Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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When you think of a typical refreshments table at a social function, what ‘s the first thing that comes to your mind?

A spread of deli sandwiches.

The veggie platter of broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and carrots.

A cheese and crackers plate.

The water and coffee carafes.

Or, maybe you guys are like me and immediately think of the plate of assorted cookies.

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Most assorted cookie platters will have the usual suspects: chocolate chip, macadamia nut, and oatmeal raisin. Some have M and M’s and sugar cookies, but most just stick with the first three.

It could just be my personal observation, but to me the ranking of the cookie platter is pretty clear and cut dry and there’s usually a pretty standard pattern that’ll I’ll see happen no matter where I’m at or the crowd I’m in.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies always trump everything. They disappear off the cookie platter the quickest so if you’re not one of the first or middle people in line, chances are, you just won’t get one.

Macadamia nut cookies usually rank second. Most  people are  pretty fine with them, and there are even some people who like them best. Why do people like macadamia nut cookies? I’m sure I don’t know. Personally, I think they’re overrated. Also,I don’t like macadamia nuts. Moving on.

Then there’s the oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re usually the ones that get eaten last, or just get completely passed over and left behind. Most people I know HATE oatmeal raisin cookies. They’re like, the ugly step sisters of the cookie platter.

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This is a complete mystery to me. Personally, I love oatmeal raisin cookies. In fact, I’ll go a step further and admit that I learned to love oatmeal raisin cookies BEFORE I ‘learned’ to love chocolate chip cookies. Given the choice over the two, would always pick the oatmeal raisin first. It’s true.

I’m just weird like that.

I think that most people who don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies just haven’t had an oatmeal raisin cookie made for them correctly. The contrasting textures alone are enough to sell me; I love the coarseness of the oats set against the smoothness of the dough. The raisins almost seem to perfume the entire cookie so that even when you don’t bite into one specifically, you can still taste that sweetness that they leave behind. When eaten warm and soft, a perfect oatmeal raisin cookie alllllllmost even tastes like it’s healthy.

Y’know before remembering all the butter and sugar in it that are making it so perfectly soft and chewy in the first place.

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Out of the blue, Jas announced one day that she had a craving for a certain iced oatmeal cookie that used to be sold in the stores when we were little girls that we absolutely LOVED. Those cookies sadly aren’t available anymore, but I thought I’d try to make some that were close to the originals. I used a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, then adopted my die-hard habit of chilling my dough overnight. Once the cookies were done, I whipped together a quick powdered sugar icing that I drizzled over the top.

Not to brag or anything, but these oatmeal raisin cookies would definitely be the stars of any cookie platter at a social event- yes, even with chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookies already there.

Booyah.

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Big and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Recipe Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups rolled old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
  • A few tsp of plain milk (optional)

Directions

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg together in a medium bowl; set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butters and sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix until combined.

Decrease the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the oats and raisins until just incorporated. Refrigerate dough overnight or at least one hour.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper middle and lower middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheets with parchment paper.

Divide dough into 18 portions, each a generous 2 tbsp. and roll them between your hands into balls about 2 inches in diameter. Place dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake, switching and rotating the sheets halfway through the baking time, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, 22-25  minutes. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temp.

Combine powdered sugar and milk until it makes a firm icing. Using a small spoon or spatula, spread icing on top of cookies and allow to set and harden.

My Grandma’s Lemon Soda Pound Cake

My Grandma's Pound Cake3

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, right?

False. At least, that’s my opinion.

There are some things in life that you just know, no matter what happens, that you will always, always ALWAYS be able to depend on.

Things besides death and taxes.

They may be good. They may be bad. But they’re a sure thing regardless.

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I’ll start out with a positive: my sisters. My sisters are as dependable and certain as death and taxes.

Except in a good way.

I know that no matter what happens, no matter where I am or what I’m doing or going through, I can always depend on those two. They’re my best friends in the entire world. There’s nothing I can’t talk about, share with, or ask them for. They’re always there for me. They’re not going anywhere

Theoretically could I cheat and avoid death and taxes? Sure.

But cheating/avoiding my sisters? That’s never gonna happen.

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I heard someone say on a tv show once that the only thing just as certain as death and taxes were mistakes.

