The Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

It may sound cocky – or a little too strong – but I swear to you these are the best peanut butter cookies ever. They’re soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside, and oh so sweet. The original recipe came from my beloved Magnolia Bakery cookbook and I haven’t looked back since. The first time I made them, I shared them with a few of B’s friends and his friend Steve even commented, “These are the best peanut butter cookies ever.” And Steve himself is a good cook/baker!

peanut butter cookies - i crashed the webAnyway, don’t just trust me — or Steve — you should make these yourself.* The below recipe is with slight modifications, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.

peanut butter cookies - i crashed the web

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted this because I used salted butter)
  • 1/2 c butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup your favorite peanut butter (I’ve made these with creamy JIF peanut butter and with chunky natural Smuckers. In the case of the crunchy, I just cut down on the amount of peanuts I add in the end)
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar + 3-4 TB sugar for rolling the dough
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBS milk (I used the only milk I had on hand- unsweetened almond coconut milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c peanut butter chips
  • 3/4 c chopped peanuts (If using chunky peanut butter, you can use less nuts here, probably 1/4 c)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter together until creamy.
  4. Add sugars and beat until smooth. Add egg, milk and vanilla extract and mix well until fluffy.
  5. Add flour mixture in about 1/2 c at a time and beat thoroughly.
  6. Stir in peanut butter chips and peanuts.
  7. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into a bowl of 3-4 TBS granulated sugar.
  8. Place cookie balls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, at least two inches apart. Using a fork, push down on dough balls and lightly indent the balls with a criss-cross pattern. Do not flatten cookies too much – you don’t want smooshed cookies!
  9. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies may seem soft and underdone but DO NOT OVERBAKE. They will bake a little more out of the oven and be PERFECT.
  10. Cool cookies on cookie sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mouth watering yet? All you need is a glass of milk and you can enjoy these yourself. *Or better yet- I will MAIL YOU these cookies! That’s right – as I mentioned earlier this week, I’m participating in a blogger bake sale, to benefit Jordan’s Family Foundation. Since it’s for a good cause – what’s stopping you?

Who wouldn't buy these for a good cause?

Who wouldn’t buy these for a good cause?

Some modifications:

  • Use 1 c. semi-sweetened chocolate chunks instead of the peanut butter chips for a more chocolatey flavor
  • Not a huge chocoholic? Use 1/2 c. peanut butter chips, 1/2 c. semi-sweetened chocolate chips for a peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
  • Flatten cookies out with your hand and omit the fork crossing step. Then press halved peanuts (outer side facing up) to the top of the cookie. That’s what I did on the second photo above.

Want Cookies In Your Mailbox? (Blogger Bake Sale)

Who doesn’t want to open their mailbox to find some delicious cookies? I know, it’s a rhetorical question because the answer is obviously NOBODY. And who doesn’t want to buy cookies for a good cause? Again – NOBODY!

Who wouldn't buy these for a good cause?

Who wouldn’t buy these for a good cause?

That’s why when I saw that one of my favorite local running bloggers was hosting a Blogger Bake Sale to benefit Jordan’s Family Foundation, I was pumped to participate. Here’s some more info about JFF, from Jess’s fundraising website:

JFF primarily provides funding for research, development and education in the field of pediatric cardiology. The organization also conducts heart healthy children’s activities such as Fitness Fits Everyone (formerly Recess ROCKS!), where kids and families come together to play while also learning about healthy living

Anyway, I hope you’ll join in and support the Blogger Bake Sale. You can bid on a ton of delicious goodies, here, including my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. That’s right, I’m baking my favorite peanut butter cookies (B’s friend Steve called them the best peanut butter cookies ever, so I think that’s what I’m calling them when I share the recipe) and you can bid on them for a good cause.

favorite peanut butter cookies - i crashed the web

Yum. You could be enjoying these cookies yourself sometime soon 🙂 Bid on them today! 

