Thursday, March 30, 2017

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


Cookies are one of those all-time comfort foods loved by young and old. The problem is that they’re generally full of fat and sugar and made of refined white flour offering little-to-no nutritional benefits. As we get older, our body’s tolerance for those things gets worse and by the time we realize it, we’re already addicted to the goodies that could kill us.

It is with this in mind that I came up with this recipe.

These cookies are a little healthier and combine two ingredients that were made for each other. Chocolate and peanut butter bound together with healthy fats and protein, with whole grains and a hint of cinnamon.

Give them a go!

You’ll never look at cookies the same way again.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Rest Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 11 Minutes

Makes about 10 cookies

Ingredients

1/3 Cup Margarine

¼ Cup Smooth Peanut Butter

¼ Splenda Brown Sugar Blend - OR - ½ Cup Brown Sugar – If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, use the sugar substitute

¼ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

½ Cup Quick Cooking Oats

½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour

3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour

Pinch of Salt

½ Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

1 Tablespoon of Whole Milk

¼ Cup Chocolate Chips – Use the kind you like

¼ Cup Salted Peanuts, Crushed (Optional) – The most fun way to crush them is by putting them in a zip top bag and bashing them with a meat mallet, wine bottle, or rolling pin. It’s a great way to relieve some stress and frustration.

Equipment

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Baking Pan

Parchment Paper

In your bowl, mix the Brown Sugar or Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, the Margarine, Peanut Butter, and Vanilla until everything is smooth and creamy.

Add the Oats, Whole Wheat Flour, All Purpose Flour, Cinnamon, Salt, and Milk and Mix well until a dough forms.

Stir in the Chocolate Chips and Crushed Peanuts if using.

Cover the Bowl with plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge, set a timer and walk away for at least an hour. Take a nap, fold some laundry, or maybe watch a Youtube video.

When the time is up, preheat your oven to 350 oF.

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and take the bowl out of the fridge.

With clean hands, squeeze the dough into 1 inch balls and place them about an inch and a half apart on the baking sheet.

Flatten them with your fingers to form thick discs.

Bake for 11 minutes or until the cookies are slightly brown around the edges.

Cool and enjoy!


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Creamy Mushroom Pasta


Creamy pasta sauce is one of those things that looks scarily difficult to make but isn’t if you know a few tricks. I’m not talking about using store-bought Alfredo sauce, which while good in a pinch, often contains tons of salt and preservatives. I’m talking about cleverly assembling pre-prepared ingredients so that they’ll have that from-scratch taste with a fraction of the hassle.

Take this pasta dish.

This is your basic mushroom alfredo pasta, but with big pieces of meaty garlicky mushrooms and a creamy sauce made from cream cheese, a little jarred pesto, and some of the water you cooked your pasta in. This is a great special occasion dish and it’s vegetarian to boot!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium 
Cook time: 20-30 Minutes

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 Pack of White Mushrooms, thinly sliced – They’re generally sold in plastic tubs of about 227 grams. Just get one and wipe the dirt off of them before you slice them, no need to rinse them.

2 -3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

2 Teaspoons of Butter

About ¼ of a Box of Pasta – I used Spinach lasagna noodles which I broke into pieces to form about 2 cups of dry pasta, but use what you like.

½ Cup Cream Cheese

1 Tablespoon Basil Pesto – Available in the same aisle as the pasta 

1 Teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar – Enhances the meatiness of the mushrooms

3 Tablespoons of Dry White Wine – Optional

Salt and Pepper To Taste

Equipment

1 Medium Pot

1 Pair of Tongs

1 Ladle

1 Frying Pan

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Spatula – If your frying pan is non-stick, use a plastic spatula

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Strainer for your Pasta

Fill a medium pot with water, add some salt and put it on the stove on high heat.

Slice your mushrooms, peel and mince your garlic, and get your other ingredients ready.

