This is an absolutely spectacular recipe for chocolate oatmeal cookies. Though oatmeal cookies are not considered a cool, modern dessert by many, there is a reason that traditional recipes survive over the decades. And this recipe proves it -- sometimes traditions are best! Even the kids will want to get involved to make a treat that's quick to make and healthy, too.Chocolate Oatmeal CookiesPrep: 10 min, Cook: 10 min.* 3/4 lb. semisweet chocolate chips* 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter* 1 egg* 1/2 cup sugar* 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract* 3/4 cup all purpose flour* 1/4 tsp. baking soda* 1 tsp. baking powder* 3/4 cup quick or old fashioned oats, uncooked* 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)Oven should be preheated to 375F. Separate 1 cup chocolate chips from the rest and melt this in a saucepan over low heat. Set aside.Beat sugar and butter together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and egg.Remaining ingredients should be combined in another bowl. Stir in the remaining chocolate chips and the chocolate mixture made previously.Place rounded tablespoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet, bake 8-10 minutes as needed, then cool 1 minute on the cookie sheet before removing cookies to a wire cooling rack.To freeze cookies, cool rapidly to retain freshness. All dairy and egg-based foods should be cooled in a refrigerator. Place the single-serving amounts in freezer-proof containers and seal tightly. If aluminum foil is preferred, wrap and fold edges to seal securely and place on a flat surface to prevent cookies from becoming misshapen.Place containers in freezer until frozen. (Once the cookies are safely frozen, the flat surface, such as a cookie sheet, can be removed to save freezer space). Cookies will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 2 months. Before unwrapping, make sure to thaw cookies completely at room temperature. Enjoy! (In moderation, of course. But who says moderation has to mean just one at a time?)
Moms are constantly on the go. Whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mother, it is hard to find the time to sit and eat a meal, let alone a healthy one. Here are a few tips to sneak that healthy eating into the busiest of schedules.Exercise is important but eating is the best way to get the nutrition that you need to keep the body healthy. If your eating habits are poor, then the benefits of exercise are decreased. In essence, you are working against yourself.The world of work has necessitated the need for instant everything, including food. If you dont have time for breakfast, you grab a pre-packaged granola bar. For lunch, you eat a frozen microwaveable meal and grab a soda from the vending machine. Dinner comes from a fast food restaurant or other takeout place.For a busy mom, this type of processed eating is not going to yield the energy she needs to make it through the day successfully. These foods may be okay in a pinch, but they definitely should not be the rule of thumb. Healthy eating habits for mom also translate into healthy eating habits for the rest of the family as well.Lets start with what mom needs to eat. No more than twelve ounces of protein are needed per day. People dont realize that getting that much protein is not hard. Usually we are getting too much protein which gets stored in the body as fat. One or two servings of fruit and five to seven servings of vegetables are recommended each day. Fats should be kept to a minimum with most being unsaturated oils. Carbohydrates should come in the form of whole grains, beans, and legumes. Very little processed sugar should be consumed.The best way to achieve this is pre-planning. The evening before, plan what you will eat the next day. Package your snacks into portion sizes and put together your meals. Weekends are a good time to cook several meals for the week ahead. This way, the meals can be separated into containers and frozen to be warmed up later. Because you have prepared the food, you know what types of ingredients are in it. If you plan to be out during lunch, fix a salad or other meal that does not need refrigeration. If it does, carry an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack. This way, you are never without something healthy to eat. A busy mother can still be a healthy mother. Use weekends to prepare future meals. Get the family involved to lessen the work and increase the variety of the meals.
