Being Mrs. Pierce

Life as a wife, hiker, wanna-be chef, book-lover, traveler, and now, mom

Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie March 1, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 9:42 PM
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It is well established among my family and friends that I am a planner. I like to know, well in advance, what I am doing and when. The word “spontaneous” is rarely used to describe me.

 

So when the most recent round of winter weather got in the way of long-ago-made plans to drive to DFW on Friday night and go to The Avett Brothers concert in Dallas on Saturday night, I was not happy. Sure, John and I could have made a last-minute drive up Saturday afternoon once the ice had melted, but that would have been rushed and not according to plan.

 

So we didn’t go. Some lucky soul snagged our tickets for cheap on StubHub. I worked on grad school assignments. John wrote lesson plans.

 

In other words, we had the exact same weekend that we’ve had nearly every weekend this school year. Can I say how much I am ready to finish my counseling certification program?

 

Our change of plans at least allowed me to make one last chocolate dessert for my February cooking challenge. While both the Chocolate Pain Perdu and the Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Brownies were huge hits, they also were decidedly guilty pleasures. Butter, eggs, whole milk, chocolate…they were delicious for good reason. With no one but John and me to eat this weekend’s dessert, though, I decided I had better go with something light. I picked the Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie recipe that I had recently seen on the Skinnytaste blog. Instead of flour, the recipe calls for white beans. I’ve had middling success with using beans in place of flour in desserts. These Flourless Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies were quite yummy, but these Black Bean Brownies were rather disappointing.

 

I used my 7-cup KitchenAid food processor to make the batter. When I pressed the “on” button to blend the dates and milk, I had quite a surprise. The machine gave a great lurch and the lid popped off, sending almond milk everywhere. Hmm. That was new. I resecured the lid, held it tight with one hand, and pressed “on” once again. It shook. It grumbled. My food processor made its displeasure at having to puree dates obvious. Frankly, I was a little scared of my machine. I hoped that adding the additional ingredients would soothe it, but no. It jiggled and gurgled for as long as I dared to keep it running. Hmm again.

 

For the beans, I used great northern. For the oil, pecan. And for the chocolate chips, milk. I only have a 9-inch springform pan, so that’s what I used instead of the 10-inch. For this reason, I should have baked my cookie pie for at least 40 minutes, but I baked it only 35. It seemed “firm” enough after 35 minutes, but when I cut into it 20 minutes later, it was still rather gooey. With the recipe being egg-less, though, I wasn’t too worried about it being slightly under-done.

 

I served the cookie pie warm with Blue Bell light vanilla ice cream, and it was fine. The melted chocolate chips tasted great with the cold ice cream. But it had the consistency and taste of a dessert made with beans. I gave it 3 stars. We will eat the rest of it, but I doubt I make it again.

 

Epilogue:
While eating a piece of the cookie pie today, John discovered a date pit. Was this the source of my food processor’s discomfort? Or was it just mad at facing 2 cups of sticky dates?  Or is my machine on the fritz?  Hmm.

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Slow Cooker Chai Tea January 10, 2015

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 12:20 PM
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When I set the January category of my 2015 Cooking Challenge to be slow cooker recipes, I had entrées in mind.  But then my sister-in-law, Kalyn, got to raving about this Slow Cooker Chai Tea recipe, and I decided I had to try it as part of my slow-cooker month.

 

This weekend was the perfect one to try out the chai tea. I have a three-day weekend thanks to the local stock show (closing the schools for such an event is just one of the perks of small town living), which gives me more time for cooking and blogging. Plus, it’s January. It’s cold – even in Texas. What’s better than a warm cup of creamy, spicy tea on a chilly day?

 

Since returning from our week-long stay at my parents’ house in DFW for Christmas, we have not made it to Fredericksburg for a proper grocery shopping trip at HEB. Therefore, we’ve been getting by with the Walmart in Brady and Lowe’s Market here in Mason. (This would not be one of the perks of small town living.) I managed to track down whole cloves and peppercorns, as well as a cheesecloth, but I could not find cardamom pods. The ground cardamom I already had in my pantry would have to suffice. But as soon as I poured in the water, the cardamom immediately escaped the cheesecloth bag and floated about the slow cooker insert.  Oh, well.