Here, I have to agree.

No matter how hard you try to strive for perfection, sooner or later you will mess up somehow. It’s gonna happen. You will make a mistake. And that’s okay; accept it, move on and learn from it. It’ll make you a better person.

In fact, NOT thinking you’re going to ever make a mistake IS actually making a mistake so if you’re thinking that way, then you should really stop because you’re actually mistaken.

Heh. See what I did there?

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I bring up the whole death, taxes and certainty bit because it’s really the first thought that came to my mind when I sat down to write out this post.

If I had to pick out a handful of things that have just been permanent fixtures throughout my life, then this recipe would certainly be one of them. And with good reason. It’s probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. Hands down. No contest.

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My grandma’s desserts are the thing of legend in my family, and although she knows how to do bake just about anything, this pound cake is still the most treasured darling of them all (with the possible exception of her caramel cake, but you guys aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness yet).

When I was growing up, I just got used to almost always seeing this pound cake sitting on my grandparent’s dining room table underneath her fancy clear glass- domed serving plate as the ‘standard’ dessert for everyone to have after dinner throughout the week. Everyone loves it. Everyone.

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I’ve made quite a few pound cake recipes before and I still have to say, my grandma’s is THE moistest I’ve ever had- which is no easy task for pound cake sometimes. It practically melts in your mouth. I used the phrasing “lemon soda” in the recipe title on purpose: we typically either use Squirt or 7-up in our cake, but honestly ANY name-brand lemon lime soda will do. (Sprite, Squirt, Sierra Mist, 7-Up, Faygo, etc). Just make sure that the soda isn’t flat. For some reason having the carbonation really makes the difference in helping the flavor come through.

Normally, I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts, but I just can’t get enough of the slight tartness from the citrus that offsets the sugar in the cake. I know it SEEMS like a lot of lemon flavoring with the extract, lemon juice AND lemon soda, but trust me: it all works beautifully together.

When Angie asked me to help co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #67 with Caroline@CarolinesCooking, I didn’t hesitate. Not just because I love co-hosting, but also because it would give me the chance to share this recipe with all of you that is so close to my heart. I hope you all enjoy it.

For those that are new to the Fiesta, welcome! We’re happy to have you and invite you to join our link up and the festivities by clicking the link to the website.

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My Grandma's Lemon Soda Pound Cake


Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. lemon extract
  • 3/4 cup lemon soda (like Squirt or 7-Up)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

 Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a fluted bundt pan (or 2 greased and floured loaf pans) and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour.

Beat in lemon extract, lemon soda and lemon juice

Pour batter into Bundt or loaf pan(s). Tap the bottom of the pans onto a countertop a few times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, or a direct read thermometer inserted into cake reads 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit. (Note: if you’re using 2 loaf pans,the cook time will obviously be shorter, so check it sooner rather than later.)

Allow cake to cool for at least 35-45 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding from pan.

Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs

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One thing that anyone who’s on pretty good terms with me will tell you, is that I’m usually a self-depreciating person.

I second guess myself a lot. Even if I try something new and it turns out, I’ll usually focus first on the things I did wrong before acknowledging the things I did right.

Especially when it comes to my cooking. I’m super anal about my cooking.

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If I’m making a meal for a crowd or my family, I’ll taste test the dish over and over again, making sure I’ve got my seasonings right.

I’m obsessed with the done-ness of my meats.I’m either afraid that I’m going to undercook them and feed somebody raw food, or overcook them and give someone a piece of leather. There is no in-between.

I use a thermometer to make sure my cakes bake at just the right temperature to be moist, but not too dry. 190 degrees fahrenheit. Yeah. I totally know it by heart.

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I hover over everyone asking questions about the food:

“How is everything?”

“Taste ok?”

“Is it tender/moist enough?”

“Too sweet? Too salty? Too spicy? Not sweet/salty/spicy enough?”

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Even if the dish turns out well, and everyone likes it, I usually still just let it roll off my back. I’m not huge on gloating or giving myself great huge thumbs up.

Most of the time.

But guess what? This time is different. Very, very different.

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This time, I’m gloating. Majorly gloating.

And I dare anyone to try and stop me.

