last little bit of this incredibly easy soup. It was a dump-and-go (new cooking style, calling it!). Literally I poured everything into the slow cooker, added some fattening agents and the very end, and voila! The beautiful thing about this was that I used frozen tatos, corn and even peppers and onions. That was one less prep step, and I can dig it. So, next time you know you're heading out for a long day in the cold, make sure this is awaiting you at home… you won't be disappointed!

Slow Cooker Corn and Potato Chowder
32 ounces frozen potatoes, chopped
1 (24-ounce) package roasted frozen corn
2 cups chopped peppers/onions
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Cooked bacon
Shredded cheese
Fresh chives, chopped

1. Place potatoes, corn and flour in a slow cooker and toss to combine. Stir in remaining ingredients up to salt and pepper. Feel free to add 3/4 of the broth here, just to make sure it's not too runny.
2. Let cook on low heat for 8 hours. Stir in butter and cream last. Top with bacon, cheese and chives, as desired.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

I am not a Boston native. Born and raised in Virginia, schooled in Pennsylvania, and up to Massachusetts after my Master's degree. I always loved Boston, so it my clear frontrunner upon graduation. 
First of all, it is fun. There are so many young people, and while it's pretty transient, I've already made some forever friends. Also, you aren't far from anything. You've got beautiful beaches on the cape, the white mountains just a few hours north, and you can easily get out of dodge. You have incredibly smart and driven people here. That makes for a super dynamic city culture. But all that said, three years into living here, and I can tell I take things for granted. What used to be a really fun part of the city to walk through just became a part of my commute. The incredibly passionate Boston sports fans became loud and sometimes obnoxious. The idea of snowy winters quickly lost it's vigor, and suddenly I longed for a change… wanting to make another big move, or perhaps return "home".
The problem was that I hadn't been in Boston, for what seemed like ages. The summer was spent on the cape, working on the weekends, or at another wedding. The fall has been jam packed with more travel, more races, more weddings, and the next thing I knew, I hadn't been in the city in m-o-n-t-h-s. Fortunately for my career, relationships, and overall stability, I spent this weekend here. And I remembered all of the wonderful things that I love about it. I went on a run near the finish line of the Boston marathon and remembered how special that was. I got brunch with some ladies I haven't seen since spring time, and by the way, it was fantastic. I grabbed cocktails with a group of friends that just makes me laugh so hard. I wandered the streets with my manfriend, watched a football game at a Penn State bar and got dinner at one of our favorite Irish bars. I fell back in love with the city in 48 hours. It felt -again- like home. 

Sometimes, all it takes is a good coffee date. Sometimes, it's the way the sun sets on the skyline. Sometimes, it's coming home to your cozy apartment or seeing a familiar face unexpectedly. For me, it's all of those things that make Boston home… so just to solidify that, I made chili.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb ground chicken
2 (10.75 oz) cans low tomato soup
2 (15 oz) cans white kidney beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 can crushed canned tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch ground allspice salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add chicken to brown. Drain any liquid.
2.  Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray, and add in all ingredients. Use spices to taste (this amount just worked for me!).
3. Cover, and cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with sour cream, chips, etc.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls

Yesterday was a day that filled up my cup. You've heard that expression right? It's the premise that if you haven't taken care of yourself, your needs, and your wants, then you only have so much you can give, or empty, to others. It's far too often we (women, especially) are doing the things we think we should do, or feel guilted to do.

We tell our family we will be in charge or organizing something. We agree to an outing that we don't want to go to. We put others needs in front of our own. And it's time to stop doing that. Perhaps it is a coming of age thing, but every year that passes I get a little less inclined to really care what people think of me or the people I care about.  I try and say no to the things my heart isn't into, and I dive head first into the things I love. Yesterday was a rainy, snowy Boston day. I grabbed coffee and had a homemade breakfast with my boyfriend, had not one but two dates with a couple of my gal pals, and I made these little gems.

I cannot remember the last time I made cinnamon rolls. I can't remember I ate cinnamon rolls. I have vivid memories of those humungous food court Cinnabons, and these (thankfully) are nothing like that. They were a really perfect mix of the dense, doughy, airy and fluffy. They were sweet, but not over the top. A mess, yes, but perfect for a rainy day with a cup of coffee.  The next time you need to fill up (your cup that is), give these a try. You probably have most of the ingredients already, so why not spend a lazy morning making these for some of your favorite people? Or just keep them for yourself. Adapted from a  Paula Deen recipe… you know she makes good buns.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Rolls
1/4 -ounce package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup scalded milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter or shortening
1 tsp salt
1 egg
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup melted butter, plus more for pan
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for pan
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

4 tbsp butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
3 to 6 tbsps hot water

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar, melted butter, salt and egg. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes. Place in well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
2. When doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle. Spread melted butter all over dough. Mix sugars and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.
3. Coat the bottom of baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.
4. Meanwhile, mix butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and maple syrup. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over slightly cooled rolls