Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookie Dough PB Cups

A few weeks ago, I impulsively made these because I was craving sweets and chocolate like a starving child.

Then a week later, when we only had two left, I just had to make them again. They're fortunately (or unfortunately) very easy to make. And they are probably one of the best things I've ever baked, except you don't have to bake them. This is coming from someone who has had some serious issues lately controlling their baking and eating-baked-goods addiction.

In my "normal" life I don't really eat a lot of sweets. When I'm pregnant, it seems that every day I can't go without some sort of dessert. Sometimes, twice a day. I feel super guilty about it, especially with things like cookie dough peanut butter cups. I mean, that can't be good for my baby - even with the healthy food I eat. However, this pregnancy I was really nauseated and sick up until I was 22-weeks-pregnant, and I would take getting fat any day over being nauseous while mothering a young child. So, I'm taking advantage of the situation :) These are a total pregnancy-utopia food. Except everyone in my life that has tried them has moaned while doing so.

If you're here looking for the chocolate latkes recipe I promised last week, I received the honor of posting it to my friend Tara's blog. Check it out here. Also, her blog is awesome. Look through it for some great ideas.

So the most dangerous part of this recipe is that you technically can just make the cookie dough and eat that. It's eggless so it can be stored and consumed safely (does anyone pay attention to that though? I eat cookie dough all of the time, with eggs or not). My original plan was to do that but somehow I ended up making the entire recipe, which I got from another favorite blog of mine, How Sweet It Is.

First you make the cookie dough, then you melt chocolate and mold it into cupcake cups.

After everything has set in the freezer, simply pack the cookie dough into the chocolate cups tightly, cover the cups with more melted chocolate, and freeze it again until totally set. Pack them tightly. Don't waste chocolate-chip-peanut-butter-cookie-dough. 

Um, yea.. no baking. So easy. Too delicious. Dangerous. If you were to file this recipe that's what it would be under.

No really nice, quality stomach shots at all lately. The last time we used an actual camera (not a camera phone) to take pictures of my growth was when I was 25 weeks pregnant. I'm 32 weeks now, and really dropping the ball on watching my baby grow. This pregnancy is flying by to say the least! I know I'm bigger, but for some reason the scale isn't showing it. I gained like five pounds in my first trimester and then it seemed to slow down. By this point in my previous pregnancy I had gained over 20 pounds. The doctor's office scale is saying I've only gained 13.  It's likely the reason is that my adorable son, who is 23-months-old today (WTF), is like a second gym membership. Maybe that's why I can't stop eating dessert, because I'm legitimately starving.

Yes. That will be my excuse.

Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Cups

Original Recipe from How Sweet It Is

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Harris Teeter Organic No-Stir because I HATE processed PB)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips, divided (I used Ghirardelli)
Sprinkles (optional)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the brown sugar. Let it cook a few minutes until the sugar dissolves and it bubbles a bit. Add the peanut butter and vanilla and whisk it until it's fully mixed. Set it aside.

While it's cooling, melt 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips. I did it in 30-second intervals in the microwave, stirring it between, until it was just melted. Line a cupcake tin with liners (the original recipe calls for mini-cupcakes, but I didn't have those and quite frankly, I think that would be too small for me) and using a pastry brush, brush the chocolate on the bottom and up the sides of the liner. Don't let it be too thin, as this will hold the cookie dough! When you're done, put the tin in the freezer until it sets - about 15 minutes.

Going back to your cookie dough, whisk the powdered sugar, flour, and salt into the mixture, then fold in the mini-chocolate chips. Put it in the fridge to cool and set for about 10 minutes. When it's cool, remove it and pack each cupcake liner with some of the dough until it's almost 3/4 of the way full. Place it back in the freezer for about ten minutes. Melt the rest of the milk chocolate in the same fashion, and spoon each cup with about two tablespoons of melted chocolate. Use the pastry brush to distribute it evenly. Add sprinkles if desired. Put the tin back in the freezer.

This is the hard part. Waiting.

You shouldn't have to wait more than 10 minutes for the entire thing to set, but if you can manage to wait 30 minutes, these will be even better. Remove the liners and enjoy. Store these in the fridge. They are much better served cold!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Creamy Tomato Bisque

Have you ever had a favorite dish at a particular restaurant that you order time and again, for years?

That's how I feel about the creamy tomato bisque at Cypriana's, a small little carry-out place at my job. I love this soup and I usually can't resist getting a small cup to go with a salad for lunch. A few months ago I asked Cypriana's manager if she could give me some basic idea as to the recipe to her soup and she was kind of enough to provide some vague answers.

Manager: "You know, first I cook my vegetables, then I make my roux, and I add a lot of garlic and heavy cream. I cook it for hours and really develop the flavor. Oh and I strain all of my soups!".

Me: "What vegetables?"

Manager: "Canned tomatoes, maybe some celery. You know!"

With this information (or lack of) I was determined to try and emulate her soup.

I'm sad to say, I have not. But I've come close. And it tastes pretty awesome. And even more exciting is I totally winged this. I don't know what the true definition of a bisque is, so this in fact, may not be one, but I'm going to call it bisque because that's what the restaurant calls it.

This recipe makes a lot of food. Certainly enough to feed a family of eight, and freeze the other half for another night. I filled up two 48-ounce Tupperware containers of it with the recipe.

Also, I know it's Hanukkah  and this isn't relevant to the holiday at all. Hanukkah recipes and posts will come later! I'm experimenting with my own chocolate latkes recipe that so far, is going great.