 

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I had decided to simmer the chai tea overnight so that it would be ready first thing on Friday morning. The creator of the recipe commented on how wonderful the “sweet and spicy aroma” of the chai tea was, and she was right. It made our whole house smell fantastic, but it was rather odd to be enveloped by this aroma in the middle of the night.

 

After 8 hours on low, the water had been infused with the spices in the bag and had turned a dark brown:

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I steeped the black tea bags for 4 minutes and then stirred in the sweetened condensed milk.  Now the tea was smooth and creamy.

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Upon first taste, I was slightly disappointed. Kalyn’s praise of the recipe had heightened my expectations, so I had anticipated love at first sip. It was good, but not out-of-this-world good. John agreed – the tea reminded him of the Keurig Chai Latte we had tried once. Yet I drank 2 cups of it on Friday morning and another 2 cups today. It’s a solid recipe – at least 3 stars. I wonder if using cardamom pods instead of ground cardamom would make a difference, or if steeping the tea bags longer than 4 minutes would deepen the flavor of it. I may just have to give it another try sometime in order to find out!

 

Zucchini-Walnut Bread August 5, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 4:36 PM
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Last month I found myself with a few extra zucchini lying around, so I put one of them to use in Ellie Krieger’s Zucchini-Walnut Bread from the breakfast, brunch, & bakery chapter of Comfort Food Fix.

 

I have not had good luck with zucchini bread recipes in the past–they have turned out dry and/or tasteless. Even a zucchini-pineapple bread turned out surprisingly blah. After my last failure, I could not help but ask, Was it me, or was it the recipe?  So I wasn’t expecting the best when I embarked upon this recipe.  I followed the instructions exactly in order to discount for user error; if the recipe failed, at least I could claim it was not my fault!

 

About 30 minutes into the baking time, however, my kitchen was filled with the warm scent of cinnamon, and I began anticipating my first bite. I baked the loaf for an hour, as the oven in my new kitchen runs cooler than my previous one.

 

The recipe instructs you to wait until the bread is completely cool before slicing, but my growling tummy disagreed–it was ready for breakfast. I therefore cut into the loaf while it was still a little warm, to no ill effect. The zucchini-walnut bread was tasty (and not too dry), but it lacked oomph. In the end, both John and I rated it as an average, 3-star recipe. My hunt for the best zucchini bread recipe ever continues.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 24
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 129

 

Zucchini-Walnut Bread

¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 small zucchini (6 oz), coarsely grated (about 1¼ cups)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, applesauce, and eggs. Stir in the zucchini. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine. Stir in the walnuts.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: one 1-inch-thick slice). Per serving, 7 PointsPlus.

 

Crispy Baked Zucchini Potato Pancakes March 9, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 7:53 AM
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I am a planner. I get supreme satisfaction knowing far in advance what I’ll be doing/cooking/eating/reading when. So it is with some surprise that I am utterly enjoying the unpredictability of getting a CSA vegetable & fruit delivery every other Wednesday. The anticipation begins on Monday of delivery week: It’s CSA week! I think to myself multiple times that day. On Tuesday, I begin to pull cookbooks off the shelf in preparation for the recipe searches I’ll undoubtedly be undertaking. On Wednesday morning, I am ready to high-five the school nurse, who so kindly picks up my CSA for me while she’s picking up her own. But the true fun is Wednesday afternoon at 3:15. The kids have left for the day, and I go up to the office to see what’s in my box. Then I get to take all the beautiful, fresh produce home, dig through my cookbooks, and decide just what to make with it over the next two weeks. (I told you I am a planner.)

 

This winter, potatoes have been a staple in my CSA. I’ve made potato-kale soup, roasted potatoes, crispy sautéed potatoes, and baked garlic “fries.” I also made my 17th Comfort Food Fix recipe of the year with a CSA potato: Crispy Baked Zucchini Potato Pancakes.