Meatless Monday: Easy Eggplant and Squash Curry

“We haven’t had Indian food in a while,” said B the other day. He was right – we were on a stint for a while where we were having Indian food as our go-to takeout or eat-out option on a somewhat (not daily) regular basis. And it’s true, I can’t recall the last time we both went out for Indian food. OR Thai food. BUT I’ve been on a going-out-to-eat spree and didn’t really want to continue it. Between traveling for work, lack of groceries and birthday / friend / etc. meals, I’m somewhat getting tired of eating out. Just ask B – I go eat to eat 4 times in a row and I’m sick of it.

Anyway, that’s why I decided to make some semi-Indian/Thai-hybrid dinner from what we had on hand in our apartment. OK, it’s probably neither (sorry if you are an expert in either cuisine) – it’s just a vegetarian curry dish. Anyway, we go to the West Side Market nearly weekly and tend to stock up on a ton of veggies from our favorite stand – and last week I had gotten tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, onions and more. Keeping this in mind, and seeing a few fun recipes online, I decided to recreate the Indian/Thai/Going Out To Eat food experience right from our apartment.

eggplant and squash curry over quinoa - i crashed the web

Eggplant and Squash Curry with Quinoa

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 TBS olive oil, divided into 1TBS and 2 TBS
  • 3 TBS cumin, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced and seeded
  • 1 onion (I used a red onion), sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  •  3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 TBS curry powder
  • 1 teaspon ground cardamom
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (1 ½ cups) chickpeas
  • 1 c. quinoa, cooked according to package directions (typically with 2 c water)
  • ¼ c unsweetened coconut

Here’s what you do:

  1. Reheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Peel and cut squash into bite-sized pieces, about 1 inch squares. toss with 1 TBS of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and 1 TBS cumin.
  3. Place seasoned squash on a baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until squash is soft and starting to brown.
  4. While squash is cooking, heat  2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet. Add chopped pepper, onion, eggplant, ginger and garlic. Add salt, pepper, curry powder, cardamom and 1 TBS cumin. Cook for 3-5 minutes, letting vegetables start to get tender.
  5. Cover the skillet and cook for 10 minutes or until eggplant is softened. Add in roasted squash, canned tomatoes in juice and chickpeas. Add another tablespoon of cumin. Cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add in cooked quinoa and unsweetened coconut and cook for another minute.
  7. Enjoy!
eggplant and squash curry - icrashedtheweb.jpg

Add in the quinoa and coconut …

eggplant and squash curry - icrashedtheweb.jpg

Enjoy!

Some notes:

  • B thought this recipe was “so so” and when I asked him what he’d change he said “maybe a little less seasoning next time.” SO please use the curry/cardamom/cumin guidelines to taste – you can always add more as it continues to cook.
  •  B also doesn’t like coconut so I only added a handful to the final dish, and mostly on the portion I was eating – feel free to add more, and even some coconut milk if you prefer coconut curry to traditional curry.
  • I have used the powdered red curry, which is spicier than the yellow curry I have. Thus I didn’t add any chili powder. If you like it spicy and you only have yellow (not-so-spicy) curry on hand, feel free to add some chili powder as well!

Some questions for you: Share your answers in the comments – mine are in italic!

  • Do you ever just literally throw everything you have on hand into a dish to see what happens? Yes, too often. In this case I was actually kinda pleased with myself – it seems pre-thought out!
  • What’s your favorite Indian food dish?  I love Chicken Tikka Masala or anything Vindaloo.
  • What’s your favorite Thai dish? Any thai soup, or pad ke mao and I love their spring rolls!
  • How often do you go out to eat? How often do you feel is “too much?” I don’t know why, but after eating 3-4 meals out in a row I start to feel sick/gross. Even if I’m eating healthy, I just prefer homemade meals!

Friday Five: My birthday week!

