Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spencer's Oatmeal Cookies

On the day that I moved into my first very own apartment, my brother woke up early and baked these special oatmeal cookies for me as a house warming present.  It was such a thoughtful gesture.  They are by far the most delicious cookies I've tasted in a long time.  

At first, they're chewy and soft.  If you let them sit for a day though, they become crunchy like biscotti, except that these are actually edible; either way, they’re scrumptious!  I've changed the recipe slightly here to include brown sugar and dried cranberries.  Thanks for the great recipe, Spence!

Spencer's Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. softened butter
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. white sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 T. molasses
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
2 eggs
2 C. flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 C. quick oats (you could use Spelt too)
1 C. dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350. 

In a large bowl, thoroughly beat the butter and sugar.  Add the next four ingredients and beat again until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until they are completely mixed into the batter.  Sift in the flour and baking soda.  When combined, fold in the oats and cranberries.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies are thin and golden.  Allow them to cool on a rack.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Veggie Chili and Cast Iron Cornbread

Nothing quite hits the spot like a big pot of rich, bubbling chili on a cold, wet day.  My friend Kelsey gave me this recipe with the promise that it can stand up to carnivorous chili any day.  She wasn't kidding.  This vegetarian chili is flavorful and robust, hearty and healthy with just a hint of smoke from the paprika.  And the sprinkle of citrus on top adds just the right amount of brightness.  Take a chance and go down the veggie route, with Kelsey’s’ Veggie Chili. 

This recipe is adapted from Leslie Sansone's cookbook Eat Smart Walk Strong.  

2 t. olive oil
1 bunch green onions, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes
2 cans of black bean
1 C. corn
1 T. chili powder
1 T. Smoked paprika
1 t. sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt & Pepper
1 avocado
Monterey Jack cheese

Heat the oil in a large pot.  Add the green onion and garlic.  Cook until soft.  Add the remaining ingredients save the avocado and Monterey Jack cheese.  Cook over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes, or as long as you like. Garnish with avocado and cheese or a roasted lemon. 

Serve with corn bread.  

BONUS Recipe:  Lois Skaggs' Cornbread

Sean’s mom, Lois, makes some of the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten.  She makes it in a cast iron skillet, too, which adds even more authenticity to its down south country style!  This cornbread is light and moist with a crunchy outer edge.  It’s the perfect vessel to soak up any hearty soup or chili. 

2 C. Cornmeal
1 Egg
2 C. Buttermilk
¼ C. vegetable oil

Try these other versions of cornbread.  Just fold any combination of these ingredients into the batter:

2 T. sugar + 1 bag of frozen corn = sweet cornbread
2 jalapenos (seeded, diced) + shredded cheddar = Mexican cornbread
1 T. smoked paprika + 1 T. chili powder = smoky cornbread

Preheat oven to 450.

Heat an enameled cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat.  Add the ¼ C. of vegetable oil to the skillet to warm. 

In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, egg and buttermilk.  When it’s thoroughly combined, add most of the warm vegetable oil, leaving just a bit in the skillet.  Stir to combine again.  Fold in the corn, jalapenos and cheddar cheese.  Add the mixture to the hot skillet and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top. 

If you like this recipe, check out my other chili recipes too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lemon Raspberry Bars

Wish your sweetie a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ with these sweet and sumptuous lemon raspberry and blackberry bars.

Lemon Raspberry Bars

1 C. butter, at room temperature
½ C. powdered sugar
2 C. flour
¼ t. salt

Zest of 2 lemons
2 C. sugar
6 T. fresh lemon juice
1 t. vanilla
6 T. flour
1 t. baking powder
4 Eggs
About 24 raspberries (or your favorite berry)
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350.  Generously spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with non-stick spray. 

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar with a mixer.  When it is light and fluffy, add the flour a little at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Add the salt and mix until combined.  With your hands, press this mixture into the baking dish evenly.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the sugar and the lemon zest.  Rub the zest and the sugar between your thumb and fingers to release all of the oils and to flavor the sugar.  (*You could save this lemon sugar in an airtight container for other uses if you’d like).   Add the lemon juice, vanilla, flour and baking powder to the lemon sugar and beat with a mixer.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time and mix thoroughly. 

