Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Match Made in Heaven {Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies}

As many of you probably know, I am a sad sucker for anything that combines my two favorite sweet loves: chocolate (in almost any form) and peanut butter (the creamy form, most often). Recent example: I sampled the new flavor of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (my favorite candy, bythe way- duh!): Reese's DARK. I bless you, inventor of new flavor, whoever you may be! I could barely concentrate on my Scrabble game with hubby, I was so intent on enjoying every morsel of that treat (to my credit, I unselfishly gave the second cup to hubby to try even though he's not a fan of Dark chocolate!). :) Anyway, since that's not the focus of this blog post, I'll move on...
The pleasant discovery I'm about to recount began as most pleasant discoveries do...with a dilemma. On a whim last month, I picked up a bag of white chocolate morsels on my usual grocery trip, thinking maybe I could try making one of my favorite cookies, white chocolate macadamia nut, for church or Bible study one of these days. However, when I finally found the nuts, they astounded me! $12.60 per lb! I quickly decided I did not want to spend quite that much on nuts, but left the morsels in my cart, hoping I could figure out an agreeable alternative. Now, 3 weeks or so later, I still hadn't used the white chips. So, Thursday morning, in preparation for our evening home group, I racked my brain for a cookie I could throw together including my white chips. And, if any of you ladies are like me, you know what I mean when I say that it was one of those days when I knew it had to be chocolate. And not just white chocolate. There had to be real, chocolaty chocolate involved. And, because of my recent joyful discovery of the goodness of Simply Jiff peanut butter, I soon determined it, too, had a part to play. So, as usual, I scoured the internet for a recipe which would have a chocolate peanut butter dough and white chocolate chips. Sounded fabulous to me. But I couldn't find it. Chocolate dough with white chips. Peanut butter dough with chocolate chips. Peanut butter dough with white chips. Chocolate dough with peanut butter chips and white chips. I was getting frustrated when finally I lighted on a blog called "BrownEyedBaker"- ah, here was the girl for me. :) Her "Salted Double Chocolate Peanut Butter" cookie recipe wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but it was close enough to tweak. I would simply leave out the peanuts and chocolate chips and put in my white chips. See, I could even still call them "Double Chocolate"! :) They look marvelously fudgy and...ooh, I could almost taste them!

So, I pulled out my ingredients, donned my apron, and started listening to my audio book, as I often do in the kitchen. Baking cookies is such a relaxing exercise for me, and when I try something different, it just adds a new element of fun!
First, of course, I mixed the dry ingredients together, using a whisk (which, by the way, is not just for beating eggs anymore! Works very well at blending flours and other dry stuff!). Mmm...cocoa powder...

Then I whipped the butter well, added the sugars and peanut butter (yum!) and followed the directions to blend it for about three minutes until it was light and fluffy and a lovely tan color.

Then the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla- 2 teaspoons (another reason to like the BrownEyedBaker- I follow my sister-in-law's advice, and usually use 2 instead of 1 tsp of vanilla in my cookies and other desserts)!
After combining the wet and dry ingredients, the dough was a fabulous fudge consistency and I plopped a few chip-less mounds on the cookies sheet (we have an older man at our study whom I spoil a bit by complying with his aversion to any cookies with chips in them!). That done, I eagerly stirred in the white chips. I love the color contrast of the white in the deliciously dark dough!

A couple of little nibbles told me this was going to be a winner! The peanut butter and the chocolate perfectly balanced each other for an amazing taste combination, and the creamy white chocolate served to delicately mellow out the otherwise decadent dough. Sigh.
I was a little surprised to find that, due to the consistency of the dough, the cookies hardly changed shape in the oven at all! They remained dense little lumps, and were a bit deceptive as to whether they were cooked through or not, but when pressed, revealed doneness. So, be advised, they don't have to look done to be done.
They say the proof is in the pudding, but with cookies, I say the proof is on the plate! By the end of our Bible study, the nearly empty serving plate, as well as a few compliments, proved I'm not the only one who appreciates a good match of excellent flavor!

with my tweaks (for the original recipe, click on the link above)
makes about 40 cookies

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's!)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I'm in love with Simply Jiff!)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (or however much you like) white chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)

Preheat oven to 350.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Beat together butter, peanut butter and both sugars with mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in chips with a rubber spatula.
Drop onto cookie sheets by heaping tablespoons, about 2 in. apart.
Bake about 11 minutes, until sides are set and middles are still soft.
Devour. If you're feeling particularly unselfish, share.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monthly Menu- May