 

On paper, the recipe is not a difficult one. Dice some onion, grate some vegetables, stir them together with egg, form into pancakes, and bake. Yet I ended up making an epic mess. I squeezed the excess liquid from the grated zucchini and potato as directed, but I guess I should have done so more than I did, as the pancake mixture, when all combined, was incredibly runny. As I formed the pancakes on the cookie sheet, I soon had a layer of liquid spanning the entire breadth of the pan. I tried to soak up some of it with paper towels to middling success. The worst part was when the pancakes were baking in the oven and all of that extra liquid turned brown, then black, as it baked and hardened onto my cookie sheet. Let’s just say it took 24 hours of soaking before any of it would start to clean off. My advice: line your cookie sheet with foil.

 

Due to the scary brown-and-black pan, I removed the pancakes from the oven a little earlier than I might have otherwise. They were cooked through, but overall they weren’t browned and crispy yet. Despite this, the potato pancakes turned out rather tasty. Yet I didn’t think that their taste made up for the hassle and the mess, so I gave the pancakes an average 3 stars.  Next time I get russet potatoes in my CSA, I’ll look elsewhere for a recipe.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 17
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 136

 

BLT with Avocado Spread January 26, 2014

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The BLT with Avocado Spread recipe from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix (which I continue to work my way through) is one of the cookbook’s simpler recipes, which made it ideal for a quick Saturday lunch at home. Already a fan of bacon, the addition of avocado to the BLT only upped my interest level.

 

Originally I had intended to make these sandwiches on MLK Day, but my plans for the holiday went awry when I passed out at my doctor’s office while the nurse was drawing blood. (I really do not like needles.) So the avocado I had bought, which was already pretty ripe, sat in the refrigerator for the rest of the week. It had a number of brown spots when I cut into it yesterday, but I was able to scoop out enough avocado to make the spread stretch over 3 sandwiches (2 for John, 1 for me).

 

With it being January, the store-bought tomato was not as fresh and flavorful as I would have liked (when are supermarket tomatoes fresh and flavorful, though?), but I did enjoy using romaine leaves from my brand-new CSA, picked up for the first time on Wednesday. Hooray for local, seasonal produce!

 

To lower the Points value of the sandwich, I used light bread and center-cut bacon, which dropped the PointsPlus value to 5, according to my calculation. I find center-cut bacon to be just as tasty as regular bacon, and I prefer to have fewer fatty, chewy bits. The light bread, however, did affect the overall quality of the sandwich. A richer bread would have elevated the sandwich above average. As I made it, the sandwich earned 3 stars. I enjoyed the avocado spread, but as John commented, guacamole or even plain sliced avocado would have been better. Neither of us like too much citrus with our avocado.  Yet BLTs are meant to be tinkered with, and the basic concept of this sandwich is a winner.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 6
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 147

 

BLT with Avocado Spread

1 very ripe avocado
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 slices bacon, preferably nitrate-free
8 slices whole-wheat bread
4 medium leaves romaine lettuce
2 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced

1. Peel and pit the avocado. In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the lemon juice, salt and black pepper.

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, turning two or three times, to the desired doneness, about 8 minutes for crispy. Drain on paper towels.

3. Toast the bread.

4. To make the sandwiches, spread 1 tablespoon of the avocado mixture on each slice of toast. Place 2 pieces of bacon on half the pieces of toast, then top with a folded lettuce leaf and 2 slices of tomato. Top with the remaining toast. Cut in half and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich). Per serving, 8 PointsPlus.

 

Buttermilk Waffles with Chunky Strawberry Topping January 19, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 10:06 PM
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To kick off our three-day weekend, yesterday morning I made up a batch of homemade buttermilk waffles with strawberry topping using recipes from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix cookbook. These recipes also appeared in an article in Shape Magazine back in 2012.

 

Breakfast is one of my joys in life – especially a Saturday morning breakfast that features a warm baked good right out of the oven, off the griddle, or, in this case, the waffle iron. Such tasty treats may not always be healthy ones, so I especially liked that this buttermilk waffle recipe included whole-wheat flour and wheat germ. I used whole-wheat pastry flour as I like the fluffiness that it provides.

 

When I put the third batch of batter into the iron, I set the chunky strawberry topping to boiling on the stove. With it being January, I used frozen strawberries rather than fresh. I only needed to use 2 TB of maple syrup, as the topping turned out plenty sweet without any additional syrup.

