Reese’s Pieces Cookies on Steroids

Do people in your life refer to items that are excessively good or over-the-top as “on steroids”?  You know, like when you make homemade ice cream with booze in it, it would be “ice cream on steroids” or seeing Dave Matthews at Red Rocks would be a “concert on steroids”.  Given this information, you’d think that we call these cookies “cookies on steroids” because of excessive deliciousness or the myriad of add-ins, but that’s actually not the case.

See, my poor husband came down with pneumonia last month and, as a result, was prescribed steroids to help him recover.  They worked really well, but a side effect of prednisone is that it makes you want to eat everything in sight.  He requested these cookies 36 hours after his diagnosis was confirmed and I’m pretty sure I saw him stack 8 of them on a plate as his “dessert”.

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These are sort of a riff on a double chocolate cookie and a peanut butter cookie.  My husband and I don’t typically keep candy in the house (a combination of not loving it and admitting to a lack of willpower), but Reese’s Pieces tend to be our downfall. The only thing challenging about chocolate cookies is that it’s hard to tell when they’re done.  I’d recommend baking only a half dozen on your first cookie sheet to pinpoint your level of doneness – you want chewy for these, not crispy.

Reese’s Chocolate Cookies

yield: 24-36 cookies depending on how large you make them.

1 stick butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips (they look like tan chocolate chips and can be found in the same spot)

1 cup Reese’s pieces candy

1. Preheat your oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Mix in the egg and vanilla until combined.  Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt together and add slowly to the butter and sugar until it forms a nice dough.

2. Stir the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt together and add slowly to the butter and sugar until it forms a nice dough.

3. Fold in the peanut butter chips and most of candy until well-distributed (save a tablespoon or two of candy).  Note that if you’re using a stand mixer and add the candies into the mixer, the paddle will crush some of the candy.  This doesn’t bother me, but if it bothers you, then stir in the candy by hand.

4. Scoop tablespoon sized mounds onto a cookie sheet and, if you’d like, stud the tops with the extra candies (this isn’t necessary, but it makes your cookies look prettier).  Bake for 10-12 minutes and allow to set for a few minutes before you remove them from the pan.

Note:

1. I do not condone the use of performance enhancing drugs.

2. I made homemade ice cream with booze this weekend.  It was life-changing.

Muffaletta Pasta Salad

After we got married, my husband and I lived in Galveston, TX for a few years. It was a bizarre time for us – we had neither one ever lived far from our families, we were just getting used to being married, we were totally poor, I was a rookie teacher, my husband was in medical school, and we lived in this strange, small beach community that seemed to be set back in time approximately 30 years.  Though some of our Island experiences were less than ideal (excessive commutes across the ocean, hurricanes), we have always looked back on our Galveston days with complete fondness.

One of the major perks we experienced was living within walking distance of tons of small businesses and restaurants. Being that we were local, we were able to make friends with lots of the local business owners in our community. One of our favorite neighbors was Maceo. Maceo Spice was about two blocks from our building in the Strand. He makes his own spice blends, which are fantastic, he taught us about fancy olive oils, and mostly he made the best muffaletta’s I’ve ever had. We picked up muffalettas at least once a week for the entirety of our time on the Island. This pasta salad totally reminds me of Maceo and the weird years we spent in Galveston.  If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely worth a stop.

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Muffaletta Pasta Salad

1lb. pasta shells

1/2 of a red onion

1 clove garlic

1 can black olives

1 cup green olives

4 stalks celery

2 cooked chicken breasts (I just use whatever I have leftover)

6oz. mozzarella cheese

1/4 to 1/2lb. dry salami – if you’re getting it from the deli counter ask them to slice it as thick as possible.

1T dried oregano

Parmesan cheese for topping

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil (Maceo would suggest Paseano unfiltered)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions.  When cooked al dente, drain and rinse the pasta with cold water.

2. Meanwhile, finely chop the olives, onion, garlic, and celery.  Cut the cheese and meats into small cubes.  Toss all of the chopped ingredients in a large bowl with the cooked and cooled pasta.

3. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar or blender until combined.  Pour over the salad and toss. Serve chilled with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Imagine you’re at the beach.

Serves approximately 6.  Adapted from Joy the Baker.

