Cookie Thursday (on a Monday!)

My husband loves oatmeal raisin cookies. In particular, he enjoys the Pillsbury ready to bake ones. I do not share his enthusiasm, partly because I am not fond of raisins and also because I have long suspected that these Pillsbury cookies are oatmeal cookies in name only. Seriously, there isn’t an oat in sight and the first ingredient listed is sugar. Our grocery store stopped carrying them so my husband will track them down at another store every once in a while. A couple of weeks ago he informed me that I could not make a cookie that rivaled the overly processed hunk of sugar he was happily munching on. Naturally, I was nothing short of insulted. I was also amused, because let’s face it there are few things I do well and baking happens to be one of them.

I accepted his challenge and declared that I would set up a blind taste test for him in the near future. I immediately got to work researching recipes and watching video demonstrations. I finally decided to try out this recipe from Beantown Baker. I tweaked it only slightly. The cookies were delicious. Even a raisin-hater like myself enjoyed these.

What about my husband? Well, he prefers the texture of the Pillsbury ones. I know, it’s a disgrace! Ha ha. He did tell me that my cookies were just as good flavor-wise. Meh, I don’t consider him a pillar of good cookie taste anyway.

If you would like to try out these cookies here is what you will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz, or 115 grams) softened butter
2/3 cup (125 grams) dark brown sugar
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup (95 grams) flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups (120 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (120 grams) raisins

I recommend weighing your ingredients. I find that this gives you accurate amounts. Visit Beantown Baker for the full recipe and directions!

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Making Pop-Tarts at home!

The other day a group of friends were discussing treats and Pop-Tarts were mentioned. I haven’t had a Pop-Tart in ages. My adult tastebuds find them too sweet and artificial.  When I mentioned this, one of the girls shared this recipe and as soon as I saw it I knew I would be making my own take of it. My husband loves Pop-Tarts but stopped eating them because, well, they’re not good for you. Now, we can have them as an occasional treat and know exactly what was put in them.

The dough is easy to make. I am by no means an expert baker but I can get by. You can use a food processor to make the dough but you can always cut the butter  into the flour by hand either by crumbling it with your fingers or using a cutter (or two butter knives). Once there are no large chunks of butter you are done. If you’re mixing it by hand you might be wise to take a break here and there as the heat from your hands will make the butter too soft and you don’t want that.

When you add your 4 tbsp of ice-cold water you want to mix the dough only until it’s combined. Over-mixing will result in a chewy dough as opposed to light and flaky.

After making the dough I formed it into a disk, wrapped it and put it in the fridge to firm up while I worked on the filling.

The recipe called for strawberry preserves and I’m sure this is a fine ingredient to use but I wanted something a little more fresh. I do not have a recipe for the filling I made but the general idea is to mix some fresh fruit into the filling. I used about a cup or two of strawberries that I mashed up. To that, I added a splash of limeade and about a half cup of all natural strawberry jam. The jam I bought did not contain high fructose corn syrup or any dyes. Sugar was the first ingredient listed so I knew I would not need to add any more sugar. Also, I would substitute the limeade for fresh lemon or lime juice if I had it. Bring this to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it’s reduced a bit take it off the heat and pour into a heat-proof glass vessel. Leave to cool completely before using.

I was not very neat when it came to rolling out the dough and cutting it into rectangles. One of the things I love about homemade goodies is the rustic imperfection of the end result. I don’t want my tarts to look like they were mechanically manufactured. I like that they look amateur and homemade. That’s just me, you can be as perfect as you like. It’s all good! Also, I chose not to add the icing and sprinkles because I figured they were sweet enough on their own.

These can be frozen and baked off as you need them. Or, you can bake them and then freeze them.

This recipe made eight tarts. There are only four left!

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Cooking: one easy side-dish

If you’re like me, you enjoy spicing things up in the kitchen. I often get inspiration from cooking shows. I like to adapt recipes based on my tastes and what I have available in the kitchen. Recently, I saw Trisha Yearwood make some bacon-wrapped asparagus. It looked delicious and since I hadn’t had those in a while I decided to make them.

You will need:

  • Fresh asparagus
  • Bacon
  • toothpicks
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • pure cane sugar
  • pepper

Preheat your over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you’ve washed your hands, and your veggies, you’re going to want to trim the asparagus. The stalks get tough and woody as they reach the bottom. What I do is I grab one spear and bend it until it snaps. I then cut the rest to match that length.

Now you’re ready to wrap the asparagus with the bacon. I wrapped 3-4 stalks with one strip of bacon. Secure with a toothpick and place on a cookie sheet. I lined mine with a silpat but you can use foil and some Pam instead.

Once you have all of your bundles you’re going to want to spoon some sauce over them. This is optional. If you’d prefer you can drizzle a little olive oil, salt, and pepper instead.

For the sauce: mix a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add sugar and pepper to taste. I find balsamic vinegar to be a little sweet already so I only use a spoonful or so of sugar. Mix well and spoon over the bundles.

Bake for 25 minutes. The asparagus will be wilted and the bacon crispy.

You can serve this as a side dish, or as a main dish. I think it would be delicious with couscous, brown rice, or even orzo along with a small salad.