Sunday, August 31, 2008

Peanut Butter and Banana Gelato

Here it is, the much awaited surprise banana dish! Took me long enough, I know. But this was worth waiting for, in my opinion!

I found this fantastic recipe on What's Cooking? This gelato was easy to make and didn't require any ingredients that I didn't already have. And it tastes wonderful!

Peanut Butter and Banana Gelato
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup peanut butter
a few drops of lime juice (I was going to substitute lemon juice because I don't have lime. But I forgot. It turned out good anyway)

Mix 1/2 can evaporated and corn starch together until the starch is dissolved and the mixture smooth.

In a medium size saucepan heat the rest of the evaporated milk and condensed milk.

Smash the bananas and add them to the saucepan along with the peanut butter. Whisk constantly until all the ingredients are mixed together.

When the mixture starts to boil stir in the cornstarch and whisk stir constantly for about 3 minutes. Don’t let the mixture thicken (confession - it was hard not to let it thicken! So I settled for not letting it thicken very much. I cooked it less than 3 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Freeze following ice cream maker instructions (I don't have an ice cream maker. If you have one, definitely use it. If not, just freeze this in a large flat container and break it up in the food processor or with a spoon before serving).

This definitely had a strong peanut butter flavor, which made it harder to taste the banana. But we like peanut butter, so none of us minded at all. The cornstarch in this recipe (used instead of eggs) gave this a very silky texture, and we didn't have to worry about food safety like you do with uncooked eggs (not that that ever stops us...). I liked making this, and it will stay on my list of dishes to consider whenever we have brown bananas.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti

On my poll I got an equal number of votes for Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti and Freeze them for later. So I'm doing both. I used one banana for the biscotti, and the other two are being saved for a special treat that I just need to get around to making.

Banana Chocolate Chip Biscotti
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup mashed very ripe banana (1 medium)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (miniature recommended)

Heat oven to 250. Grease large cookie sheet.

Beat sugar and butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Beat in banana, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 10 x 3-inch rectangle on cookie sheet with greased hands (dough will be sticky).

Bake about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on cookie sheet 15 minutes.

Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Turn slices cut sides down on cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown and dry on top. turn cookies. Bake about 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Many people enjoy these dry, crunchy cookies dipped in their coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker, so I enjoyed mine with a glass of milk. This would also be really good with some hot chocolate! Another fun option would be to dip these halfway in chocolate - yum!

I'm entering this in the I Love Baking foodie event. Obviously I love baking - I'm still running the oven despite the August heat!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oatmeal on Toast - Comfort Food from the Farm

This morning when I woke up it was cold - cold enough to actually be uncomfortable. Hooray!!! Fall is my favorite season in the whole year, so I'm really excited to see that summer may be starting to ease up just a bit.

Since it was so nippy this morning, I wanted to do a nice warm breakfast, the kind that warms you from the inside out. A comfort-food breakfast. I immediately thought of oatmeal, then remembered the homemade bread I did up yesterday (I'll post that later). And I thought of my grandparents.

When we visit my maternal grandparents, it's like stepping back in time. They live simply - my grandfather the stoic gentlemanly farmer, my grandmother the cheerful and productive housewife. They live in a large house that my grandfather built when my mom was just a child. Grandpa spends his days out in the fields while Grandma cooks, cleans, quilts, tats, sews, knits, and does crossword puzzles.

The meals we eat at Grandma and Grandpa's house reflect their simple way of life. They're the meals that my mother grew up on - meals that a farmer's wife prepares and feeds to her farmer husband and farm-grown children. Nothing fancy - just delicious, easy, and hearty.

Oatmeal on Toast is one of those breakfasts that we would eat when visiting with my grandparents. Well, it took me a while to get up to eating it actually. When I was younger, I would eat my oatmeal out of a bowl, topped with brown sugar and milk just like I was used to. I would stare at Grandpa as he built up his breakfast, and think it was a really weird way to eat oatmeal! But now I love this hearty breakfast probably as much as he does, not only because it's good, but because of the simple and happy memories it provides.

Oatmeal on Toast
Toasted homemade bread
Jam or jelly

Toast a piece of homemade bread and place it on your plate. Yes, the bread absolutely has to be homemade. If it's not, you'll end up with a soggy mess and it's not tasty at all.

Spread your bread with jam. This is our homemade apricot jam, but any will do. I have very fond memories of using Grandma's homemade crabapple jelly.