Well, I can hardly believe it! 3 posts in 24 hours?? It's just a fluke, I'm sure...haha, I just finally had some time to sit down and do it! This monthly menu is not really going to be the whole month, just the remaining two weeks, since I'm so late in getting it out! We have been travelling a lot, so my menu has been a little messed up lately. It could still change, but here is my PLAN.... :)

Week 3 (May 17-21)

Panda Express :)
We got home Tuesday evening from our trip to Oregon for my friend Amy's wedding, so on our way through Spokane we stopped for dinner.
A deliciously fresh salad. Served with rolls and grapes.
Sloppy Joes & Pasta Salad
This is a fantastic and easy homemade sloppy joe recipe. You'll never eat Manwich again! Plus, a new pasta salad recipe from we'll see if we like it!
Minestrone Soup
We'll be gone most of the day at a funeral, so it should be nice to have this in the crock pot, though it's not really soup weather! Got the recipe from
Waffles with all the trimmings and bacon
My Daddy's recipe for old time waffles, served with strawberries, whipped cream and mini chocolate chips!

Week 4 (May 24-28)

BBQ Roast with Potatoes
I have a roast in the freezer I need to use, so I'm going to try this recipe shared by my sister-in-law.
Corn & Chicken Chowder
Yum! Maybe with corn muffins or biscuits?
Lemon-Pepper Tilapia with Brown Rice and Salad
Leftover Roast
Maybe on hamburger buns? With fruit?

Week 5 (May 31-?)

Spicy Garlic Lime Chicken with Potatoes
A delicious pan fried chicken with a kick!

Other treats:
I know I'm making cookies for our church's new "Cookie Fellowship" this Sunday, and I'm either going to do oatmeal raisin walnut or white chocolate chip.

A Taste of Summer (Barbecue Chicken Salad)

Yesterday was a beautiful day! The sunshine, singing birds, blooming flowers and warm temperature allowed me to finally put away thoughts of winter and look ahead to the warm season approaching. In fact, I got so caught up in the feeling, I donned my summer skirt and tank top and set to work making the switch in my closet. I brought down all my summer clothes from the box upstairs and happily bagged up the sweaters and heavy coats I have grown tired of wearing. How delightful it is to put away heavy material and dark colors and exchange them for light cottons, bright colors and floral prints!
Waffles were on the menu for dinner, but with the sun streaming in the window and the hour or so spent sunbathing on my porch, I simply couldn't bring myself to fix something so heavy. So, switching with a different day, I prepared a fairly new recipe find, "Amy's Barbecue Chicken Salad" (another one from the cookbook!). It is fresh and light and full of flavor!
Since we don't have a barbecue yet, the last time I made this salad, I grilled the chicken on my George Foreman grill.

This time, however, I pan fried it. I'm sure it would be very tasty right off the grill, and I hope to try it that way one of these days! The recipe doesn't call for any seasoning on the chicken, but I sprinkled mine with a Barbecue seasoning from my Grandpa's company's line of seasonings: Dean's Natural Grill. Yum!
While the chicken was cooking, I washed a head of green leaf lettuce and chopped it and also a bunch of cilantro.

The recipe calls for a head of green leaf lettuce and a head of red leaf lettuce, but I leave the red out since Travis and I are only 2 people! The original recipe serves 8 as a side (Probably about 6 as a main dish). I forgot the tomato this time, so I went without, but I wish I had had one on hand! I also opened a can of corn and a can of black beans. I mixed all this together in a big salad bowl then added the chopped chicken. You could also serve the chicken on top of the salad in slices, if you like. I like mine mixed in.

Now for what goes on top! Instead of putting French fried onions on the whole salad, I sprinkle them on our individual servings, because if there are any leftovers, the onions get soggy. Then I mix together the dressing, a half and half combination of ranch and barbecue sauce.

I always use Hidden Valley Ranch and "Sweet Baby Ray's" barbecue sauce because of course, "the sauce is the boss!" :) We also save the dressing for our individual servings, for the same reason I mentioned before. For just the two of us, I halve the dressing recipe as well (the original makes 1 cup of dressing which is just too much for only one head of lettuce!).
This is a meal in itself, so you can serve it alone, or with some warm rolls or fresh fruit. It is a fresh, crispy taste of summer!

Amy's Barbecue Chicken Salad
(printable version)
by "Amyeh" on
serves 8 as a side, 4 to 6 as a main dish

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 head red leaf lettuce, rinsed and torn
1 head green leaf lettuce, rinsed and torn
1 fresh tomato, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 2.8 oz. can French fried onions
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup barbecue sauce

Preheat grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place chicken on the grill and cook 6 min. per side, or until juices run clear. (You can also bake, fry or indoor grill the chicken- you decide!) Remove from heat, cool and slice (or chop!).
In a large bowl, mix the lettuces, tomato, cilantro, corn and black beans. Top with chicken and French fried onions.
In a small bowl, mix dressing and sauce. Serve on the side as a dipping sauce or toss with the salad to coat.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pounded, Stuffed, Wrapped & Devoured (Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts)

Last week my longtime best friend, Kate, came up to visit me. It was so fun and special having her here and I am so glad she took the time to come all the way up to our out-of-the-way corner of Washington! Kate and I enjoy a lot of the same things, a few being quality coffee, Scrabble, chocolate, classic literature and, last but not nearly least: good food. So I thought it would be fun to try a new recipe together! Last year when she visited we tried making manicotti. Mmm! This time around I chose something different, a new recipe from the cookbook: Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts (which we decided needs a much more imaginative and elegant name!). How could you go wrong with a recipe that consisted of chicken breast stuffed with spinach, sour cream, pepper jack cheese and garlic and...wait for it...wrapped in bacon?? I decided it was a must on our agenda of things to do.
It was a beautiful day. So after a walk in the sunshine and a very competitive game of Scrabble played outside on our picnic table (which I won, thank you!) we got to work on our masterpieces. I had never pounded chicken before, but Kate had, so she counseled me on which instrument to use (I have no meat pounder). We decided that the bottom of a small frying pan would work just as well and it did.

I placed the thawed chicken breast between some plastic wrap and gave it a few whacks with the pan. Surprisingly, it only took a few thumps to flatten the chicken to the specified 1/2 an inch.

We later reflected that it probably could have been a bit thinner, as it seemed to spring back somewhat after a little while.
While I pounded away, making a good racket, Kate wilted the fresh spinach in the microwave, stirring every minute or so until it was limp. Then she added sour cream, minced garlic and shredded Tillamook pepper jack cheese.

This part was when it was very nice to have 4 hands involved! While I held the chicken breast, Kate scooped the filling inside and tucked it in here and there. Then while I wrapped the whole thing in two slices of bacon, she secured it with toothpicks. The chicken didn't quite wrap completely around the filling (which is why we should probably have pounded a little more...), but with the bacon it was secure and close enough! With the toothpicks sticking out all over we joked that they look like little space creatures! We placed them into an 8x8 pan, and there was little room to spare.

While they were cooking we prepared brown rice and a green salad. When I checked on the chicken later, I noticed there was a lot of liquid in the pan (presumably from the sour cream, spinach and cheese), but Kate & I decided this probably helped to keep the chicken moist. The recipe said to turn the oven up to 500 for the last 10 minutes of cooking time to crisp the bacon, which I did, but it still didn't seem crisp enough, so I removed the chicken from the pan and put it on a cookie sheet and returned it to the oven for another 5 minutes or so at that high heat. It came out perfectly!

When we took our first bites there were sounds of enjoyment all around the table. It was sooo good! The combination of flavors was excellent and the textures were also wonderful! We even drizzled the flavorful liquid from the pan over our rice, and it was delicious. Kate and I looked at each other and grinned. "This one's a keeper, don't you think?" She nodded, "Definitely."

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast
(printable version)
by "Jerseygirl_Chell" on
serves 4

1 (10 oz) package of fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2 in. thickness
1 pinch ground black pepper
8 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 375.
Place spinach in a large glass bowl, and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes, stirring every minute or so, or until wilted. Stir in sour cream, pepperjack cheese, and garlic.
Lay the chicken breasts out on a clean surface, and spoon some of the spinach mixture onto each one. Roll up the chicken to enclose the spinach, then wrap each chicken breast with two slices of bacon. Secure with toothpicks and arrange seam side down in a shallow baking dish.
Bake uncovered for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, then increase heat to 500 or use the oven's broiler to cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to brown the bacon (I removed the chicken from the pan and put it on a cookie sheet after this and cooked it another 5 min. or so at the high temp.).
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