Life in the kitchen is full of trial and error. Sometimes you’ll fail and mess something up. Sometimes you’ll do ok and put out something that’s passable.

And then sometimes, you’ll make something that totally and completely blows your mind.

That’s what happened to me with this dish, guys.

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Country-Style Ribs were something that before this dish, I’d never handled or attempted to cook with before. Red meat itself is just usually something I don’t get my hands on very much anymore because it’s gotten to be too friggin expensive. But my grocery store put them on sale for SUCH a good deal. And the meat looked so beautifully marbled and vibrant in the package that I just couldn’t help myself. I went ahead and bought two packages.

Because it was my first time making them, I decided to stick with something relatively simple and traditional. No frills, no fancy stuff. Barbecue ribs are the best type of ribs.

But me and the grill don’t get along, so I knew I would have to find another way of making them ‘barbecue style’. Cue this recipe I found on Epicurious.com

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What you’re looking at is hands down, one of the most delicious, outstanding, perfect things that I have ever made in my life.

I am NOT  kidding.

This is legit one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten. I almost couldn’t believe that I actually cooked it. It made me step back, take a look at myself and say, “Hey: maybe I’m actually pretty GOOD  at this whole cooking thing….”

I followed this recipe almost to the letter, the only thing I changed was to decrease the original amount of vinegar called for  in the barbecue sauce recipe. (I’m from the South, so I tend to prefer my sauce on the sweeter side.)

Guys, I can’t say enough about the tenderness of these ribs. I mean…Goll-LEEEEEE. Put that knife away: you will NOT be needing it. I’m not even 100% convinced that you’ll need a fork. That’s how tender and juicy and moist the meat comes out. You can literally pull it apart with your fingers.

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See that? That was me after I took one bite of these ribs.

I was Hot Stuff that day. And the day after that when I ate the leftovers.

Lord, just looking at these pictures is making me re-live the glorious feeling of sheer and complete culinary victory all over again. Somebody get me a trophy and a podium to make an acceptance speech, stat.

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I’m super duper late, but I’m still bringing these ribs to the Fiesta Friday#66 party. Because the world deserves to know about these ribs. It’s that serious.  Thanks to Angie and Anna @Anna International for hosting (all by herself too, that is NO easy task!)

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Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs


Recipe Adapted from Epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 lb boneless country-style pork ribs
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (12 oz)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons drained bottled horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Put ribs in a 6- to 8-quart pot and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, skimming froth, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Drain pork in a colander and pat dry, then arrange in 1 layer using tongs in a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over pork to coat evenly, then cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour, then remove foil and carefully turn pork over with tongs and cook, uncovered, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Skim fat from sauce if desired.

Harvest Apple Challah

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Sometimes life is just made up of everyday annoyances, irritations, unfortunate circumstances and overall ‘sucky-‘ things.

It snowed earlier this week in Michigan.

End of April. We got snow.

I’m sorry to say that round here,  that’s nothing new. My senior year of high school, we got a full blown snow storm on Easter Sunday. I still remember going out to shovel the sidewalk in blowing snow when we got home from church.

It sucked.

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Oftentimes I can shrug off suck-y things as exactly that: suck-y things. For example:

Snow in April.

Random, unexpected and extremely inconvenient cooking fails (when I specifically planned on doing a photo shoot for the blog that day).

My paycheck doesn’t have a few extra zeros at the end.

Sucks.

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I’ve never been to Europe.

Stephanie Meyer is a gazillionaire and a bestselling ‘author’, and I’m…not either of those things.

Chris Evans hasn’t figured out that we’re meant to be together and proposed to me.

I don’t have the thighs of a Victoria Secret Model.

Sucks.

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But for every one of the daily, inconvenient ‘suck-y’ circumstances of every day life, I bet we all can think of just as many (if not more) convenient, not suck-y circumstances that make up for all that. I certainly can.

For one: challah. Challah is one of my all-time favorite things ever, period. It’s beautiful. It’s delicious. It’s the best.

Challah can make up for a lot of those daily suck-y things.

(Except maybe the one about Chris Evans. That still smarts pretty bad no matter what.)

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Somehow, I always end up baking challah around this time of year. Last year, I went all out and made regular Challah and a Vanilla Bean Challah. This year, I still wanted to try and make a twist on the original so I decided to go with this recipe for Challah stuffed with apples.