Scoop a big spoonful of oatmeal on top of your jammed-up bread.

Pour milk over the whole thing.

Now eat and enjoy! When you're done, go out and do some farming. Or spend the day playing at Grandma's house.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Southern Hoe Cake

Jeff, my husband, works strange hours. Since he works in the lab at our local hospital, the shifts are not the typical 9-5 you see in office jobs - hospitals are open 24/7. Since he's a newbie there, he often gets the funny hours. Lately, that means he doesn't leave for work until noon, or even later, and gets back late at night.

What does all this have to do with food and recipes? Well, I used to focus a lot of my energies on making sure we had really yummy dinners. But with Jeff gone many evenings, the motivation drops. I know he'll eat when he gets home, but no matter how good the dinner was, it will just be "cold leftovers" by the time he gets to it.

(Speaking of dinner, it's after six already. Maybe I should try to come up with something to eat tonight once I'm done with this post...)

So I have been wanting to do more with breakfasts. He's usually home to enjoy breakfast with the family, so I want for there to be a delicious breakfast for him to enjoy. Therefore, today I decided to break out of the "cold cereal and milk" rut we've been stuck in (plus we were out of milk anyway. I had to get creative). So I made Hoe Cake, from one of my favorite blogs, Southern Plate. I'm sure that this bread is not traditionally served as a breakfast food, but culinary tradition rarely stops me when I set my mind to something.

Southern Hoe Cake
2 cups self-rising flour *See note*
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk (or equivalent in powdered milk and water)

Preheat oven to 425. Pour a thin layer of oil into an 8- or 9-inch cake pan (or you can get traditional and use a nice big cast iron skillet). Place pan into preheating oven so oil will be hot when you're ready to pour in the batter.

Measure flour into mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry cutter or a fork until it's the consistency of crumbs. Stir in milk. It should be a nice wet biscuit-like batter. If it's too dry, add up to 1/4 cup more milk.

Remove pan from oven and pour batter in. According to Christy, it should sizzle because the oil is nice and hot. I didn't let my pan get hot enough for the oil to sizzle, but it turned out okay anyway. Spread the batter in evenly, and return to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is turning golden brown. Remove from oven.

Invert hoe cake onto a plate. The bottom (now the top) will be deliciously golden and crispy.

*Note* In the absence of self-rising flour, you can add 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt for every cup of flour. Just measure the baking powder and the salt in the bottom of the measuring cup, and spoon flour over it until you get one cup.

I served this with homemade apricot jam and bacon. I had butter on the table too, but the hoe cake was so good on its own (because of all the shortening and oil) that the butter wasn't necessary. Next time I make this, I might try melting butter in the pan instead of using oil - I bet it would be great! We all absolutely loved this - it was light and fluffy like a biscuit, with a crispy bottom (top) and sides. It was fast and easy, and is definitely on my make-again-and-again list!!

Yes! We have no bananas...

Just kidding, we have lots of bananas. My interest right now is focused around these three:

Beautiful, aren't they? What do you think I should make with them? Answer my poll on the right, and/or leave me a comment! I'd like to use them tomorrow, so be quick! Of course, whatever I make, I'll post the recipe for all to enjoy.

Monday, August 25, 2008

House Seasoning

This is a recipe I've seen a couple times, and thought it looked good. I don't remember where online I originally found it, but I think it was attributed to Paula Deen? I need to research my recipes better.


House Seasoning
1 cup salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Simple as that!
I had a small container to put this in, so I used only one fourth of each ingredient - 1/4 cup salt, and 1 tbsp. each garlic powder and pepper.

This makes a really pretty pattern when you layer the ingredients, before mixing them all together. It kind of reminds me of sand-in-a-jar art.

I use this instead of plain table salt when I season my foods. It's become my new favorite seasoning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Frugal Fridays - Soup, Bread, and Dessert

Our menu this evening consists of a deliciously flavorful Garden Fresh Lentil Soup, served with French Bread. Dessert is Peanut Pistachio Pudding and Crackers.

