Thursday, November 24, 2011

I am Thankful For.... Chocolate Cookies

A couple weeks ago, Bakerella unveiled yet another recipe for some scrumptious cookies - Dark Chocolate Chip Comfort Cookies, to be precise.  I was hooked and simply HAD to make the attempt.

So in addition to that super easy cheesy cornbread and a chili recipe (still in the "tweaking" stage), I decided to whip up a double batch of these super delicious cookies to take to a chili cook-off a friend of ours was hosting.  I didn't have any dark chocolate chips, because I'd used my bag to make a batch of triple chocolate chip cookies for my brother-in-law's birthday, so I substituted half a bag of white chocolate chips and half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

They were still positively awesome, and I followed it up a week later by making another double batch, WITH dark chocolate chips, for my staff's "pig out day" - our big pot luck lunch we do on our second day of parent/teacher conferences.

Before I continue with the awesome pictures of these cookies in process, I must give you all a word of warning.  This cookie dough is THICK.  How thick, you ask?  Well, between these cookies and the triple chocolate chip cookies I made in October, I now have no more rubber spatulas.  Because the acrylic handles snapped when I was trying to scrape the bowls and fold in the chocolate chips.

That's right.  Both my spatulas are cookie casualties.  So I suggest you skip the heartache and just use a big sturdy metal spoon instead.

Anyway, on to the awesomeness.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Braised in White Wine and Lemon Juice

Brussels sprouts are a strange little vegetable.  They're like little miniature cabbages - and when cooked improperly, can take on a very cabbage-y taste and smell that forces many people to turn up their noses.  I used to be one of those people - not out of personal experience, mind you, just from horror stories of people required to eat Brussels sprouts under duress ("No dessert unless you eat your Brussels sprouts!").

Brussels sprouts actually have quite a bit to do with with Brussels, Belgium, where they were first grown in the 16th century.  They're extremely good for you, but most people don't know how to cook them the right way, so the eating of said sprouts is, for many, akin to culinary torture.  In fact, I never had a Brussels sprout pass my lips until last Thanksgiving, when my brother-in-law attempted a very tasty recipe.  Then I started experimenting and came up with a lovely way to prepare these cabbage-ettes that even my husband, who doesn't normally like a variety of vegetables, will eat.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Easy Cheesy Cornbread

I've always been a fan of cornbread, but other than a handful of times when I've opened a boxed mix, I haven't made it very often.

All that changed when my sister-in-law (who lives in San Antonio - beautiful city, by the way) gave us Classic Tex Mex and Texas Cooking for Christmas a couple years ago.  I haven't had a chance to dive too far into these regional recipes, but the "Plain Ole Cornbread" recipe has become something of a standby.

I decided to give it a little bit of a cheesy twist.  It came out moist and so very cornbread-y.

It's really a very basic recipe, and you could probably add any flavors you like - chili powder, garlic, maybe drizzle with honey or maple syrup.  (Incidentally, the basic cornbread - sans cheese - is amazing with homemade sugar plum jam.)

I apologize in advance for most of these pictures.  The sun decided to shine directly into my kitchen window when I was making this.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Trying Out Gluten-Free Products with Schar Brand Foods

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Schar. All opinions are 100% mine.

There's been a lot of hype lately about gluten-free diets, gluten intolerance, and so on.  All you need to do is Google "gluten allergy" and you'll come up with tons of hits relating to the diagnosis and treatment of gluten allergies and intolerance, as well as suggestions for gluten-free diets and recipes.  I did a little reading up on Wikipedia to get the general gist of what causes gluten intolerance.

Because of the seemingly sudden surge in the number of people with gluten intolerance, many brands out there are starting to offer gluten free foods.  One such brand is Schar, a food company that is a leader in offering gluten free breads, pastas, cookies, and so on.  They've recently relaunched a lot of products and are now offering gluten-free sub sandwich rolls, baguettes, and ciabatta rolls.

By joining the Schar Club, you can get access to hundreds of gluten-free recipes, as well as read up on the products themselves and get tips for living a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle.  

Because I'm a total bread fiend (I really love carbohydrates), I'm most interested in trying the baguettes and ciabatta rolls.  They're made with awesome natural ingredients like rice flour, soy protein, and sunflower oil.  I'm not gluten-intolerant, but for those among you who are, and who are dealing with the effects of celiac disease, these products allow such individuals to enjoy bread (and pasta, and cookies) again.

What can I do with these baguettes and ciabatta rolls I'm so curious about trying? Well, just about anything you can do with any other such bread products!  Baguettes are amazing when paired with hearty soups, or when dipped in sauce (both tomato and the delicious sauces that come about with dishes like bouef bourguignon).  Baguettes and ciabatta rolls also make fantastic incarnations of garlic breads, and of course, just making a giant, crusty sandwich for a weekend lunch works too!

You can look for Schar gluten-free products in their store (use their store locator to find a retailer near you), or you can order right through their website.  I also found some products available on Amazon, which surprised me but is very convenient. (I can order "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" along with my gluten free Schar spaghetti!) Curious, but not ready to search the grocery shelves quite yet?  You can get a Schar free sample through their website as well when you sign up for the Schar Club.


To decide if these products are for you and your family, you'll have to check out Schar gluten-free breads, pastas, and other products to see for yourself - especially if you've been lamenting the exclusion of these foods from your diet due to gluten intolerance.  And leave me some comments with your "wish list" of things to try and your ideas for using these products - maybe I'll create a recipe or two from your ideas and suggestions!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baked Tilapia with Roasted Zucchini, Penne, and White Wine Cream Sauce

Prepare to drool a little bit, oh ye fish lovers out there....

I find tilapia to be a relatively versatile fish, as it's on the mild end of fishiness and there are a gazillion different ways to prepare it.

Of course, I generally just make lemon pepper tilapia.  Which is delicious, and we love it, but it's not very glamorous.

I got a little bit adventurous last night, despite the fact that it was a Monday, I was tired, my brain was still fried from having done 24 report cards in about three and a half hours straight over the weekend, and I was trying to get the house straightened out for a dinner party I'm hosting Thursday night.

The result was this:

What was particularly beautiful is the fact that it was a three-pan meal (a baking sheet, a sauce pan, and my melting pot).  And it only took 40 minutes start to finish, and only about 15 of that was hands-on work.  And I also managed to make this entire dish without using a single grain of salt.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Homemade Fiber Bars

People often run screaming when you start talking about fiber. They think it'll taste bad.  They think it'll be endless hours of chewing.  They think of Metamucil.

But the fact is that Americans aren't getting enough dietary fiber - the fiber naturally found in foods (including yummy fruits and veggies!).  And we need that dietary fiber.  Aside from our overall digestive health, fiber helps us maintain our weight or lose weight.  Don't believe me?

Okay, so fiber isn't glamorous.  Nobody's going to look at a high fiber food and go, "Wow!  Look at that!  It's just amazing - the presentation is impeccable!" the way they would with a three-tier chocolate cake piped with intricate flowers and frosting designs.

Or would they?

Perhaps, if fiber looked a little something like this:

A coworker recently shared her recipe for homemade fiber bars, and I finally got around to making them.  Take my word for it - there's tons of fiber-filled ingredients, but they taste awesome!  And they're so easily personalized to your taste preferences.