Challah itself can be a labor of love if you’re keen on twisting the dough into elaborate shapes. Or if you’re like me, and still has to Google EVERY SINGLE TIME how to correctly braid the dough no matter how many times I’ve made this bread before. This apple challah is, I will admit, somewhat more  labor intensive.

However, it’s worth it. More than worth it.

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As you guys can see, this dough is as soft, fluffy and moist as a bread dough can get. The fat challah rolls pull apart at the slightest tug, letting the tender apple chunks fall out into your hands. Best of all, the filling leaks out ever so little so that the bottom of the dough has a thin layer of syrupy brown sugar goo. And of course, there’s the trademark challah golden brown crust on top that is ever so ‘thunk-able’ with your fingers so that you know for sure that you’ve done it right.

So.much.yum.

Definitely does not suck.

If I had to critique one thing about this recipe, it’s that I had way too much dough to try and stuff into a 9 inch cake pan. Mine wasn’t wide or tall enough by far, so I opted for one of deep, oval casserole pans instead. I think it gave me a much bigger rise for my dough anyway, so that was totally cool with me.

Cheers, guys!

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Harvest Apple Challah

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

For Dough

  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

For Apple Filling

  • 2 medium-to-large apples, NOT peeled; cored and diced in ¾” chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  ¼ cup granulated sugar

Glaze

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • coarse white sugar, optional

 Directions

1) Pour water in a small bowl; add yeast and 1 tsp. white sugar. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until proofed and foamy at the surface.

2) Pour yeast mixture into a stand mixer and add vegetable oil, honey, eggs and salt, stirring well to combine. Using dough hook add the flour, 1 cup at  a time until dough is smooth and elastic.

3) Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

4) Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan that’s at least 2″ deep, or grease a 9″ or 10″ springform pan.  Toss the apple chunks with the sugar and cinnamon. Gently deflate the dough, transfer it to a lightly greased work surface, and flatten it into a rough rectangle, about 8″ x 10″.

5) Spread half the apple chunks in the center of the dough. Fold a short edge of the dough over the apple to cover it, patting firmly to seal the apples and spread the dough a bit.  Spread the remaining apple atop the folded-over dough. Cover the apples with the other side of the dough, again patting firmly. Basically, you’ve folded the dough like a letter, enclosing the apples inside. Take a bench knife or a knife, or even a pair of scissors, and cut the apple-filled dough into 16 pieces. Cut in half, then each half in halves, etc.  Lay the dough chunks into the pan; crowd them so that they all fit in a single layer (barely). Lots of apple chunks will fall out during this process; just tuck them in among the dough pieces, or simply spread them on top. Cover the challah gently with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s a generous 2″ high. It should just crest the rim of a 9″ round cake pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 325°F.

6) Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the dough with the egg mixture, and sprinkle heavily with the coarse sugar, if desired. If you’re going to drizzle with honey before serving, omit the sugar. Place the bread in the lower third of the oven. Bake it for 55 minutes, or until the top is at least light brown all over, with no white spots. Remove the challah from the oven, and after 5 minutes loosen the edges and carefully transfer it to a rack.

Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

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You guys wanna know one of my favorite things about visiting the South? They have an immense appreciation and respect for sweet tea there.

You can get it in gas stations. You can order it in restaurants. They don’t look at you like you’re cray-cray when you ask for it with no ice.

It’s not like that up here in the North.

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The ‘sweet tea’ they sell in gas stations and grocery stores here isn’t real sweet tea. It’s not. I’ve been to the South. I know the difference.

Here, when I ask the waitress in a restaurant if they serve sweet tea, she gives me this blank stare and says something along the lines of, “Oh,um…we’ve have Lipton’s Lemon Iced Tea, but it’s not really sweetened.”

And then I just order water.

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Don’t judge me, but the closest thing I can get to Southern sweet tea here is the stuff that they sell at McDonalds. It sure isn’t the real thing, but it’s better than the lemon Lipton tea most other joints serve. They do throw me major shade when I ask for no ice, though.

It’s as if they have a problem with someone who’s caught onto their little trick of filling the cup to the brim with ice so that they can skimp on the amount of tea they actually TRY to give.