Monday Salad

Have you ever sat down to relax on Sunday evening and had the realization that the only vegetable you’d consumed in the entire day was an onion ring?  Weekends in our home are notorious for eating food that has more taste value than nutritional value.  We get out of our normal schedule and sometimes end up drinking coffee for a few hours in the morning and then going out for a few thousand calories worth of Tex Mex and calling it a day.  Often weekends are when I have time to get serious baking done.  Sometimes we spend an afternoon at the food truck park.  Regardless of how our weekend goes, by Monday I’m yearning for healthy food.  During the colder months I make soup and during the warmer months we have salad.  While we don’t specifically focus on “Meatless Monday”, we only eat meat a few times a week and usually not on Mondays unless I happen to have a few extra grilled chicken breasts in the fridge.

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I also grocery shop and meal plan on Mondays and a big salad or soup is a great chance to clear out the previous week’s uneaten produce.  This particular salad evolves every single week in our house based on grocery sales and the contents of my fridge.  I’ve included a few variations, but unlike baking a cake, a salad is very imprecise.  Use what you have and what you like.  This version of the salad feeds conservatively 8 people.  It’s huge.  We have a big family and I like leftovers, but consider halving if you don’t want salad for days.  Grab your cutting board and your best knife – let’s go!

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Monday Salad

1 head lettuce (I prefer romaine, but iceberg or spinach will work, too)

1/2 head of purple cabbage

1 head broccoli

3-6 carrots or a large handful of baby carrots

1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes

3 green onions

1 package ramen noodles

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 Tbsp butter

1 can chickpeas OR 2 grilled chicken breasts

 

Dressing:

1/2 cup oil (coconut, canola, vegetable, whatever.  I use Mediterranean blend, which is a grapeseed/olive mix).

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp sriracha or tabasco

1. Finely chop the lettuce and cabbage to make the base of the salad, arrange in a large, shallow bowl or platter.  Dice the broccoli, discarding the stems, and green onions and arrange on top.  Peel and dice the carrots, scatter on top.  Half the cherry tomatoes and finely chop any other vegetables you have (radishes, celery, cucumber).

2. In a small frying pan, melt the butter and with the ramen noodle package still sealed, use a mallet or meat tenderizer (or your hand, whatever) to crush the noodles up.  You CAN open the bag and chop it up, but it creates a mega mess.  Discard the “flavor” pouch.  Pour the crushed, uncooked noodles and the sunflower seeds into the pan and toast for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant.

3.  Either drain and rinse your chickpeas or finely dice or shred your chicken breasts and add to your salad.

4. In a small jar, combine all salad dressing ingredients and shake until combined.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.  I layer my salad on a platter so I don’t need to toss it – we just scoop straight down to get everything.  If you’re using a bowl, definitely toss your salad.  If you’d like to add any sliced avocado or cheese, I recommend adding it to bowls individually – the dressed salad will save just fine for about 48 hours without those ingredients.

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Elotes – Mexican Street Corn

I find myself so fascinated by shows like “Extreme Couponing” – coming up to the checkout with $500 worth of mayonnaise and antacids and slowly watching the total dwindle down to $6.75 must be a huge adrenaline rush and I applaud the thriftiness of these coupon mavens. Unfortunately, I find three problems with extreme couponing:

1. It takes time, which I don’t have.

2. I have neither the space nor the desire to store $500 worth of mayonnaise and antacids.

3. I take my food seriously and coupons for real foods (produce, protein, and dairy) don’t really exist.

So what’s a girl to do? I am pretty much bound to seasonal produce and often improvise a dish based on what’s on sale. I do prefer eating seasonal produce, but sometimes eating the same stuff for weeks on end becomes pretty lame. Thus was the case with corn. I just can’t pass up a good corn deal, and for the last 6-8 weeks it’s been 6-8 ears for $1. Insane – I can’t pass that up. Unfortunately, my family started getting really sick of corn (other than my daughter) – boiled, buttered corn is delicious, but it’s not a weekly staple. We had to revamp the corn. In came elotes – street corn! Grilled and sauced, it brings new life to lowly corn. You’ll start to think it SHOULD be a weekly dish – in fact, I might be sad when it becomes expensive again.

