Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or so the story goes. The story of this recipe actually begins in a trash bin. You can read the inspiration for these yummy after-school cookies at The Meaning of Pie. After making several batches of these quick and easy treats, I am grateful the old Southern Living recipe was rescued from the recycling bin and lives on!

Like the game of Telephone, recipes get handed down, passed around and changed up along the way so that eventually the end result looks (and tastes) much different than the beginning. Sounds like this simple recipe has endured the test of time and I am happy to share the version I settled on.  I tried different peanut butters and played around with the sugar(s), added a little vanilla and think it’s a keeper.  I took a batch to school last week and the cookies disappeared so quick the only evidence of their being was a few chocolate covered finger tips. In a more civilized manner our sweet staff at church gave the cookies ‘thumbs up’ as Littlest and I passed them around the office this morning. And, church people tell it like it is y’all. 😉

Without further ado, here is our favorite after school cookie-du-jour. The good news is they are gluten and dairy free. The even better news is they are so tasty no one will know or care.

Sadly, however they are not calorie-free. I’m still working on that one.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup peanut butter (I use fresh ground honey roasted peanut butter from Whole Foods)**

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup + chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life allergy-free)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together all ingredients except the chocolate chips. Mix well. Add the chocolate chips. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto baking sheets lined with Silpat or parchment paper. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Watch the cookies carefully. They are best slightly undercooked!

** I tried several peanut butters in various test batches. The bottom line is if you like your peanut butter, you’ll love these cookies. Use your favorite!


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Happy Birthday!

This my friends is the breakfast of  birthday champions. As soon as the light of day breaks through the windows, the Littles will enjoy a nutritious, hearty helping of birthday cake. All before 8 am. Cake for the Littles, coffee for the mama.

Nine years ago on my 33rd birthday, our second Little and first daughter made her way into the world. I can see you doing the math in your head, you know. I’m 42 today. My beloved Little is 9. So today we celebrate! Beginning with Birthday Cake for breakfast. Because, why not?

Here’s the birthday girl just moments ago opening her presents. She found the princess crown (from her 1st birthday) and somehow woke up with it already perfectly in place on her sweet birthday head. Clearly her mother’s daughter.

Bed head and dragon breath, the birthday girls pose for their first pic of the day. Y’all it’s still in the 7’s in these parts…very early.

Yesterday, the grand assembling of the cake occurred. Dubbing the occasion in this manner makes it seem more important because the truth is…

Our cake came straight out of the box. Both of them. I just didn’t have my wits to try all the new flours and sweeteners necessary to make a perfect gluten-free cake. So can I get an AMEN for Pamela’s gluten-free cake mixes? And icings too!

The birthday princess requested a double layer cake of vanilla and chocolate. She also requested a strawberry layer, but Pamela’s Baking Goods glory does not extend that far. Here is the cake at the ‘big fat oreo’ stage.

I love this photo and it will always remind me of Littlest who is ‘up the counter’ in her princess big girl panties. We are 10 days into successful potty training and this it the ultimate birthday gift in my book. I do wonder what I will think in years to come about the purple finger nail polish on my birthday girl? I hadn’t noticed her manicure until I took this photo. Nice.

About this time during the grand assembling of the cake, just as the finishing touches were settling into place, Littlest threatened to destroy the masterpiece by secretly pulling the cookies off the cake and leaving finger trails through the icing. The birthday princess extended grace and patience as she swiftly moved her younger sibling from the scene of the crime. I was proud. Then the birthday girl declared ‘I want a gluten-free, dairy-free, SISTER-FREE cake’.  And proceeded to bop her sister on the head. Again, my pride swells.

Gratefully, this  younger sister stopped short of removing cookies and left sprinkles in place. But, she gave it a long contemplative thought…

Neighbors joined us from a far (long blocks, really!) and distracted the Littles from completely eating the cake on the eve of the celebration. All was quiet during the night.

This is the live-real-time-blogging scene from my writing perch. Littlest is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to cake. She wise beyond her three years.

And I am powerless to keep this birthday Little waiting any longer. Excuse me, while we celebrate 9 and 42 with birthday cake. For breakfast!

A Peachy Salad

It’s peak peach time here in central Texas. Husband & I were in the Hill Country last weekend and picked up a flat of freestone peaches in Fredericksburg. I tweeked a recipe I found from Cooking Light and came up with a delicious, summer salad. It’s a great way to enjoy the bounty of peaches before they’re all gone.

