Geek Chef

Healthy & Tasty Chicken Burgers

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I LOVE a good crab cake. But I live in Austin, TX. This means that I basically have to be rolling in dough in order to eat decent shell fish (with the exception of Garbo’s, which is both incredibly delicious and mostly affordable).

In a never ending search for healthier food that doesn’t skimp on flavor or texture, I was given a recipe for Chicken burgers from an old buddy of mine. I immediately noticed that the recipe was styled similar to crab cakes, but used ground chicken instead of the luscious, but costly crustacean. You can easily grill this over charcoal or gas, but I do them in a pan on my stove to continue that cake style going. There are a few tricks in this recipe to keep everything from drying out as well. Top them with a little lemony greek yogurt sauce I make to substitute for the usual high-calorie remoulades or tartar sauces normally served with crab cakes, and dinner winds up being a very light, immensely flavorful delight.

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The original recipe for this is comes from All Recipes and is noted as “By Teri“. I halve this recipe, as it still makes four really good sized burgers that can easily stuff two or three very hungry people, and made some alterations, including omitting most of the mushrooms and tomatoes which makes everything too wet and reducing the Old Bay, which made it entirely too salty. My friends generally prefer to have these on a bun, like a burger, but, as noted before, I eat mine like a crab cake with just some lemon and sauce. With my faux-aioli and lack of bun, you can eat 2 of these without feeling any guilt in terms of calories. Another great thing about these is that you can prep the veggies  hours or even a day or two in advance, and throw everything together 30 minutes before you want to eat, making it a quick meal for mid-week.

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Chicken Burgers (makes 4 patties)

Ingredients

3 TBSP olive oil (or cooking spray depending on your preference)

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup buttons mushrooms, chopped

1 lb ground chicken breast

1 egg

1/4 cup + 4 TBSP panko or flavored bread crumbs

2 tsp seasoning salt

1 tsp black pepper

Lightly spray a saute pan with cooking or oil spray over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and carrots getting them slightly soft and a little golden, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside and allow all vegetables to cool completely.

Mix the 1/4 cup panko, egg, seasoning salt, and black pepper in with the ground chicken. Once the veggies are cooled and you’re ready to cook mix them into the chicken. Form into 4 patties. These are going to be pretty big. Grill them over medium high heat for 3 minutes per side or saute them in a pan with non-stick spray or olive oil over medium heat for about 4 minutes a side. I do mine on the stove top and pat each patty in a shallow dish with the remaining 4 TBSP of panko prior to dropping into the pan.

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Serve with a lemony aioli, my greek yogurt parsley & lemon sauce, blue cheese crumbles and Franks Buffalo Sauce, or on a bun with mustard and ketchup. It’s all good!

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Funny Bone Bites: Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

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I don’t know if you heard, but Hostess has gone out of business. Anyone else see the irony in a “snack cake” company biting the dust when Americans are the fattest they’ve ever been?

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Any way, Funny Bones (chocolate ganache covered, peanut butter cream filled chocolate cakes) where just about my Dad’s favorite thing ever. And Drake’s Cakes, the maker of those and such fine things as Ring Dings (shout out to Aunt Ang!) and Coffee Cakes (watch that Seinfeld episode with Newman & Martin in the hospital and with Elaine’s endoscopy), was also owned by Hostess. Damnit. My dad, CHRISTopher, was born on Christmas Day, which means on top of gifts each year, my family also gets cake on December 25th. With Funny Bones officially dead, however, and with my folks traveling at different points this holiday season, I set out to find a chocolatey, peanut buttery substitute that was easy to bake in any kitchen or kitchenette stocked only with the bare necessities, and minimizing what would have to be purchased at the store.

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Funny Bones Cookie

  • 1 box of Devil’s Food cake mix
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

UPDATE: Not all boxed cake mixes are created equal! If your cookie dough is too moist, add 1/4 cup flour and 1 TBSP dutch processed cocoa for much more moldable batter. Your dough may not be crumbly like the photo and may be a little sticky, but keeping a ramekin of water near by to just lightly dip your fingertips in while rolling the dough around the filling will help tremendously. They still come out exactly the same and just as delicious. 

