Flourless Tiger’s Eye Cookies

Want to feel like you’ve got the eye of the tiger?  Try these super-easy, super-delicious cookies.

What you need:

Slightly less than 1 cup of creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 tbsp Nutella or other hazelnut spread

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together the brown sugar and egg in a mixing bowl.  Once smooth, mix in the peanut butter until thoroughly combined.  Finally, drizzle the hazelnut spread over the top of the batter (you can warm it slightly first if you want to drizzle, but you will need to let it cool again before the next step).  Next, stir in the spread just slightly, being sure to maintain some of the “swirl.”  Form dough into 1″ balls and use a fork to press down the cookies in a hatch pattern on a non-greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or until slightly puffy, and then let them finish on the pan on the counter for a few minutes.

These are chewy and delicious and oh-so-easy!

Fresh from the oven!

Learning to cook…take some time to find your talent

I am not a great cook.  I am a pretty good cook.  I have never been to cooking school or even spent a weekend at some expensive cooking retreat.  I’ve never even taken one of those turbo-charged classes at a certain high-end kitchen store.  My mom taught me how to make exactly five things: guacamole, chicken enchiladas, chile rellenos, meatloaf, and chicken kiev.  So how did I figure out how to cook well enough to cook my way into my husband’s heart?  The hard way.

I’m going to get on a soapbox for a moment and say that it really annoys me when people say they don’t know how to cook.  My sister says this all the time, and to be fair, she’s the kind of person who burns toast and manages to find a way to screw up scrambled eggs.  She doesn’t know how to cook because she doesn’t want to know though.  I think people who don’t know how to cook generally fall into one of about three categories: those who don’t want to learn, those who don’t have time to learn, and those who don’t need to learn.  Obviously, I don’t find any of those excuses particularly convincing.  Even if you don’t need to know how to cook (spouse cooks, private chef, etc.) or either of the other excuses, you should know how to make at least one or two things for those times when you’re in a real pinch.  Feeding yourself is a basic need after all, and I am pretty lenient about what I consider ‘knowing how to cook.’

And that’s how I learned how to cook.  I needed to learn how to cook.  When I moved out of my parents’ house at three months shy of eighteen to go to college, I never moved back.  Sure, macaroni and cheese from a box is great for a little while, but I think I was born a foodie.  I wasn’t satisfied with mediocre food from a box.  If I wanted to eat well, I was going to have to do it myself.  Unfortunately, that meant eating not-so-well until I figured it out.

Yes, I learned how to cook almost entirely through trial and error.  Well, almost.  The secret to learning something through trial and error without having a decade long learning curve is to seek out some outside resources.  With cooking, we are lucky to have a variety of resources available to us.  There are recipe websites, cookbooks, blogs (like mine), YouTube videos, and entire cable channels devoted to teaching you how to cook.  From these resources, you can learn techniques (t.v. is great for learning knife work) and maybe even more importantly, you can begin to learn what flavours work together.  You can then use these techniques and your knowledge of flavour profiles to begin to create your own dishes based on your preferences (say, creating kosher adaptations).  This is exactly how I learned how to cook.

I’ve made some pretty nasty stuff.  I made a grape-stuffed chicken that made me gag and I’ve made some of the most flavorless soups and stews that have ever had the sad opportunity to boil.  But, I kept at it.  Now, my failures are much fewer and far between (though things still don’t always work out…especially when you start talking about baking).  Come to think of it, cooking is probably the only thing I wasn’t good at right away that I didn’t quit (that’s another blog post).

I guess my whole point is that it’s not that hard.  Just try every once in awhile.  Watch 5 minutes of a cooking show here and there or read a recipe online.  Give it a chance and see what happens.  You might discover a talent you never knew you had, and it will only increase your sources of delicious food.  In the words of the lovely Ina Garten, “How bad could that be?”

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Soup

All of this rain has put me in the mood for some hot and creamy soup.  I know it’s still hot outside, but this is a great recipe for snuggling indoors and pretending it’s already autumn.  This recipe is also jam-packed full of calcium between the Brussels sprouts, the cheese, and the milk.

What  you need:

2 cups Brussels sprouts (frozen works fine)

1/2 cup water

1 cup whole milk or half and half

1/4 cup finely shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)

1/8 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika

1/2 tsp. kosher sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. chopped parsley

1/8 tsp. garlic powder (garlic cloves would be too chunky and overpowering I think)

Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan and then add the Brussels sprouts.  Boil until sprouts are tender.  Pour water and sprouts into a food processor and pulse to desired consistency – about 30 seconds will yield a creamy soup with still a little tasty texture.  Return the Brussels sprouts purée to the saucepan and add milk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.  Once the soup is hot, remove from the heat and melt in the cheese.  Garnish with parsley.

Green, calcium-rich, and belly-warming.

Dinner from the Dollar Store

Sometimes, in our efforts to fight for a better food system, the push to ban GMOs and go all organic, and the pleas to save the family farm, we forget about those who are too often already forgotten.  Nearly one in four American children goes hungry each day, and while they need nutritious food, they also just really need food.  What’s more is that many people don’t recognize the very real existence of food deserts in America.  Some people can’t even get to a grocery store, let alone their local [insertorganicgrocerystorenamehere].  For some, the corner convenience store or the dollar store is their grocery store.  I was reminded of this fact this past May at a conference I attended called Food and History: from Theory to Practice at North Carolina State University.  Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson at the University of Maryland College Park specifically gave a talk on the role of dollar stores in feeding those who might otherwise be located in a food desert.  You can watch her presentation from the conference here: “A Dollar Today, A Meal Tomorrow…”

 

In response, below is a meal I created from the local dollar store.  It is relatively healthy, and I thought it was pretty delicious.

What you need for Creamy Seafood Pasta with Roasted Broccoli:

1 box pasta salad mix (I used a creamy Parmesan variety – no bacon!)

1 tin of mackerel fillets packed in oil, drained

1 tin of white tuna, drained

Mayonnaise (see your particular pasta salad mix for the exact amount)

1 lb. bag of frozen broccoli

2 tbsp. sunflower oil/olive oil blend (my dollar store did not sell straight olive oil)

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. black pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Blanche your broccoli to thaw it by boiling it in a pot of water for about 5 minutes and then dropping into ice water.  Once the broccoli is no longer hot, drain and place on a shallow baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast until tender and the floret is just slightly crispy (about 25 minutes).  For the pasta, boil the pasta component of the salad mix according to the package directions.  Next, combine the seasoning packet and mayonnaise well and then stir in both tins of fish gently.  Drain and rinse the pasta once al dente and add to the bowl with the seasoning/fish mixture.  Chill or serve slightly warm.

If you already had the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, this meal cost you $5.  That’s $1.25 per person for a family of four – less than the cost of a school lunch.  And, it’s loaded with healthy fats from the fish, mayonnaise, and oil; Vitamin C from the broccoli; and calcium from the pasta.

Creamy seafood pasta leftovers for lunch!

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