Kids Play: Monster Cookies!

Ahhh. In appropriate Halloween, but not so scary season….Monster cookies!! Although this is one of my favorite cookie recipes…no one does them better than The Cookie Company. Hats off to them, and a big thanks for the kitchen inspiration.

Confession: I had just recently bought a 25 lb bag of flour for a catering gig I had for this last weekend (of which I used 15 lbs…crazy!) and I wasn’t wanting to tap into it quite yet. I don’t exactly have a spare garbage can to store that much flour in since they don’t make airtight Tupperware the size of a large animal, so thank goodness this amazing cookie recipe doesn’t use flour, surprise!

I kind of cheated this recipe out I snagged from Recipe Girl because I wanted to be able to share with work friends, I made them normal cookie size instead of Monster size…which turned out to make about 40 cookies. These are such simple and basic to make the only thing you need to remember is to refrigerate them before baking. Although this is optional the cookies come out chewy and are much less messy.

Want to get your kids involved? Teach your kids the way of the kitchen! i was reading a food study (no surprise there) done in 2011 of solutions parents can use with kids who don’t eat. I don’t believe that kids should be given a diet of mac&cheese, chicken fingers, and hot dogs till their 15. If you teach your kids to only eat those typical fast kid items, then that’s what they’ll eat. Raise them on what’s considered ‘adult food’ right away and avoid all that boxed and preservative loaded crap! (oops…rant…)  Anywho, the study showed that the more parents involved their children in preparing meals, the easier it was not only to get them to eat all their food, but also to try new items. They will want to eat what they helped make!

     Although I’m sure no one has to beg their children to snack on delicious cookies… have them help! Leave out the M&M’s until the very end. Arrange the candies as a little face the best they can. They come out as little ‘scary’ faces since they baking allows them to spread out in different angles.

Tips: *I personally enjoy using the mini chocolate chips, especially with cookies that have other candy ingredients. That way you don’t get just a mouthful of candy/crunch instead of a more proportioned cookie and candy combo.

*Want the secret to perfect chewy cookies?? Under-bake them one 1 minute. The secrets out…it’s that simple!

*One more!! M&M’s are killer expensive and almost never go on sale. Watch for the single bag sales of M&M’s. They go on sale frequently and if you buy them every so often and throw them in your baking drawer…it ends up being cheaper than buying a large bag!

Monster Cookies

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini)
1 cup M&M’s plain chocolate candies

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line your pan with parchment paper

2. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter with the sugars and butter. Use an electric mixer to mix until well combined. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the oats and baking soda. Then stir in the chips and M&M’s.

3. Drop the cookies by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.(Or for smaller cookies a tablespoon)

4. Bake 9 minutes for the chewy version, or add a minute for regulalr ones. When you remove them from oven, immediately place the pan on a wire rack. Let them sit for about 2-3 minutes till they set. Then slide the parchment paper (with the cookies still on the paper) to the wire rack, this will stop the cooking process from the hot pan and overcooking the cookies.


Baked: Turkey Meatballs with White Wine Tomato Sauce

Meatballs. #ObsessedwithItalian. Pssht, Everyone else is using the hashtag, I figured I’m allowed it once. I love everything about Italian, except the button popping waistline! I’ve done Chicken Meatballs  in the past, but ground chicken (if you’re buying it from the store) is the price of a small child. Turkey is much more affordable!

Confession: Because I’m carb obsessed, and we just got back from vacation I’ve been trying to minimize them a bit lately. Taking the normal amount of rice or pasta and using a quarter of it, (literally, a 1/4 cup) and replacing the rest with healthy proteins and/or vegetables. It’s actually been a good body detox, post-cruise!Speaking of cruise, I found myself sneaking around the Internet this evening hoping to book another one. I figured I’d get my hand slapped after trying to get another one in the books not 7 days before leaving the last one, so I kept that information to myself…well, and here. Cakes doesn’t do blogs, so my secret is publicly safe…. here on the Internet.

Meatballs definitely aren’t the quickest meal to make, but they’re great comfort food if you have a few extra minutes to prepare dinner. I’ll guarantee that the extra leg-work won’t go unappreciated…especially if you accompany it with a great homemade sauce! It’s way to easy just to buy the pre-made ones in the frozen aisle that are loaded with preservatives and sodium. Refrain!! Separate yourselves, make better balls.

HINTS:These are also great for lots of extra leftovers, or for an extended family gathering, especially since the holidays are on the rise! Out of 1 lb of ground turkey  I was able to make about 20 medium meatballs. A 1/4 cup of pasta, and three meatballs a person made plenty for a single serving. Need more? Add some grilled asparagus!

** I made my own red sauce, I’ll include the recipe for this as well below. If you can multitask, I would start these right before you start forming your meatballs, that way everything gets done about the same time.

***The original recipe from Smitten Kitchen, that I adapted this from uses tomato paste, but I preferred my tomato sauce+flour combo.

