Eggnog Pancakes


Let's talk about eggnog.  To me and probably many of you, it epitomizes the holidays.  Put a little SoCo or rum or brandy in there....delicious!  And drunk-making.  I loves me some eggnog.  The problem is, of course, that you don't sit down with a pint glass of eggnog.  That means you're usually left with the better part of a half-gallon of rich & creamy cholesterol-infused goodness which you remember to throw out a month later.  Instead, why not just incorporate the leftovers into other dishes?

I am mortified that I haven't set you guys up with my default pancake recipe yet.  The basic recipe (which is this, except with 2 cups milk instead of milk and eggnog, 6 tablespoons of oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and minus the vanilla) is outstanding.  The pancakes are soft, fluffy, and melt-your-mouth, but thick and filling at the same time.  I have no reason to use another recipe now or ever, because why mess with perfection?  Now I know that this recipe is a great springboard for experimentation--the addition of eggnog was amazing.  In fact, I may have said, "These are SO damn GOOD!" at least three or four times.

Every bite of these pancakes tastes like Christmas.  

Eggnog Pancakes 
-2 cups flour
-5 teaspoons baking powder
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-3 tablespoons sugar
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-2 eggs, beaten
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1 1/2 cups milk (**FYI, I rehydrated some dehydrated milk for 1 cup and used 1/2 cup regular milk due to extenuating milk-less circumstances, and it worked great**)
-1/2 cup eggnog
-4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl.

2. Mix beaten eggs, vanilla, milk, eggnog, and oil together in a smaller bowl.  Add to the flour mixture and beat until smooth.

3. Heat a griddle or pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add pancake batter in approximately 1/3-cup portions.  When the bubbles that form on the surface of the pancakes mostly disappear (sink inward), the pancake is ready to be flipped over.  Cook another minute or so before removing from the griddle.

-Makes 10-12 thick, fluffy, nicely-sized pancakes.  I would say it's enough for 4-5 hungry people.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles


If you love Pinterest like I love Pinterest, then you'll already know about the existence of brown butter snickerdoodles.  How could you not?  Their tasty visage is plastered all over that website, begging the collective dreamy sighs of thousands of enterprising bakers.

I am no different.

The minute I saw the very title of this recipe, I said aloud, "Well, that's happening."  I conveniently decided that I 'needed to' make cookies for my husband's students again.  They are an excellent excuse for me to try new baked goods.

Do I even need to tell you these are amazing?

They taste like snickerdoodles and molasses cookies got together and made sweet, sweet love.  They taste like caramel and cinnamon and sugar and toasted nuts. They taste like comfort and coziness and Christmas.

So, uh.....make them, maybe.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles (from Ambitious Kitchen)
-2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-2 teaspoons cream of tartar
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-¼ teaspoon of salt
-2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
-1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
-1 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt

For rolling mixture:
-1/4 cup sugar
-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

2. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined.

3. Chill your dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator (important!). You want the dough cold (so that it firms up enough for you to roll it into balls).

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1½ tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Meanwhile mix 1/4 cup sugar and the 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a bowl. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

5. Bake the cookies 8-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Bake longer if you like crispier cookies. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Note from Heather:  What's with all the excessive bolding and underlining, you ask?  Well, it's really important that you take these out, even if they look underdone.  The best ones I turned out were ones that alllllmost fell apart when I slid a spatula under them after the "2 minute cooling on the baking sheet"-mark.  They should be paunchy and doughy in the center when you take them out.  As the recipe says, they will continue to bake for those 2 minutes they're out of the oven.  The cookies I left in the oven longer than necessary turned out teeth-shatteringly hard after just 1 day. vigilant, hmmmkay?

Vegan Orange Cranberry Muffins


Riddle me this: Your husband expresses mild dissatisfaction with the baked goods available for purchase around work.  You are unemployed, bored, and starting to have conversations with your cats, so you decide that you will MAKE him some delicious baked goods for when you drop by his work later.  Yes!  And then roses will drop at your feet and people will cheer, because you are the best wife ever!  You quickly realize that you need a recipe that fits the following parameters:
  • Utilizes the partially desiccated bag of frozen cranberries purchased in November of 2011 that you actually moved 4 hours north.  Yes, seriously.  No, you did not live through the Great Depression.
  • Oh, shit--you don't have any eggs, either! 
  • Does not make you leave the house or spend money.  Just because you're bored doesn't mean you're not lazy-comma-broke.
What do you do?  What. do. you. do.  ?