Since this post is being submitted to Frugal Fridays, here is the price breakdown:

Lentils - 1/2 lb. - $0.35
Bacon - 1/2 lb. - $0.50
Flour - 4 cups - $0.45
Yeast - 2 1/4 tsp. - $0.17
Graham crackers - 1 sleeve - $0.40
Peanut butter - 1/4 cup - $0.20
Milk - 1 cup - $0.27
Pudding - 3.4-oz box - $0.75

Squash and tomatoes - free from parents' garden
Chicken broth - free from boiling chicken
Seasonings and simple pantry staples - negligible price

Total price: $3.09

Garden Fresh Lentil Soup

1/2 lb. lentils
1/2 lb. bacon
1 large yellow squash
1/4 cup onion
2 large tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Cover lentils with water (about 3 or 4 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until tender.

While the lentils are simmering, cook bacon over medium heat until it reaches desired crispiness. Remove bacon from skillet (leave drippings in skillet) and set aside. Chop squash and saute in bacon drippings. Remove from pan and set aside. Chop onion and saute in remaining bacon drippings. Set aside. Chop tomatoes.

Check on lentils. When they are tender, add chicken broth (my lentils had cooked off all the water. If there is water left when the lentils are done, drain it off before adding broth). Stir in vegetables and seasonings. Heat through. Garnish with bacon and serve.

The great thing about the end of summer is all the fresh garden produce available. Use what is growing, and you can eat delicious and nutritious foods, like this soup, for incredibly cheap.

I only included bacon in this recipe because it was a manager's special and we got it for a dollar per pound. Normally we don't have bacon. This soup is delicious without it, but incredible with it!

Bread Machine French Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp. yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine in order suggested by manufacturer. If your machine has a setting for French Bread, select that. Otherwise, set it for basic. Once the machine is set, forget about it until it beeps at you to tell you it's done!

Peanut Pistachio Pudding and Crackers

Approximately 1 sleeve graham crackers
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup milk
1 3.4-oz box instant pistachio pudding mix

Place graham crackers along bottom of 8- or 9-inch pan, breaking crackers as needed to cover the pan. I did two layers of crackers. Next time I might do one layer, then the pudding layer, then a second cracker layer on top. Either way. Set aside.

Place peanut butter in mixing bowl. Add milk and whisk until combined. Add pudding mix and whisk for 2 minutes. Spread on top of graham crackers. Chill for a couple hours, then cut into squares and serve.

The dessert isn't much to look at. I originally planned on using chocolate or vanilla pudding, but when I checked the cupboard this evening all we had was pistachio. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but gave it a try anyway. It turned out delicious.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jam Banana Biscuit Puffs

I'm not sure whether this is a breakfast, a dessert, or just a fun snack. Well, whatever it is, we ate it for dinner tonight. Sometimes you just gotta indulge and have a little fun.

The inspiration for the idea for what became this dish was Michelle's Cheesy Chicken Cups, found on her blog Fabulous Food! Although my finished product in no way resembles Michelle's cups, you should check out her recipe anyway, because her chicken cups look so tasty! I liked the idea of biscuit cups, but I couldn't think of anything to fill them with that wouldn't require much work (I've been feeling lazy in the food department today). I decided to go ahead and start making some biscuits anyway, and hope that I could come up with something before it was time to start eating them!

Somewhere between the computer and the kitchen, the idea of a sweet biscuit entered my mind. I liked the idea, and built this dish up from there.

Jam Banana Biscuit Puffs
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 small banana, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup milk
Extra flour as needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles crumbs. Stir in the chunks of banana, then add milk and stir well. For some reason, my dough was much wetter than it usually is when I make biscuits, so I sprinkled in a little extra flour.

Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead about ten times (I needed more flour for this as well - my dough was still really wet). Divide into twelve pieces.

Press each piece into lightly greased muffin tin, forming a cup shape. I intended for this recipe to be jam-filled biscuit cups. However, they puffed up far too much during baking, and weren't cup-shaped at all. I don't know how they would form if you just pressed the dough in without forming a cup.

Spoon about 1-2 tsp. jam (I used apricot) into each cup of dough. Bake at 400 until biscuits are golden brown. At this point, I pretty much needed to take the biscuit puffs out because this biscuit's jam had overflowed and left a nice little present for me on the bottom of my oven.

Remove from muffin tin and set on wire rack to cool. But don't cool them too much - these were delicious to eat warm!

The biscuits had a delicious, lightly-sweet flavor, and were definitely "puffy" and light. The banana chunks added a nice touch, and the jam completed the ensemble.

