Monday, January 27, 2014

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Back Again!

Tonight I made an old favorite, one I've written about before -- Quaker Oats Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I love making these, and don't worry about finding that recipe if you haven't made them in a while - it's right there, printed on the inside of the container lid! These cookies are being packed up for something special, but before they are, here are a few photos and a link to the recipe from that previous post.  If you're like me, you may even become so attached to this recipe that you don't even have to look up the recipe -- it'll be in your head! It's nice to have a cookie so natural, so home-made, and  without any of the chemical additives found in packaged cookies from the store. You just can't beat home-made!

An old, familiar face!

Recipe can be found under the lid...

….right here!

The amazing cookie dough!

And beautiful cookies!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Feel Better Soup

Yesterday morning started with an 8:00 am visit to my GP, a doctor who, since 1974, has been treating my family, my children, and my grandchildren. I'd made an appointment a week earlier for a routine check up, but by the time I walked into the office Friday morning I was experiencing a full-blown cold, compliments of my grandsons and complete with coughing jags, headache, and a sore, red nose! Dr. Murray prescribed chicken soup and tissues and sent me on my way, saying I was not contagious and could go to work. So I went to work where, after an hour or so, co-workers gently, kindly, encouraged me to go home!!! So home I went, but first I stopped at the grocery store to pick up my prescription - for chicken soup, that is. After checking out can after can of different chicken soups and not finding what I wanted (reading labels is too much reality, sometimes), I decided to make my own. So, I picked up two quarts of chicken stock and then headed to the produce aisle for veggies. I came home and immediately started cooking, and have been eating the soup for two days. It's so warm, and comforting, and hearty and there must be something to the universal prescription of chicken soup for a cold, even if it is only a placebo effect. I feel so much better today than yesterday. I made this recipe up on the fly, and it is not a standard chicken soup. It reminds me of a nice Italian soup with greens or a bean-less minestrone. Check out the ingredients and you can see why.

Soooo good!


3 tablespoons olive oil (canola oil if you don't have olive)
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped green pepper (I buy red and green peppers chopped in the freezer section)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced (I buy it already minced in a jar)
2 stalks celery, chopped (include the green tops)
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste (you can beat the squeeze tubes of tomato paste!)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cooked chicken breasts halves or cutlets, diced (from my packet chicken, last post!)
12 turns ground black pepper
a couple of shakes of salt
half a bag of frozen leaf spinach
1 cup elbow macaroni
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

In a large pot or dutch oven on top of your stove, over medium to medium-high heat, warm up the oil and add the onions, red and green peppers, celery, and carrots. Cook for five minutes until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have given off a bit of liquid. Add the garlic and let it cook for a minute or two (don't let it brown). Stir in the tomato paste and mix well. Add chicken stock, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Add frozen spinach and return to a boil. Simmer for a while until the carrots are cooked through and the flavors have had a chance to meld, at least a half-hour.

While the soup is simmering, in a quart saucepan, cook the macaroni separately to al-dente stage (firm). Drain macaroni and add to cooked soup or put some macaroni in a bowl and ladle soup over top. I like the macaroni in the soup and I don't mind if it blows up a bit and gets soft, but if you want your macaroni firm, keep it separate until you serve the soup.

Sprinkle bowls of hot soup with cheese, and feel better soon!

If you'd like to make a vegetarian version of this soup, use vegetable stock and omit the chicken. Add beans or lentils for protein. 

PS - thought I'd share a photo of the cake I made today for new mom Lindsey and her soon-to-arrive baby girl Alena, and a couple of Pete, my youngest kitchen apprentice!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Packet Chicken

Last time I was at the grocery store, I bought a bunch of chicken breast cutlets with the intention of cooking them all at once, to be used in different ways throughout the week. The six cutlets were seasoned and baked in foil packets. These individual portions make meal planning much easier, especially when packing a lunch for work. Last night I added slices of the packet chicken to romaine lettuce for a nice dinner salad. Today I coarsely chopped one serving, added chopped walnut halves, celery and a little mayo and packed a lovely chicken salad, along with a hard-boiled egg for lunch. At lunch time at work, I picked up a plate-full of lettuces at the salad bar (cost - 87 cents!), grabbed a packet of Ken's Golden Italian dressing, and added the chicken salad from home. It was really delicious! I can see the rest of this chicken teaming up with a cheese quesadilla, or added to a flat-bread pizza with roasted red peppers, or dipped into that great Thai peanut sauce from a few blog posts back. Chicken is so versatile and I haven't tired of it yet!

Ready to bake on sprayed aluminum foil, sprinkled with
salt, pepper, garlic and onion powders

All wrapped up!

After baking at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes...

In last night's dinner salad with chopped bacon...

and today's chicken salad with walnuts and celery...

And here is one of those perfectly
hard-boiled eggs from a couple of posts back!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Treasure Map Cake for Finn's 5th Birthday!

