Chocolate Chip Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

I made these cookies last week and wasn't planning on posting them for a bit. When I saw that Love & Olive Oil posted similar cookies yesterday, I decided to just put it up now. I got the original recipe from my oldest cookbook The Best of Country Cooking 2003 (it was a wedding present). It's a fantastic recipe (Toffee Malted Cookies) and I've only tweaked it a bit. Years ago, a friend gave me a tip to grind the oats in a food processor or blender. It's brilliant! You still get the nutty taste but don't have as lumpy a texture. I do it for all oatmeal cookies.

What you'll need (plus eggs *sigh*):
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or extract)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups regular oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup toffee bits
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (the original adds 1 cup chopped Whoppers instead of chocolate chips. Both taste divine.)

Pour oats into a food processor. Pulse until powdery. 

Combine with flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

In a separate large bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add pudding mix and vanilla, beat well. Add flour and oat mixture to creamed mixture, mixing until completely combined. Fold in toffee and chocolate chips (dough will be stiff). Spoon onto parchment covered baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. Let sit for 2 minutes before cooling on wire racks. Yields 5 or 6 dozen. 
(These are actually a different kind of cookie that I'm working on...but I wanted a "ready to freeze" picture)
Whenever I make cookies, I bake a dozen or so and freeze the rest. I scoop the dough into cookie sized balls and freeze them on a tray before transferring them to a ziplock freezer bag. This way I can have fresh cookies for the husband and kids in ten minutes, and cookie dough instantly for me.


Zucchini Bread: FAIL

Note to self: use more cooking spray and cook a lot longer than recipe says. The husband said it still tasted good and ate most of a loaf. Maybe not a complete failure?


Apple Cinnamon Parfait

Two weeks ago I was down with the flu. It was awful. Food lost all of it's appeal. That's how I know I was really sick. I lived off of diet Coke (does anyone else out there love the feel of carbonation on a sore throat?) and apples. 
Over the summer I got into a parfait rut. I was eating one each morning. Yogurt, berries and granola = super yummy. A friend told me that apples, cinnamon and yogurt were also a delicious combo. She was very right.

Apple Cinnamon Parfait:
Your favorite kind of apple (I used Gala), chopped
Vanilla yogurt
Granola (our favorite is Cascadian Farm but I didn't have any)
Cinnamon, to taste (I use maybe 1/2 - 1 teaspoon?)

Just toss whatever amount of each into a bowl. I put it in the cup so it would actually look like a parfait in the picture. Usually I dump it all in a bowl and have at it. I normally eat this minus the granola. The apple makes it crunchy and filling. One of my favorite breakfasts. Enjoy!


Dusting off the ol' blog

Yesterday, I was running at the gym. I run. I'm a runner. Anyway, it was a very difficult run. I was trying for 5 or 6 miles and barely made it over 4. And that was with the distraction of What Not to Wear (Possibly my favorite TV show. They make me laugh.). I'm beginning to see why treadmills and any run over a mile don't go together. Running is boring (news flash, right?). Running on a treadmill is pretty much torture. You're stuck with annoying, repetitive commercials as your eye wanders between the stop button and watching your distance sloooowly creep towards your goal. When I run outside, there's the knowledge that the quicker I get through my miles the quicker I can eat something and take a nap. As I was spiraling downwards yesterday, unable to give myself a decent pep-talk, my show ended and I switched to the Food Network. Lucky for me, the Barefoot Contessa had something delicious up her sleeve:

Chicken Chili
I knew I had most of the ingredients on hand but I still had to change it up quite a lot. It turned out fantastic! Seriously yummy. A little on the spicy side. You can tone it down easily enough by using smaller amounts of the spices. We ate it with chips, sour cream and cheese. Here's the recipe:

1 onion, chopped (the original says yellow, I used white. I don't think it makes a difference either way.)
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for chicken
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for chicken
2 cans (10 oz each) RoTel (diced tomatoes with chillies), puréed
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, puréed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until done. Chop into bite-sized chunks.

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-low. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 10-15 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute. Mix in bell peppers and spices. Cook for another minute. Add puréed tomatoes, RoTel and cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken and continue to simmer another 20 minutes. Serve with or without toppings.

PS. I'm actually about to sit down and eat the leftovers. And I never eat leftovers. Ever. Well, except for this. But really I normally hate leftovers.