Turkey Meatballs with White Wine Sauce

4-5 slices of bread torn into small pieces (start with 4, if it’s overly sticky then add a 5th)
1/4 cup of milk
1 onion
1 tbsp of garlic
1 tbsp of oil to cook the onion
1 egg
1 lb of ground turkey
1 can of tomato sauce + a few tbsp of flour
2 tsp of oregano
3 tbsp of parsley
5 slices of pepperjack (optional)

Rip your bread into small pieces in a bowl with your milk. Let this soak for a few minutes while you’re chopping your onion. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cook onion, and garlic in one tablespoon oil with s/p (to taste) in a large skillet over medium heat until onion is softened, about 7 minutes.

To remove the extra milk squeeze it with your hands, then discard milk. Beat an egg in a large bowl, add your turkey, 1 tablespoon tomato sauce, bread, oregano and parsley. This works better if you get down and dirty and use your hands to mix. Form 18-20 meatballs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I could fit about 12 on a normal cooking sheet, so you’ll have to do this in 2 batches.

Mix your remaining tomato sauce with a few tbsp of flour until it comes to a thicker consistency. I formally used tomato paste and oil, but I thought it left a bitter taste. Dump a spoonful of the sauce on each meatball. I add freshly sliced Pepperjack laying around, so I cut each slice into quarters and topped each sauced meatball with one and it was a great addition!

Bake for about 15-17 minutes, or until done.

White Wine Tomato Sauce?

1 onion chopped
1 tbsp of garlic
a handful of mushrooms diced
3/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of water ( or chicken broth)
2 large cans of tomatoes (i throw mine in my food processor-optional)
1 heaping tbsp of sugar
a handful of parsley
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
On medium heat in a skillet, add 1 tbsp of oil, onions, mushrooms, and garlic and gently stir for 4 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape the bottom of the pan, getting all the flavorful bits off the bottom. Allow wine to cook down until reduced by half 3-4 minutes, then add the water.

Pour in tomatoes and stir to combine. Add sugar and more salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat a bit once you’re going to leave it sit and seep for awhile. Allow to cook for at least 30 minutes, taste as you go, follow your palette if you think it needs anything else.In the last few minutes add the cheese and parsley.

*If you want a different consistency, feel free to throw the whole batch into the food processor to bring it all together.

Braised Pork with Mushroom Sauce: Cast Iron Returns!

I’ve been gone….but I’m back!! First post after soaking up endless amounts of sun on coastlines of beautiful beaches! I’m a spoiled brat. Spoiled. ‘Cakes’ took me on a cruise over the past 8 days and it was the best week of my life.We had an absolutely amazing adventure exploring different cultures, countries, and coastlines! Grand Turk, La Romana, D.R., Curacas, and Aruba and coasting by Cuba, Haiti,and Venezuela. We meet some amazing people, created a lifetime worth of memories, and came back with great stories that we can’t wait to share with our families.

Back on shore…and ready to be back in my own Nebraska bed… the first trip I made after work was to the store! Meat Mecca sale! I’m a grocery store fool. I haven’t had a stockpile on proteins since the last time I had to borrow someone else’s freezer for storage assistance. Today I got to replenish my fridge with fresh veggies, fruits, and protein, yes!

There was a mushroom sauce at one of the dinners on our ship and it was a little….weak that was the idea for tonight’s meal. Funny how that works isn’t it? Sometime the best and the worst dishes can be the most inspirational. I was going to use chicken, but hey, when you have a great looking pork chop in front of you, calling sweetly from the meat counter….you don’t say no. Pork it…up?

Braising things is one of my favorite ways to cook (especially in my cast iron!). A nice crisp outside that locks all the juices and moisture inside for the perfect bite. A slight crunch, then tender perfectly cooked to 142 degrees inside. Get your pans out and preheat that oven to 375!

Braised Pork With Mushroom Sauce

I made a single portion of whole grain brown rice (not the minute rice), this will take 20-30 minutes so get this going first.
Thick cut pork chops (I used three)
Season these with fresh ground pepper and sea salt, as well as fresh garlic and few shakes of paprika and garlic powder.
Thinly slice a yellow onion, mushrooms, and a hot red pepper and set aside.
Heat (medium-high) the cast iron pan and coat with a thin layer of oil (I used Safflower). Make sure the pan is fully heated before you place anything in it.
Take your seasoned pork and sear each side (all six!) Once each side is finished (about 30 seconds a piece).
pour enough cooking sherry to deglaze the pan. Now,  then add the onion, mushrooms, and pepper around the outside perimeter combined with 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Cover with tin foil and bake until meat is cooked at 140 degrees or approximately 25 minutes.
Once the meat is up to temperature, pull out of the oven and remove the pork chops to rest aside. On the stove top, place your cast iron with vegetable to medium heat. In a small cup mix 1/4 cup of milk and 2 tablespoons of flour then pour into the heated pan to make a roux, mix well until you get the consistency you desire. (adding wine here at this point isn’t offensive if you already have a bottle open!)
I also steamed some fresh steamed beans to add to the dish at this point as well.
Plate YO dinner! Rice, steamed beans, pork, then top with your mushroom sauce….and glance at a beach picture from Aruba ❤