Teaching myself to cook, one recipe at a time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

Recently, I volunteered to bring a batch of homemade cookies to an event at work. Originally I thought I’d do chocolate chip cookies, but then I just thought, “I’m sick of doing those, I always do those. What else can I do?”


Also, I just wanted to have something new to blog about.

Flashback to the dining hall in college: they had really, really good cookies. Well, they were really good if you got them fresh, when they were soft and chewy and melted in your mouth. They weren’t so good if they had been left out too long and were hard as a rock, leaving crumbs everywhere and breaking your teeth. My friends and I were very good about reporting to the entire group the current status of the cookie supply so that everyone else could (a) stock up or (b) avoid them, based on whether they were soft or hard that day. The white chocolate macadamia nut ones were the best, in my opinion.

I wanted to make soft ones.

One quick search online and I had my recipe.

First, take some macadamia nuts


And chop them up. I probably should have used the food processor for this, but I wanted to use my pretty new cutting board.


Cream some butter and sugar together in a bowl.


Take an egg…


And some vanilla extract… (I am proud of this picture, by the way)


Add them to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until well-blended.


Mix together some flour, baking soda, and salt.


Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. The recipe didn’t say to do this gradually, but I did because I always do. Otherwise you’ll get a cloud of flour when you turn on the mixer.



Finally, get your hands on some white chocolate chips.


And stir them into the dough.


Along with your chopped macadamia nuts.


Form the dough into balls


And bake them!


They seem to have turned out pretty well… and they are mysteriously disappearing from my baking rack!


Definitely a soft, chewy, sweet success. Recipe in Tastebook soon (click the widget on the right to see).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Baked Rotini with Sweet Italian Sausage

I think there are two types of cooks: one who is capable of creativity and inventiveness in the kitchen, and one who sticks to recipes to make things that actually taste good. I’m the latter, but really really really want to become the former. I’m learning, and trying out new recipes a lot has shifted me closer to being the natural sort of cook, but I still have a long way to go. Normally my inventive efforts result in an “Eh, that was okay,” so I stick to recipes for the most part.

But this recipe is my own invention!

*pauses for effect*

Okay, maybe I cheated and reviewed a lot of similar recipes online before I actually created this one based on what I had in the kitchen. But I have tweaked it and added things, and I know that it is successful because hubby eats the leftovers. I know this is partially because it has some of his favorite ingredients (namely sweet Italian sausage and cream cheese), but hey. I’ll take what I can get.

Start off with a pound of sweet Italian sausage. I have tried preparing it a few different ways, such as leaving the casings on and slicing the links and taking the casings off and crumbling the meat. I don’t like the texture of the casing so I like taking them off, but crumbling the sausage meat is hard because it’s gooey and sticky, so just slicing and rolling it into little balls works well for me.



Put the sausage balls in a large skillet.


And saute them until they’re browned.


Drain the fat out, then add in a can of Italian-style diced tomatoes and a few cloves of minced garlic.


Cook it up until some of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated.


Add basil…


Italian seasoning…


And onion powder.


(But don’t pay attention to the pictured amounts, it’s not quite accurate). Also add a can of tomato sauce. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let it simmer for a while.


In the meantime, feel free to experiment with a roll of Pillsbury dinner rolls. I’d never bought these before so it was going to be a new experience.


I also cooked up 2 cups of multi-grain rotini. Normally I use penne but I happen to have a lifetime supply of multi-grain rotini from that time I went to Costco last summer. As it turns out, I think I like the rotini better because it’s softer and more gooey (aka not as firm as penne).


Stir the pasta into the sauce and get it all coated.


Then put it in a greased Pyrex dish and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.


Cover in aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and delicious-looking.


If you’ve timed it right, the dinner rolls should be about done, too.


Serve and enjoy!


And lick your plate clean.


Then, remember with a guilty start that YOU FORGOT TO ADD THE CREAM CHEESE! Oh crap. I usually add a glop (yes, a “glop,” that is the measurement) while the sauce is simmering. I forgot completely, and I’m pretty sure that I promised hubby that I’d make him “that cream cheese sausage dish” tonight. It was after I added cream cheese to the ingredients list that hubby really started enjoying this dish. Oops. I won’t tell him if you don’t!

It was still pretty damn good, though.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Slow-Cooker Cranberry Pork


Last Thanksgiving, I insisted on making enough food to feed an army, despite only having three people (including myself and hubby) over for dinner. Our dinner guest was experiencing her first real American Thanksgiving and I thought it was appropriate to make all the American traditions, including cranberry sauce, which I have never been a huge fan of. However, I figured that it had been a pretty long time since I’d actually had cranberry sauce, and I actually like tart cranberry-flavored things now, so it couldn’t be too bad. Plus, when I’m in charge of the kitchen, I can do modifications to fit my own liking, such as serving the cranberry sauce warm instead of cold (much more appetizing, in my opinion, but I do realize I’m in the minority here).

Anyway, long story short, I made homemade, from-scratch cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. And I had a LOT left over. I managed to use up a lot of my Thanksgiving leftovers, i.e. turned the turkey into creamy turkey soup, turned the mashed potatoes into gnocchi (pretty disappointing but I think I did it wrong), and I located a recipe for using up leftover cranberry sauce that I really wanted to try. However, by that point I felt like I’d been cooking for a month straight and I never got up the motivation to try the recipe before the cranberry sauce went bad. I saved it, though (the recipe, not the cranberry sauce).


Recently, I started a new job. This new job has some unconventional hours, and twice a week I don’t get home until 7:30 or 8:00 PM. I’ve had an increased interest in using my slow cooker, since it’s so late that I really just want dinner to be ready when I get home, so I thought I’d revisit that old pork recipe that I’d saved.

I wanted to use canned cranberry sauce for ease and convenience. Do you know how hard it is to find cranberry sauce in June? It’s hard, just take my word for it. I think it was with the canned fruits, right alongside the peaches in sugary syrup. But I did find it.

So here are my ingredients: cranberry sauce, French dressing, and a pork tenderloin. Also, I was supposed to grab an onion, but that got forgotten in my search for cranberry sauce. I substituted a packet of onion soup mix, which was suggested by a reviewer of the recipe.


To make the sauce, take some French dressing…


Add a can of cranberry sauce….


And dump them together. Add a packet of dry onion soup mix…


And mix it up until it’s relatively smooth.


Season a 3-pound pork tenderloin with salt and pepper (mine was sliced lengthwise, I have no idea why).


And squish it into your little crock pot.


Pour the cranberry-French-dressing-onion mixture on top of it, turn the crock pot to low and cover it, and leave it alone while you’re off earning the big bucks (okay okay, little bucks).


At the end of the day, not gonna lie, it looks a little funky at first.


Once I started cutting it up a bit, it looked more familiar and more appetizing.


As for sides, I kept it simple. I whipped up a batch of garlic mashed potatoes from a box and steamed some frozen chopped broccoli. Actually, a relatively healthy meal overall.


And there you have it, slow-cooker cranberry pork! Not my favorite recipe ever, but I’ve never been a huge pork fan so I can’t hold that against it. But it was sweet and flavorful, and hubby ate everything on his plate, so I think it was a success. And the ease of it was just wonderful.

Recipe in Tastebook shortly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp

I pretty much summed up the entire recipe in the title. The original recipe called it “garlic butter shrimp,” but I think the touch of lemon juice deserves a mention in the title because it’s an important part of the taste.


Oh, I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. This is a dish I first made while hubby was away at school. It’s so easy and unremarkable that I didn’t take any pictures. But it’s simply yummy and I wanted to make it again, and I wanted to share it with anyone else who likes seafood.

First, this is my equipment. A rice cooker and a wok.


Now, the wok is actually a funny story. I had received it as a wedding present back in October, and with the chaos of finding homes for all the awesome new things that we got (including that rice cooker on the left, which I am in love with), the wok got stowed in a dirty storage spot under the stove that I never used because it was dirty and gross. Then I completely forgot about it. I only rediscovered this brand spankin’ new wok recently, and it was such an awesome discovery!


Next, set a pound of frozen raw shrimp in a colander to thaw under running water in the sink.


And pour a nice big glass of merlot enjoy while you cook.


That picture cracks me up because you can see my reflection in the glass. Pretty sure the professionals manage to avoid that. But it adds a personal touch, yes?

Okay, now for the food. Take 1/4 cup of butter…


…and melt it in your fancy new wok (or any old frying pan, really).


Add a bunch of garlic…


And then add the shrimp.


Saute it until the shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes. Then add lemon juice and stir it up.


Put some rice in a bowl (and if you used a rice cooker, then it’ll be beautiful and fluffy like this rice)…


And top the rice with the shrimp and a little extra sauce, if you’re naughty. That’s it!


I didn’t do too much to alter this recipe. I think its beauty comes from its simplicity. The hardest part was waiting for the rice to cook before starting on the shrimp, since it takes 10 minutes max to whip up the shrimp. It’s buttery with a hint of lemon – not tart or puckery, just a fresh little bite that goes well with the seafood. You could put it over pasta, too, but I think I love the way the rice soaks everything up. I think this may be one of those dishes that I learn to do *gasp* without a recipe. Mmmm.

Recipe is in my Tastebook (click on the widget). If you try it out, let me know how it goes!