Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


oatmeal cookies

I miss Costco. (There isn’t one in Maine.) I miss a lot of things from Costco, but chief among them are the oatmeal raisin cookies that you can get from their bakery. Oh. My. Gosh. Even people who loathe oatmeal raisin cookies will gobble up the ones from Costco. They are THAT good.

When I found this recipe on Epicurious I had high hopes. It had four forks, that looked promising! Of course, I had to ditch the dates and walnuts, I don’t like things cluttering up my oatmeal cookies. So I boosted the amount of raisins. When they came out of the oven, SUCCESS! They taste JUST like the ones from Costco, only better because they’re fresh (of course) and made from ingredients you can actually pronounce.


little hands

Hey, Kid! I’m trying to take a picture here!

The other thing I like about these cookies is that they have lasting power. As in, these last few cookies have been kicking around my cookie jar for over a week now and they are still perfect! Cookies don’t usually last long enough for me to test out their shelf life, but we were sick last week ;) This recipe makes a lot, so do yourself a favor and bake up a batch for this weekend!


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Adapted from Epicurious


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup Crisco room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups old-fashioned oats

2 cups raisins


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In your mixer, beat together the butter and Crisco.

Add the sugars and beat until fluffy.

Add the eggshoney and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.

Stir in the oatmeal and raisins. Mix until well combined.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, then let the cookies cool on the sheet for 10 minutes before removing them to a wire rack.

Clear the immediate vicinity of poaching toddlers (distract them with their own cookies!), pour yourself a nice, tall glass of milk and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Cake


coconut cake

Okay, first I want to make sure you’re not intimidated by the length of this recipe. It’s not at all difficult and you can make it all the day before you mean to serve it. In fact, you have to make it the day before, the cake sits in the fridge for at least 10 hours so all the components can cozy up, tell campfire stories, have pedicures and generally get to know each other better.

This really is a lovely cake. Lovely. And rustic looking. (Read: imperfections rule!) The sponge cake is brushed with a rum flavored syrup and then filled with coconut custard before being cloaked in a luscious whipped cream frosting and sprinkled with toasted coconut. De-li-cious!

P.S. The cake part of this recipe is just a really great sponge cake. Easy to make and well behaved, with a light, fluffy crumb. It would be a great addition to your cake repertoire :)



Coconut Custard Cake

Adapted from Country Living

For the custard: 3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup milk

5 egg yolks

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, pod reserved

1 cup sweetened coconut OR 1 teaspoon coconut extract (I followed the recipe and used the coconut, but I wasn’t super-thrilled by the texture. In future, I plan to omit it and use the coconut extract.)


In a small bowl, whisk the flour and 1/2 cup milk until smooth. Set aside.

In a medium sized heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the 1 cup milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and pod.

Cook over medium low heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.

Whisk in the flour mixture and cook until thickened – about 3 minutes.

Slowly add 1/2 the milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly.

Return the mixture to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble and thicken – about 3 minutes.

Strain through a mesh sieve and stir in either the coconut or the coconut extract.

Place a piece of saran wrap directly on top of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill in the fridge.


For the cake: 1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 eggs, separated

1/2 cup cold water

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9” Springform pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In your mixer, beat together the egg yolks and water for 1 minute.

Gradually add the sugar.

Add the extract and increase the mixer to high. Beat the eggs until thick and pale, about 4 minutes.

In a medium bowl, use your hand mixer to beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and fold to combine.

Fold in the egg white mixture.

Pour batter into the pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Set the pan on a wire rack to cool.


For the syrup: 1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 teaspoon rum or coconut extract


Bring the sugar, water and extract to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat.

Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat.


To assemble the cake: Cut the cake into three even layers. (Ha! Good luck with that! I can’t do it to save my life! But it’s okay because this cake is RUSTIC! Plus all the layers meld together and uneven layers are all but invisible.)

Set the bottom layer on your cake plate.

Generously brush the cake with the syrup. Generously.

