I decided I needed to bake today, because I haven’t done much baking these past few months, even over the holidays. On Twitter, someone suggested I bake oatmeal cookies w/cranberries and lemon zest added. I took this idea a few steps farther. I couldn’t find a recipe, so I adapted an oatmeal raisin recipe and made it my own. They smelled amazing while baking and turned out ridiculously delicious. I didn’t expect them to taste so good, but man, these are going in my regular cookie rotation!
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In stand mixer (or using hand mixer), cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon extract.*
Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon; stir into the butter mixture.
Stir in the oats, cranberries and white chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes approximately 4 dozen
*You could also make these cranberry orange cookies and substitute orange zest and orange extract for the lemon.
I used lemon zest and lemon oil from King Arthur flour. I highly recommend their products, but you could use fresh lemon zest, and lemon extract purchased at your local store. Also, if you use the lemon oil from KA, theoretically you could use a bit more and use no lemon zest (on the KA website, it says it’s meant to be a substitute for zest). Hey, if you bought the set of oils, you’d have orange as well, and you could try these as cranberry orange instead!
A few weeks ago I was looking for a bread recipe to make in my bread machine. I turned, as I so often do, to Twitter, and as a result, ended up with this completely awesome dinner roll recipe, compliments of Bree, one half of the Moira Rogers writing duo. Normally, when I make rolls or bread, my family doesn’t eat more than once piece or roll. So I made this full recipe and then followed the directions in the comments for freezing a portion. I baked only 6 rolls. Umm, big mistake. These rolls were a huge hit with my family. So much so that I’ve made them two batches, and the second batch I made, I doubled, so I could freeze even more.
I didn’t adapt the actual recipe itself from the recipe on AllRecipes, but I did make smaller rolls, and I also didn’t bake them all at once, but froze some for easy baking on weeknights. So I’m including all of those directions.
- 3 cups bread flour
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup dry milk powder
- 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
- Place the bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, water, butter, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (this is generally liquid first, and then the dry ingredients, with the yeast coming in last, to keep the liquids and yeast apart until the machine starts mixing). Set on Dough cycle; press Start.
- Remove risen dough from the machine, deflate, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eighteen equal pieces (original recipe calls for 12 but I like reasonable sized dinner rolls), and form into rounds. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) during final stages of rising.Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.
- Take 1/4 stick of butter and rub over the top of fresh-out-of-oven rolls to make them shiny (and taste good!)
Some tips I picked up from the reviews:
Don’t scoop the flour out of your flour bag with your measuring cup. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup (keeps you from getting too much flour because scooping compacts into the measuring cup)
You can add dried herbs or well chopped fresh herbs to the rolls to make them a bit different. I like rosemary, oregano and basil.
If you don’t want to back the whole batch of rolls, separate what you want (I do 6-8 rolls at a time) and let only that amount rise for 40 minutes. Take the other 12 or so rolls and place them on a cookie sheet and into freezer, covered w/plastic wrap. Don’t let them rise first! Once they’re frozen, you can throw them in a freezer bag and take out the portions you want when you’re ready. Thaw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds (more if they’re still frozen after 30 seconds. The time depends on your microwave wattage). Then let them rise for 40 minutes to an hour.
So deviled eggs are actually a year-round side dish in our house, because it’s one thing that everyone will eat, amazingly enough. There’s something just so…yum about deviled eggs. What is it? I rarely follow a recipe when I make them, although I sometimes use this recipe as a starting point. But I don’t measure (anything) and I go simply by taste. Honestly, I think this is the best way!
12 hard boiled eggs (I use this method of hard boiling), peeled and rinsed.
1. Cut eggs in half lengthwise, scoop out yolk into a bowl and put whites on a platter.
2. Using a fork, smoosh egg yolks until reasonably smooth. If you want really, really smooth deviled eggs, you could use a hand mixer, but really, who has that time and who cares about a few lumps?
3. Add in approximately 1/4 cup mayo to start, plus about a Tbsp of sweet relish and brown mustard each. Mix. Add more of each to your personal taste.You may want more mayo or mustard especially.
4. Toss in about a tsp of horseradish, mix and taste. Depending on how much heat you like, and how hot your horseradish is, you may want more.
5. Salt (celery salt) and pepper to taste. At this stage you may also want to add a squeeze of lemon juice, for something different.
6. Scrape mixture into a sandwich bag. Cut corner of sandwich bag off and pipe into egg whites (confession, when I’m in a hurry I just scoop it in with a spoon, rather than using a sandwich bag. Might not be pretty, but it tastes the same!)
7. Sprinkle lightly with smoky paprika and either chill or serve immediately.
There are a TON of variations of the deviled egg recipe out there. Really, it’s all about trial and error and getting it to your taste. There’s no right or wrong way.
And now I wish I had some deviled eggs. Writing this made me hungry!
Honestly, sometimes the parts of the meal that I like best surprise me. Yesterday we made grilled swordfish, cherry tomatoes and homemade tapenade. I wasn’t so sure I would like the tomatoes and tapenade, but was really looking forward to the swordfish. Turns out? We really loved the tomatoes, I loved the tapenade (no one else eats it) and we thought the swordfish was just okay (but we determined that was the fish itself, not the marinade).
So here’s an easy meal, great for summer because it doesn’t require you to turn on the oven or use the stove, and it’s SO refreshing.
For the fish and marinade:
Fish, you can use swordfish, tuna, shark or other fish of your choice. Next time I’ll use tuna.