Filling:

  • 5 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (choosey Moms choose Jif…because it has less salt than many others)
  • 1 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • You can substitute everything above under “Filling”, do a caramel version and just use Rolos

Chocolate Coating

  • 11/4 cups bittersweet Ghirardelli chips
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp vegetable shortening

*Can you use store bought icing? Yup. Can you just sprinkle each with powder sugar to simplify? Sure. Does ganache make heroes of average men? You betcha!

Preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the Filling ingredients together. Yes, we’re starting with the filling. Once you get the butter, sugar, and peanut butter blended well together, stick it in the fridge to firm up a bit. At that point you can move on to the cookie aspect of this recipe, which is incredibly easy. And it’s meant to be. ‘Cause if given the option of baking while on holiday or drinking a pomegranate martini in a hot tub, which do you think I’ll choose? (Hint: It’s not baking.)

Mix the cake, eggs, and oil together. It will look crumbly, but that’s okay. Its easily moldable.

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Take just about a tablespoon of the oily cake/cookie batter into your hand, roll into a ball and flatten in your palm. Take about a heaping teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture and drop into the center of the cookie. Gently fold the sides of the cookie dough up around the peanut butter. Don’t worry if the dough cracks on you; once the sides are folded up as best as you can, roll lightly into a ball, smoothing cracks with your fingers. If there is any noticeable seam, place that down on the ungreased cookie sheet. Each stuffed ball should be about a heaping tablespoon. You will also probably have some peanut butter mixture left over.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes. I baked mine for 10, but could have easily pulled them from the oven after 9 for a slightly chewier cookie. The cookies will have spread just a little, puffed in the center, and should just start to be cracking on the top. Let cool on the sheet for 5-10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. While cooling, melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 10-15 second intervals, stirring in-between each, until the ganache mixture is nice and runny. Drip about a teaspoon or so of the ganache over each cookie, smoothing with the back of a spoon. There will be more than enough chocolately topping to cover each. I then topped mine with chocolate sprinkles…because why not? Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or so to help the glossy ganache solidify. Makes 26 cookies.

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UPDATE: My mother & friends have both stated – without tasting one of these delectable cookies – that the chocolate sprinkles are over-kill. Now, my heart isn’t as shriveled and black as theirs, but to each his own. They are delicious with or without them. I know, because I’ve eaten entirely too many already.

UPDATE 2: The worst thing about these cookies (that I’ve discovered only just this morning) is that they’re even better the next day, AND they freeze perfectly. And my friends are already on me to “test” this recipe again today. Good thing I went to the gym already today.

Autumn Frying By: Back Yard Gastro Graze

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What, oh what, does one do with a turkey fryer once Thanksgiving is past $60 worth of oil?

Well, if you’re part of my group of friends, you set out to discover what can and can’t be fried.

The Frying Rig.

For safety’s sake, my friends took a direct page from Alton Brown’s book and setup their fryer outside, away from the house, spending about $5 to have the fry basket on a pulley, and wrapping the hose in tinfoil so that in the event of a spill, the hot oil won’t melt through the propane hose.

The weather was cool, the colors bright, every one felt good in the throws of Austin Autumn.

While some planning had to go into what we fried (wet batter that could drip and therefore be more likely to cause burnt bits that would blacken the oil), we started ambitiously with hot wings followed by Brussel sprouts, both fried at 350F degrees. The hot wings were tossed in regular buffalo sauce and Texas Pete Sweet & Fiery, a new favorite of mine. The Brussel sprouts took less than 3 minutes and were amazing both simply salted and sprinkled with Uchiko’s recipe.

Following our bounty of protein and veggie tables, we moved to a pallet cleansing batch of fried baguette crust, cut into strips, dipped into Nutella and served with banana slices. This was particularly satisfying.