For the dressing I used a sweet wine (’08 Muscat Canelli) we picked up at Santa Maria Cellars in Fredericksburg. Any sweet wine you have will do. Husband & I don’t typically drink sweet wines, but I always keep a bottle on hand for recipes or friends who enjoy the sweeter side of things.  Pick up an inexpensive bottle at the store (ask the wine guys for help!) and let me know what recipes you find.

Hill Country Wine Dressing

1 cup sweet white wine (riesling or muscat are great)

1 Tbs walnut oil

1 Tbs white wine vinegar

dash of sea salt

In a saucepan heat wine over medium-high heat until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. I set a timer for 10 minutes. If you walk away and forget wine boiling on the stove, you’ll return to a sticky, burnt pan. Don’t ask me how I know this…

Remove wine from heat and let cool. Pour into a mason jar or glass container, add vinegar, oil and salt. Gently shake to combine.

Dressing will keep in refrigerator for up to a week.

Peachy Salad

4 cups of butter lettuce, or mixed greens

2 – 3 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced

handful of toasted walnuts, or sliced almonds

generous sprinkling of crumbled goat cheese

Toss the salad with the Wine Dressing and enjoy the sweet flavors of summer.

The Best Granola

I’ve posted this recipe for homemade granola before, but it’s just so good I had to share it again! We’ve updated our original recipe since going gluten-free and are very grateful for Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Oats.  With our without gluten, this granola is simply delicious.

Maple Vanilla Granola

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbs vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix the oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In another small bowl, mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla.  Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix with your hands until well combined.  This is messy!

Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely and crumble granola into big chunks and small bits.  Store in an airtight container.

Don’t just take my word for it – make this granola for yourselves and let me know what you think! But, with thumbs up from all four Littles and Husband, the title of  Best Granola is secure at The Schell Cafe.

Dos Equis Chicken: The Most Interesting Bird in the World

Beer can chicken is hands down (and bottoms up!) our favorite way to grill a bird. Like most of America, we’ll fire up the coals on the 4th of July and I thought I’d share our Dos Equis Chicken recipe.

Beer can chicken has been around for ages and is more of a method than a recipe. Simply put, you pop a top on your favorite beer, take a few good swigs to empty the can a bit, nestle a whole chicken (giblets removed) on the beer can and grill ’til done.

Not to get all highbrow on you, but I purchased a vertical chicken roaster from Williams-Sonoma. Actually I purchased two, because everyone knows two beer can chickens are better than one.

Here’s the roaster(s) I purchased.

My roasters are so well loved they wouldn’t recognize this photo! Like a beer can, the roaster holds liquid and keeps the chicken in a vertical position allowing for a tender perfect roast every time.

Beer Can Chicken

1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs), giblets removed

1/2 cup olive oil + more for vegetables

Seasoning or rub of choice – I like hot Spanish paprika

4-5 cloves garlic, slightly crushed but intact

coarse sea salt

pepper

Mixed vegetables – this time I used mixed bell peppers, green onions, red onions, and garlic. But corn, squash and jalapenos are favorites too.

Beer – Dos Equis, of course *

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Mix Spanish paprika, or your chosen seasoning/rub, into olive oil.

Place the roaster on a baking sheet (for transporting and collecting spills only).  Pour beer into the center container of the roaster. Add the garlic cloves. Gently nestle the chicken, legs pointing down, onto the roaster. Brush the seasoning & oil mixture generously over the chicken. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt & pepper.

Set the roaster on the grill away from direct heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is roasting chop the veggies and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to coat the vegetables and toss with salt & pepper.

After 30 minutes, add the vegetables to the base of the roaster. Continue cooking, brushing the chicken with the seasoning and olive oil mixture every 15 minutes for a total of 1 1/2 hours. Cooking times will vary depending on your grill, so check with a meat thermometer. Chicken will be done when the thermometer registers 170 degrees fahrenheit.

Transfer to a carving board or serving platter. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

* For my gluten-free friends, I realize Dos Equis is NOT a good choice of beverages no matter how thirsty you are. My friend Jess @ATXglutenfree was kind to inform me of gluten-free beer options, specifically Green’s which I spied with my little eye at Whole Foods. Truthfully, you don’t have to use beer at all. Wine, chicken stock, even water would work. Just don’t go callin’ it Beer Can Chicken if it ain’t.

