Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mini Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Mini Chocolate Chunk Cookies
I've got several chocolate chip cookie recipes here on this blog--fifteen to be exact. This will make sixteen. I was going to go for my current favorite, Crisp Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies Made Easy, but then I know that my husband prefers softer cookies. So instead of the Crisco, I put in 2 oz. cream cheese and baked them not quite as long. They've only been out of the oven for about 15 minutes, but they are soft, chewy, chocolatey, nutty, and fabulous. I still prefer the crisp ones, but I think I'll manage to eat more than my share of these.
The beauty of these cookies is the way you form them. Smoosh the dough in the pan, refrigerate, cut into cubes, place cubes on pan and bake! Waaay easier than scooping dough. Plus, you can just bake a few at a time to make sure you have fresh cookies for like a week. I've toyed with the idea of freezing the cubes too, so I can just pop the cubes from the freezer onto the pan. I might do that with my remaining dough, but for now, I just have the time to post this yummy recipe.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
     --adapted from Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur 


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar 
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 ½ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 9.5 oz bag Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped & cut into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans (optional)
1. Cream butter, cream cheese, egg, & vanilla in a medium size bowl. (This will take a little while for the wet ingredients to emulsify and turn creamy. It will go from chunky to cottage cheesy to solid and liquid to a nice creamy consistency. Trust me.)
2. In a large bowl, stir together with a whisk the sugars, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour.
3. Combine moist mixture with dry mixture just until it comes together (do not over mix). Add the tablespoon of water at this point and mix until incorporated. Add the chocolate chunks and pecans. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper and press dough into the pan. Place wax paper or plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dough. Refrigerate dough two hours or over night. 
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. With a sharp knife, cut dough into approximately half-inch cubes and place cubes, 1 1/2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
5. Bake 7-8 minutes, or until puffed and light brown around the edges.
Makes about 13-14 dozen little cookies.

Monday, April 28, 2014


Quick and easy focaccia

I wrote a post on focaccia a few years ago when I started this blog, but I didn't actually type out the recipe. I just had the link to KingArthurFlour.com. These pictures are a little better, and I also wrote the recipe below exactly as I made it. I suppose you could mix it up and add other things, but this is what I did.
This bread is super easy, and is ready in less than two hours with very little work. Most of that two hours is for rising and baking. The bread is soft and thick, and with all of the garlic salt I put on and in mine, it's pretty salty--not too salty, but fabulously salty. Tonight this was a side dish for my first attempt at homemade meatballs with spaghetti. It also made a very tasty lunch for me today at work.
If you're new to the bread-making scene, give this one a try. I think the only way you can mess it up is if your water is too hot. Always better to err on the side of your water being too cool as opposed to too hot. If it hurts your fingers to touch the water, by the way, it's too hot.
Anyway, here you go. Try it. You'll like it.

    --adapted from KingArthurFlour.com

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, plus more for top and bottom
  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon (approx) Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or olive oil)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, put in the water, oil, salt, garlic salt, flour, yeast, and Parmesan cheese. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened and then mix on high for about 1 minute. Remove paddle attachment, scraping off as much dough as you can. Allow dough to rest while you prepare the pan (makes it easier to spread the dough in the pan).
Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan with the 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable/olive oil. Sprinkle the bottom with a little of the Italian seasoning and garlic salt. 
Scrape dough into the greased pan, and with greased fingers push and gently pull dough around to evenly spread it into the pan as close to the edges as you can. Set dough to rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
When dough has risen, with a greased finger, poke holes all over the top of the dough, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and a little more garlic salt.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a nice deep golden brown color on top.
Serve hot or warm.
Makes about 12 servings

Meatballs for Spaghetti

Yummy homemade meatballs
I served the meatballs over spaghetti noodles and with homemade focaccia.

I have no idea why, but last night I decided to finally, at age 44, attempt to make homemade meatballs. I know. What took me so long? They're so easy, and so good. My 13 year old son ate too many, and the rest of us thoroughly enjoyed our reasonably sized servings. These are the perfect texture with the right balance of flavors and salt. Mmm. Perfect first attempt at meatballs. This recipe is definitely being put into my regular dinner rotation--that is, if I had one, it would go in--I will be making these again.
The original recipe called for a pound of ground pork and a pound of ground beef, but I didn't want that many meatballs, and I only had ground beef, so that's what I used.  At any rate, another success story courtesy of  AllRecipes.com. Sorry, Chef John, if I messed with your beautiful recipe too much, but I couldn't have made this tasty meal without you.
Oh, and I had no spaghetti sauce on hand, and I was not about to try making some from scratch, so I used what I had: pizza sauce and tomato sauce. It worked, and I'll be doing it again.

Meatballs for Spaghetti
   --adapted from AllRecipes.com

  • 3 tablespoons Italian breadcrumbs (I used gluten free bread crumbs made from Gluten Free French Sandwich Rolls.)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound ground round (90/10)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14 oz. jar Classico Pizza Sauce
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

In a medium sized bowl, soak the breadcrumbs and milk for about 10 minutes while you chop the onion and garlic.
In a frying pan that you'll also use to fry the meatballs, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent, but not browned. Add the chopped garlic and stir for about one minute. Transfer onions and garlic to a small bowl to cool.
Into the milk and breadcrumbs, mix the egg, dried parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and Parmesan cheese. Add the ground beef and cooled onions/garlic. Gently mix with your hand until completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.
Wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Form the meat mixture into balls that are about the size of golf balls. 
Preheat pan over a medium heat. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and place meatballs evenly in the pan. Cover lightly with a lid or foil. When you can see that the meat is starting to cook and brown, gently turn meatballs with a small spatula. Turn, cover, and cook until meatballs are browned and juice is starting to run out. Turn the heat down if meatballs are browning too quickly.
When meatballs are pretty much cooked through, add the pizza sauce and tomato sauce. Rinse the jar and can with the 1/2 cup water and pour into pan. Gently stir meatballs and sauce. Turn heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes while you prepare noodles and sides.

