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Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

One word: YUM.  Yep, Mr. Bunches and I decided to make cookies the other night.  Why?  Well, it’s part of our no-TV week.  That’s right folks–we’ve sworn off TV this week and instead of just taking care of Mini Bunches, we decided to try doing some other stuff.  And making cookies was one such “other stuff” type thing.  Did that make sense?  Anyways, here’s the recipe.  I decided to just alter my mom’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe by adding peanut butter.  It was sort of an experiment, which I’ve never really done with baking, but it turned out well, so here you go:

Mrs. Bunches’ Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used creamy, but you could substitute chunky if you prefer)
  • 1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 4 1/2 cups oats (uncooked)
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)

1. Beat together butter, peanut butter, and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Blend in eggs and vanilla.

3. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and wheat germ.  Add combination to wet ingredients and mix well.

4. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and peanuts.

5. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.

6. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.

Makes about 7-8 dozen cookies.

I always make these in my KitchenAid mixer, and use an ice cream scoop to make even-sized cookies.

Here they are all ready to be baked.

And then after baking . . .

They don’t spread out that much, but rather maintain their shape fairly well.  I usually transfer them to a cookie rack to cool . . .

They generally don’t last that long on the cookie rack . . . I mean, just look how good that looks:

Mmmm . . .

They go perfectly with a nice glass of milk (and yes, I know that’s a stemless wine glass, but in my current state of nursing-every-two-hours, they’re milk glasses 🙂 ).

My one last tip is this: this dough actually freezes really well.  So instead of baking 8 dozen cookies and then embarking on an all-cookie diet for the next few days (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not–I’ve done it before and yes, it’s disgusting.  And right now, with my post-baby bulges, it’s pretty much the last thing I need), you can freeze the dough and then bake only a few cookies at a time as you please.  Just scoop the dough onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and then put it in the freezer for ~1-2 hours.

You don’t need to make sure that the cookies have room to spread out in the oven since you’re not baking them at this point.  So load up the cookie sheet accordingly . . .

Once they’re frozen, just put them all in a ziploc freezer bag, write the baking instructions on it, and voila!  Homemade cookie dough ready as you need it.  You may need to add an additional minute or two to the baking time since they’re frozen, but just keep an eye on them in the oven and you should be fine.

And since some of you (ahem, Auntie E, ahem) are hooked on pictures of Mini B, here are a couple to tide you over.  Looks like someone isn’t quite on board with the no-TV week . . . 

But at least she’s getting the hang of posing for mom’s never-ending photo shoots . . . of course, I still haven’t managed to catch a smile on camera, but that’s my next challenge.

Hope this finds you all enjoying your summer, and maybe some cookies?

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Wearing My Apron High

Now that I’m back from traveling, it’s time for me to get back to some things that I love–ya’ know, to be in the family way so to speak.  And so I thought today I’d share my new favorite bread recipe.  See, ever since my good friend Joanne encouraged me to read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I haven’t purchased a regular loaf of bread.  And by regular I mean the loaves that come packaged in plastic at your grocery store which can sit on your counter for weeks at a time and still be “fresh.”  Kind of like this one:

And while I love making bread totally from scratch, it does take a fair amount of time (although kneading it does give you a great arm workout–sort of killing two birds with one stone: baking and working out).  So, in the interest of practicality and my own sleep, I had to figure out a way to make good bread in our bread machine (the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme).  I hate to say it, but most bread machine bread tastes, well, icky–too thick crust, overly dense, etc.  And so who did I turn to?  Why, Joanne–the true queen of bread.  She even makes her own flour (she’s basically my bread hero).  So here’s her original recipe for Whole Wheat Bread that tastes good from a bread machine:

Joanne’s Whole Wheat Bread Machine Recipe

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup milk (Joanne prefers whole, raw milk)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp lightly salted butter
  • 3-1/2 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour (warmed to room temperature; sidenote: you should always store your flour in the freezer so it doesn’t go rancid)
  • 4 tsp vital wheat gluten (to supplement the freshly ground flour)
  • 1-1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt

Add the ingredients to your bread machine in the order specified by your manufacturer.  Bake on the “Basic” setting with the crust color set to “Light.”  Once it’s done, let it cool for about an hour on a wire rack (it’s really a no-no to cut into freshly baked bread right away).

So there you have it–Joanne’s version.  Now, for those of you (like me) who do not grind their own flour, I created a slightly altered recipe with ingredients available at the local grocery store:

Mrs. Bunches’ Whole Wheat Bread Machine Recipe

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup organic milk (I used 1%)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp unsalted organic butter
  • 2-1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt 

Again, just add all the ingredients in the order specified by your bread machine, set to “Basic” with “Light” crust and hit go!  I’ve also made it with all whole wheat flour and no bread flour, and that comes out well too.  This last time I just ran out of whole wheat flour, so I had to improvise.