When the water is boiling, dump in the pasta and give it a quick stir.

In your frying pan on another burner on your stove, heat the Olive Oil and Butter.

When they’re melted, dump in the mushrooms and season with a little salt.

Stir everything around with your spatula. It will seem like a lot of mushrooms but they’ll shrink as they cook.

When the mushrooms are a little smaller, add the garlic and stir everything around. When you smell the garlic, add the white wine (if using), the balsamic vinegar, and the pesto.

Stir it all together and bring to a simmer.

Check your pasta. If the water is cloudy, scoop some of it into the frying pan with the mushrooms using your trusty ladle. The cloudiness comes from the starch in the pasta and will help the sauce come together.

Add the cream cheese and stir everything together until the cheese is completely melted and has merged with the other pan liquids to form a sauce.

Taste and adjust for Salt and Pepper.

If your pasta’s not done yet, turn the heat off under the frying pan and get the pasta to your desired level of doneness.

Drain the pasta but DO NOT RINSE IT. You need the starch on the surface of the pasta to help the sauce stick.

Add the pasta to the pan with the creamy mushrooms and turn the heat on high.

Stir everything together with the tongs and cook for a minute so that everything comes together.

Serve and Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Braised Beef Shanks


If you’re a meat eater on a budget, one of the best ways to save grocery money is to embrace tough cuts. Tough cuts of meat like brisket, shoulder, leg, stewing meat, blade roast, and shanks are generally cheaper as most people prefer the tender and quicker-t0-cook cuts like filet and rib cuts.

Tough cuts take a lot more time to cook but the result is heartier and far tastier than something that cooks more quickly. Since they cook slowly, their juices have a chance to fully seep out and create amazing gravy.

This is exactly what happens with this dish.

This is incredibly easy to make. You sear the meat, add some sautéed veggies to the pot with some wine and tomatoes walk away for a few hours. When the time is up you’ll get something tender and juicy accompanied by an amazing sauce you can have over the carb of your choice.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium Easy
Prep time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 to 4 hours
Serves 6 or more depending on your crowd

Ingredients

2 – 3 Pounds Beef Shanks – You usually won’t find this pre-wrapped in the meat section of the grocery store, so ask for it at the butcher counter. If they don’t have it, feel free to use a blade roast or stewing beef.

1 Cup of All Purpose Flour

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1 Teaspoon Fresh Pepper

1 Cup of Onion, finely chopped

1 Cup of Celery, finely chopped

1 Cup of Carrots, finely chopped

2 Strips of Bacon, finely sliced (Optional) – A sturdy pair of scissors works best for this.

2 Cups of Dry White Wine

2 Cups of Low Sodium Beef Stock - You can buy this by the cartoon in the canned soups section of major grocery stores.

1 Cup of Canned Diced Tomatoes, drained

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon of Butter or Margarine

Equipment

1 Large Sturdy Pot with Lid OR Slow Cooker

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Tongs

Spatula or Wooden Spoon

Can Opener

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Large Mixing Bowl

1 Plate

In your mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.

Toss in the beef shanks and move them around to evenly coat them.

Heat the oil and butter on medium high heat until the butter is melted.

Shake off the excess flour and cook the beef shanks 2 or 3 at a time until they’re brown on all sides.

Transfer them to a plate.

Dump the carrot, celery, onion, and bacon (if using) in the pot and cook, stirring frequently until the onions look soft and translucent.You may need to add a little extra Olive oil at this time.

Add the wine, stir everything together and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat a bit and simmer the wine until there’s about a third less liquid in the pot.

Dump in the tomatoes and beef stock and stir everything to combine.

Add the beef shanks and scoop some of the tomato wine veg stock mixture over top.

Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and walk away for at least 2 hours
OR put everything in your crock pot/slow cooker on low and walk away for at least 4 hours. The meat is done when it’s tender and falling apart.

Serve as is or with rice, potatoes, polenta, or pasta!

Enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.












Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Peanut Butter and Jelly Hamantachen


Hamantachen were created to celebrate Purim, the Jewish holiday commemorating the heroism of the Biblical Queen Esther.

Purim is great as it inadvertently combines the best parts of Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. During Purim festivities people are invited to not only dress in costume but also drink so much they can’t distinguish between good and evil.

Those not too tipsy to eat can enjoy these wonderful cookies.

Hamantachen were designed to mimic the shape of the hat of the evil royal advisor in the Bible, Haman, and are the lazy man’s sandwich cookie. This is because instead of baking a bunch of individual cookies and laboriously smearing a filling on them to create a sandwich, you’re putting the filling in the middle BEFORE baking and engaging in some clever “cookie origami” to keep it all together before sticking them in the oven.

Hamantachen filling is traditionally made from prunes, poppyseeds, or apricots, but I wanted to do something different to introduce you to the joys of Jewish baked goods…

…Well, that and I don’t know many people who willingly eat prunes. As PB & J is a familiar flavor for many I went with this combo but you can put just about any sweet filling in hamantaschen.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium
Prep time: 15 minutes + resting time for dough
Baking time: 15 - 20 Minutes

Ingredients

DOUGH

2 ¼ Cups All Purpose Flour + More for dusting

½ Cup Margarine OR Softened Butter

1 Large Egg

3 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar

¼ Teaspoon of Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon of Lemon OR Lime Juice

Pinch of Salt

About ½ Cup of Milk

FILLING

¼ Cup Peanut Butter – Smooth or Crunchy – Avoid natural peanut butter for this as it tends to be very oily and spread out too much while baking

¼ Cup of your favorite Jam

IF YA WANNA GET FANCY…

1 Egg White

Sprinkles or Crushed Peanuts

Equipment

1 Mixing Bowl

Plastic Wrap

Measuring Cups and Spoons

2 Regular Bowls

Parchment Paper

1 Cookie Sheet

1 Rolling Pin – If you don’t have one, a wine bottle wrapped in plastic wrap will work fine.

1 Drinking Glass or Round Cookie or Biscuit Cutter

1 Wooden Spoon

In your mixing bowl using a wooden spoon, combine the flour, butter or margarine, egg, lemon or lime juice, sugar, and salt until the mix looks a bit like wet sand.

Add some milk a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing with your fingers until it forms a dough. You don’t need to add the whole ½ cup of milk; you just need to put in enough so that the dough forms.

Pat the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Press it into a thick disc and wrap it in another layer of plastic.

Put the disc in the fridge, set a timer for 45 minutes and walk away.

When the time is up, preheat your oven to 375 oF.

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Clean and dry your kitchen counter and sprinkle some flour over it.

Take a handful of flour and rub it on your rolling pin. This will keep the dough from sticking to it.

Put the peanut in one bowl and the jam in another and take the dough out of the fridge.

Unwrap the dough and put it on top of the floured counter.

Roll it into a thin sheet – the dough doesn’t have to be paper thin, just thin enough to be able to fold it without breaking.

Using your trusty drinking class or cutter, cut the dough into circles. The leftover bits of dough can be smushed together and shaped to make more circles.

Put a ¼ Teaspoon of Peanut Butter and ¼ Teaspoon of Jam in the middle of each circle of dough and fold the edges inward, pinching the corners together to form a triangle that shows some of the filling. See the image below.


Put each cookie on your baking sheet.

If ya wanna get fancy, beat some egg white with a fork, spread it on the cookies and then sprinkle on some sprinkles or chopped nuts. This step is pretty, but it’s optional.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. If some of the filling seeps out during baking DON’T PANIC! It’s a hamantachen hazard and they’ll be tasty just the same J.

Cool for 10 minutes and serve!