If you're me, you remember that vegans hate eggs, but love baked goods just as much as the rest of us.  SURELY, there is a cranberry-based muffin recipe from our lovely vegan friends on the interwebs.  And indeed there was.  I didn't even have to look hard.  The best thing about this recipe is that--other than a bag of frozen/fresh cranberries--the ingredients are totally ordinary and likely to be all up in your pantry and refrigerator.

I will admit that despite my enthusiasm, I was worried that the muffins would turn out dry or crumbly without egg as a binding agent.  But this recipe made me a convert (not to veganism, just to the possibility of vegan baked goods).  So, fear not, friends.  This is one of the moistest, most flavorful muffins I've ever made.  You'll think so, too.  And you can serve it to everyone, which will make you even more popular than before.  Hooray!

Vegan Orange Cranberry Muffins (from Post Punk Kitchen)
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-2/3 cups sugar
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 cup fresh orange juice (**I had 1 fresh orange that I squeezed, which probably amounted to 1/4-1/3 cup.  Then I topped it most of the way off with orange juice from the fridge, but we were running low on that, too.  So, I added just a liiiiitle water to make it stretch.  Didn't make any difference at all.**)
-1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
-2 tablespoons orange zest (**Again, I only had the 1 fresh orange, so I only had maybe 1 tablespoon.  I'm sure it would be much orange-ier with more zest.  Still, it was delicious.**)
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon almond extract (**I sure didn't have this!  I did, however, have a twee bottle of hazelnut-flavored coffee syrup.  So, I used that.  Whatever.  I couldn't taste it, so you could probably leave that out.**)
-1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, roughly chopped.  (**I used the whole bag, which was more like 2 cups**)
-1 cup pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped (**Original recipe says this is optional.  I think not.**)

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Lightly grease a muffin tin.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add canola oil, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and almond extract.  Mix until all wet ingredients are moistened.  About halfway through this process, add cranberries and nuts.  Don't over-mix!

3. Fill muffin tins 3/4-full with batter.  If you're so inclined, sprinkle a little extra sugar on top of each filled tin.

4. Bake 23-27 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  When cool enough to handle, you can transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely.  

**Note: I highly, HIGHLY recommend eating them while they're warm.  They are unbelievably good once they're cool enough to eat without burning your face off.**

-Makes 12 amazing muffins

Cherry Chicken Salad with Oatmeal Bread


When I saw this at my friend Lisa & Gus' wedding lunch, the odds were against me liking it.  As I've noted before, I will not usually choose to mix fruit with savory foods.  I don't like mayo.  I'm always worried that chicken will be overcooked and dry.  The reason I tried this salad was not even to be polite--but because I know Lisa is a rockstar in the kitchen.  She doesn't make anything that isn't outstandingly tasty. And if this was a lunch she made for her own wedding, it had to be good.

Friends, "good" is the understatement of the century.

When I first tried this, I was struck by the tenderness of the cold chicken.  The mayo taste is light and not all up in your face.  Tart apples provide zing, dried cherries a little sweetness and tons of flavor.  The celery adds a pleasant crunch.  At the wedding, it was  paired with sourdough from the incomparable Mirabelle's bakery in Urbana, IL.  Swoon.

Something (god knows what, probably my tastebuds) got me thinking about this salad last week and I had to make it.  Since I'm homebound for the time being, I decided that I would be as productive as possible and made some Oatmeal Bread to go with it.  The bread recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, a majorly reliable carb resource.  Hundreds of people talked about how wonderful this bread is--how it's great for sandwiches, wonderful for toast, how it's light, sweet, and converts non-bread-people to the dark side.  I'm joining that conversation right now: This bread is worth making.

Nay, this is a sandwich worth making.  You can thank me later.

The chicken salad is great on its own, or over a bed of greens.

Cherry-Chicken Salad (courtesy of The Magnificent Lisa)
-3 chicken breasts
-Enough milk to reach halfway up the sides of the chicken in a baking dish
-1/3 cup dried cherries
-1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans
-1/3 cup celery, chopped
-1/3 cup tart apple, cubed
-1/3 cup mayo
-1 tablespoon milk or buttermilk
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Place chicken breasts in a 13x9" pan and pour milk into the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the breasts.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Flip each breast over and cook another 20 minutes.  Let cool completely and cube into the desired size of chunks.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing thoroughly.  Let chill at least 1-2 hours.