Now for the pictures–bear in mind that bread machine bread never looks as appetizing as baked-in-the-oven bread.  And with that caveat, here’s what the final loaf looked like (and yes–I’m aware of its lopsidedness):

I’d ask you to keep an open mind at this point . . . even though it doesn’t look so hot, it still tastes delicious.  Just like whole wheat sandwich bread you’d buy at the store, but without all the nasty chemicals and preservatives.

See what I mean?  Oh, and I recommend slicing it and freezing it either the same day or the day after you bake it.  Since it doesn’t have all those nasty preservatives, that means it won’t last long on your kitchen counter.  And you should never refrigerate bread–it just dries it out.  So slice it, freeze it, and then just take out slices as you need them.  I like it toasted into a nice pb&j sandwich.  Mmm . . . mmm!

Not only have I been baking more bread lately, but I also made some dinner buns the other night.  I won’t plagiarize that recipe (it came from Cook’s Country if you’re curious), but here’s a shot of my bun in the oven . . .

Hopefully I’ve convinced some of you to get that ol’ bread machine out of storage and fire it up . . .

Oh, and there was a slight ulterior motive to this post . . . can anyone guess what it was?!  Okay, I’ll give you some hints by recapping a little . . . wearing my apron high . . . in the family way . . . bun in my oven.  Any guesses now?!

Got it now?  That ain’t a basketball in my belly!  Nope–I’m pregnant!  Due this summer, and Mr. Bunches and I couldn’t be happier.  We’re waiting until delivery day to find out the sex, so we’ve got no girl or boy info for you–sorry.  And we’re also keeping names under wraps, so don’t even bother asking.  Although I hear that Mr. Bunches’ brothers are pushing for Thurman (he’s apparently some famous Bills player); um, let’s just say that they shouldn’t hold their breath. 😉

Okay, so that’s it for today.  I’m still working on getting my Paris shots together and I’m hoping to get a post out this week with all the deets on that whirlwind trip.  In the meantime, here’s one more baby bump shot–this time at the Arc de Triomphe.

Quinoa Salad

Quick house-hunt update: there’s no new news.  Apparently, things move slower in Upstate New York.  I’m trying to be patient.  Trying being the operative word there.

So with no housing news, instead, here’s a great quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) recipe adapted from an old Gourmet magazine . . . since I’ve been away all week, I made this last Sunday so that the Mr. had something healthy to eat while I was gone (and didn’t just make a run for the border 😉 ).  Quinoa is one of the newly touted super foods–it’s a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids, and better than even that: it tastes good.  It’s a great replacement for boring (and, quite frankly, bad-for-you white rice), so I recommend giving it a try.  The Mr. and I are most definitely hooked on the stuff.

Quinoa Salad Yields 4-6 main course servings, 8 side-dish servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa (I used the organic kind from Costco)
  • 2 cups black beans (if from a can, then drain and rinse the beans)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (I would have used red wine vinegar like the original recipe called for, but this was all I had available)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn (from 2 ears)
  • 2 finely chopped green bell peppers
  • one bunch green onions, chopped
  • one pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

For the dressing

  • 5 tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp chili powder (or cumin, but again–I used what I had on hand)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Special Equipment Needed: Large Fine Sieve, like this one (the quinoa is so fine that you can’t use a regular strainer)

Ingredients

1. Cook the quinoa as described in the original recipe:  In a bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve.

Wash the quinoa

2.  In a saucepan of salted, boiling water cook quinoa 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in sieve and rinse under cold water. Set sieve over a saucepan of boiling water (quinoa should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, about 10 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary).

Steam the Quinoa

3. While the quinoa’s cooking, prepare your vegetables . . . chop the green onions (using the whole onion–the white, light green, and dark green parts):

Chopped Green Onions

. . . cut the corn off the cobs (only after cooking the corn first, duh) . . .

Corn off the cob

. . . slice the green peppers and then chop them into small 1/2 inch pieces . . .

Sliced Green Peppers

. . . and halve the cherry tomatoes:

Halved Cherry Tomatoes

4. Add the vinegar (either apple cider, red wine, or even balsamic–just whatever you have on hand) to a bowl with the black beans and season with fresh ground pepper.  I had cooked a bag of dried black beans a few weeks earlier and froze 2-cup portions, so I just added the vinegar and let the beans defrost while I prepared everything else.