I would definitely make these again. Next time, however, I might think about reducing the milk so the biscuit dough wouldn't be so wet, and I think I will try sandwiching the jam inside the biscuit so there's no chance of spillover. Although, doing that would eliminate the beautiful glazed look that these puffs had.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pain d'épices - Taste and Create

This month for Taste and Create I was paired with Veronica of La Recette du Jour - a blog filled with lots of delicious-looking French recipes. I was slightly intimidated upon discovering this - everything was measured in grams and baked at Celsius, and I couldn't pronounce the names of half the recipes!

But I think the point of Taste and Create is partly to draw us out of our comfort zones, to make something we might not otherwise make. So I plodded ahead, eager to try something new.

I found several recipes that I would like to try (and probably will try even though I didn't choose them for this event). The one I finally settled on is called Pain d'épices. Veronica describes it as being "the French equivalent of gingerbread or parkin." Well, I don't exactly know what parkin is, but I know what gingerbread is, so there you have it. I think that Pain d'épices translates into "spice bread" or something like that.

After choosing a recipe, I had to figure out how I was going to measure my ingredients! I've never measured ingredients according to weight. But here I lucked out. I discovered that my simple kitchen scale measures, not only in ounces and pounds, but also in grams and kilograms. So I used that to measure my ingredients, instead of my trusted measuring cups. The only drawback to this is that anyone following this recipe also has to have a gram-measuring scale, because I didn't translate any of these measurements into cups.

The only thing I really wasn't sure about was "10 cl milk." My scale definitely does not measure cl! I searched around on the Internet for a while until I learned that 10 cl of milk is approximately 3.4 fluid ounces, or a little less than 1/2 cup.

On to the recipe!

Pain d'épices
100 g honey
140 g wholemeal flour (I took that to mean whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
10 cl milk (just under 1/2 cup)
1 egg
40 g butter
65 g soft brown sugar
1 tsp quatre-épices (this is a French combination of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ... pepper! - I used 1/4 tsp. each)

Preheat the oven to 180C (350 F). Warm the milk and add the honey, sugar and butter off the heat, stirring well. Put the flour, baking powder and 4-épices (spices) in a mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, break the egg into it, and add the milk. Mix well (or just throw the whole lot into a food processor).

Pour into a buttered 23-cm (8- or 9-inch) loaf tin and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 150C (300 F) and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Store wrapped in clingfilm to keep it moist.

Verdict - Holy cow, I think from now on pepper will be my secret ingredient in any spiced baked good I make. Oatmeal cookies, carrot cake, zucchini bread - I'm adding pepper! I was tentative and nervous to add pepper to this recipe, but I figured if the French can do it, so can I. And I'm so glad I did. This spice combination was surprisingly wonderful! It gives an extra depth of flavor, and a little bit of bite. Plus, I loved licking the pan that the milk and honey had been in, after adding it to the flour. It tasted like honey-butter - delicious!

I made a simply powdered sugar glaze to serve over the Pain d'épices: 2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar mixed with a tiny amount of milk and vanilla until it was drizzling consistency. It moistened and sweetened the finished product.

My "summed up" phrase for this recipe: "A deliciously spicy bread made with milk, honey, and the surprise ingredient - pepper!"

Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole

This recipe was inspired by A Year of CrockPotting's recipe for CrockPot Enchilada Casserole. I pretty much didn't follow the original ingredient list at all, except for tortillas and chicken. But this is where I got the concept and the instructions.

Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole
8 corn tortillas
1-2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 cup zucchini, chopped
Mozzarella cheese

Enchilada Sauce:
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Make your enchilada sauce by placing tomatoes (undrained), garlic, chili powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, and s&p in blender. Puree until smooth (or skip a step and just open up a can of enchilada sauce. It works great, but we don't usually have that on hand).

Layer tortillas (2 at a time) in greased crock pot, followed by sauce, chicken, zucchini, and cheese. Repeat layers until your ingredients run out, ending with cheese. I got four layers in.

Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours.

After cooking, the cheese was all melty and gooey, and the casserole smelled so good!

-I made my own tortillas using masa harina. It would be easier to use store-bought, but we didn't have any.
-Don't use flour tortillas. They will get too soggy and be very unpleasant to eat.
-For the chicken, I boiled 2 leg quarters. I shredded one leg quarter, then set aside the broth and the other leg for future use.
-I at first intended to use ground turkey. But we had the chicken thawing in the fridge, so I went ahead and used that. Feel free to substitute ground beef or turkey.
-If you don't like spicy, use less crushed red pepper. If you really don't like spicy, omit the red pepper. I used about 1 tsp, and it had a good bite to it. The kids didn't seem to mind; I gave them some plain rice on the side to tone it down a bit.