I’m off on a mini-birthday weekend getaway (don’t worry, I’m not going far – still staying in SNOhio right now), but before I left I wanted to give a quick birthday week update. I was traveling for work 3 days this week, meaning it was a busy, productive, and speedy week! Still, here are five things I am pretty excited about:

1. So much good food.

I’ve definitely been taking advantage of the “it’s my birthday week” excuse and eating all my favorite meals. Which include some awesome salads from Rothschild Farms, sushi from Sushi 86, Janea’s salad from Stone Oven (not pictured because I gobbled it up too fast), and the Super Salad and some steam buns from Noodlecat (not pictured because the lighting was awful).

Salad from Rothschild farms and quinoa

Salad from Rothschild farms and quinoa

<3 Sushi 86

What? That's not food? You're right. But they are the January shot of the month, which seemed very birthday appropriate.

What? That’s not food? You’re right. But they are the January shot of the month, which seemed very birthday appropriate.

What are some of your favorite meals? Apparently I like salads a lot.

2. This birthday gift!

Not to gush, but I’m pretty pumped about this birthday gift that B made (as in he went to the store, bought wood, paint, hooks, etc.) for me. I’d been creeping on something to hang my bibs/medals on on Etsy,

bda gift

3. My longest treadmill run ever!

This week has been COLD. And snowy. Yes, I know it’s winter (warning, vent coming in 3….2…..1) but enough with the sub-zero temps and slippery roads! Anyway, when I woke up to “0 degrees, feels like -12, snow showers” the other morning, I knew my 9 miles probably weren’t going to happen outside before work. I told myself to just see what I could do on the treadmill, assuming I wouldn’t make it past 6-7 without stopping.

Did I go slow? Yes. Did I enjoy every minute of it? No. But did I do it? Yes. And here’s some proof:

9 mile nonstop run followed by .25 walk. DONE.

9 mile run followed by .25 walk. DONE.

4. Arctic Zero.

Okay, I know I’m late to discover this (it seems like my whole Instafeed is always pics of people enjoying their Arctic Zero), but B bought me 2 pints of it for my birthday and I am so in love with it. No, it doesn’t taste like regular ice cream, but it’s creamy/enjoyable/glorious/amazingnessinabowl nonetheless?

5. This video.

If you work in a corporate setting, you’re probably familiar with the dreaded awkward conference call. In fact, I had one this week – where I not only found myself talking on mute (and everyone else was confused), but at another point had one of those moments where we all talk at once and then have a “oh no you go ahead …” “no you go first” battle and then continue to all talk at once. Yes, those calls. If you’re familiar – enjoy this:

 

And of course, some questions for you:

  • What’s the longest distance you’ve run on a treadmill? How do you stay entertained?
  • Have you tried Arctic Zero? What flavors do you like?
  • Do you have a birthday coming up?
  • Homemade gifts – yay or nay?

Happy Friday and have a wonderful weekend!

Cooking with Ali – Vegetarian Samosas

I don’t know when it happened, but one day I started to really enjoy cooking. I began to see cooking as an activity, not as a means to an end, and on any given weekend (or time that I wasn’t rushed), enjoyed taking the time to cook as a way of entertainment, stress relief etc. This isn’t always the case – we all know that after a day of working late and then a late workout, cooking gets pushed to the side burner – but when I have the time I love to take the time to enjoy it and be adventurous.

My former “work spouse” (don’t ask, that’s what we called one another) Ali, also feels the same way. I am in awe of her instagram – she is always posting so many fun, creative and healthy recipes. That’s why when we got together for dinner before the holidays and she suggested we get together in January, in honor of my birthday, for a day of cooking, I couldn’t have been more excited!

Enter, cooking with Ali. First let me introduce you to Ali:

20140111_140911

Can’t you tell how awesome she is? Her apron even matches her comfy zip up. And it wasn’t intended!

Anyway, we started out with a trip to the West Side Market to pick up supplies. We knew we wanted to make something Indian-inspired, and Ali had found a recipe for some vegetarian samosas that looked amazing. I admittedly have been intimidated by rice paper for years, so I figured there was no time like the present to get over my fear.