When my friend Kim asked if I could make a treasure map cake for her son Finn's 5th birthday party, I was excited. I don't know what it is about oceans, islands, treasures, and a child's imagination (and my own!) but the whole concept makes me happy! I've made a treasure chest cake for my grandson Henry, and a pirate ship cake for his brother Pete, so it's kind of a theme with me for little kids. It was a joy to bake Finn's cake. In the interest of full disclosure, I searched the Web for photos, and found this cake I loved from Tina's Sugar Shack, and used it as my inspiration. Here's a step-by-step of the process, in photos:

"Black and White" marble cake

Butter Cream

A blank canvas

Desert island and the sea!

Having fun creating the scene!

Sailing Ship and Pirate Point

Skull and Crossbones 

That's one big fish!

Dead Man's Rock

Cooper's Cave
(Cooper is Finn's little brother!)

X marks the spot!

Happy, Happy 5th Birthday, Finn!!!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pretty Hard-Boiled Eggs

I've never been able to find the perfect balance between a just-right-cooked hard-boiled egg and one that is easy to peel. Today, it happened. Katie's chickens are in productive mode. They're young and their eggs are small, but perfect. I went downstairs and asked if I could have a few, and took six. I wanted to do these eggs justice, and decided that hard-boiling would be a great way to enjoy them.

Here's the way to get eggs worthy of a buffet platter of fancy deviled eggs, or just pretty enough to appreciate as a simple snack for yourself. The appreciation really kicks in as the shell glides off the egg!

Follow these steps to easy-peeling hard-boiled eggs:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil (no eggs yet!)
2. When the water boils, using a spoon, gently lower eggs, one at a time, into the pot.
3. Boil for 15 minutes.
4. At 15 minutes, take off heat and, using a slotted spoon, remove eggs and gently submerge into a bowl of ice water.
5. Once the eggs are chilled, crack shells all the way around by tapping on table. Start at a crack, and gently lift shell off egg. The rest of the shell will slide off with a little coaxing.
6. Rinse with cold water to remove any remnant shell.

The big chill..
makes for easy-peeling eggs!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thai Peanut Sauce!

Last night I made Thai peanut sauce, and today used it with whole wheat capellini, chicken, and celery. It was OUTSTANDING! The peanut sauce, made with coconut milk (like opening a can of Hawaii!), natural peanut butter, Thai red curry paste, sugar, salt and vinegar is so very simple to make, and so very delicious! It's creamy-smooth, with enough heat to let you know it's there but in a just-right amount. Now that I know how very simple it is to make this (about 10 minutes, total time), I will use it for so many things. The possibilities are many: My friend Jody, a great and enthusiastic cook, says "It's good on everything. You can even bathe in it! :) Drizzle it on fried rice for a decadent dinner. Make lettuce wraps and top them with peanut sauce. Make crispy chicken, toss it in peanut sauce, and serve it on a bed of lettuce. Stir fry shrimp, snow peas, broccoli, anything you want, and stir in the peanut sauce." - Thanks Jode!

Whole wheat capellini, chicken, celery, and Thai peanut sauce!

Tonight's capellini with chicken and celery was a great way to sample the delicious goodness of Thai peanut sauce. I loved it. And there's so much sauce left (which keeps for weeks in the fridge and freezes well, according to the recipe's author Leela ( and credits the recipe to her own mother. You can find the original recipe and story here.

Meanwhile, here's the recipe. I know you'll love it!
(Leela's text slightly adapted)

One 13.5-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk (I found it in the baking aisle near the evaporated milk)
2 ounces (approximately 1/4 cup) of Thai red curry paste (found it in the International food aisle)
3/4 unsweetened (natural) creamy peanut butter (Do not use regular peanut butter or anything with added emulsifiers.  It must be the type of natural peanut butter that comes with natural peanut oil on top and no sugar added. I often use Smuckers.)
1/2 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar (Do not use white wine, red wine, balsamic or anything else -- not even rice vinegar)
1/2 cup water

1. Put everything into a medium-heavy bottomed pot and bring to a very gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.
2. Let the mixture simmer for 3-5 minutes over low heat; be careful not to let the mixture scorch at the bottom of the pot.
3. Take the pot off the heat, let the sauce cool down to room temperature (or slightly warmer), and serve the sauce with satay or fried tofu (also suggested by my friend Janis S.!)

Note: this peanut sauce keeps in a glass container in the refrigerator for weeks. Refrigerated sauce will thicken up considerably. All you have to do is thin it out with a little bit of water to desired consistency, reheat, and serve. This sauce also freezes beautifully.  - Leela Punyaratabandhu, 

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Want YOUR Comfort Food Recipes!

I do. I want YOUR comfort food recipes. When this blog was started, the original intention was to share recipes from others with the stories and traditions associated with them. When that didn't seem to be happening, the blog took shape in a different way, with me providing recipes and research from other sources, and from my own little cache of goodies. Still, I LOVE to hear people talk about food, about memories, about family and tradition, of good times out and favorite dishes. So, I am asking now for your contributions, and specifically for those recipes for foods you grew up with, that mean something to you, that bring you comfort and warmth on a cold winter day (or any day!).