This was a really good recipe! It tastes like enchiladas, but without the work and mess of rolling them. My one-year-old absolutely loved it - he threw a fit when I took him out of his seat after his bowl was emptied. So I gave him another serving, which he ate just as enthusiastically as the first. I enjoyed this with some of the salsa I made a couple days ago.

I can very much see myself making this again using a variety of fillings - anything you would put in an enchilada can be layered into an enchilada casserole!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Sauceless Pizza

At around quarter to six this evening, I decided it was finally time to think about what we should have for dinner. I wanted something quick, simple, nutritious, and absolutely delicious.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

Turns out that, no, it's not too much to ask. I remembered that Rustic Garlic Onion Pizza I made a while back, and decided that was the way to go. So I pretty much made that tonight.

Here are the changes I made:
I used 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose for the crust.
I sliced a fresh tomato from my parents' garden and used that instead of the chopped onion.
I grated the mozzarella on instead of slicing it, so that it would cover the whole surface.
I put this in a 9x13 instead of a baking sheet, and it made the edges more even. It fit the pan perfectly.

The result? This pizza was every bit as delicious and wonderful as the original garlic onion pizza. Hooray!

Makes 8 pieces
Calories: about 150 per piece

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Homemade Salsa

I found a blog today called 50s Housewife. Mostly I was looking for homemaking blogs, because I am in serious need of inspiration and motivation in that area. But this lovely housewife also has a fair share of delicious-looking recipes on her blog. I was really excited when I found her recipe for Easy Homemade Salsa. We have several fresh jalapenos from my parents' garden, and they have been waiting to be used (I actually can't believe that we've had them for several days and have only just now started using them!) so I knew I had to give this simple recipe a try.

I'm glad I did. The 50s Housewife says, "I don't thinks it's ever lasted more than 24 hours at my house. My husband nearly drinks the stuff." It's so true - Jeff couldn't get enough of this salsa, he would have been drinking it out of the bowl if I hadn't slapped his hand away - I wasn't done with it yet!

Homemade Salsa
1 can diced tomatoes - it looks like she uses a 28 oz can, I just used a 14 oz
1/4 to 1/2 of an onion - I used about 1/3
About a teaspoon bottled minced garlic
Fresh cilantro - I didn't have this, and substituted a couple tablespoons dry parsley
1 fresh jalapeno
Salt to taste

Toss everything in your blender. Or set it in gently. Either way.

Whirl it around in the blender until it's the right consistency and texture. Then you're done! You can let it sit in the fridge for a while to allow the flavors to blend, but it's easy to get impatient. :-)

Calories per 1/4 cup - about 15

I made some quesadillas specially to go with this salsa. I made the tortillas from scratch using the recipe on the back of our bag of Masa harina, then cooked them on the stove with cheese to make quesadillas. I didn't get any pictures of the quesadillas, because we were too busy eating them. Fresh homemade quesadillas served with fresh homemade salsa are so delicious!

One of the best parts about this is that I finally got a chance to use my beautiful little salsa bowls that I bought at D.I. a few weeks ago. They're just like the ones used in Mexican-American restaurants. Lotsa fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Corn Cakes

Corn meal makes some deliciously cheap breakfasts. From corn meal mush, to coffee cake, to corn cakes!

Corn Cakes
1 1/4 cups corn meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

Sift together dry ingredients. Add egg and milk and mix just until combined.

Cook like pancakes on a hot, lightly greased griddle or skillet, until golden brown, turning once.

These were good with butter and syrup, but when I added some freezer peach jam, they were really good! I didn't get pics of the cakes with jam, because by the time I added it, the plate was all messy. But it sure tasted great.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tomato and Squash "Alfredo"

This recipe comes from my sister Michelle's blog, Fabulous Food! She came up with this not-exactly-alfredo dish by doing something I do frequently - throwing things together and hoping it turns out tasty. In this case, it definitely did!

I altered her original recipe. She used chicken breast, but we don't have any on hand. I did pick a couple nice-sized yellow squash from our garden last night, so I added those instead. Also, she put cream in her recipe. I chose instead to add some powdered milk to regular milk, to thicken it up. It worked great, and saved a lot of fat calories.