Not everything was a success, however. We did attempt a batch of fried cheese curds, that came out more like puffs of hollow crispy shells. They also coated the basket in goo, and we had to break from frying to scrub everything and make sure the oil wasn’t going to burn do to particles.

I had mixed up a batch of green chile biscuit dough, rolled into balls, and stuffed each ball with a small cube of cheese and two drops of chile oil. These were tasty, but needed more seasoning than I mixed into the dough. A good start on something, though, and they were even better the next day, making me think they may need to be a breakfast treat!

Up next were the corn dogs and, while I only got one bite, they were easily my favorite of the afternoon. And it goes without saying that they disappeared the fastest, loved by adults, kids, and X-1.

X knows where the good stuff is…

But the day wasn’t just about getting together to eat unnecessary calories. We learned, we taught each other, we enjoyed the sunshine. The was quality time…

“Quality” time of the future.

We taught Nicco how to use the horn on her Batmobile and how to make deep “Tooooooot” train sounds with an empty bottle. We chatted and allowed the kids to exhaust us, using the adults and trees as jungle gyms.

And what would an afternoon be without dessert, a dessert that appreciates Autumn’s bounty of apples, of course?! The amazing Tania whipped up two different kinds of fried apple pie, one in pie crust, and one in a simple biscuit dough, as recommended by Paula Deen. We were somewhat surprised to find that Deen’s dough was far lighter and more substantial (and far less greasy) than the simple pie dough! Both were dipped in a fantastic caramel sauce from Austin’s own Foreign & Domestic.

It was an afternoon of ease, experimentation, humor, good company, beautiful weather, and joy. It was a second Thanksgiving Day, it was perfect for a Sunday in Autumn. One final note: we did eventually get the cheese curds to come out better…though not all together perfect. When Sarah wanted to get a few more, her husband, not standing too far from the curds said “Well, kick the dog, drop the baby, and get over here!” rather than leave the table himself, because they were disappearing all too fast. (Yes, of course he was kidding! But it’s a funny picture non-the-less.)

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Lemon Zest Aioli

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In a month’s time I’ll be spending a week with my family. Folks, sibling, husband, cousins, etc. As we actually like each other, most of us are looking forward to this time together. It’s an anomaly, I know. I’ve been coming up with numerous recipes for us to share while visiting, and I’ve been searching far and wide for inspiration.

One of the many recipes I wanted to attempt to recreate was fried artichoke hearts. When I was in college…hmmm. You know, I was going to write “When I was in college I spent some time in Arizona…”, but now that I’m long graduated I can honestly state it more clearly: While I lived in Arizona for a few years I went to college. Like one goes to the gym when they’re not really into it. Like it was a hobby or something I told people I did to keep them off my back. Anyway, the point is that while I lived in Arizona, working odd jobs instead of attending class regularly, one of the ways I would treat myself from time to time on the great road of finding my way, was a night out at the Prescott Brewing Company. One of my faves on their menu are these little crispy artichoke hearts. I decided to make may own version, packing each bite with a little more flavor, attempting to bake them instead, and serving them a bright and lemony aioli rather than ranch dressing.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts

2 cans Large artichoke hearts (5-7), halved

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup Panko

zest of one lemon

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried parsley

1 heaping TBSP grated Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 TBSP milk

Vegetable oil, if frying

Dipping Aioli

1 1/2 TBSP mayonnaise

1 1/2 TBSP sour cream

1/2 tsp dill

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp black pepper

juice of 1/2 lemon

Just a side note here: I’ve used both the whole and quartered artichoke hearts. I’ve found halving the whole artichoke heart makes for a much more toothsome bite than the pre-quartered options. They’re smaller, thinner, and all around less appetizing.

Drain the cans of artichoke hearts. Gently halve the hearts and lay out on a paper towel for about an hour to dry out a bit. Whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate plate (I use an 8×8 pyrex) combine the flour, panko, lemon zest, garlic powder parsley, and Parmesan.

Start heating up your vegetable oil to 325 degrees.