Nope, nope Buttercup. I’m onto your game.

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I was sitting at home one day really missing Southern sweet tea when I suddenly thought of how interesting it would be to try and cook with it. The way I saw it, a savory dish could really provide a wonderful counter to the sweetness of the tea with the right blend of spices- and the right protein, of course.

Since we are talking about a Southern drink, I thought I’d go with one of the main proteins that’s used in Southern cooking (also my go-to for affordability and ease): the chicken breast.

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I’ve heard of sweet tea brined chicken that’s then deep fried, but for my rendition I thought that I would keep things here healthier and put my broiler to use instead. Plus, I think that this here marinade I’ve put together is pretty tasty all on it’s own without needing the addition of a greasy, crunchy skin coating.

Not to knock fried chicken, though. Fried chicken is always a winner. But this is too. Trust me.

I love when one of my harebrained ideas for the blog actually  pays off, and this is really one of them. Broiling the meat here was just such a good move; soaking it in the tea then placing it underneath the heat of the broiler creates a thin, but slightly crisp, golden sweetened crust on the outside that opens to tender and moist white meat on the inside. Then of course, there’s the charred edges that have that perfect contrast of flavor that ‘almost’ fools you into thinking the meat was grilled.

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If you do decide to make this dish (and c’mon, why wouldn’t you?) then don’t skip the step of step of setting aside the extra cup or so of marinade to make the sauce later on. Because the sweet tea sauce really is the star here. When I ate this dish for dinner, I drizzled some over my vegetables and was a VERY happy camper that night.

Maybe I should start bottling and selling it.

I didn’t make it to last week’s Fiesta Friday and even though I’m late this time around, I’ll still be there for Fiesta Friday #64 this week. Thanks to Angie for hosting, and Ginger@Ginger & Bread and Loretta@Safari Of The Mind.

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Sweet Tea Broiled Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 3 family sized tea bags (like Lipton Cold Brew)
  • 8-9 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

 Directions

1. Place water in heavy pot and bring to a boil.

2. Remove from heat, then place tea bags in pot and allow to steep for about 20 minutes.

3. Add next 9 ingredients and place back over medium heat, allowing to come to a simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow sugars to dissolve and flavors to combine. Remove from heat and completely cool. Set aside about 1 cup of the marinade to use for later.

4. Divide the chicken breasts between two gallon size plastic bags. Pour even amounts of the remaining marinade over chicken, seal bags and refrigerate overnight or at least one hour.

5. Preheat broiler and spray broiler pan well. Broil chicken until inner temperature reaches 160-165 degrees and outside is browned and slightly charred.

6. While chicken is cooking, pour the reserved unused marinade into a small saucepan and place over the stove over medium-high heat. Allow to reduce and thicken until it makes a sauce to desired consistency. Serve over chicken.

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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About 8 or 9 months ago, I bought a Ninja blender.

I don’t know about some of you, but for me, it was what I would consider a pretty big financial splurge. I can’t just go around buying up a $170+ ANYTHING, no matter how much I love my kitchen gadgets. However, there was a major discount in the department store on their kitchen appliances so I was tempted. And once I get tempted, things just typically seem to take off from there.

I reasoned to myself that it wasn’t going to be likely that this blender would ever come at this price again, or at least in the near or distant future. I reasoned that if I did actually ‘treat myself’ and buy it then I’d really and finally get into the whole ‘smoothie/shake’ thing and start taking them with me to work to give myself a nice little health boost. I reasoned that the advertisement said that the blender could actually double as a pretty good food processor as well.

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Long story short, I bought it.

And to make the story even shorter I’ll just come right out and admit: the smoothie health kick thing really didn’t work out. I just…I don’t like them. I’m not a fan of drinking much of anything besides water and coffee to be honest and the idea of drinking ‘meals’ just turns off my appetite almost completely. I probably made like, four smoothies before  I called  it quits and used all the fruit I had bought up for that purpose to just bake a pie.

But I still had the blender.

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Well, I wasn’t about to let my Ninja go to waste. I’ve been using it. Just not as a blender. Mainly it just helps me put together my pie crusts more easily and less messily than I did before by hand.