Add 1/2 of the chilled custard to the cake and spread it out evenly.

Add the middle layer of cake.

Generously brush the cake with the syrup.

Add the rest of the chilled custard to the cake and spread it out evenly.

Add the top layer of cake.

Very generously brush the cake with the syrup.

Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 hours and up to 24 hours.

Remove cake from fridge and top with whipped cream frosting and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Recipe follows.


For the frosting: 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons sugar


Add the cream and extract to the bowl of your mixer.

Whisk on low for 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle in the sugar and turn the speed up to high for about 4 minutes, or until you reach soft peaks.


For the toasted coconut:

1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes.

Stir the coconut and bake for another 7 minutes or until golden brown and toasty!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Healthy Appetizer Hiding in Your Pantry


white bean dip

White bean dip is my new favorite food. Cheap, easy to whip up, endlessly adaptable and healthy! I keep a fairly large stash of cannellini beans on hand for tossing into chili, soups or salads. I prefer cannellinis for their mild, creamy, slightly nutty characteristics. Recently I’ve been blending them up with heart healthy olive oil, a little lemon juice, and fresh or dried herbs for a creamy dip that you can serve with just about anything!

Cannellini beans are loaded with nutrients your body needs. They help reduce cholesterol, prevent headaches and give you energy to spare.  They are low in fat, high in fiber and have twice as much iron as beef! That’s pretty impressive when you consider that you can generally get a can of cannellini beans for about a buck (and they’re even cheaper if you get them dried) and one cup of cannellinis packs 16 grams of protein! For reference, four ounces of beef contains 26 grams of protein and the recommended daily intake of protein for women is 46 grams.

My first taste of white bean dip came courtesy of my gorgeous friend, Jaimie, who served me her dip at a lunch she hosted. Fantastic! Now I like to make a big batch of it and keep it in the fridge for random salty snack cravings. It’s also a perfect snack to give my kindergartener when he gets home from school. He loves it, and he’s been quite the picky eater lately! A scoop of this dip with a handful of baby carrots will keep you going until dinnertime! It takes only a few minutes to put together, so it’s a great thing to make if you have guests drop in. You can serve it with anything; crudités, pita chips, pretzels, etc., etc., etc.


Basic White Bean Dip

2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2-3 cloves of garlic, grated with a Microplane or finely chopped

a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped, or a teaspoon or so of your favorite dried herb (oregano is great here!)

the juice of 1/2 a lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

paprika (smoked, if you have it) for garnish

Add beans, garlic, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to your food processor and blitz for 2-3 minutes until everything is fully incorporated and creamy. Add a little extra olive oil or lemon juice to lighten the texture if you like. (How easy was that!?)

Serve with pita chips or crudités and enjoy!


Make-Your-Own Pita Chips

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Slice your pita into wedges. (I like to cut the ‘layers’ apart first so I get twice as many chips from one pita!)

Lay them on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (You can play around with garlic or onion powder, dried herbs, or a little parmesan here too.)

Flip them over and repeat with the other side.

Bake for 3-4 minutes. Flip the chips over again and bake for another 3-4 minutes or until browned and crispy!



Article first published as The Healthy Appetizer Hiding in Your Pantry on Blogcritics.

Friday, April 8, 2011

We Have a Winner!


Amelia and I used her new Fancy Nancy game to determine a winner for the King Arthur Flour giveaway. She had to get all fancied up before we could play, so cute!


I taped the contestants names to the back of each scoop of ice cream, the one on top wins! Here’s the video:

So, it turns out that Miss Jaimie wins a bottle of this fantabulous Montmorency Cherry Concentrate!

cherry concentrate


Thank you so much, King Arthur Flour for sponsoring this giveaway!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011




Cheese bread. Cheeeeeeeeeese bread. Cheesy, cheesy, cheeeeeeeese bread. That’s what hachapuri is. Not something your cat coughed up, like one of my friends remarked when I mentioned it on Facebook. It’s a good thing I’m not easily put off my food, or she and I might have had a problem!

goofy hachi

Tee hee hee! I couldn’t resist!