Soda Can Jewlery

I saw a picture in a magazine where someone had used soda cans to make necklace, so I decided to figure out how to put my own spin on it. So far I have made flower hair clips and rings. I am so proud of these silly things I feel like a dork. They look so cute in peoples hair and they are not as heavy as you would think. the rings are alot of fun too.
funny story: the can that the big flower is made of came from a crazy old lady that was walking in the middle of the street. I was on my way home from grocery shopping and was going around her but stopped when she waved her cane. I rolled down the passenger side window and she asked if I would give her a ride to her doctors office for five bucks. Apparently her appointment was moved and she couldn't get a hold of her ride so she decided to walk but about killed herself walking up the hill. I didn't have anything too perishable so i said yes. After talking to her for a little bit I found out that she was only in her fifties and can no longer do the outside activities she used to due to a hip replacement. When I dropped her off I asked for her can instead of the five bucks. I thought it made adorable hair flowers. I'm alot braver at asking people for their empty drink cans now because of it.
Anyway please let me know what you think of what I did. I do enjoy getting other peoples opinions(positive and negative).


Tahini-Free Hummus

I got this recipe from a friend at church. She adds sesame seeds instead of tahini (sesame seed paste), which can be expensive. I changed the spice amounts a little and you can do the same to get the flavor you want.


2 (15 oz) cans garbanzo beans (or chick peas), drained (save the liquid)
4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin (missing from picture. Oops.)
1/2 tsp paprika
Dash of chili powder
Juice of one lemon
1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
Put all of the ingredients, except for the reserved liquid, into a food processor or blender (be warned: I killed my blender after making this a few times). Process/blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Serve with pita chips (my three year old likes it with apple slices) or make a delicious wrap:

Hummus Wraps:

Prepared hummus
Flour tortillas
Bell pepper slices (we like yellow or red)
Feta cheese (this is very salty cheese so go easy on the salt in the hummus if you don't want it super salty)

Warm a tortilla, spread with hummus, add bell pepper, feta and lettuce; roll up like a burrito.


An {L} Birthday

My baby is two as of yesterday. Crazy. We had a big party for her inside our church building (originally to beat the Houston heat and humidity, but we also avoided having a rain-soaked party.). For food we had chocolate cupcakes, using the same Martha Stewart recipe I always use. It made 36 cupcakes and around 13 mini-cupcakes. For the frosting, I beat 2 cups (4 sticks!) of softened butter with about 2 teaspoons of vanilla paste (you could use extract too). Then I added enough powdered sugar to make a really stiff icing. Finally, a few tablespoons of milk to get it to piping consistancy. I split it into thirds and colored each with Wilton icing colors (leaf green, pink, and violet). I made the frosting the night before the party, so in the morning I pulled it out of the fridge and let it sit at room temp for a bit, before beating in a little more milk. Then I piped it on:
I also made sugar cookies, using cousin Brenda's recipe:

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350*F. Beat sugar and shortening together. Add eggs; beat. Add corn syrup, vanilla, baking powder, soda and salt; mix. Add flour and mix until combined. Chill dough for an hour. Roll between lightly floured wax paper to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies with cutters. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

I found a tutorial for flooding cookies with royal icing. I used Wilton Meringue Powder and the royal icing recipe included (I added some almond extract; around a teaspoon or two).
It was surprisingly easy to do, though it will take some practice to make them look as good as the ones in the tutorial. I need a steadier hand but they turned out just fine (and really tasty):
And finally, as if that weren't enough for a two year old, I made suckers. Same reciped from this post, just some different flavors (grape, watermelon and cinnamon):
I had some issues with the colors. Above are the cinnamon flavored ones. They're supposed to be pink......yeah. Orange happened because I added the flavor before the color. As I started dropping the coloring in, the steam caused by the flavoring hit me square in the face. Think about it: hot, cinnamon-infused steam....my eyes immediately teared up, my throat started burning, it hurt to breathe......it was awful. So I cranked the kitchen fan on and opened the nearest window. I stirred as fast as I could and slopped it into the molds, before retreating to my bedroom (the furthest away). Luckily the girls, who were already down for their naps, remained unscathed. And that's why we have green, purple and.....orange:
We invited a lot of kids (24 + older/younger siblings), so I knew we'd need some good, entertaining games. Going with the theme of "L", we had the kids "Pin [tape] the Spot on the Leopard":
My husband drew this. Pretty awesome, right? After that, it was time to "Leap Across the Lily-pads":
I traced the lid to our cylindrical ottoman on a roll of green art paper and then cut out a pizza slice.

And lastly, we made Lion masks:
My poor husband spent nearly two hours cutting out these masks. He deserves a medal (and a hand massage). We tied some elastic through punched holes and: