Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cookie of the Month: Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

There are just some things in life that are a perfect match. Salt and pepper. Ketchup and mustard. The best of the best, however, would be chocolate and peanut butter. I don't need to explain what magic occurs when the two are combined. You should know the drill. It's freaking good.

This explains my addiction to Reese's peanut butter cups as well as Oreo's dipped in peanut butter (thank you Parent Trap for changing my life).

This month, Ryan gave me the secret ingredient to incorporate in his cookie package. He wanted peanut butter. So, I got really excited when my mom sent me this recipe from a friend.

Peanut butter blossom cookies are simple. Put the peanut butter cookie dough in the oven and then put a chocolate Kiss on top the minute you pull them out.

To sum it up quickly. Simple. Delicious. A Perfect Combination.

Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
48 milk chocolate kisses (unwrapped)

1. In large mixer bowl stir flour, baking soda, and salt. Add remaining ingredients,except kisses, and beat at low speed with mixer until well combined, scraping bowl occasionally.
2. Chill dough 30 minutes in refrigerator.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

4. Roll small amounts of dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 12 minutes until light brown.
5. Remove from oven and immediately press a kiss into center of each cookie. (cookie will crack around the edges)

Bon Appétit!
Chef Maggie

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Little Taste of Spring: Zucchini Rounds

Spring break has come and gone. The semester has come and almost gone and now... spring has already come and unfortunately gone back into hibernation. I came back to 75 degree weather and sunny skies in Bloomington, however it's back down to 35 degrees in just one day. (Boo!)

During those quick days of spring, I wanted to make a fresh appetizer/side.

My mom and I love going to Caputo's and getting Prosciutto sandwiches, while we go on an ingredient shopping spree. They have any kind of cheese and a deli full of all sorts of Italian delights. If you go- I highly suggest the Stuffed Red Pepper Poppers (spicy goodness!).

While we were there over break, I picked up some imported goat cheese which is what inspired me to make the latest recipe. Crunchy Zucchini Rounds- thanks to Gale Gand's Brunch!. They are perfect for not only brunch, but also can be served as an appetizer, side or an afternoon snack.

You need to plan in advance to make the homemade roasted tomatoes. They are time intensive because they require 2 hours in the oven to roast, but you only have to watch them occasionally. If you are in a hurry, feel free to substitute sun-dried tomatoes. I highly suggest making the roasted tomatoes though. They are absolutely amazing and melt in your mouth. Plus you can use them to complement other dishes! For instance, they are great on top of pastas or on sandwiches.

The Oven Roasted Tomatoes recipe calls for herbes de Provence, which I don't usually have on hand in my pantry. However, I used a mix of thyme and rosemary and they tasted fantastic.

Note to self: Buy herbes de Provence.

Crunchy Zucchini Rounds
1 zucchini
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Oven Roasted Tomatoes (recipe below)
3 oz fresh goat cheese
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh chives
olive oil

  1. Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch thick rounds and lay them out on a platter. You should have about 9-10. I was cooking for just me- so you can slice up another zucchini if you have guests!
  2. Sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.
  3. Place 1 slice of roasted tomato on each zucchini slice.
  4. Pinch a bit of goat cheese on top of each tomato piece. Sprinkle with the chopped chives, drizzle with the olive oil, and serve.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
3 plum tomatoes
olive oil
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (or substitute with 1 teaspoon of Thyme and 1 teaspoon of Rosemary)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut the tomatoes into quarters lengthwise. Lay them on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with your seasonings, salt and pepper.
  2. Roast in the oven for about 2 hours, until the tomatoes are dried and wrinkled and their edges look lightly toasted.
  3. Check occasionally to make sure the edges aren't getting too brown. If they are, turn the oven temperature down to 200 degrees.
  4. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Let the tomatoes come to room temperature before serving.

Bon Appétit!
Chef Maggie

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Better than the Box: Real Mac and Cheese

I have always loved Kraft Mac and Cheese, the character shaped noodles are my favorite.
How can you diss Scooby Doo for lunch?

If you are an avid mac and cheese fan you know that you must have the perfect milk to butter to cheese ratio to make it absolutely perfect.

However, my mom decided that this weekend we should try something new. I was not happy- I live off my boxed mac and cheese.

As usual my mom finds some of her recipes from newspapers- so the Chicago Tribune had a recipe called "Mac 'n' cheese goes stove top: 20 minute stove top macaroni and cheese" that we just had to try.

And I'm very glad we did....
It was cheesy goodness- and dare I say....I like it better than the box!

There are two variations I cannot wait to try such as...
Southwester: add ground beef, salsa and chili powder- this must be a kicker
Fancy: Use Gruyere, Fontina and Mozzarella with a splash of white wine- sounds like girls night

I definitely will be making this when I get back to school. Sorry Scooby.

Mac 'n' Cheese

1 pound of pasta of your choice
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of room-temp butter
1 1/2 cups milk- use whole or 2 percent
8-12 ounces of (Cheddar, Monterey jack, fontina, or a mix), grated ) I used 8 oz Medium Cheddar and 4 oz Monterey
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper
1 pinch of paprika- go easy on this!
1 pinch of dry mustard- also less is better!

1. Heat a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta. Stir the pasta. Cook until just tender, around 10 minutes. Drain

2. While boiling, mix flour and butter into a smooth paste in a little bowl. Heat the milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until just warm to the touch. (Watch this- don't let it scald/burn)

3. Measure out 1/2 cup of the milk; add to the flour paste. Wisk until smooth.
4. Put this mixture back into the saucepan and whisk gently until the mixture starts to simmer and the mixture thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon.

5. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese, a handful at a time. Stir in the Worcestershire, salt, pepper, paprika and mustard. Adjust seasonings. Stir in pasta. Taste; add more cheese as desired.

Variation Recipe:
Southwestern: Add 1 to 2 cups of cooked ground beef, 1 jar salsa and 1 tablespoon chili powder to the cheese sauce

Happy Spring Break!

Bon Appétit,
Chef Maggie

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Indiana Jones and The Lost Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

My mom and sister have an obsession with Chocolate Chip Banana Blizzards from Dairy Queen, which isn't even on the menu. Apparently a secret way you can order it, is ask for the C^2 B^2 (pronunciation( c-square, b-square). In fact, they have converted me!

So you can only imagine the excitement that occurred, when my mom and I were on a pre-college visit to Indiana University and we stopped in a little bakery in the Union called Sugar and Spice and they had... chocolate chip banana cookies. Little did we know our lives would change. Maybe not change, but it began a four year search for the perfect recipe.

The problem became apparent the next time I went to Sugar and Spice as a little freshman; there were no chocolate chip banana cookies in the display! When I asked if there were any available, the workers looked at me like I was absolutely crazy and knew nothing about the amazing chocolate chip banana cookies.

Ever since then, my mom and I have been searching for the secret recipe for the perfect chocolate chip banana cookies. We have been experimenting; sometimes they came out brownie-like and others were hard as bricks, not enough banana-taste, etc.

However, I tried not to be too hopeful when I recently came across a new recipe. I adapted it slightly from Sweet Pea's Kitchen blog (You should definitely check her out, she is amazing!). This one was very unusual from the others because instead of using only all purpose flour, you use a combination of it with whole wheat flour. Very important!

The cookies took about 20 minutes total to make and when I tried my first one, I immediately called my mom screaming. After I had assured her that everything was fine and that I had just found the recipe for the cookies, she said that she would have to taste it to believe it.

I sent her and the rest of the family a box of them to be my taste testers. The result- I've barely been home a day and I've been requested to make more.

The best is somehow they continue to be maintain that straight out-of-the oven soft and chewy quality even after a couple days.

Instead of chopping a baking chocolate bar, I just used 1 cup of chocolate chips. In addition, I used 1 1/2 mushed bananas instead of one.

The old-fashioned rolled oats- easy to find just look for a quaker oats box that says it.

Drumroll please....
Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies
mashed bananas
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt -(Kosher salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1.5 large)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer/stand mixer to cream butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  3. Reduce speed to low and add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.
  4. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.
  5. Using a spoon, make 1-1 1/2 inch drops of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 13 minutes.
  7. Let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Bon Appétit,

Chef Maggie