Monthly Archives: October 2012

Monster Cookies

My work is in the midst of United Way week, where we come up with creative ways to donate money to the organization. Every year we have a bake sale and I decided to bake something to donate since I’m obviously in a baking mood.

I discovered monster cookies in college when my friend Liz’s grandparents mailed some to her dorm. I had never heard of such a thing: oatmeal, peanut butter, M&Ms, chocolate chips… why was I deprived so long!? And why did I wait nine years to recreate these?! Fool. Monster cookies sound like a Halloween treat, so it was time to make them.

(makes 22-24 cookies, adapted from Paula Deen)
3 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter
1 stick margerine (or butter), softened
1 cup M&Ms
3/4 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (it’s ok if you don’t have these–it’s just for texture)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and white sugar and brown sugar. Mix well with a mixer.

3. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter or margarine. Mix well with the mixer.

4. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, (you can use 1/4c raisins too if you want) baking soda, flour and oatmeal. Mix by hand and try not to over mix.

5. Use an ice-cream scoop and drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Seriously:  use parchment paper. If you don’t have multiple cookie sheets, store the dough in the fridge while the cookies bake.

6. Bake for 17-20 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large tupperware or resealable plastic bags.

I searched all over the internet for a good recipe, and I read tons of reviews on multiple recipes and found that the Paula Deen recipe was “the best” if you modified it slightly; added a little flour, reduced the sugar, omitted raisins, made the cookies large rather than small so they wouldn’t get hard and flat. I modified the recipe even more and added extra vanilla, upped the amount of M&Ms and stuck in some rolled oats for texture.

These cookies were great; lots of peanut butter flavor, chocolaty without being overboard and chewy delicious.


Baked Potato + Cauliflower Soup

I had a yet another head of wonderful cauliflower, and no idea what to do with it. A little googling lead me to a baked potato soup recipe where instead of all the cream and butter and half + half, a puree of cauliflower is used. This is a growing trend these days. I’ll take it!!
Baked Potato + Cauliflower Soup
(serves 5, adapted from Skinny Taste)
2 russet potatoes, washed and dried
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 small head of cauliflower, stem removed cut into florets
1 cup vegetable broth + 1/2 cups water (mix)
1 1/2 cups skim milk
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste (a lot!)
Chopped green onions (or chives)
Shredded sharp cheddar


1. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes and rough chop them a bit. (You can also microwave your potatoes, but I think the oven makes them taste better.)

2.In a frying pan, heat up the teaspoon of oil for a few seconds and drop in the diced onion. Cook until it is translucent, but don’t let it get brown. 

3. Meanwhile, steam cauliflower with water in a large covered pot until tender (10-15 mins depending on how small you floret the cauliflower). Drain and return to pot. 
4. Warm up the milk in the microwave for one minute (just so it won’t curdle or anything funky)
5. On medium heat, add broth/water, milk, potatoes and bring to a boil. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth (no chunks!).
6. Give it a taste. If you like sour cream and feel like it needs to be creamier, you can add 1/2 cup to the recipe at this point.
7. Salt and pepper it multiple times, this will give it a lot of flavor.
8. Remove from heat. Ladle soup into a bowl. Top each serving with sharp cheddar cheese and chopped chives. If you eat bacon, or fake bacon, feel free to add that too. 
This soup is not very photogenic, but it is pretty healthy and low in calories/fat… as long as you aren’t putting an entire brick of cheddar and/or bacon on top. You can also add whatever toppings you would to a regular baked potato to this soup to stir in… sour cream, red onion, greek yogurt, fritos, etc.

CSA week 18 + 19 + 20

Week 18: I turned that pumpkin into pumpkin puree, roasted those peppers, and see that alien looking thing–celeriac root? I failed to do anything with it. Apologies vegetable gods.

Week 19: Lots of radishes, that Brent just ate raw. Delicious lettuce!  Brent also loved mustard greens, until we cooked them–try them raw! They allegedly are what is in wasabi. Those squash are called sweet dumpling, really dry and not my favorite but it was fun to try!

 Week 20: The second to last week of CSA. We turned that kale into kale chips, had carrot fries several times, roasted the broccoli and will be eating the cauliflower and squash possibly in soup form! Woo!

It’s bittersweet knowing next week is the last box of organic, local, fresh from the farm vegetables that we get to pick up. The only sweet part is knowing that I get to pick out veggies that I crave or want to stick in a recipe.

Lots of Chocolate Cowboy Oatmeal Bars

I don’t have crave chocolate or dessert, but it seems like from this blog that I do. I just really like to bake in the cold months!  Luckily, Brent had a work potluck and I wanted to try make cookie bars, which I’ve never done before. I found a recipe on Land O’ for Cowboy Oatmeal Bars (#ClientAlert) and decided to make them with what I had on hand. M&Ms and chocolate chips instead of walnuts and peanut butter chips.

Lots of Chocolate Cowboy Oatmeal Bars
(makes 24 bars, adapted from Land O’Lakes)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
1 cup milk or real semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup M&Ms

1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. Combine butter, brown sugar and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

3. Add eggs and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed.

4. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking soda and salt. Beat until well mixed.

5. Stir in oats; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and M&Ms. You can stir in 1 cup of anything else you’d like too: Land O’Lakes suggests peanut butter chips and walnuts, butterscotch chips could be good. Peanut butter could be awesome as well.