So here you go – I present to you, Ali and my slight modification of My New Roots’ fully loaded samosas. If you make these, you MUST make the mint chutney. I admit that I wasn’t so sure (I’m not always a fan of the sweet/spicy combo) but it was AWESOME.

  VEGETARIAN SAMOSAS - I CRASHED THE WEB

Vegetarian Samosas (with slight modifications from  My New Roots’ fully loaded samosas)

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 round rice paper wrappers, about 8.5”
  • 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • ¾ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ cup unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 ½ cup green peas
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • ¼ tsp. cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • cayenne pepper (to taste)

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast coconut until golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Dice onion and carrots to about the size of the peas. Roughly chop up cashews.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, cumin, mustard powder and minced ginger.  Cook five minutes, then add the garlic. Cook a couple minutes, then add carrots. Stir to coat with spices, cook five minutes, add peas and chickpeas. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, coconut and cashews.
  4. Fill a large bowl about halfway with warm water. One at a time, place a rice paper wrap in the water and let soften, just until it becomes somewhat pliable (NOT soggy! – as Ali told me you should still be able to see some of the pattern from the paper on it). Remove from water and place rice paper on a clean, flat surface – like your counter. Using a pizza cutter, slice the rice paper circle in half. On both halves, place a  scoop of the filling. Fold it up! This is somewhat hard to explain and do – but the original site recommends you: “Fold the bottom corner about a third of the way up the round side of the half), followed by the top corner to meet the base of the fold you just made, creating a triangle. Fold the round edge up onto the top of the package to seal it, and flip it over. This is now the top of the samosa.”
  5. Continue and repeat steps with the remaining rice paper and filling. Place samosas on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  6. Cook for about 20 minutes, flipping about halfway through in a preheated 400°F  oven. They should be slightly brown and somewhat crispy when done. To make them even crispier, brush samosas with a little melted coconut oil before putting int he oven.
  7. Remove from oven and serve with the Sweet n’ Spicy Mint Chutney.

For the Sweet n’ Spicy Mint Chutney (DEFINITELY MAKE THIS)

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup firmly packed mint leaves (no stems, washed and dried)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 2 Medjool dates
  • 1 fresh serrano chili
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a food processor pulse garlic, ginger, and chili pepper until a nice paste.
  2. Add dates (you may need to remove the pits first!), mint leaves, lime juice and olive oil. Blend on high until your chutney is smooth.
  3. If it’s too chunky, add a little more olive oil.
  4. Enjoy! I dare you not to want to eat this with a spoon. Or your finger. YUM!
Some of our goodies from the West Side Market

Some of our goodies from the West Side Market. We also made stuffed portobellos.

vegetarian samosas

cooking the “meat” of the samosas. this filling was so good – i’d eat it by itself!

folding the rice paper

folding the rice paper

ready for the oven!

ready for the oven!

vegetarian samosas

ready to eat!

Three things happened after I made these:

  • I got over my fear of rice paper. Spring rolls, here I come!
  • My New Roots became one of my new favorite blogs. You must check it out. Not only because her food pictures are way better than mine, but because she has SO many good recipes I can’t wait to try – especially when I give up meat again for Lent!
  • I fell into a food coma. And was surprised that even B enjoyed these!

Oh, and this happened:

My apron clearly doesn't match

My apron clearly doesn’t match

we proceeded to take pictures of our food

we proceeded to take pictures of our food

Anyway, you MUST make these and tell me how much you love them. And how My New Roots is your new favorite blog.

Some questions for you:

  • Do you have any “work spouses”?
  • Do you wear an apron when you cook?
  • Any weird food phobias for cooking  (not eating)? Mine was rice paper, but now it may be seaweed to roll for sushi. Apparently I have a fear of things you roll?
  • Do you like cooking or find it just a necessary evil?
  • Favorite vegetarian recipes? I want them!

Edible Mittens!!! (chocolate dipped shortbread cookies)

Brrr! What a COLD week we had last week. I know it was that way in most of the country – but that thought did not warm me as I was walking to work in the single digits (“feels like -30something” with the windchill). I seriously bundled up and wasn’t ashamed – I had my mittens, scarf, hat AND furry hood. Don’t worry, I took a selfie for you.