Please send me your comments and recipes.  You can link here in the comment section or on my Facebook page. I will choose my favorites and post those. If you can attach a photo, even better!

Thank you. I so look forward to seeing what comes in!

Photo credit: 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Two Versions (Light or Not!)

Happy FREEZING Sunday morning from Middle Grove, NY. After days of sub-zero temperatures, we're hovering around 10 degrees F as morning greets us today, but it is supposed to warm to a balmy 30 before the next storm hits us this afternoon with freezing rain and later, more snow. This is January in the great Northeast!!!

On my Facebook page yesterday, I posted a photo of a sour cream coffee cake I made for a wedding brunch today, for a good friend's lovely daughter and son-in-law. That photo (where the recipe was quadrupled for a crowd!) elicited a lot of interest, so today I am posting the recipe (NOT quadrupled!). Originally, this recipe came from Cooking Light Magazine, though for years I have unlightened (sp?) it by using whole eggs and full-fat sour cream because I make it for a hotel and I believe hotel guests like a bit of indulgence! However, the original, lighter version is really good, so I am bringing you the recipe for the full-fat version but with light ingredients in parentheses. Note that the original, linked below under the title of the recipe, includes chopped walnuts which I have not included (allergy concerns for hotel guests). You can bake this light or not, include walnuts or not. I've even stuffed it with cheesecake and blueberries! Go ahead… Make it your way!

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
Single recipe - 8x8 square pan, sprayed with vegetable spray and lined with parchment if you have it
Double recipe - 13x9 pan, also sprayed and lined (or can be baked in a larger bundt pan sprayed with vegetable spray)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Ingredients for single recipe:

1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature ( or 2 egg whites)
1 cup sour cream (or one cup low-fat sour cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup light brown sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Glaze - 1 cup confectioners sugar/water


In large mixer bowl, beat butter with granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add sour ream and vanilla extract, mix well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well on low speed until completely incorporated.

Put half of the batter into prepared pan, spreading to completely cover bottom. Sprinkle with half of brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Top with the rest of the batter and using a butter knife, swirl batter as if you were making a marble cake. Top with remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Bake until cake tests done, when tester or toothpick comes out clean and top bounces back when lightly pressed. It is very important that you know your oven and test accordingly:
8x8 pan - test at 25 minutes, may take 30-35 minutes depending on your oven
13x9 pan - test at 30 minutes, may take 30-40 minutes depending on your oven


Mix confectioners sugar with a tiny bit of water at a time, in a small bowl with a fork, until it's like a thick white glue. Add more water, a drop at a time, until it looks like Elmer's glue! Drizzle over coffee cake with a fork.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

HEALTHY Broccoli Cheddar Soup from Ellie Krieger!

Ellie Krieger's Broccoli Cheddar Soup
from her Web site
When it comes to favorite foods and healthier versions, I always look to Ellie Krieger. She's a wonderful nutritionis/chef with a number of terrific cookbooks and a great Web site.  I own "The Food You Crave" which I have mentioned here on the blog before, writing about such recipes as Sloppy Joes and Pumpkin Muffins.  My Roasted Butternut Squash Mac 'N Cheese was greatly inspired by one of Ellie's recipes.  Ellie knows that we want the foods we want, and she brings those comforting indulgences to us in much more nutrition-friendly renditions.  You CAN indulge without guilt!

Today I bring you Ellie's healthy recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Here in the northeast, we are experiencing a winter storm named Hercules with lots of snow and temperatures hovering at or below zero. I don't know how Herculean this storm is -- just seems like typical winter snow and cold so far -- but a warm bowl of steaming, cheesy soup would really take the chill off! And since we're so new into 2014, trimming that rich, indulgent dish of some of its calories and fat (without even noticing!) is a very good idea!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

2 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup lightly packed, shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large head broccoli, florets and tender part of stems, chopped (6 cups)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

In a small saucepan whisk the milk and flour together until the flour is dissolved. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Then the reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes, until the mixture has thickened. Stir in the cheese and cook until melted, another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the broccoli and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.

Working with about 1 cup at a time, puree the broccoli mixture in a blender until it is mostly smooth but still has some chunks, and then transfer it to another pot. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender). Stir the cheese mixture into the broccoli puree, season with salt and pepper and cook over a medium-low heat for an additional 3-5 minutes, until warmed through.

Makes 4 servings
Serving size: 1 ½ cups

Per Serving:
Calories 290; Total Fat 15 g; (Sat Fat 8 g, Mono Fat 5.2 g, Poly Fat 0.85 g) ; Protein 19 g; Carb 23 g; Fiber 4 g; Cholesterol 35 mg; Sodium 620 mg

Excellent source of: Calcium, Folate, Iodine, Phosphorus, Potassium, Protein, Riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K
Good source of: Copper, Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Pantothenic Acid, Selenium, Niacin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Zinc

Copyright 2011 Ellie Krieger All rights reserved 

Ellie's Web site: