Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Peaches & Cream Oatmeal

I don't know about you, but I have fantastic childhood memories revolving around those itty bitty packets of Quaker Oats instant oatmeal. We LOVED those as kids. In fact, I still love them.

For our family, those were usually a special treat reserved for our annual camping trip (other special treats included Spam, Svenhard's Danish pastries, sugary cold cereal from those fun little boxes, Dinty Moore stew, etc.). They were also a staple breakfast item at my great-grandma's house. She kept strictly to the Apples & Cinnamon flavor. I've loved just about every flavor I've tried, especially the "& Cream" varieties (with perhaps the exception of "Bananas & Cream").

Recently when Hubby and I took our own camping trip, I couldn't help but snag a box of the "& Cream" instant oatmeal packets. They were of course fantastic (I avoided the banana). One day when I was enjoying the "Peaches & Cream" variety, I stirred in a few chopped ripe peaches (a great idea, by the way) and that got my wheels turning.

So back at home, I created my own homemade version of "Peaches & Cream" oatmeal. It isn't instant, mind you, but it is delicious. No powdered "cream" or dehydrated peaches here- this is the real stuff. And boy, is it good. I used peaches that I had previously peeled, sliced and frozen (no thawing necessary), but I think it will work equally as well with fresh or canned peaches. Another bonus to making your own is that you can adjust the portion size! This recipe makes a pretty hearty 2 person meal and is perfect for these chilly fall mornings!

Homemade Peaches & Cream Oatmeal
by Jenn
makes 2 hearty servings

3 cups water
dash salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup chopped peaches
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 TB brown sugar
2 TB heavy cream or half and half

Bring water and salt to boiling in a small saucepan. Stir in oats and peaches and reduce to medium heat. 
Cook 5-8 min., stirring occasionally, or until most of the liquid is absorbed (or until it reaches desired consistency- remember the oatmeal will thicken somewhat as it cools). 
Remove from heat and stir in spices and brown sugar. Stir in cream.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Funfetti Cookies {Happy Birthday to Me!}

Just thought I'd make sure you know that today is my birthday! Hooray!

And just in case you're wondering, no, I really don't care that I'm going to be 26 this year- I still love birthdays! As long as they include forms of chocolate, coffee, cake and presents, I will always LOVE birthdays. I don't really care whose birthday it is. But mine is always nice, cause then the presents are for ME.

I think I might possibly get this crazy love of birthdays from my family, where a birthday is looked upon as practically a national holiday. So mark your calendar, peeps. This one's mine.

I usually don't make myself anything special for my birthday...the last couple of years Hubby and I have gone out to dinner and he has made me a cake, sweet, thoughtful husband that he is.

But when I found out that I was going to need to bring the cookies for our church's "Cookie Fellowship" I decided it was time for some "Happy Birthday to Me" cookies. Not that I broadcasted that to everyone at church. But for my part, I gave myself some besprinkled cookie love. For a dreary, rainy fall day, these color-popping, irresistibly happy looking funfetti cookies were just perfect.

So whether or not it's your birthday (or anyone else's for that matter), have some sprinkles!

Funfetti Cookies
slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
makes about 3 dozen

1 cup butter, room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup mulit-colored sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 375.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer for about 2 min., or until fluffy. Add vanilla, almond, and egg. Beat until well combined.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and whisk together.
Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed until all is incorporated. Gently stir in sprinkles (do not overmix or they will begin to bleed into dough).
Form dough into 1-1/2 in. balls and place on cookie sheet. Slightly flatten each ball using the palm of your hand.
Bake 8-10 min. or until just set. Do not overbake or cookies will be crispy. Cool completely on wire rack.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sweet Potato Breakfast Biscuits

Every once in awhile, it's fun to have breakfast for dinner. We don't do big breakfasts a lot- usually only on Mondays when it's Hubby's day off and we have a leisurely morning. Otherwise, it's a bran muffin and greek yogurt for me and cold cereal for him. Aren't we exciting?

So anyway, that's why I've decided Saturdays are now "breakfast for dinner night". There are just too many great breakfast foods to pass up, so they're moving to the night shift!

Our first in the Saturday breakfast series this month is a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, How Sweet It Is- she always cracks me up and leaves me drooling with her quirky humor and drop-dead-gorgeous photos. This recipe was no exception! Stuff a little bit of sweet potato in a fluffy, tender biscuit, top with pristine poached eggs, bacon (of course), cheese and whatever else your little heart desires, and you've got yourself a mighty tasty breakfast sandwich.

Putting the amazing flavor and texture of a sweet potato in a biscuit is pure genius, and of course, I am a little bit obsessed with poached eggs these days so we know that was a major attraction. There is just something so totally irresistible about those pretty little white packages that spill forth golden goodness at the slightest invitation. Sigh.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Biscuits
adapted slightly from How Sweet It Is
makes 10 biscuits

1 medium sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 TB sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 TB butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup milk
To make breakfast biscuits add poached eggs, bacon, cheese and spread of choice

Preheat oven to 425.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine. Add butter and use a pastry blender to cut in till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk and sweet potato, using your hands if necessary, to blend dough together. 
Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 in. thickness. Cut using a floured glass or biscuit cutter and place onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 min. or until biscuits are puffy and golden. While biscuits are baking, prepare your breakfast sandwich ingredients. Assemble and enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Pumpkin Day!

Today is pumpkin day!! Hooray! I couldn't be happier than to devote a whole day to celebrating the creamy sweet goodness of that delightfully round orange squash. You can't turn around this time of year without bumping into something (edible or no) that is either bedecked, bedazzled or bestuffed with pumpkin and this post is no exception. I present for your inspection and culinary enjoyment, 6 scrumptious pumpkin recipes. Do you have a favorite to share? Please leave me a link (or the recipe!) in the comments! Have fun!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Double Chocolate Mint Cookies

I was so excited a couple of weeks ago when Hubby came home from helping out at the Food Bank with two beautiful bags of Hershey's chocolate mint chips! These are not always easy to find in stores, so it of course got me thinking about all the scrumptious things I could make.

First off, I checked the back of the bag since Hershey's always has amazing recipes on their packaging. Sure enough "Double Chocolate Mint Cookies" just leapt off the bag and into my oven! Well, okay so maybe it didn't happen quite like that, but it might as well have. Just under my fanatical love of the chocolate/peanut butter combo is the absolutely genius marriage of chocolate and mint. Mint especially shines on a backdrop of rich, super chocolaty chocolate.

Like these cookies. The dough is dense and fudgy and rich, and there is even more chocolate in the chips themselves!

So what do you think I should make with the second bag?

Double Chocolate Mint Cookies
by Hershey's
makes about 2 1/2 doz.

2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups (1 10 oz. pkg.) Hershey's Mint Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 350.
Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well.
Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well.
Stir in mint chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 9 min. or just until set- do not overbake. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chicken Divan

I think the cooler weather makes me more prone to go back to those old, familiar recipes that have been tried and tested and loved for years on end, especially those that remind me of cooking with my mom or celebrating birthdays (always a big deal in our house).

This particular casserole (affectionately renamed "Chicken Curry" by our family) was a favorite of my older brother and I think he requested it for his birthday dinner every year that I can remember. It was also a "company dinner" staple, being all fancy with the slivered almonds on top and easy to make enough for a crowd. The broccoli and chicken in a creamy curry-tinged sauce is perfectly paired with the crunchy cheesy-almond topping.

I still have vivid snapshots of memories stirring the sauce, chopping the chicken, pouring steaming broccoli into the baking dish, grating the cheese and tearing up the bread for the topping. So not only is this a tasty, satisfying meal, it also holds those special memory triggers reserved for the beloved foods of our childhood.

That being said, I did however, lighten it up just a teensy bit. As a kid I thought nothing of dumping a heaping scoop of mayo into this delectable dish, but as I am a little bit more health conscious (and, let's be honest, the main reason was because my mayo jar was almost empty) I decided to sub the mayo for fat free greek yogurt. Zero fat, plus great proteins and other good-for-you stuff and I couldn't taste the difference. Still the same great creamy sauce! Yay!

Chicken Divan
serves 4-6

1 10 oz. package of frozen broccoli
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup mayo or greek yogurt
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 TB melted butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup slivered almonds
Hot cooked rice

Preheat oven to 350. Cook broccoli according to package directions.
Place broccoli in greased 8x8 pan. Layer chicken over broccoli.
In a medium bowl, combine mayo (or yogurt), soup, lemon juice and curry and mix until well blended. Pour over chicken. In another bowl, combine butter, bread crumbs, cheese and almonds and mix. Sprinkle over the top of other ingredients.
Bake 45 min to an hour or until sauce is bubbly and topping is golden. Serve over hot cooked rice, if desired.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

{Crock-Pot} Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

Do remember a couple of days ago when I was going on about yummy, comforting soup recipes?

Well, here you go!

This soup is not only totally healthy- packed with veggies- but it also contains CHEESE and is thereby amazing. It's sort of a take on broccoli cheddar soup, but with way more vegetables (count 'em- 6!- if garlic counts as a vegetable!) AND I converted it for the crock pot. Of course.

So. Go make yourself some.

Oh, and while it's in the crock pot, get all domestic and whip up some of this fantastically easy Italian bread!

Crock-Pot Cheesy Vegetable Chowder
adapted from Lulu the Baker
serves about 6

2 TB butter
1 med. onion
1 cup chopped carrots
2 celery sticks, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium broccoli crowns, chopped into small florets
3 14 oz. cans chicken broth (about 6 cups)
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 TB flour
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk
2 heaping cups of cheddar cheese, shredded (I used a blend of extra sharp white cheddar and medium  cheddar)

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and saute until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 or 2 minutes more. Place onion mixture in crock pot. Add broccoli and potatoes; pour in broth, add bay leaf and salt and pepper. In a small jar, combine flour and water and shake vigorously to combine. Stir into crock pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
Before serving, remove bay leaf, then remove about half of soup from crock pot and puree the other half using an immersion or "stick" blender (this can also be done in batches in a blender) to your desired consistency. Stir in reserved soup, milk and cheese and heat until hot and cheese is melted.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meals for a Month {October/November}

Okay so I'm in full-on fall mode! Having had my Dutch Bros. pumpkin spice latte, hunted for squash in the supermarket, filled the crock-pot with soul-warming soup goodness, crunched leaves beneath my feet on my way to the post office (and Instagramed a picture of the gorgeous tree dropping said leaves of course), and burned cinnamon smelling candles in my home, I think I more than qualify as one of the fall-embracers. If there's one thing I totally love about fall it's the soup. I look so forward to our Wednesday nights coming home exhausted and yet hyped up from Awana to a delicious smelling home and a bowl full of warm goodness. Whether it's beef stew, chicken barley soup, some kind of creamy vegetable or spicy chicken tortilla, I'm a sucker for the warm soups this cold season brings.

Week 1 (Oct. 16-20)

Chicken Divon with Rice
Upside Down Mexican Pot Pie

Week 2 (Oct. 23-27)

Crock Pot Chicken Tacos

Week 3 (Oct. 30-Nov. 3)

Chicken Paprikash with Noodles

Week 4 (Nov. 6-10)


Friday, October 12, 2012

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies

What could be more natural to pair with a soft, spicy molasses cookie than a healthy dose of pumpkin?


These cookies are flavored fabulously with creamy pumpkin puree, which of course gives them a beautiful golden-orange hue, but definitely maintain their identity as molasses spice cookies. Besides the healthy heaping tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, a dash of black pepper gives them a delightful kick!