**Note: I made this with 4 chicken breasts, so I increased everything by approximately 1/3 of a 1/3-measuring cup.  I think this is a pretty forgiving recipe, so you can be approximate and everything will still be delicious.

-Serves 4-6

Let's move on to tasty, tasty bread.

Oatmeal Bread (from King Arthur Flour
-3 cups unbleached bread flour
-1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
-2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted and cooled a bit
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
-2 teaspoons instant yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
-1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk

1. If you're using active dry yeast, proof it in milk that is 110-115 degrees.  Stir and let it get bubbly for about 5 minutes.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough.  Knead dough by hand for about 10 minutes or by machine by about 5, or until it's smooth.

3. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl.  Cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour.  It'll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape into a log.  Place the log in a lightly greased 9x5" loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1-1.5 hours, or until it's crested 1-2" over the rim of the pan.

5. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190-degrees.  If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.

-Makes 1 loaf.

Roasted Tomato, Mint & Feta Pasta with Greek Meatballs


Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

I have finally arrived--permanently--in the great state of Wisconsin once again.  I am unbelievably happy to be home.  My actual home has my husband and cats and all of my stuff, and our apartment is a nice one.  My new/old home state has: Bacon Mac & Cheese Pizza, all the New Glarus beer I can handle (drinking a brand spankin' new Hometown Blonde as I type), a cheap farmer's market almost on top of Lake Michigan, and Peregrine Falcons that hang out in our general vicinity.  My WI love runs deep and true.

Unlike my love for central IL which is ratty and sparse.  Check out the scary temporary housing I was in for the last ~3 weeks:

It's no wonder I didn't feel like cooking!  Yuck.

But, I *did* pass the halfway mark in my Library & Information Science program while finishing up my IL tenure.  This was the happiest I looked down there in the last ~3 weeks:

Anyway, I am deeee-lighted to be home.  And now I have some time (for now, anyway) to cook stuff! And she's off to the foodie/bloggie races!

Roasted Tomato, Mint & Feta Pasta with Greek Meatballs (sauce recipe from Inspired Taste, meatballs from moi)
-6 medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
-~1 tablespoon olive oil
-3 large, unpeeled garlic cloves
-Salt & Pepper to taste (both on tomatoes and in sauce)
-1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
-3/4 small red onion, diced
-1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
-1/2-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
-4 ounces feta, crumbled or cubed
-Pasta of your choosing to serve sauce over

-~1.5 tablespoons olive oil
-1 pound lean ground beef (90/10)
-1/3 fine, plain breadcrumbs
-1 egg
-1/4 small red onion, minced
-1/4 tsp. fresh lemon zest
-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
-1/2 tsp. black pepper
-1 tsp. dried oregano
-1/4 tsp. garlic powder (or more!)
-1/4 tsp. dried mint

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Toss quartered tomatoes and garlic cloves with olive oil in a bowl.  Pour out onto a baking sheet (I lined mine with a silpat mat, but if you don't have one, maybe aluminum foil, just in case).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking.  Bake for 25 minutes or until kind of wrinkly.

3. While your tomatoes are roasting, combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Thoroughly incorporate all ingredients.  Create ~1-1.5" diameter meatballs by rolling between your hands.

4. Heat ~1.5 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, put meatballs in the skillet and brown on all sides.  These brown very quickly, so monitor closely to make sure they don't burn or overcook.  Remove from the pan, leaving the residual oil.  Add a little more oil and allow it to heat up over medium heat.

5.  By now, your tomatoes and garlic should be done.  Place the tomatoes into a food processor.  Allow the garlic cloves to cool before handling, and once they're able to be handled comfortably, peel the skins off and smush with a fork.  Put the roasted garlic into the food processor bowl, as well.  Pour the can of tomatoes into the food processor.

6. Put meatballs on the baking sheet you just used for the tomatoes.  Bake them for ~10-15 more minutes or until cooked through.

7. Add the diced red onion and red pepper flakes to the heated skillet.  Saute ~5 minutes or until softened.  When done, add to the food processor bowl and puree until semi-smooth (or whatever your desired degree of smoothness of sauce is).  When smooth, pour back into the skillet, add oregano, salt and pepper, and mint.  Let simmer, covered.

8. Make your noodles!

9.  When meatballs are cooked all the way through, add them to the sauce, cover, and let simmer until noodles are done and you're ready to get your eat on.  Stir the feta into that sauce and enjoy!