Jax's Creamy Tomato Bisque

Inspired by the creamy tomato bisque at Cypriana's Cafe

Two large cans of whole plum tomatoes (28 ounces each can), slightly drained
3-4 large fresh tomatos, cut into large pieces
5 stalks celery, cut into pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into large pieces
1 head of garlic, each piece peeled
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
1/4 cup AP flour
3 cups milk
1.5 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Method: You need to cook the vegetables first;  you can either do this in a large pot or a crock pot. I used a crock pot, and cooked the canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, celery, onion and garlic on low for about 5 hours. The vegetables need to be tender but not mushy, and I wanted the flavors to come out through slow cooking. The other nice thing about the crock pot is as a busy mom, I don't want to sit over the stove for an hour waiting for vegetables to get tender. So while not necessary, I recommend this method.

Once the vegetables are done, strain them by ladling them into a fine strainer over a large bowl. Reserve the liquids in the bowl, and place the solids in a separate large pot OR a food processor. The next step is to puree the cooked vegetables, and I used a hand blender, so I put them into a large pot.

(By the way, if you love to make soup, a hand blender is a must-have item. I just got one a few months ago and it's up there with my iPhone in terms of its importance in my life).

In a separate large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in the milk, and cook until the mixture is thick (about 10 minutes), constantly stirring. Add the pureed vegetables and stir to combine. Add the heavy cream, salt, and garlic powder. Go back to your reserved liquids and add some to taste. I added about 3 cups because I like a strong tomato flavor. If you add a lot of the liquids, it's best to keep cooking the soup for at least 10 more minutes to boil off some of the water while maintaining the tomato flavor.

Garnish with parsley if desired and enjoy.

P.S. Sorry my pictures always suck. I take them with my iPhone and pictures from my real digital camera are even worse. I swear my food tastes good.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Winey Asparagus Chowder

Hi everyone! Sorry I don't post enough. I can't possibly do it with a toddler who doesn't take naps for me. He sleeps when anyone else puts him down except moi. It royally blows. I'm so tired these days after taking care of him and taking him out and about. I can barely stand up after 5-6 hours of picking him up and down, chasing him for diaper changes, and trying desperately to calm him down when he's having a terrible-two's meltdown. The less he sleeps, the more frequent and intense the meltdowns become. The less I lay down, the worse these third-trimester contractions become. There have been a few nights now where I questioned if I was in pre-term labor. No fun at all.

Get. My. Kid. To. Sleep. PLEASE.

You may be thinking, why on earth is she complaining about taking care of her son when she's still teaching Body Attack? Well, I'm here to tell you that teaching Body Attack is like taking a freakin nap compared to taking care of a toddler. Toddlers are no joke. Super physically demanding. And they last much longer than an hour.

So I'm 30 weeks pregnant. Holy crap, we are having a baby soon! I've now gained about 15 pounds. I really hate gaining weight. I want to complain about it. Except in about sixty days I will have two young children to take care of. Meaning double the physical work. I don't feel fat; I just feel awkward. My stomach is so much bigger this time than the first time, rather, it is sticking out front. It's strange to carry around, and have it grow as fast as it's growing. I keep burning it while cooking, bumping into things in my house, and falling while walking upstairs because I am so clumsy.

I'm still able to workout though, and besides feeling like death on the days I'm taking care of my son solo, I can't really make many complaints. I stopped teaching with Colton around 32 weeks pregnant and I think I'm probably going to be able to go way beyond that this time. I have modified a little and stepped back a bit, especially on days I'm not feeling well. But I try to have fun, first and foremost, because quite frankly I LOVE LOVE teaching, and when I stopped last time I was super depressed about it. If I have to take an option here and there I do it now, because I'd rather bring the class positive energy than go do a move that will leave me so tired I can't finish my class with a bang.

And for my body attackers who come to my classes religiously, I want to thank you guys for not only being so supportive of me continuing to teach, but for bringing such a positive hour into my life. On days like today where I felt huge and like I couldn't move, that 60 minutes of teaching is what I needed to feel like myself again, even if it was brief.

This weekend starts Hannukah and I can't wait to celebrate it with my son. I made him a ginormous felt menorah and taped it to the wall, and made him felt candles to stick on the menorah when we begin lighting the candles. We used puffy paint and stickers to decorate it together which he loved, but it seems like he's more obsessed with putting tape on the wall than with his menorah. I think he will feel differently though when we actually light the candles. This week, I plan on making latkes and jelly doughnuts with him to celebrate, and maybe getting creative with sauces and latkes types so we can enjoy some variety. Hopefully I'll have something yummy to post on here once that's done.

In the meantime, I made the most banging chowder last week, and actually ate most of it before anyone in my family could get to it! Which I don't feel bad about because usually my boys eat food I make before I get even one serving. This was delicious, and I'm proud to say, my own recipe. I just made it up on a whim. My husband said it was a bit "winey" for him, so you can add more broth or milk to the chowder (or less wine) if you don't like winey soup. I thought it was fab :) I didn't take a super fancy picture but here it is. More to come next week!

Winey Asparagus Chowder

1-1.5 pounds of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1.5 cups chopped white onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1.5-2 cups of milk
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Chop asparagus into 1-inch pieces, reserving the tips for later. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, and slowly whisk in flour. Cook the roux until it's slightly browned, then slowly whisk in the milk. Keep cooking the mixture until thick, stirring constantly. Once the sauce is thickened, add the onion and garlic. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is tender, then add the wine and chicken broth. Stir it until fully incorporated  add the chopped asparagus, and cover. Cook for another 5 minutes or so until the asparagus is just cooked. Using a hand blender, puree the asparagus, onion and garlic until the soup is thick and homogenous. Add the asparagus tips into the soup before serving.

If you think it's too much wine, try reducing it to just a half a cup or adding a bit more milk. I only used 1.5 cups of milk because I wanted my soup to have a thick texture. I could have added more milk and cooked it longer without a top on to boil off some of the water, but I was doing this as fast as I could.