Thursday, April 18, 2013

M&M Cookies to Brighten Your Day

I had a wicked urge to bake on Saturday. It wasn't even a case of pregnancy munchies. I'd been having visions of brightly colored M&M cookies from my childhood (pregnancy has made me weirdly nostalgic for foods from when I was little) so I did a quick Google search and was on my way.

I had no way of knowing how badly I would need these cookies two days later when we woke up to find my 16 year old cat Lily on the floor, her back legs paralyzed. It wasn't going to be a good day.

But back to the cookies. These are my favorite kind of cookies to make. They're one-bowlers and as long as you've set the butter out a good couple hours ahead of time to soften you can whip them up in less than thirty minutes. No need to refrigerate the dough before baking either. And while they no doubt satisfy that nostalgic cookie craving, the addition of lemon zest adds enough complexity to offset all that sugar for grown up taste buds.

I see these cookies becoming one of my go to recipes and I can't wait to make them during different times of the year when M&Ms get all festive and seasonal (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.) Ooh all the pretty colors! I'm such a girl. I might even try adding lemon extract to them next time as I love the lemon/chocolate combo.

Anyway if you need a little pick me up these will set you straight. Especially when wine isn't an option;)

M&M Cookies
Makes 16 large bakery-sized cookies.
* Adapted from All Recipes - "Robbi's M&M Cookies"

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shortening, room temp
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, room temp
2 eggs, room temp
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest from 1 medium or large lemon (I like more!)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups candy coated milk chocolate pieces, plus 1/4 cup

Preheat oven to 350 (convection bake if you have it.)

In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter and shortening together until everything is really well combined and smooth. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Finally pour the flour, baking soda and salt over the wet mixture and stir until just well combined. Gently stir in the 1 1/2 cups of chocolate candies.

Use a large ice scream scoop to scoop them onto an ungreased pan giving at least 2 inches between cookies. Carefully press in any extra M&Ms you can fit on the tops. Bake for 10-11 minutes, just until the tops are beginning to turn golden in places as well as the edges. Remove and let set up on the sheet for another 60 seconds. Carefully transfer with a spatula to a cooling rack. Can be stored at room temp in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lemon Scented Quinoa with Feta, Basil and Pine Nuts

My friend Claire made this over the summer and I loved it to pieces. I tried making it at home...and failed. Last night I made it again and used less lemon juice and oil than the recipe called for and fell in love all over again. I served it with Giada's Lemon Cumin Chicken (in the post below this one) and the flavors played off of each other beautifully. That sounded dirty. And possibly utilized incorrect grammar. But you know what I mean (meant?) I'm going to bed now.

Lemon Scented Quinoa with Feta, Basil and Pine Nuts
Serves 5-6 as a side dish or 4 as a meatless meal with a salad.

1 generous tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat the bottom of a medium saucepan
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeds and veins removed and chopped
3/4 cup quick cooking quinoa
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon (or a little more) garlic powder
Zest of 1 large lemon, reserve lemon
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Juice from large lemon you zested
Salt as needed

Add the oil to a medium saucepan with a lid. Put over medium heat and let heat through one minute. Add the shallots and chopped red pepper and just a tiny pinch of salt (don't over salt it because you're about to add chicken stock in a minute.) Sauté stirring occasionally for 8 minutes or until shallot is translucent and soft.

Stir in the quinoa, chicken stock, garlic powder and lemon zest and raise the heat to high. Bring to a rolling boil, stir again then turn the heat to low and put the lid on for ten minutes. After ten minutes check to see if the quinoa has 'popped' (its little tail comes out in a teeny tiny curly q) and all of the liquid should be absorbed by it. If not put the lid back on and give it a few more minutes until this happens.

Remove the quinoa from the burner and let sit for 5 minutes with the lid on then gently scrape with a fork to fluff as you would couscous. Stir in the chopped herbs, feta, pine nuts and lemon juice. Taste for salt and add any if needed.

Serve with chicken or fish or on its own as a meatless meal if desired.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Giada's Lemon Cumin Chicken

This is the simplest yet tastiest marinade I've tried in a long time. I plan to use it on steak. And salmon. And pretty much anything but horse. Seriously what gives Oklahoma? Lifting the horse slaughter ban? WTH??

Speaking of horses mine's name is Layla and she's the color of a rainstorm. I wish I could pack her in my suitcase when I go out of town along with my dog and DVR player.

But back to the marinade. I haven't been this excited about grilled chicken since I became pregnant. It is SO good. It made me think I was eating something sexy like a bacon double cheeseburger or chili cheese fries instead of lean 'ol boneless skinless chicken breasts.

So there you have it. Magical, transformative, bringing-chicken's-sexy-back marinade.

Lemon-Cumin Chicken

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Four 4- to 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 1/2 packed cups fresh mint leaves (about 1 large bunch)
1 packed cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (see Cook's Note)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 a large lemon)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil cooking spray

For the marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper flakes until smooth. Add the chicken and toss until coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. (Can also be made in a resealable plastic bag.)

For the pesto: In a food processor, blend the mint, spinach, cheese, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper until chunky. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until smooth.

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Spray the grill lightly with vegetable oil cooking spray. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the chicken until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Place on a platter and serve with the pesto.