Delicately spear an artichoke halve with a fork. I found it best to poke from the side out, which helps the petals remaining on the choke stay together. Dip your speared piece into the egg/milk mixture quickly, allowing the excess to drip off a second before coating in the panko mixture. I found it easiest to drop the artichoke heart piece off of the fork into the center of the panko and flour, and then tossing the dry ingredients over the heart. You want the artichoke chunks to be evenly coated, but you don’t want that coating to be very thick. Once coated, set aside until you have an full batch to start frying.

Once your oil reaches temperature, fry the artichoke hearts halves for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. They do brown very quickly. Once golden and crisp move to a paper-towel covered cooling rack and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let rest about 5 minutes.
For the dipping aioli, whisk all the ingredients together and serve with the artichokes. This creamy dip is extremely addicting. You may want to double the dip recipe if you’re serving these at a dinner party.  I served mine as an appetizer to a vegetarian dinner and the crispy artichokes, with the bright creamy sauce went beautifully with both our chilled white wine (I think it was a Pinot Grigio) and a crisp hard cider.

Reverse Reese’s: Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies!

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Okay, life has been so stressful and overwhelming lately, that I’ve gotten away from the fun things. I have only been to the gym twice this week, I’ve barely been eating (let alone eating well), and I’ve allowed what brings me joy to be pushed away by things that already deserve less of my time than I give them.

So today I am reclaiming my life just for me: I went to the gym this morning, had a light and bright brunch, cleaned my house while my hubby did laundry, carved a pumpkin and NOW I’m going to make some peanut butter cookies!

My Jack Skellington Jack-O-Lantern

Chip looooooves peanut butter cookies, but I find them to often be salty and lacking…probably because they don’t have any chocolate in them. Well, I’m changing that today, dammit. This afternoon I’ll be making what I call a Reverse Reese’s, that is I peanut butter cookie stuffed with chocolate. 1. Are these healthy? No. 2. Do I care? See the answer to the first question.

Reverse Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter (Smooth or crunchy. I use smooth, because, like a child, I think crunchy is gross.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour (You want to sift it? What are you, an over-acheiver?)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (Optional. I find there’s enough salt in the peanut butter that this isn’t necessary.)                     1 cup Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Use Jiff peanut butter. Or Peter Pan. Or your local grocery store’s generic brand. I know, I know, these are processed, but it’s much harder to get the correct consistency both before and after cooking if you use something organic that often separates. Also, spritz your measuring cup with a little non-stick spray so your peanut butter doesn’t wind up being obnoxious to get out of there. Whip together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla. Incorporate the egg. Sprinkle in the flour with your mixer on low in 2-3 batches. Add the baking soda and salt if using, and mix for an additional 30 seconds. or until everything is well combined. It will pull cleanly away from the sides of your bowl when complete.

If your kitchen is warm or it’s a hot day, stick the dough in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 (F). Use this time to clean up. I gave my KitchenAid mixer a good cleaning, tossed most stuff in the sink and wiped down the counter. My KitchenAid is my dream boat, which I inherited from my grandmother. It’s from the 70’s, just look at the plug on the thing, and it works like a champ! Love. It.

Once your dough is ready, take a heaping tablespoon of the peanut butter goodness and flatten in the palm of your hand. Smoosh (that’s the medical term) 8-10 chocolate chips into the center and fold the dough over and seal. Try and keep the chocolate chips in a cluster in the center if you want a Reverse Reese’s. Worst case scenario is you wind up with chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, so you can’t really mess this up. Place on a cookie sheet (these are oily enough that you don’t need to spray your pan) and gently press to about a half inch thick.

Bake for 13-16 minutes. I like mine soft and chewy, so these came out after 14 minutes. Let rest 3-5 minutes before moving off the cookies sheet because they are very delicate when they first come out.  

Serve with milk and a cool Autumn night. 

Guilt-Free Peach Crisp

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In my 1,978 attempt to will Austin to have an Autumn, I decided to make a crisp on this abnormally cool day. I’m bored with the expected and somewhat plain sweetness that comes with a peach or apple crisp, however, and really wanted to try to make a light version. With the entire 8 X 8 inch pan containing only 3 tablespoons of butter and 1.5 tablespoons of brown sugar for “bad” fat and sweetness, I had to ramp of my peach crisp’s flavor in terms of spices.