Happy Purim!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Roasted Pasta Sauce


There seems to be this culinary myth that there are only two ways to have pasta sauce: home-made in a carefully supervised - meaning “slaved over”- pot or sauté pan OR store bought and direct out of a jar or can.

I say: SCR*W THAT!

There is a way to do pasta sauce in a “fixit and forget-it” way that will be just as tasty as anything you slaved over, and almost as effortless as using a store-bought product.

The trick is roasting.

Roasting meats and vegetables together softens them and brings out the best in their flavors while forcing them to release their juices to form an amazing sauce.

This sauce contains the veggies you’d find in vegetable based pasta sauces and in ratatouille, the classic French veggie dish, with a nice Italian sausage for meaty robustness.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep  time: 15 Minutes
Roast and Cook Time: About an Hour

Serves 4 or more with pasta depending on appetites and how saucy your guests like it

Ingredients

6 Cups of Vegetables Chopped into Similar Sized Pieces – For this you want eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and mushrooms

2 Cups of Fresh Tomatoes, Coarsely Chopped

½ Cup of Olive Oil + more for the garlic

3 Tablespoons of Basil or Oregano or Mixed Italian Seasoning

1 Teaspoon of Salt + a little more for the garlic

Some Fresh Black Pepper – If you have the pre-ground stuff, it’s not ideal but feel free to use it

¼ Teaspoon of Hot Pepper flakes (Optional) – If you can’t handle spicy, don’t add it

2 Tablespoons of Tomato Paste

1 Head of Garlic

1 Pound of Italian Sausages, cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces – I prefer the spicy kind, but if you like mild, get mild. While the grocery store has decent varieties, if you have an Italian grocer or butcher shop in your community, check it out. They most likely make their own from scratch and it will be WAY better than the other kinds because places like these grind their meat fresh and season mindfully.

Pasta to serve it with – I’m not going to site how much you should serve with this because some people like their pasta with more sauce than others. If in doubt, start with half of a 500 g box. If the pasta is too saucy for you, you can always make the other half.

Equipment

1 Large Baking Pan

Lid for the pan OR Aluminum Foil

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Serving Spoon or Spatula

1 Pair of Tongs

1 Pot to cook your pasta in

Preheat your oven to 350 oF.

Dump the vegetables and tomatoes in the pan and add the olive oil, basil or oregano or herb mix, the salt, pepper, and the hot pepper flakes if using.

Mix everything together with clean, bare hands.

Put the Italian Sausage pieces in the pan and mix everything again.

Cut the very top off the head of garlic and put it on top of two sheets of foil big enough to wrap it.

Drizzle a little Olive Oil over it and season with a pinch of salt.

Wrap the head of garlic in the foil and nestle the bundle among the veggies.

Cover your pan with a lid or foil and put it in the oven.

Set a timer for 35 minutes and walk away - this’d be a good time for a nap if you’re a light sleeper.

When the time is up, take the pan out of the oven, take off the lid, turn everything over with a spoon or spatula, cover the pan, and put it back in the oven.

Set a timer for 30 minutes and walk away again – if you need to shower or sort laundry, that’d be a good time to do it.

When the timer goes off, take the lid off the pan and remove the foil bundle of garlic and set it aside to cool.

Up the heat of the oven to 375 oF and leave the pan in. This will allow the flavors to get a little more concentrated and brown the sausage a bit.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and start making your pasta – DON’T RINSE THE PASTA WHEN IT’S DONE SO THE SAUCE WILL STICK.

Drain it and put it back in the pot.

Take the pan out of the oven and mix the tomato paste into the bubbling juices in the pan using your trusty spoon or spatula.

Open the garlic bundle and squeeze out some of the tender cloves. They should pop right of the peel. I’ve been known to use the whole head of garlic for this dish, but if you’re mindful of garlic breath, use less.

Mix everything together once more and then pour the entire contents of the baking dish into your pot of pasta.

Toss everything together with a pair of tongs and serve!

Enjoy!



-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com


Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.