She calls this "Alfredo" because of the Parmesan. It really isn't an alfredo at all, but like Michelle said in her post, "It's that parmesan flavor, I'm telling you!"

Tomato and Squash "Alfredo"
2 medium yellow squash, cut into bite-size chunks
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper
2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
1 tsp each parsley, thyme, and oregano
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups macaroni
1/3 cup milk + 1/3 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup Parmenan

Heat oil and butter in a saucepan. Add squash, seasoned with salt and pepper, to the oil and saute until tender-crisp. Add the garlic and herbs, cook a minute or so more. Pour the broth in, and add the can of tomatoes, do not drain the juice out. Let that simmer on low to reduce the liquid by half while the pasta cooks.

Bring salted water to a boil, add macaroni (or pasta of choice). Cook for about 10 minutes, until done. By this time, the liquid in the veggies should have reduced nicely. Drain the pasta and add to the squash and tomatoes.

Whisk together the milk and powdered milk (or use 1/2 cup cream); add to the squash and pasta mixture along with Parmesan. Here I tasted it and realized I needed to add a lot more flavor (I kinda scrimped on the salt and herbs). I added more salt, some Italian seasoning, some garlic powder, and some more Parmesan. That fixed it.

I served this with some steamed green beans and wax beans, also from our garden. I really like having a garden, even if half the things we planted didn't grow. The beans and squash are all doing so well!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

S'more Cookie Fingers

***** This recipe is being entered into the SITS (Secret is in the Sauce) Recipe Contest! The winner will receive a $100 Williams Sonoma gift certificate and a new digital camera. If you want to enter the contest, click here. *****

Happy National S'Mores Day, everyone!

To celebrate this very important National Holiday (while using the ingredients on hand, which did not include full-sized marshmallows, phooey!) I decided to get creative and invent my own s'more-inspired dessert. I tossed around the idea of making a s'more pie (baked crust filled with a mixture of mini-mallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker chunks, then heated in the oven until the marshmallows puff and the chocolate is soft and gooey) but decided I didn't want to do a pie crust. My reason is so lame - I didn't want to have to clean shortening off a measuring cup and pastry cutter!

My next idea was to make some sort of cookie. I eventually decided to make a cookie and top it with chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows. Sounded great, and all that was left was to find the right cookie recipe.

Looking online, I found a recipe for Cookie Clay Dough - it tastes like cinnamon grahams, and is made for the express purpose of being shaped. Little plug for this recipe - it is so awesome! It's healthier than some other cookie doughs, because it's made with whole wheat flour (ignore all the sugar and butter...). It's also really fun, because you can plop it on some wax paper in front of your kids and they play with it like Play-Doh (make sure they wash their hands first), then you bake their creations and they get to eat them! The other reason this recipe is so great is that the raw dough tastes incredible! If you have powdered egg product, use that instead of the raw egg because you're going to want to just snack on this dough without ever baking it! Or if you don't care about the salmonella risk, eat it with the egg (just so you know, I'll probably get salmonella after today, but it would be worth it for that dough).

S'more Cookie Fingers
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 cube)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg (or 2 tbsp. dry egg powder and some water)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Chocolate chips
Miniature marshmallows

Cream together the sugars, butter, vanilla, and egg (if using dry egg, add the powder with the dry ingredients). Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well. If using the dry egg powder, now add 2-4 tbsp. water until the dough has a Play-Doh consistency. I used a regular egg, and ended up adding about a tablespoon of water at the end because it's really dry here.

At this point you can give the dough to your kids and say, "Look kids, edible play dough! Have at it!" They'll love you forever. But if you want to make cookie fingers, here's what I did.

Shape the dough into sixteen "boats" on ungreased baking sheets.
Fill the boats with about 7-8 chocolate chips.

Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and press 6-7 mini-mallows onto the chocolate chips.

Return to oven and bake for 3 more minutes, until the marshmallows are puffy and a tiny bit golden. The marshmallows look kinda like big white caterpillars, don't they?

Let cool in the pan for about 3 minutes, then remove to wire racks. The best time to eat these is right after you remove them from the pan - they're still a bit warm, the chocolate is soft, the mallows are gooey and stretchy, and it tastes so good! Once they've cooled, you can pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to get that warm, gooey texture again.

This will also be my sweet entry for the second August edition of I Love Baking. Who can resist a big round-up of delicious baked goods twice a month from all over the blogosphere?