And the whole reason I made this a peach crisp was because I was too lazy to go out and get apples.

Guilt-Free Peach Crisp

3 large Peaches, about 5 cups of slices cut 1/4 inch thick (skin on)

1 TBSP flour, plus 2 tsps

1/2 cup oats

3 TBSP cold butter, cut roughly into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice, divided

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp white pepper (you can use black if need be)

1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt, divided

3 TBSP red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)

Preheat your oven to 375.  Spray an 8″ x 8″ with nonstick cooking spray. Layout a single layer of peach slices; it’s fine if the edges over lap. Lightly sprinkle about a teaspoon of flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice over this layer. They shouldn’t be completely or evenly covered, just a scattered sprinkling will do. Add another 2 layers of peach slices. My peaches made roughly 3 layers, filling in holes here and there where needed. You don’t want to merely stack the slices on top of each other, but you should stagger them, making sure there are no gaps. On the top layer, sprinkle another teaspoon of flour and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

In a bowl, combine the oats, butter, brown sugar, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, vanilla, and remaining flour and pumpkin pie spice. I found the best way to do this was with my fingers, mashing everything together until everything had formed small clumps. Sprinkle these clumps as evenly as possible over the top of the layered peach slices. Bake the crisp on the center rack for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes in the oven, drizzle the 3 tablespoons of red wine over the top of the peaches. This will mingle with the peach juices, flour, and spices making a fantastic syrupy sauce by the time it’s through cooking. Continue baking an additional 15-20 minutes or until the peaches are tender and the juices are bubbling around the edges. Let the crisp cool on the counter for 10-15 minutes; this will thicken the sauce as well.

With only 372 calories and 27 grams of fat from the brown sugar and butter in the entire pan, this winds up being a very guilt-free dessert. This means, divided into 6 large servings, it’s only 62 calories and 4.5 grams of fat from added sugar and butter! And those are big servings. You can easily get away with doing 8 servings to save even more. Yes, you can make this with sugar substitutes if need be, but as I am not diabetic, I’d rather eat the small amount of sugar and save myself from the chemicals and sodium of artificial sweeteners.

In lieu of ice cream, I served my crisp with a dollop of Chiobani Vanilla Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt. The flavor of the wine had become delicate, but a nice noticeable addition to the usual plainly sweet crisp, and you can see all the spices in the golden syrup that it creates. The best thing about this very flavorful dessert, is that you don’t feel the need to run on a treadmill or brush the excess sugar of your teeth right after eating it. Perfect for Fall, and a great ending to a dinner party – or even as an afternoon snack of comfort food!

Light Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

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I’m in Austin. It’s a million degrees out here, on this second to last day of September. But I’m continuing in my quest to will it to be Autumn. Visiting a friend for a party tonight, I decided to bring a pumpkin cake. I like pumpkin bread, but tonight I wanted something more, yet light. This recipe has no oil or butter in it and makes for an ultra moist, but not too sweet dessert that’s great for company, coffee, or a night playing Beatles Rock Band. Breaking out my bundt pan and whipping together a brown sugar cream cheese filling, I set to work making an easy, but flavorful Fall cake.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1 box Spice Cake Mix

1 15oz can pumpkin

1.5 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

1 tsp nutmeg

1 3.4oz butterscotch Instant Pudding Mix

2 eggs

2 TBSP Greek Yogurt

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Filling

12 oz. room temperature Cream Cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cake ingredients. The cake batter will be sticky and thick, but fluffy, almost like icing. If it’s seems too thick, sticky, or dense to stir of manipulate add another big tablespoon of yogurt. In a separate bowl, whip together the cream cheese filling ingredients and place in the fridge for a few minutes.On a side note, I tend to not like things overly sweet and to me the pumpkin cake with cream cheese brown sugar mixture is more than enough. That being said, add 2 TBSP to 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the cake mixture if you like it as sweet as usual cakes.