Black Beans

5. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.  Then add the corn, black beans, green onions, tomatoes, green peppers, and chopped cilantro.  Toss well to combine.

Quinoa with Veggies

6. Prepare your dressing: whisk together the lime juice, salt, and chili powder (or cumin) until combined.  Slowly add olive oil in a stream while constantly whisking.

Quinoa Salad Dressing

7. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well to combine.  Refrigerate salad if not serving immediately.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Optional: before serving, add two chopped avocados and toss well.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Key Lime Treat, Mr. Bunches Style

If any of you read Friday’s post, you know that we made an offer on a house.  I wish I had some exciting news to insert here, but I don’t–basically, we’ve heard nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zonk (if you will).  Our real estate agent is guessing that our offer was so low, that they aren’t even going to dignify it with a response.  And of course, for those of you who know us, things like that tend to not rub us the right way.  My gut reaction?  Walk away in a huff.  (And believe me, I’m huffing right now.)  But, maybe that’s being hasty?  Maybe this is our diamond dream house in the rough?  Any thoughts?  I did get a chance to talk to some people from the Buffalo area, and apparently a french drain, aka drain tiles, in the basement isn’t that big of a deal.  As long as it’s hooked up to a sump pump, then there’s no problem.  But now, I’m kind of looking at this house like it has an attitude problem (yes, sometimes I project supposed human vibes onto inanimate objects).  Eurgh.  Not sure what to do now . . . if you have any advice, feel free to drop it off in the comments below . . .

But, to take our your mind off of things, here’s another recipe for ya’, this one courtesy of Mr. Bunches himself (don’t say I didn’t warn  you 😉 ):

Chocolate Key Lime Treat (yep–he even named it!)

You’ll need:

  • Chocolate Frozen Yogurt (or Ice Cream if you want to live dangerously)
  • Key Lime Frozen Yogurt
  • Pretzels
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Ice Cream Scoop & a little elbow grease

First, crush some pretzels in a bowl:

Crushing Pretzels

Then, portion yourself some Peanut M&Ms (the Mr. likes to make sure that there’s a nice mix of colors at this point):

Modeling the M&Ms bag

Lots of color, right?

Of course, don’t forget to give your helper an amuse-bouche . . . (or else there can be foot-stomping, pouting, and just overall hysteria):

Amuse Bouche hand out

Helper Satisfied

Phew–crisis averted.  Moving on . . .

Fro Yo Model

Put one scoop of Key Lime Fro-Yo in your prepared pretzel and M&M mess, and roll it around to get it coated with sweet and salty goodness:

Roll Around the Fro-Yo to fully coat

Then, do the same with a scoop of chocolate (or Chocolate Fudge Brownie as the case may be):

Double Scoop and Roll Time 

Now, make a bowl for your helper (I’m more of a straight-up chocolate girl, hence my sort-of-boring-looking sweet-treat in the back of this shot); and enjoy!

Fro Yo for Two!

Of course, when you’re done, don’t forget to lick the bowl!

Nothing will escape!

Like I said, I gave you fair warning.

Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

With all this house hunting and pizza reviewing, we’ve been eating pretty poorly recently.  And really, there’s no excuse for eating poorly when you live less than 2 miles from a Wegman’s!  So last night I decided to make something green (and threw in some bacon for good measure):

Brussel Sprouts & Bacon Pasta

  • 1 pound shaved brussel sprouts (at Wegman’s, they come pre-shaved in a bag, but otherwise just put them through a food processor with the slicer attachment to make quick work of it)
  • 4 slices thick, center-cut bacon (you could also use pancetta, or prosciutto)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 4 oz. whole wheat egg noodles
  • grated parmesan

1. Cut the strips of bacon into 1/2″ wide pieces, and cook over medium heat in a saute pan.

2. Once the bacon is crisped up, remove from pan and put on a paper-towel-lined plate.

2. Wipe out half the bacon grease and return the pan to the heat.  Add the diced shallots and saute for 1-2 minutes, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Saute Shallots, Stirring Frequently

3. Then add the shaved brussel sprouts and continue to saute over medium heat, stirring frequently. 

Add Brussel Sprouts, Stir

4. Continue to saute for approximately 15 minutes.  About halfway through, drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil on brussel sprouts and continue to saute.

Brussel sprouts after 5-7 minutes

5. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.

Keep Pasta at a rolling boil

6. Once brussel sprouts are cooked down and browned on the edges, remove from heat.  Add bacon and pecans, stir.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Pecans

7. Toss drained pasta with brussel sprouts.  Sprinkle with parmesan.  Enjoy!

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