I’ve had elotes from restaurants that was boiled corn with the elotes sauce – it’s fine, and in a pinch is still good, but if at all possible, grill the corn. We’ve served it on and off of the cob, and while it’s good both ways, it’s less of a mess to eat if you cut it from the cob.

Elotes

8 ears fresh corn

1/2 cup mayonnaise (1 step closer to clearing the coupon stash!)

1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

1/2 cup shredded cotija or queso fresco cheese

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp garlic salt (regular salt is fine, too)

1 garlic clove

1 lime

handful of fresh cilantro

1. Shuck the corn, heat the grill. Stir together the mayonnaise and sour cream until well combined. Add in the chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt. Mince or press the garlic and add the garlic and cheese to the sauce. Chop the cilantro and cut the lime into small wedges.

2. Place the corn directly on the grill, turning frequently (8-10 minutes) until all sides are nicely charred. Cut the corn from the cob and serve with the sauce, a squeeze of lime, and a little cilantro.

Late Summer Gazpacho

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where it isn’t summer anymore, feel free to file this away for use 7-8 months.  But if, like me, you’re still seeing 90 degree temperatures and you’re looking for a fresh tasting meal, then join me for some gazpacho.  If you haven’t made gazpacho before, you definitely should.  It’s quite possibly the easiest dinner ever, it will sufficiently increase your fruit and vegetable consumption for the day, and if you’ve ever thought it would be wise to eat salsa straight out of the bowl, but spice is a concern – you’ll be in heaven.

It’s great for a light lunch, but if you’re serving it for dinner you probably need to consider it as an appetizer or serve some heavy side dishes.

Gazpacho

adapted from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

3 garlic cloves

1/2 red onion

1 cucumber

1 zucchini

2 stalks of celery

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

2T red wine vinegar

1 tsp tabasco or cholula

4 cups V8

salt and pepper

3 hardboiled eggs

1 avocado

1. Peel and roughly chop the garlic and onion and pulse in a food processor until liquefied.  Cut off the ends of the zucchini and cucumber and process until smooth.  Roughly chop the celery and tomatoes and add until the soup is about the consistency of salsa.

2. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the oil, vinegar, hot sauce, and V8.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. Chop the avocado and eggs and serve the gazpacho cold with the eggs and avocado on top.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

So, you’re looking for the easiest dessert you could possibly make that also tastes incredible?  Here it is.  It’s not fancy, it’s not difficult, and it’s not really cheesecake, but it’s the ultimate potluck dessert.  I send it to work with Ross often and none of it ever comes home.

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 cans crescent rolls

2 8oz. packages cream cheese (low fat is fine, fat free is not), softened

1 1/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 stick of butter

1T cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Roll out one can of crescent rolls (don’t break apart) and press into the bottom of a glass 9×13 baking dish.  You may need to manipulate it a bit to cover the whole bottom.

2. Beat a cup of the sugar with the cream cheese until fluffy and combined.  Using a spatula, spread the mixture all over the layer of crescent rolls leaving about a half inch border around.

3. Unroll the second can of crescent rolls and arrange to cover the top,  I press the edges together.  Melt the butter and pour over the top, stir the cinnamon and additional 1/4 cup of sugar together and sprinkle over the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

 

Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for BBQ sauce – a classic, sweet, molasses-y sauce that’s great with beef, especially brisket.  This sauce has a different flavor – it’s a little more of a Tennessee style, vinegar-based sauce.  It isn’t as sweet – a little more tangy.  It’s especially good with pork and chicken.  When you grill and smoke meat as often as the men in my life, there’s room for a bevy of sauces.

This particular recipe comes from none other than Aaron Franklin – of Franklin’s BBQ fame.  I think his has some “secret” ingredients, but this is the recipe he’s willing to share and it’s pretty stellar.  There’s also something to be said for the combination of the smoker smell happening outside and the sauce cooking inside – your mouth basically waters all day.

Vinegar-based Barbecue Sauce

2 sticks of butter

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

half of a lemon

1. In a saucepan over high heat, melt the butter.  Chop the onion finely and add to the butter, cooking until translucent (note that the smell of onions cooking in butter is one of the best in the world!).  Add the ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, and spices.  Stir everything together and cook until it comes to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes, until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

2. Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to combine.  This sauce has no emulsifiers, so the butter and vinegar will separate.  I store mine in a jar and shake it up before I use it.