Grease or spray non-stick spray in a bundt cake pan and sprinkle with flour. Scoop in roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the batter into the pan and spread evenly, making a little indenture in the center while doing it. The cream cheese will sit in this like a circular river of deliciousness. Next remove the cream cheese mixture from the fridge and dollop it in the indentation around the cake batter as evenly as possible. Next, top the cream cheese with the remaining cake batter, being careful to cover all the exposed cream cheese. Smooth the top as best you can.

Bake for 45-55 degrees or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes before flipping out of the bundt pan. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, slice, and serve. It’s moist, it’s delicious, it’s low fat, low sugar, and it screams Autumn comfort!

Orange White Chocolate Craisin Cookies

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A rainy day in Austin is like Christmas. To be able to open one’s windows, allow the breeze to come through is a rarity that must be thoroughly appreciated. I celebrate by making cookies. I don’t like to bake sweet crap too often, but when I do, I normally do it on a Sunday so the extras can either be baked into individual servings for lunches throughout the week or just brought into the office and dumped on less fatty coworkers.

Rather than making those heavy super mega chocolate cookies I normally make, I decided I wanted something lighter, fresher, something that would be great with a cup of coffee. I decided to take a usual cookie recipe and tweak by lightening the sugar and adding a little lemon, fruit, and love. Okay, not love, but I did really like the way they turned out. I call them Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookies ’cause I like the alliteration at the end there. I’m sure it should probably be something like the orange White Chocolate Craisin is a trademarked name of the Ocean Spray Company Cookies, or the much less exciting Lemon White Chocolate Dried Cranberry Cookies, but who the hell cares?

Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookie

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup backed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP juice of a lemon

zest of one orange (about 3 tsps)

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cups Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. I know, that’s pretentious, but they really are the best for baking.

1/2 cup dried cranberries (Guess which brand I used?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar until delicious creamed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until incorporated. Add the lemon juice (and take the 2 seconds and spend the 30 cents on a reallemon for that) and zest, and whip until it’s all combined.

Now at this point I’m supposed to tell you something like “In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add slowly to the butter mixture…”, but I’m not going to tell you that. I made this recipe a couple of times (that’s what you do when you test and create recipes), once doing the flour and crap whisked in a separate bowl, and once at the end just adding it ingredient by ingredient. I’m going to blow your mind: It made NO difference. None. I bake to make my house smell all warm, fuzzy, and comforting, and to make my fatass fatter. Not for the delicate art of it all.

SO, once you got the butter and everything else mixed, add the flour. I added it a cup first, mixing well, then a cup and a half just so it wouldn’t make a mess. Then the salt, and then the baking soda. Mix until everything is combined. Add the white chocolate and the Craisins last; I have to do this quickly or I find my friends poaching the best ingredients.

Spray a cookie pan with nonp-stick spray and bake heaping tablespoon balls of dough, eight at a time per sheet for 10-12 minutes. I like my cookies chewy, so I did about 11 minutes on these. This recipe makes 24 good-sized cookies, not “fun” size, which is a size I call “small as crap”. I took a picture below of the sized balls of dough versus the final product to give you an idea of size. I don’t have huge man hands or weirdo tiny girl hands like I’m still a child, but I don’t like the way they look in this photo either…

I found these the right sweetness to have with a cup of coffee in lieu of a biscotti. There is a simple glaze, however, that really gives them an extra punch of lemony flavor. When I asked my buds if they “needed” the glaze their response was thus:

“I’m not going to say the need the glaze, because they’re very tasty, but….well, everything’s better with stuff on top.”

My friends loved this glaze like a six year old loves Dunkaroos, but I prefer them without, or with very little glaze.

Simple Lemon Glaze for Anything, but Especially Good with these Cookies

1 cup confectioners sugar

3 TBSP orange juice

The zest of 1 lemon

Whisk everything together and drizzle lightly over cooled cookies. Or french toast. Or pork chops. Hell, it’s simple and awesome, throw it on anything. But make sure to enjoy the cookies.