Happy 4th!

Kale Chips

Kale Chips hit the food blogging scene well over a year ago and seemingly everyone had their own version of the crispy uber-green. While the trend of making kale chips may be very 2009, I think kale is the new black and destined to be a classic.

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have several friends participate in Food Naturally, a cooking class at The Schell Cafe. We spent the morning making simple recipes and discussing ideas to encourage  loved ones, especially Littles, to embrace real food. We all know processed food is unhealthy, but it’s so convenient! Convenience, however, comes with a hefty price tag — our health! We talked about ways to transition our palates & pantries from SAD (Standard American Diet) to WHOLE.

During our class we made kale chips, testing out three varieties of kale: curly, red and lacinato.  Curly kale is green and, well, curly. Sometimes labeled  simply green kale at grocery stores, I’ve never had a problem finding it nestled amongst the lettuces.  Red kale is also very curly, but has color much like red leaf lettuce. Lacinato kale is an Italian heirloom variety, and has long, hearty, flatter leaves. I’ve noticed lacinato kale less around town and generally only find it at Whole Foods. But, keep your eyes peeled it’s a great kale to try.

All three varieties of kale roasted into crispy, delicious chips that disappeared as quickly as we pulled them out of the oven. Experiment with your favorite spices and herbs, the possibilities are truly endless.

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried

2 TBS olive oil

1-2 tsp mixture of your favorite herbs and/or spices (I love cayenne!)

1-2 tsp coarse sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and dry kale thoroughly – it’s very important the kale is dry. Wet, even damp, leaves will result in soggy chips. In a large bowl mix olive oil with herbs and seasoning. DON’T mix in salt yet. The salt draws out moisture and keeps kale from getting crispy.  Tear  kale into bite sized pieces and place in the bowl with olive oil.  Gently massage the kale leaves until the leaves are evenly coated.  Place kale on baking sheet and bake 8-10 minutes. Watch carefully, the kale can burn quickly. Once toasted to a crisp, remove from oven and generously sprinkle with salt.

We generally eat kale chips straight off the baking sheet. However, two of the Littles have yet to commit to the kale craze. I won’t give up and in the meantime, I sprinkle crumbled kale chips into bowls of popcorn for a healthy snack. And, everyone seems to enjoy the crispy addition to scrambled eggs. The crispy kale also adds a pleasant crunch to leafy green salads. See, I told you the possibilities were endless….

If you need more inspiration check out how to take your kale chips to a new level at The Sensitive Pantry. Nancy offers several ways to really kick your kale up a notch!

Have you joined the kale craze?

Fried Okra

Who doesn’t love fried okra? Seriously, in nearly five years of food blogging I can’t believe I haven’t shared a fried okra story. I guess it’s because I assumed everyone has a favorite way to fry okra. I don’t have a recipe written down, but my version historically involved flour, buttermilk, cornmeal and oil for frying. When the first few pods of okra showed up in our Tecolote Farms basket this week, I knew I had to come up with a marginally healthy way to fry ’em up. I pared it down to the essentials and guess what? Either our palates have changed significantly since our last fried okra fest, or we truly didn’t miss the flour and dairy.  All I can say is no matter how you fry okra it’s just plain YUM.

Try this simple version. It’s light on ingredients and the distinct flavor of the okra is allowed to star the show. I keep the pods whole with just the spiky ends trimmed. It keeps the notorious okra slime in check and you get a fuller bite.

Note: We only had a small amount of okra this week. Probably two handfuls. The quantities I’ve listed below are not hard fast. If you need another egg add it, likewise with cornmeal and oil.

Cornmeal Fried Okra

okra, washed and ends trimmed

1 cup canola oil

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free)

coarse sea salt

lemon

Wash and trim the okra. Pat dry.

In a frying pan, cast iron is best, add enough oil to float the okra. Heat over medium-high flame.

In a small shallow bowl whisk the egg until lightly beaten. Add the okra and toss to coat. Pour cornmeal into a shallow dish. Dredge the okra in the cornmeal until each piece is generously covered.

Gently place okra into hot oil with a spatula.  Fry until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes.

Remove okra with a slotted spatula to drain on a paper towel lined plate. Generously sprinkle with sea salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

For another delicious way to enjoy okra, read Martha Washington’s recipe.