 

The waffle recipe made enough batter for 4 full-size Belgian waffles – and then some. The final two waffles overflowed my waffle iron! The cooked waffles emerged from the iron a pretty, golden hue and the strawberry topping made for a bright red and sweet-smelling accompaniment. Taste-wise, the waffle-topping combo earned 3 stars. I enjoyed them both, but I was not overwhelmed. John tried to give me a second opinion, but he is currently suffering from seasonal allergies and therefore could not even taste his serving. I will probably keep looking around for another healthy waffle recipe to be my go-to one.

 

Comfort Food Fix recipes made: 4
Comfort Food Fix recipes still to make: 149

 

Buttermilk Waffles

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
2 TB toasted wheat germ
1¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1½ cups low-fat buttermilk
1 TB canola oil
1 TB honey
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray
1 recipe Chunky Strawberry Topping (recipe follows) or confectioners’ sugar for garnish, optional

1. Preheat a waffle iron.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, honey, egg, and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine them.

3. Spray the waffle iron with cooking spray. Ladle enough of the batter to cover three-fourths of the surface of the waffle iron (a heaping ½ cup for a 6-inch waffle iron), close it, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with the Chunky Strawberry Topping or a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 6-inch Belgian-style waffle). Per serving, 7 PointsPlus.

 

Chunky Strawberry Topping

2 cups fresh or frozen (unsweetened) strawberries, stems removed (10 oz)
2 TB pure maple syrup, plus more to taste
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, stir together the strawberries, maple syrup, and lemon juice and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Flavor with additional maple syrup, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. The topping will keep up to 4 days in the refrigerator stored in an airtight container.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: ¼ cup). Per serving, 1 PointsPlus.

 

Honey-Wheat Crescent Rolls (New Recipe #104) December 30, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — skpierce12 @ 12:33 PM
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Baking homemade bread is quickly becoming my new cooking obsession. The smell, the taste…it is simply addicting to a carb-lover such as myself. The time it requires, however, keeps me from bread making most days. But the recent ice storm, which resulted in an unexpected four-day stretch at home, gave me plenty of time to break out the yeast and make some dough. After my Honey Wheat Bread turned out so well, I felt inspired to try this WeightWatchers Honey-Wheat Crescent Rolls recipe from the WeightWatchers New Complete Cookbook (2006 edition).

 

I used my KitchenAid stand mixer rather than a food processor to complete step #2 in the directions below. My dough hook is my new best friend! It simplifies the bread-making process a great deal. An added bonus: it is fun to watch in action.

 

Rolling the dough into crescents was easier and quicker than anticipated; the rolls were rising on the baking sheet in very short order. Thanks to their small size, they also baked quickly in the oven. While I doubt that I will make homemade rolls on a regular work night, it was nice to discover that they are a feasible task for a weekend.

 

I served the crescent rolls with a slow-cooker turkey chowder from the same WeightWatchers cookbook. That turkey chowder was the first recipe I ever made when I initially went on the WeightWatchers program six years ago, and I have made it at least once every winter since then. The rolls went well with the chowder and were a solid 3 stars. They were not show-stoppers, but they were tasty — which is about the best that can be expected from a “diet” bread recipe. The crescents were best served warm from the oven on the first day; the leftovers were not near as soft and flavorful.

 

Honey-Wheat Crescent Rolls

1 cup warm (105-115°F) water
2 TB honey
2¼ tsp active dry yeast
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1½ tsp salt

1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the water and honey; sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, and salt. With the machine running, pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube; pulse until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until smooth.

3. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray; put the dough in the bowl. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.

4. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Punch down the dough. Sprinkle a work surface lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the surface; cut in half. Roll each half into a 10-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Roll each wedge, from the wide side, and form into a crescent. Place, pointed-end down, on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, arranging the rolls 1 inch apart. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until they double in size, about 35 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls until they are golden brown and sound hollow when lightly tapped, about 15 minutes. Remove the rolls from the baking sheet and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 roll). Per serving, 3 PointsPlus.