Spicy Coconut Curry Stir Fry with Tropical Quinoa

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In the ever constant search for something new and exciting in the kitchen, I’ve decided to start making that which I crave from restaurants. The below recipe is very similar in flavor to P.F.Chang’s/Pei Wei’s Thai Coconut Curry sauce. I made this with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of chip oil and the heat is barely noticeable, just a hint, which is nice. And my heat tolerance is not very hot at all. Filled with veggies, lean protein, and quinoa instead of rice, this is a flavorful, healthy dinner that comes together relatively quickly and is super tasty! This makes enough for 4 people. You can also use shrimp instead of chicken for extra awesomeness.

Sauce

1 TBSP Sharwood’s Mild Curry Powder (That’s what I used because it was easily found in my local grocery store, but you can use whatever you like or can find.)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp chili oil

2 tsp ginger

juice of one lime

1 cup coconut milk (You can use Lite if you’d prefer)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, whisk together, and let sit for flavors to marry. Set it aside.

Stir Fry

1 20oz. can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve some liquid for the quinoa if making as below). You want to slice up a pineapple fresh? Go nuts.

1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

1 small or 1/2 large white onion, diced

1 1/2 cups snow peas

1 8oz. can baby corn, cut or whole

6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

2 TBSP coconut milk

3 cloves minced garlic

In a large sauté pan, caramelize or brown the pineapple chunks over medium high heat, about 10-12 minutes. Remove pineapple from pan and set aside in a bowl for later. Add a TBSP vegetable or olive oil in the same pan without cleaning the yummy residue left over from the pineapple. Add the chicken and brown, just cooking through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. In the same pan add another TBSP of oil and toss in the onion and red bell pepper. After about 2 minutes, turn the heat down to medium.

Quinoa

1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup chicken broth/stock

1 cup + 2 TBSP coconut milk

2 TBSP pineapple juice (bottled or from the can of pineapple chunks)

Place the quinoa and liquids into a sauce pan. Heat to a boil, cover, and then turn the heat down to a simmer and for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and try not to immediately start gorging yourself on this. It’s super tasty, slightly sweet, and a little nutty. The perfect compliment to the Stir Fry.

Watermelon & Feta Summer Salad

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Kick cole slaw to the curb with the healthy, tasty, and refreshing summer salad. It’s also super easy and can come together in minutes.

Vegetables were very important in my family when I was a child and, as a result, vegetables are very important in my life as an adult. No meal is complete without them, which means you have to be pretty creative to keep from getting into a veggie rut. There were a number of salads in my youth that I continue to make today. While this one wasn’t prevalent in the past, it is a mainstay during the summers now.

Watermelon & Feta Summer Salad

4-5 cups watermelon, cut or broken into rough 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup arugula, optional

1 1/2 TBSP fresh mint leaves, chiffoned.

1 TBSP olive oil

1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1 TBSP champagne vinegar (You can use all Balsamic if you prefer)

1 tsp honey

Fresh cracked black pepper

I generally buy those freaky, genetically modified “personal sized” watermelons and crack it, like a giant egg, on the edge of my counter. This allows me to let the watermelon drain a little bit before dicing. After about an hour of draining, I broke and cut the watermelon into 1-2 inch chunks. You can use a melon baller, too. I dumped the watermelon and above ingredients into a bowl and gentle tossed. The watermelon will absorb the vinegar nicely, so generally once everything is mixed, I will let the salad sit for about 10 minutes and then move the mixture to a strainer over a bowl, just to help get rid of extra water. It only needs to sit in the strainer a couple of minutes.

If I’m having this as a brunch or mid-day thing, or if feeding it to picky eaters, I will sometimes omit the arugula. It’s just so delicious, that slightly bitter pepperiness with the sweet refreshing nature of the watermelon, honey, and mint. Not to mention the salty tang of the Feta! Oh, it comes together ever so nicely!

Just as beautiful to eat with your eyes as with your mouth!

Skip the arugula and add a croissant for brunch.