After a crisp, cool day of romping through the leaves, roaming the pumpkin patch or trick-or-treating, treat yourself to a cup of tea and a couple of these soft, comforting cookies that look and taste like a beautiful bite of fall.

Pumpkin Molasses Cookies
makes 24-32 cookies (depending on size)

2 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 TB pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp black pepper
8 TB butter, room temp
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar for rolling

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or an electric mixer), beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and pumpkin puree and beat for 2 min., scraping down the sides as needed. Add the egg and beat for 1 more minute. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until the flour and spices disappear. Dough will be very soft and sticky.
Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic wrap. Freeze at least 30 min. or refrigerate at least 1 hour. The dough is sticky, so the longer time it has to chill, it will be easier to work with.
Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment or spray with cooking spray.
Put the sugar in a small bowl. Working with one half of dough at a time, divide it into 12-16 pieces (each piece should be about a heaping TB). Roll each piece into a ball and roll each ball in sugar to coat. Place on baking sheet- do not overcrowd. Using your palm or the bottom of a glass, flatten each ball slightly.
Bake 12-14 min. or until the top feels set to the touch. Cool 5 min. on the sheet, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with second batch of dough.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mom's Hamburger Stroganoff

As the temperatures drop, a definite craving for warm comforting foods begins to emerge. One of my husband's (and mine!) all time favorite comfort-foods is his mom's recipe for hamburger stroganoff.

This delicious pasta dish was passed down to me when I joined the family as the newest Mrs. Cochran and not only is it affordable and quick, it is creamy and simply soul-warming!

Mom's Hamburger Stroganoff
serves about 4

1 lb. hamburger
4 TB chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 whole bay leaves
4 cups egg noodles
8 oz. sour cream

Brown the hamburger. In another pan, melt butter over medium heat and add onion. Saute until just done. Add both cans of soup plus 3/4 of a can of water for each. Bring to a boil. Add hamburger, noodles and bay leaves. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 15-20 min. or until noodles are tender. Stir in sour cream just before serving.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Buckeye Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Okay, you all know that the marriage of peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite things ever. So we won't go over that.

But have you ever had a buckeye? Not the actual nut, but the delectable candy made to resemble it?

Someday I need to make them myself and post the recipe here because ohmygoodness they are so yummy! A beautiful expression of the aforementioned perfect pairing.

So, these cookies.

Buckeye cookies!! Peanut butter cup cookies!! Whatever you want to call them, with a fudgy chocolate outside, concealing a creamy, sweet, peanut buttery filling, seriously, how could you go wrong?

Oh, and you want a confession? I actually was short on peanut butter when I made these, and I substituted Nutella for the peanut butter in the chocolate dough!

Buckeye Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2  cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Set aside a dish of sugar for rolling.
With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together butter, sugars and peanut butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, mix together peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth.
Take about a heaping TB of cookie dough and flatten in with your hands. Take about a tsp of peanut butter filling and place it in the center of the chocolate dough. Wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter center, pressing to seal. Roll the cookie into a ball and roll in sugar to coat. Place on baking sheet about 2 in. apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with the palm of your hand.
Bake 7 to 9 min. Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 min., then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup

Three important words.




Oh, and Tillamook.

I guess that's four. Oops.

I highly recommend Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar in this recipe (or in any other possible way you may want to use cheese)! It has long been a favorite of fact, if the truth be told, when hubby and I were engaged, he gave me a 2 lb. block of Tillamook Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar (would TVWESC be a good acronym?) for our first Valentine's Day! Now before you cleverly protest that that's awfully cheesy let it be known that I was extremely pleased to find that my man already knew me so well. I was ecstatic to have a whole 2 lb. of that incredibly sharp goodness to myself and he knew it!!

So anyway, back to the soup. Were we ever talking about soup? Oh, well, we should have been. This soup is amazing.

Almost unreal. Especially since it contains a vegetable I never eat! Again, like the broccoli incident, I think that roasting worked it's magic on the cauliflower. Along with the aforementioned cheese of course.

In any case, hubby (who is not in the broccoli-lover's club by any means) loved it as much as I did- we pretty much slurped up the whole pot of it. Yes, all four servings. Hey, it's veggies, right?

Oh, and also! I got these adorable new soup mugs on our recent trip to Wallowa Lake- one of the gift shops there carried my dining set brand in a beautiful variety of colors. I fell in love with the blue soup mugs and I think they go beautifully with my cream colored plates, don't you?

Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup
adapted slightly from Closet Cooking
serves 4

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper

1 TB oil
1 med. onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp thyme
3 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth, if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups aged white cheddar (Tillamook recommended)
1 cup milk or cream (I used a combination of both)
salt and pepper
6-8 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 400. Toss cauliflower florets in oil along with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet. Roast 20-30 min., stirring halfway through, or until cauliflower is browning.
Heat the 1 TB oil in a large saucepan on med. heat. Saute onion 5-7 min. or until tender. Add garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about 1 min.
Add broth and cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 20 min. (Slow cooker option: at this point, move onion/garlic mixture to slow cooker. Stir in broth and cauliflower, cook on low 4 hours or until cauliflower is tender...continue to follow regular directions). Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp, if desired, and crumble.
Puree with a stick blender until soup reaches desired consistency. Mix in cheese and let it melt, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in milk or cream and cook until hot if necessary. Stir in about half the bacon.
Garnish with reserved bacon.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Crock-pot Pumpkin Applesauce

Hubby and I recently went fruit picking! We love a spot in Spokane called Greenbluff, which is home to over 40 small family owned farms- not only are the farms beautiful and often quaint, but you are treated to a lovely view of the valley from the top of the bluff! Last summer we picked strawberries, cherries, raspberries and pumpkins. This summer we picked strawberries and cherries. In early September we made our way to the bluff to score some end-of-the-season peaches as well as some early apples (Honeycrisp)! We ate many of the peaches fresh (they were so good!) and I froze enough to fill over a gal. freezer bag to put in our smoothies we enjoy every Sunday night. I used some of the apples for the delicious Caramel Apple Crumble Bars and then I made this amazing applesauce!

The particular flavor of the applesauce will of course depend on the type of apple you choose (I hear a variety is best!), but the addition of cinnamon and some smooth pureed pumpkin is sure to win the approval of your tastebuds no matter what you use! I found that the Honeycrisp apples provided a perfect pairing of sweet and tart.

I also got to use a fantastic gadget that was a Christmas present from my in-laws- an apple peeler! If you don't own one of these, I highly recommend them! This particular one has the ability to peel, core and slice at the same time- truly a time saver! If peeling apples keeps you from baking pies, making applesauce, etc, consider this a good investment (only about $20). It will change your life. :)

Crock Pot Pumpkin Applesauce
adapted from Stockpiling Moms
makes...a lot. :)

8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tsp lemon juice
5 tsp brown sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
approx. 1 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)

Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low about 6 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon sticks and blend using stick blender to reach desired consistency. Store refrigerated, up to two weeks, or freeze.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

25 Fabulous Recipes for Fall

Today is one of those days when I can readily accept that it's fall. The sun peeks out long enough to highlight the changing hues, but grayish clouds are skittering across the sky, pushed by a blustery wind that is quickly relieving all the ash trees of their gorgeous golden leaves. As I walk to the post office, my hair blows in my face and the leaves swirl and dance into piles by the sidewalk. I enjoy a cup of coffee, turn on a bit of heat, and don my jeans and my new purple sweater. Hello, fall- you've done it again.

Fall is a wonderful time for cooking- there are so many delicious ingredients that are fresh- not the least of which are pumpkin and apples, of course! We also move back toward comfort foods, soups, pastas and homemade goodies. If you are in need of some fresh inspiration, look no further than this list of 25 fabulous fall recipes!

Side Dishes

Spiraled Squash and Potato Bake


Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup


Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Lasagna


Caramel Apple Crumble Bars

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