As you can probably tell by my recent posts, I looooooooove Nigella Lawson. Love. I also really like finding new foods in cookbooks that I might not ever be exposed to on my own. Like this one. It’s a Georgian cheese bread. Georgia like the country, not the state. I probably won’t ever get to travel to Georgia and there isn’t (as far as I know) a large Georgian community here in Maine. So it’s really cool to get to try something like this in my own little kitchen!

This is a really easy, quick recipe. Great for when you sorta forgot to start anything for dinner! Make the cheese bread, steam some veggies, brown some kielbasa and you’re golden! I really love this with my favorite meatballs and rice pilaf, and a big platter of roasted broccoli. Yum!

Note: I’ve given some, um, not precise amounts for the filling. I did this because the original recipe calls for 3 cups of feta. THREE CUPS! That’s a lot. Granted, it tastes fabulous! I don’t know about where you live, but here, feta can get kinda pricy when you’re buying quantities like that. So I tried just using a cup of feta and boosting the mozzarella from one cup to three. Still awesome, far less costly. I’ve tried using fresh mozzarella and the shredded stuff from the bag and there isn’t much difference in taste. The fresh mozzarella makes for a slightly more gooey filling, but it’s really not very noticeable. You can let your wallet decide – it’s still going to be fantastic!



Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast

For the dough: 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, softened

2 cups yogurt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

4 1/2 cups flour


For the filling: 1 cup ricotta cheese

1-3 cups feta cheese*

2-3 cups mozzarella*

1 egg

2 teaspoons dried oregano

*see note above


In your mixer, combine the butter, yogurt, and eggs. Mix very well.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Whisk to combine.

Add the flour mixture to the yogurt mixture and use your dough hook to beat it into a soft dough. Add a little more flour if it seems too sticky to work with. (I don’t usually need to add much, if any. Maybe a tablespoon or two.

Rest the dough in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, whip up the filling!

Add ricotta, feta, mozzarella, egg and oregano to a large mixing bowl and use your hands to really blend it together well.

After the dough has rested, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Lightly flour a work surface and divide up the dough. You can make one big hachapuri, or 2 medium hachapuri, or 3 medium-small hachapuri, and so on and so on and so on. Basically, decide how many finished hachapuri you want and cut the dough so there are two pieces per hachapuri. You could make a dozen individual hachapuri if you wanted! They’d be adorable and delicious hachapuri! Are you sick of the word ‘hachapuri’ yet? I’m not sick of the word ‘hachapuri’ yet.  .  . okay, moving on.

Form each piece of dough into a ball. Using a rolling pin or your hands or a combination thereof (that’s usually what I do) roll/stretch the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. You don’t have to worry too much about the pieces ending up as perfect circles. Any circularish shape will do. (Yes, I know that’s not a word.)

Lay one circularish piece of dough on a baking sheet, spoon some filling into the center. Again, the amount of filling you use is going to depend on the size of your hachapuri. Really though, you can’t go wrong. You can’t really overstuff one, and if you go the other way and it’s a little lean on cheese, well, only you will know ;) Just kinda eyeball it to figure out how much you’re going to need for each hachapuri.

Place a second circularish piece of dough on top and roll the bottom piece up over the edge of the top piece and work your way around the hachapuri, pressing to seal as you go.

Lather, rinse, repeat with how every many hachapuri your little heart has decided on.

Pop in the oven and bake for 20ish minutes. A large hachapuri is going to take longer than a mini one. Just keep checking on it. It should be a nice golden brown when it’s ready!

If your hachapuri should ooze some cheese while it’s baking, fret not. Just scrape away the cheese when you take the hachapuri out of the oven, it won’t continue to ooze, so probably no one will even notice. And of course, someone is going to have to eat that awesome bite of cheesiness!

Let cool about 10 minutes and enjoy!