Pour the egg mixture over the baked crust.  It should level out by itself, but you may need to use a spatula and push it around so it is even.  Carefully place the raspberries into the lemon filling, spreading them out so that the whole mixture is dotted with red. 

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for another 10-12 minutes.  Your lemon bars are ready when the filling has set and the top is lightly browned.  Cut into your favorite shape, making sure to include raspberries in each one.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Serve with extra berries.

This recipe is loosely adapted from:  http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/lemon-bars-recipe/

Friday, February 8, 2013

Leftover Meatloaf Sandwiches

The only competition that even comes close to challenging my Mom’s Meatloaf is the lendemain sandwich made with the meatloaf leftovers.  If I didn’t meddle, there wouldn’t actually be leftovers, so recently I’ve been laundering a few slices for personal use later on.  Obviously, this isn’t as selfless as I normally strive to be, but you’ll forgive this temporary shortcoming as soon as you try this outrageous sammich. 

This leftover meatloaf sandwich is soft and buttery, with the most precise combination of savory and sweet.  The meatloaf itself offers a savory tomato base, the cilantro provides a hint of freshness and lightness and the bacon and onion provide a caramel sweetness that pulls everything seamlessly together.  Sink into this and tell me you’re not in a state of immediate elation. 

Leftover Meatloaf Sandwiches

1 slice of cold leftover Mom’s Meatloaf, bacon & onion topping included
1 T. olive oil
1 T. cilantro, chopped
Extra bacon & onion (optional)
2 Slices of your favorite bread, toasted

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the cold slice of meatloaf.  I add it cold because it’s firmer and easier to handle.  Cook the meatloaf for just a minute or two on each side, until it forms a light brown crust.

Meanwhile, spread the mayo and ketchup on each slice of bread.  Sprinkle each with cilantro.  Add the meatloaf slice and top with extra bacon and onion, if you so desire.  Place the slice of bread on top and give it a bit of a press to hold things together. Perfection.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mom's Meatloaf

I think every man has at least one dish that his mom makes that he can’t live without.  This one’s mine.  This was my favorite Sunday meal growing up.  I remember being a child, walking inside from a day of winter sledding, peeling off my layers of snow clothes, cheeks all rosy, and sitting down to a meal of my mom’s meatloaf and potatoes.  I don’t think there’s much left in this world as real, unpretentious and wonderfully abiding. 

It’s light and dense at the same time, filled with concentrated tomato and smothered in caramel ketchup, bacon and bruléed onions.  Serve this on a cold day with roasted vegetables and horseradish potatoes for some hands-down, hug me hard, wrapped in a blanket, delicious comfort food.

Mom's Meatloaf

2 lbs lean ground beef
¾ Onion, finely diced
¼ Onion, in rings
1 Egg
½ C. bread crumbs
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 Can tomato soup

¼ C. Ketchup
2 T. Brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the beef, diced onions, egg, bread crumbs, garlic and tomato soup in a large bowl, mixing with your hands until it is thoroughly combined.   Form the mixture into a large loaf and place in a large baking dish. 

In a small bowl, stir together the ketchup and the brown sugar.  Smear this sauce on top of the meatloaf.  Add the onion rings and top with a single layer of uncooked bacon.  Bake until the meatloaf is cooked through, about 1 hour.  Serve with roasted veggies, your favorite potatoes and extra ketchup. 

*Thank you to Morgan Webb who suggested meatloaf sandwiches.  Each time I make mom’s meatloaf, I’m sure to reserve a few slices for the next day.  Come back to Natural Sugar tomorrow for a killer meatloaf sandwich.  

BONUS Recipe:  Oven Roasted Veggies

You can't go wrong with this side dish.  It's classic, rustic and it seriously couldn't be easier!  Use your favorite veggies or whatever you have in the fridge.

Your favorite veggies, roughly chopped (I use potatoes, onion, carrots & something green)
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Your favorite dried herbs (I like thyme or herbs de provence)

Preheat the oven to 375.  

Add all of the chopped veggies to a big bowl.  Drizzle them with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs.  Toss them so they are all evenly covered in flavor.  Dump them onto a baking sheet and spread them into an even layer.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning once or twice, until they are beautifully roasted.