Oh yeah, and they’re not lying about the quality of that blade, guys. It’s very sharp. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sharp. As my knicked, cut and sliced open fingers can fully attest to.

Recently, I’ve found a new efficient use for my Ninja blender that gives me new hope that just maybe I wasn’t a sucker that day in the department store when I splurged and bought it.

That new hope is Hummus.

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One thing you should all should know about me and hummus: I’m kinda obsessed with it. It’s the universal condiment; I can eat it on anything. And I do mean ANYTHING.

I’m pretty good at practicing portion control with food in general, but let me tell you something: I have little to no portion control when it comes to hummus. Nothing but the realization that if I don’t stop eating it, I will run out and have to buy more will actually make me stop and put it away.

Good thing it’s pretty healthy all things considered, huh?

Grocery store hummus is ridiculously overpriced, so every time I go to a Middle Easter or Lebanese restaurant, I will try their hummus, just to see what their ‘packing’ so to speak. If the joint has more than one flavor of hummus, that’s a pretty good sign so far as I’m concerned. It means that the owners really have their priorities in order. They know what life’s all about. The best hummus I’ve ever had comes from a Middle Eastern deli in my town called Woody’s Oasis, coming in Regular, Spicy and Garlic flavors. I could eat it every single day for  the rest of my life and never, ever get tired of it. My wallet may be lighter though.

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This is where my Ninja came in. I decided to put that baby to good use and try making hummus of my own at home with one of my favorite ingredients: roasted red pepper.

Now for those that don’t have a Ninja, don’t worry about it: I really don’t think that your hummus will suffer because of the secret weapon in my back pocket that is the KEY to super smooth, creamy hummus every time. Want to know what it is?

Water + Baking Soda. Boiling your chickpeas/garbanzo beans in a combination of the two will peel them for you, eliminating those pesky outer skins that oftentimes result in thick, pasty hummus that no one wants. So whatever you do, do not-DO NOT- skip the step of simmering the chickpeas in the water/baking soda. You’ll live to regret it, I promise you.

Now look: my hummus may not be the hummus from Woody’s Oasis, but I gotta tell you all that I was pretty impressed with myself when I took that first bite.

Because it’s still pretty friggin delicious. So much so that I turned right around and made a second batch almost immediately. Remember? I have no sense of control when it comes to this stuff. But it’s chickpeas, so that makes it okay.

Right?

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Recipe Courtesy of Vitamix.com

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Ingredients

To Peel Chickpeas

  • Water
  • A few tsp. of baking soda

For Hummus

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 ounces roasted red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for serving
  • ½ cup tahini paste
  • 2 ½ Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 3 cups canned chickpeas, drained and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Smoked paprika, optional

 Directions

1. Pour chickpeas into a pot and submerge with water.

2. Add baking soda and bring to a rolling simmer, over medium high heat. The skins should begin to rise to the top.

3. Using a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, remove the skins from the pot and discard. When the chickpeas are just tender (but not mushy) drain them in a colander, then immediately submerge them in cold water. Use your hands and lightly rub them together; the remaining skins should slide off and either float to the bottom or rise to the top. Discard skins.

4. Place the peeled chickpeas, as well as all the other remaining ingredients into a food processor or blender and process on high until smooth and creamy. Drizzle with olive oil and smoked paprika and serve. 

Glazed Chamomile Hot Cross Buns

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You know how there are some people that you just go back with? I mean way, way, waaaaay back? As in, they’ve known you just about most of your life and no matter how long ago it was, or how much the two of you have changed over the years, you two will always have that ‘Rainbow Connection’ that you know very well you’ll never get with people you meet these days?

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See, I’m like that with food. Certain foods anyway. I’m an introvert with people, but there are a few foods that I bond with on a higher, deeper, more intimate level because they’ve just always been hanging around in the subconscious of my mind for as long and as far back as I can remember. Does that make me weird?

Maybe, but I’m a foodie and I like myself so whatevs.

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Guys, Hot Cross Buns and I are connected. We have a bond. It’s been going on for a while- and I do mean a WHILE. As in, like…twenty years.

You know the funny thing? We’ve never even ‘spoken to’ each other until two days ago. (Meaning two days ago was the first time I actually ate a hot cross bun).

But Jess, I’m sure you’re thinking, how is it possible to be bonded to a food you’ve never even met?

I was just getting around to that.

Me and my sisters has this VHS tape when we were little of a huge collection of British nursery rhymes that we watched a lot. All the time actually. We recently found it on DVD on Amazon and ordered it for my baby niece to watch now.

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I may or may not have watched it by myself to take a walk down memory lane and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was slightly amused at how much the quality of kid’s movies has changed in the last twenty years-in comparison to what’s out there for them now, it’s clear to me that it obviously took so ‘little’ to hold the attention of kids of the 80’s or 90’s. Or maybe we just weren’t missing what we didn’t have, I don’t know. But somewhere in between my nostalgia and amusement, my attention was suddenly caught by one of the nursery rhymes in the movie called ‘Hot Cross Buns’. I’m sure most of you guys know it.

It’d been twenty years since I last saw the tape, but sure enough, I still remembered the music and words to the rhyme. Some things you just don’t forget. I’d like to pretend that my recollection was due to pure nostalgia but…no. It was  more than that. See during the particular scene , there’s an English baker guy walking across a bridge with a tray of piping hot hot cross buns singing the nursery rhyme while holding out one to the camera/audience. And they look really delicious. I remember thinking, “Wow, I’d REALLY like to try one of those.”

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Then it hit me: I could remember wanting to try one before.

You guys see what I’m getting at here?

It was the food, or rather the memory of wanting that food that made me form a connection to hot cross buns that’s spanned a period of over twenty years. Now THAT’S  what I call a craving. If a craving lasts for over 20 years, then you just have to honor it- you’ve suffered and deprived yourself long enough, am I right?Am I RIGHT?

Fortunately hot cross buns are kind of a popular thing to make this time of year. I found a recipe on The Kitchn website rather easily, but I decided to make several changes to it to make it my own, using chamomile tea in the dough instead of Earl Grey (because it’s what I had at the time). I also topped the buns off with some melted orange marmalade I had sitting around the pantry, and piped the cross myself (yes, I know my piping skills are abysmal. You didn’t have to bring it up).

I gotta say guys…these babies were well worth the 20 year wait. Yum, yum, and more YUM.

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OMG, I just remembered: I get to co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #62 with Prudy@ButterBasilandBreadcrumbs who is basically one of my favorite people ever! And I get to bring these Hot Cross Buns to the party? I don’t know who’s more lucky- you or me.

Tell you what, while I sit here and try to figure it out, why don’t you mosey on over to our brand spankin’ new Party Hall and join in the festivities? We’d love to have you- and any food you’d care to bring and share with us!

(And as always, let’s hear it for our gracious host Angie@TheNoviceGardener. Thanks for asking me to host again Angie- it’s always a real treat.)

Glazed Chamomile Hot Cross Buns

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Chamomile tea bags
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) packet of dried yeast
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Pumpkin Pie spice
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • Orange Marmalade, for glazing
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • Milk

 Directions

Bring the water to a boil on the stovetop or in the microwave. Remove from heat and steep the tea bags in the water for 15 minutes. Remove the tea bags, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of them and discard. Let the tea cool until it is lukewarm (about 100°F).

In a small bowl, stir together the brewed tea, yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup of the flour. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Heat the butter and milk together in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has just melted; remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Whisk in the egg.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the remaining flour, salt, mixed spice, lemon zest, orange zest and currants. Pour the tea mixture and the milk mixture over top. Stir together until there are only a few floury patches remaining. Tip the contents of the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.

Clean the large mixing bowl and grease with some oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Divide the risen dough evenly into 12 pieces and roll them into balls. Place onto a parchment-lined baking tray spaced a few inches apart. Slash a cross into the top of each bun using a sharp knife or razor. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and leave to rise for 30 minutes until doubled in size. While the buns are rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl, then brush the risen buns all over with beaten egg.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown all over. While buns are baking, heat orange marmalade in microwave until runny. After taking the buns out of the oven while they are still warm, brush them with melted marmalade and allow to completely cool.

Combine powdered sugar with a few teaspoons of milk in  a pastry bag or plastic bag with the tip cut off. Pipe a cross across the buns and allow to set/harden.