6. Press dough evenly into ungreased 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake for 16 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. (I cooked these forever, they seemed to never get brown, but they turned out great)

7. Cut these while they are hot! I cut the pan into 24 bars. Then let them cool completely and pack them away in a tupperware when cool.

These are very chocolaty, moist (not dry–which was my fear!) and Brent seemed to like them (he ate two to “test them”). They were easy to cut and pack up away. I think these were missing a peanut butter flavor and if I made them again I’d for sure get those peanut butter chips, or even add peanut butter to the mix.

Michelle Obama’s Cauliflower Mac + Cheese

I had a half of a head of cauliflower to use and I was really craving mac + cheese. I knew it was time to Google and a Michelle Obama recipe popped up. I guess since it’s political season, this recipe of was appropriate I suppose.

Cauliflower Mac + Cheese (adapted from The First Lady/Yum Sugar)


1/2 pound penne pasta (half a box–use whole wheat. just do it!)
1 cup milk
8oz shredded cheddar cheese (or a mixture of your favorite melting cheeses)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1.5 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup bread crumbs


1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
2. Steam the cauliflower until soft, about 10 minutes. Immersion blend the cauliflower(or transfer to a blender) along with a few tablespoons of the steaming liquid into a puree the cauliflower. Add more steaming liquid to thin the puree if necessary.
3. In a medium size casserole dish, combine the pasta and hot cauliflower puree. Add the milk, both cheeses, parsley, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and breadcrumbs with your fingers until it resembles damp sand. Sprinkle across the top of the pasta mixture, then place the dish in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until the top is crispy and the sauce is bubbling.

I was really skeptical about this dish considering I usually make mac + cheese with a delicious cheese sauce. But, It was really good, very quick and easy and I’d make it again.

For the cheeses I used low-fat sharp cheddar and Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar which you MUST RUN TO TRADER JOE’S NOW and get. It is a cross between sharp cheddar and parmesan. Good luck not eating the whole brick!

Back to the dish… the cauliflower taste was there, but it was subtle. Perfect for any vegetable-phobic in your life. Or if you want to trick yourself into eating more vegetables… I don’t think Michelle Obama would be mad.

Pumpkin Banana Bread

The other day I turned a pumpkin into pumpkin puree. I realize people have been doing this for years, but I did it! In 2012! I also can things! I feel like a Pioneer Woman. Clearly not that Pioneer Woman. She is a professional, and I take photos for my blog with my cellphone.

Anyway, now I have a ton of pumpkin puree, and when my Mom visited she left me two realllllly ripe bananas (that she swore she was going to eat…). Land O’Lakes (#clientalert) recently published a recipe for Pumpkin Banana Bread and clearly all the stars were aligning for me to make this recipe ASAP.

Pumpkin Banana Bread
(adapted from the magical geniuses in the Test Kitchens at Land O’Lakes)

1.5 cups sugar
3/4 cup margarine (or butter), softened
3 eggs
1.5 cups canned pumpkin
2 medium (1/2 cup) ripe bananas, mashed
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans


1. Pre-hat oven to 350°F.

2. Pam/Grease 2 (8×4-inch) loaf pans; set aside.

3. Combine sugar, margarine and eggs in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture is creamy. Add pumpkin and bananas; continue beating until well mixed. (Mixture will have curdled appearance.)

4. Reduce speed to low; add all remaining ingredients except nuts; beat just until moistened.

5. Stir in nuts

6. Spread evenly into prepared pans, leaving about an inch of room in the pan so the bread can rise a bit.

7. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (If using two 9×5-inch loaf pans, bake for 40 to 50 minutes)

8. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans and place on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

I made one big loaf and two mini-loafs, one of which I made without walnuts to take to work. It was really tasty and I’d for sure make it again.

Roasted Tomatillo/Verde Enchilada Sauce

My CSA has sent us tons of tomatillos this summer. I kind of only know how to make one (er, 1.5) things with them… so I keep making enchilada sauce. Good thing it is delicious.

I looked at this recipe once, and it has always made a delicious sauce, although in reading it closely for this post I realized I haven’t ever followed it properly.

Verde Enchilada Sauce
6-8 medium tomatillos, husked and washed
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
1 medium/large jalepeno pepper
1/2 cup water
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 lime juiced

1. Remove the husks from the tomatillos. They will be sticky (and possibly smell a little funky) but just wash them as best as you can and dry them off.

2. Roast the jalapeno, garlic and tomatillos on a baking sheet under the broiler (on high). Broil until black and blistering on all sides, turning as needed. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn– you may have to take that out early. This all takes less than 5 minutes.

3. Remove from oven and place in a ziploc bag, or a bowl covered tightly with saran. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then remove and peel. Discard skin, core and seeds. (Note- I have always skipped this step and I’m not dead yet. So feel free to do the same!)

4. Heat a sauce pan until medium and add a little oil and cook the onion onion until browned. (Um–I’ve never done this either. I bet it would be delicious, and I’ll try it next time.)

5. Get out your blender or food processor and dump all ingredients into it until it is a thin liquid.

Well… so clearly I’m not so great at following directions. But the sauce tastes awesome with my Mom’s enchilada recipe I’ve also eaten this as a salsa (see above photo), which tasted awesome. Just leave out the water!  This sauce is a little spicy, a little sweet and seriously easy to make.

Make it, then open up a can of salsa verde enchilada sauce and taste the difference. I did this last  night and it was a million times better. GO!