-Serves 4-6 depending on degree of hungriness

Verdict: OM NOM.  And furthermore: NOM.  The meatballs are really outstanding.  I think the sauce could use just a wee more oomph, but it's light and refreshing.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie


I have a new favorite dessert.

Why?  Well, I'll tell you.

a) It tastes like peanut butter and cool whip and graham crackers and, frankly, magic and/or unicorns.
b) You don't have to turn on the oven at ALL.  This was key for the BBQ we held in 102-degree weather.
c) There are six ingredients.
d) It uses one bowl.
e) It takes approximately 6 minutes to fix and a few hours to set in the fridge.

It is really, really delicious.  So good that, after our BBQ guests demolished the first one, Husband and I decided that another one had to be made the very next day.  And so it was.  And now I'm roly poly and pie filled and honestly, I couldn't be happier.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie (from Taste of Home)
-1 premade graham cracker crust
-3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
-4 ounces cream cheese, softened
-1 cup powdered sugar
-8 ounces Cool Whip, defrosted
-Chopped peanuts to garnish

1. Put peanut butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar in a large bowl.  Beat with an electric mixer until fluffier in appearance and well-combined.

2. Stir Cool Whip into the peanut butter mixture.  Technically, you're supposed to 'fold' it in, but the peanut butter mixture gets lumpy and it's hard to be gentle.  Don't bother--just use the electric mixer on the highest setting until it's just completely combined.

3. Pour filling into the graham cracker crust.  Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

4. Cover pie and put in the refrigerator until set (at least 3-4 hours).  If you can't wait to eat it, it won't be less delicious--just more mousse-y/pudding-like.

-8 Servings

Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon over Roasted Sweet Potatoes


If you're like me--and I bet you are--you spend every waking moment on Pinterest.  That damn Pinterest.  What a revelation.  What a wonderful time suck.  

Probably my most-attended-to board on Pinterest is my "Noms" board.  Here's a link if you're curious:

Yes, my name on it is "Seymour Butts."  Don't judge me for my love of classic Simpsons quotes.

Anyway, at one point, I pinned a list of 10 Weeknight Chickpea Dinners from The Kitchn.  It is marvelous.  I love chickpeas SO much that I could hardly contain my joy, much less begin to pick out which recipe to make first.  This one won.

Unfortunately, I decided to buy two bunches of spinach to get the amount I needed, rather than buying two bags of spinach like I normally would.  I love the prewashed-ed-ness of bagged spinach because I am lazy, even though it sets off a bomb in my guilty environmentalist brain.  Long story short: I thought I washed the spinach adequately, but there is a reason those bags say "Triple Washed."  My spinach was. so. gritty.

It kind of ruined the meal for me, because there is not much less appealing than taking a bite of creamy roasted sweet potatoes, gingered coconut milk, and hearty chickpeas only to choke down sand, dirt, and god knows what else.  It is deeply disappointing, so I advise that you wash that spinach until your skin is chapped.  Take it out back and turn the fire hose on it.  And then wash it one more time.  THEN make this recipe (and don't walk away from the stove and overcook the spinach...that's just salt (or sand, as it was!) in the wound).  

Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon over Roasted Sweet Potatoes (by the Kitchn)
-2 teaspoons oil or ghee
-1 small yellow onion
-4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
-1 tablespoon grated ginger, from a 3-inch piece
-1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
-1 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
-1 dried hot red pepper or dash of red pepper flakes (optional
-15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
-1 pound baby spinach
-14-ounce can coconut milk
-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
-1 teaspoon ground ginger

To serve:
-Whole roasted sweet potatoes
-Cilantro leaves, to garnish 
-Toasted unsweetened coconut, to garnish  (tooootally optional--I didn't do that)

1. Heat the oil or ghee in a large, deep Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is beginning to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and red pepper, if using. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat for a few minutes or until the chickpeas are beginning to turn golden and they are coated with the onion and garlic mixture.

3. Toss in the spinach, one handful at a time. This will take about 5 minutes; stir in a handful or two and wait for it to wilt down and make room in the pot before adding the next handful. When all the spinach has been stirred in, pour in the coconut milk and stir in the salt, ground ginger, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes or until the chickpeas are warm through. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, if necessary.

4. Serve hot over roasted sweet potatoes, with cilantro leaves and toasted unsweetened coconut to garnish.

Serving note: This is thick enough to eat on its own with a fork; it's not terribly soupy. But it's saucy enough to eat over pasta, rice, brown rice, quinoa, or another grain.

-Serves 4