For the marinade:
1 cup white wine (grab a chilled bottle from your wine cooler. Pour a cup for marinade. Pour a glass for you to drink while cooking)
5 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (you grow rosemary, right? Why not? SO easy)
Combine the marinade and put fish in an 8×8 container, turning to coat. Salt and pepper top of fish, marinade at least an hour. Don’t overmarinate (no more than 4 hours).
To cook: preheat grill to medium high. Make sure the grill is clean! Drain marinade off fish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 4-5 minutes on each side, for a total of 8-10 minutes. Let cook on one side the full 4-5 minutes, until good grill marks are developed. Use tongs and a spatula to flip.
Serve grilled fish with a side of fresh cherry tomatoes and tapenade.
For the tomatoes:
1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (and you’re also growing fresh mint, right? It grows like a weed!)
Toss tomatoes with olive oil and chopped fresh mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand 10 minutes, while fish is grilling. Serve. Incredibly refreshing and delicious.
For the tapenade:
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
2-3 sundried tomatoes (from the jar, in oil)
2 cloves minced garlic
8 basil leaves torn into small pieces
2 Tbsp fresh mint chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
One quarter of a fresh lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Put olives, garlic and tomatoes in small food processor (this is the one I use and LOVE) and combine until chopped & mixed. Add fresh basil, fresh mint, cayenne pepper, thyme and olive oil and pulse to mix. Taste and reseason to your liking. Squeeze in the juice of the quarter lemon, mix with a spoon. Don’t eat it all while you stand there though!
Serve grilled fish with the side of tomatoes and a spoonful of tapenade. Save excess tapenade for sandwiches, crackers, etc. I also served the fish with fresh buttered bread rolls and the below rice/orzo side dish that’s a summer favorite at my house. You could also serve with this orzo dish.
Homemade Rice-a-Roni (sounds fancier when I say rice and orzo, right?)
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup white rice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
1. Melt butter in pan, add orzo and garlic and cook until orzo is lightly browned.
2. Add white rice and chicken broth, stir and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer, cooking 20 to 25 minutes until broth is absorbed and rice/orzo are cooked. Serve. If it gets too dry, just add a small bit of broth to remoisturize.
I don’t mind BBQ chicken, but it’s not something I want to eat often. So when I knew we were having chicken breasts on the grill for dinner tonight, I went looking for something else I could do. On AllRecipes.com, I found these two recipes, which were easy to prepare. I marinated the chicken for only a half hour, as recommended. The chicken and rice together were amazing, the flavors perfectly complemented each other. A perfect summer meal. I would have loved to have some sliced mango or a tropical fruit salad to go with it. Next time.
Key West Chicken
*note, it would be easy for the soy sauce to take over in this recipe, so I suggest tasting before you add the chicken, to make sure the lime juice is coming through. Also, you don’t have to use fresh lime juice, just buy a bottle of lime juice and make it easy on yourself! Although comments on the recipe say they marinated overnight, be very careful about marinating too long. Chicken marinating in soy sauce can be marinated too long.
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- In a shallow container, blend soy sauce, honey, vegetable oil, lime juice, and garlic. Place chicken breast halves into the mixture, and turn to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat.
- Lightly oil the grill grate. Discard marinade, and grill chicken 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until juices run clear.
Cilantro Lime Rice
- 3 cups water
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups long-grain white rice (Use Jasmine. No really. Use Jasmine. Yum!)
- 2teaspoon lime zest
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I did use fresh lime juice for this portion)
- 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Bring the water to a boil; stir the butter and rice into the water. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Make it right in your rice cooker.
- Stir the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro into the cooked rice just before serving. Taste and add more lime juice or cilantro, as needed. I let this sit, covered in the rice cooker, about 5 minutes while we got everything else ready, and it allowed the flavors to really permeate the rice.
- You may wish to sprinkle lightly with sea salt before serving. I have this spiced salt, Florida Sunshine, which was wonderful for this.
I’m making fish tacos for dinner on Tuesday, and will keep the leftover rice to serve with (or in, as people prefer) the tacos.
A tried and true recipe from Jessica Faust of BookEnds Lit Agency. She said she had a lot of recipes to choose from, but this one is such an old favorite that she had to share it.
–typically called Vodka Sauce, but when you have kids everything comes down to color.
1 stick unsalted butter
1 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot, grated finely
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup vodka
2 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes, diced.
2 cups (1 pint) heavy cream
1. Heat butter in a large heavy pan. When bubbles have ceased add onion and carrot and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add garlic. The more you mince the garlic the stronger the garlic flavor. I like using a garlic press. Add thyme and red pepper. Cook for about 1 minute.
3. Add vodka and cook down until almost dry. About 10 minutes.
4. Add diced tomatoes with their juices. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
5. Add cream. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
6. Salt and pepper to taste.
We typically serve over a pasta like ziti or penne and I love to serve roasted eggplant on the side.
Jessica Faust is a literary agent and owner of BookEnds Literary Agency where she represents a number of award-winning and bestselling authors in the areas of romance, mystery, women’s fiction, young adult, fantasy and nonfiction.
Jessica has been a regular columnist with Romantic Times magazine and taught at New York University’s Continuing Education Program, been recognized as Agent of the Year by the NYC Romance Writers of America chapter, and maintains daily blog posts on the BookEnds Lit Agency blog where she regularly dispenses advice on publishing.
You can contact Jessica directly through the BookEnds web site at www.bookends-inc.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BookEndsJessica.