Makes 4-6 servings (about 12-13 meatballs)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Carrot Cake a la Rhonda

Carrot Cake a la Rhonda

I've had this recipe for probably seven years, and I'm just now getting around to baking it. It comes from an awesome woman who used to go to our church, until she and her family moved out to the country. She made this for one of our church picnics, and I just remember it being the most delicious carrot cake I've ever eaten: moist, flavorful, tender, but full of texture, with a perfect cream cheese frosting. Mmmm... I really don't know what's taken me so long to bake one myself.
The cake turned out as delicious as I remember. With all of the carrot, coconut, and pineapple, it's a pretty dense, moist cake. With the cream cheese frosting, it's a non-chocolate winner.

Carrot Cake a la Rhonda 

 Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 pound (about 3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon with a whisk. Set aside

In another medium size bowl, combine the coconut, grated carrots, and chopped nuts. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream oil, sugar and eggs.  Add the flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon mixture and mix well. Blend coconut, carrots, pineapple and nuts. Add to mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

While cake cools, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla together until smooth and creamy. Frost cooled cake.

I store mine covered in the fridge because of the cream cheese frosting, although I'm not sure how necessary refrigeration is. 

Makes 8-12 servings

A simple pan cake made a little fancier with some attention to the frosting.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pita Bread

Easy and delicious home made Pita Bread

I'm sick this weekend. Very sick. High fever. I wanted bread. Pita bread is easy. This is it. It is delicious. Hit the spot. I used all of my energy to make it and type up the recipe. 

Pita Bread
    --Adapted from KingArthurFlour.com


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix all of the dry ingredents with a whisk. Add the oil and water. Mix dough on a low speed until it starts to come together into a shaggy dough.
Allow the mixer to knead the dough for 5 minutes on medium to medium-high. When dough is done being kneaded, form it into a nice ball, place in the bottom of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
When dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean cutting board and divide into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a neat ball. Cover balls of dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Then, roll each ball out into a disk, about 6-7 inches in diameter.
Place 3 disks onto a pizza peel (if you are going to bake pitas on a pizza stone) or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow disks to rest for about 11-15 minutes before baking. Slide disks onto pizza stone or place baking sheet in oven. Bake for 4 minutes on pizza stone or 5 minutes on the baking sheet, until pitas are puffed and browned.
Remove to a cooling rack to cool.
Continue rolling, resting, and baking dough until all are baked.
Makes 8 pitas

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fried Zucchini (Gluten Free)

Gluten Free Fried Zucchini

Lately I've had a craving for fried zucchini. In California, Carl's Jr. sells these, and I usually get those instead of fries to go with my Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich. I live in Iowa now, though, so although we have a fast food restaurant with the same happy star logo, we do NOT have fast food fried zucchini. Sigh.
So, today, I decided to just make some myself. I'm attempting to go gluten free these days, so I made the bread crumbs with the Gluten Free French Sandwich Rolls I make weekly for my son. I also made sure to make fresh Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing because it's the best. I did not want to chance being dissatisfied with my fried zucchini. I was already unsure I could pull off something that would satisfy my craving.
Well, it all worked out beautifully, and I think I'm just calling this experiment "dinner" for tonight because I ate SO MANY. Ugh. So satisfying, though. They were crunchy, hot and tender on the inside, and with the ranch dressing...oh my goodness. Just what I was shooting for. Because of the seasoning and the frying, I can't even tell that these are gluten free. That doesn't make them any healthier, but I don't care about that today. Nope, today I have satisfied a craving that Hardees could not.
I looked up several fried zucchini recipes, but didn't follow one in particular, so I'm not putting in a "adapted from" line. Maybe I'm growing up. Or maybe I'm just too lazy to mention all of the websites/blogs I looked at today. At any rate, give thse a try. You will not be disappointed.

Fried Zucchini


  • 1 pound (2 medium) zucchinis
  • 1/2 cup Better Batter Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups gluten free bread crumbs (2 Gluten Free French Sandwich Rolls made into crumbs in a food processor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup grated (powdery) Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 inch canola oil in a high-rimmed frying pan
  • salt to taste

Wash and trim the ends off the zucchinis. Cut zucchinis into 1/4- inch circles (I used a wavy cutter for this). Set aside.
Mix the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small shallow dish.
Beat the eggs and place in another small shallow dish.
Mix the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning Parmesan cheese, and pepper in a medium shallow dish.
Working with about three zucchini circles at a time, dredge circles in the salted flour and shake off excess flour.
Dip in the egg, and then place on the bread crumbs. Gently cover zucchini circles with crumbs and pat gently. Turn each circle over and do the same to ensure a nice coating. Place coated circles in a single layer on a clean cookie sheet.
Repeat with remaining zucchini circles.
Line a cooling rack with paper towels.
Heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a fork, carefully place zucchini circles in the oil, being careful to not crowd them. Fry until a nice medium golden brown color on both sides. Remove fried zucchini to paper towels to drain and cool. Continue frying the remaining zucchini.
Serve with fresh ranch dressing.
Makes about 4 servings

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