Remind me not to take pictures of myself looking like this again.

Remind me not to take pictures of myself looking like this again.

Anyway, there’s not much you can do when the weather’s cold besides bundle up, eat a lot of soup, run on a treadmill – and of course bake! Don’t you agree? And with the weather so cold, it was only fitting to make a buttery shortbread cookie (borrowed from Ina Garden) – and shape them like mittens. Cute, don’t you think?

chocolate dipped mitten cookies - i crashed the web

Mitten Cookies! (Or Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies)

Here’s what you need:

  • 3/4 pound butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweetened chocolate chips

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Mix well with an electric mixer until combined. Add in vanilla and mix well.
  3. Add in flour and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dough should be well combined and not powdery. Shape dough into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. After dough is chilled, roll out the dough and cut with your cookie cutter into fun shapes. I thought I had a mitten cutter – but I didn’t. Whoops! So instead I free cut a few fun shapes (beer, a B for B, and some more) and then made a mitten stencil out of thick paper and traced that with a knife.
  5. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges are light brown.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cool, you can melt chocolate and dip your dough shapes in them!

  1. Put about 1 c. chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Your chocolate won’t be melted yet (likely) but continue to stir and nuke the chocolate in 30 second intervals until it’s fully melted- this will help to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn.
  2. Dip the cookie in the chocolate. I dipped the bottom of the mittens and then sprinkled them with sprinkles to make them the way they are. But you could also drizzle you cookies with chocolate as well.

Enjoy!

mitten shaped template

the paper mitten I drew for a template … and other cookies in the background

some cookies cooling, some cookies ready for the oven

some cookies cooling, some cookies ready for the oven

some other fun shapes I cut

some other fun shapes I cut

 

 

 

Refusing to succumb to Blue Monday.

Last Monday was the infamous “Blue Monday.” You know, that day in January deemed the most depressing day of the year? And why not? It’s cold, dark, everyone is sad, feeling the aftereffects of the happiness of the holidays and of course feeling the aftereffects on their credit card and waistline.

I’ll be the first to admit it – I get in a funk from about January through the end of March. Rough for someone having a January birthday. But this year, I decided that I wasn’t going to be “blue” on Blue Monday. I can’t do much about the weather, the icy roads (which make it SO hard to run outside), or the dark days, but I CAN get excited and embrace all there is to do and enjoy in Cleveland this time of year. Yes, even in the winter. How can I be blue when I’ve done all this fun stuff since the holidays have ended?

Trying out Dave and Anson’s deep fryer, eating homemade fried chicken wings and watching football:

fried chicken

Baking mitten cookies. Because when it’s cold, who doesn’t love mittens?

chocolate dipped mitten cookies

Attempting to sew mittens. I don’t have an “after” picture because the one mitten I tried to make didn’t come out. I’ll stick to baked cookie mittens (see above):

20140110_194128

Shopping at the West Side Market. Because it’s somewhat warm in there and if it’s not you can always get a hot beverage and your groceries:

my favorite stand at west side market

my favorite stand at west side market

And then cooking some fantastic vegetarian dishes with Ali. I love this girl (my former work-spouse) and don’t see her nearly enough – and it was SO good to spend a day cooking with her!

Ali making samosas

Ali making samosas

the recipe for these awesomeness is coming soon.

the recipe for these awesomeness is coming soon.

A few outdoor runs when the weather “warmed up.” And a few hot beverages from Rising Star.

almond milk latte from rising star

And seeing Chicago – with the oh so talented Peterman John O’Hurley! Thanks to B’s parents for the awesome tickets as our Christmas gift.

chicago

And then wrapping up a fabulous weekend with sushi from Sushi 86, the Golden Globes and tea and Downton Abbey.

sushi

OMG can you believe about Anna?

OMG can you believe about Anna?

And that’s just for the first few weeks of this month. What are you doing to keep yourself entertained this month?