Grilled cheese has been a popular lunch choice for generations, and the variations on this simple sandwich abound, depending on where you are in the world. While American or cheddar cheese are the popular choice for this treat in the United States, some parts of Europe prefer Swiss or Gouda cheese to fill their bread slices.There are also a number of additions that can go into a grilled cheese sandwich, like ham, tomato, herbs and spices, or sauces like ketchup or mustard. Some of these will go between the slices of bread before the grilling takes place, and some are sprinkled on the top or used as a dip. Many Canadians enjoy dipping their sandwiches in ketchup or applesauce, while people in the United States tend to prefer their sandwiches with tomato soup or French fries on the side.The Perfect Grilled Cheese RecipeThere are many gadgets on the market today that will grill up a lovely sandwich for you to enjoy. If you dont own one of the specialty grillers however, a good old-fashioned cast iron pan that is well seasoned will do. In fact, if you have a brand new cast iron skillet, a "grilled cheese" sandwich will be the perfect choice for seasoning your new pan.Bread can run the gamut from a hearty wheat to a crusty white, depending on your preference. Texas toast can make a yummy choice, as can many rye breads. The good news about selecting a bread for your grilled cheese is that once you have added plenty of butter and melted cheese, almost any bread will fit the bill in a tasty way.Butter is the next ingredient for making your sandwich, and can be spread directly onto the bread or melted into the pan. It is a good idea not to skimp on the butter, although a well-seasoned pan can add plenty of flavor with a smaller amount of butter needed. Your cheese can be American, Havarti, cheddar, or Swiss, depending on your own tastes and preferences.Place your first piece of bread in the pan with the buttered side down, add the cheese of your choice, and place the second slice of bread on top of the cheese with the buttered side up. Grill the first side until the bread is nicely toasted, then flip your sandwich and cook the other side until the cheese inside is melted.VariationsThere are so many variations on the grilled cheese sandwich today; your choices are only limited by your tastes and imagination. Try tossing in some avocado and tomato, or a slice of ham or bacon. Sprinkle with a dash of oregano, or add some mayonnaise to the bread.Some people enjoy a tuna melt, which adds tuna or tuna salad to the melted cheese inside. Others like to dip their bread slices into beaten eggs before placing them on the skillet. Whatever your preferences, you are guaranteed to find a grilled cheese sandwich that will tantalize your taste buds. Bon a petit!
Sourdough simply uses wild yeast in place of commercial yeast to leaven the bread. It relies on the wild yeasts that are in the air all around us and cultures those yeasts in a warm, wet environment created with water, flour, and sometimes other components.When creating a sourdough starter, we always felt like we were on an expedition trying to trap invisible yeastie beasties with our flour and water concoctions. Because we couldnt see the beasties, we were never sure what we had captured. While usually successful, we never felt like we were in control. Maybe that is the way sourdough bread should feel, a symbiosis with nature.But there is an easier way: use commercial yeast in the starter. I know, thats heresy to the "sourdough bread" zealot but we only care about the bread. Using commercial yeast is easier, its the alcohol from the long cool fermentation that creates the sourdough-like flavor, and the wild yeasts will eventually take over the starter anyway. Because it's easy, its no big deal if you abandon your starter after a few weeks; you can readily start another when youre back in the mood or have the time. Using this recipe for sourdough bread, a small amount of yeast is used in the starter. As the starter is used and refreshed with new feedings of flour and water, wild yeasts are introduced and cultivated. Here is the recipe:For the starter:1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)1/4 teaspoon yeast1 cup high gluten unbleached flour. Mix the starter in a glass or steel bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it aside at room temperature until it is doubled and bubbly, maybe 4 to 6 hours.For the sponge: A sponge is a pre-ferment, a wet mixture of flour and yeast that acts as an incubation chamber to grow yeast at the desired rate. It is added to the dough.1 cup of the starter3/4 cup warm water2 cups flour Mix the one cup starter with the flour and water, cover, and set aside to ferment until it has tripled in volume. At room temperature, it will take four to eight hours. You can put it in a cool place--about fifty degrees--and let it perk all night. (In the winter, your garage may be just right.) You can also put it in the refrigerator overnight. At temperatures of forty degrees, the yeast will be inactive but the friendly bacteria will still be working and enhance the sour flavor of the bread. If you retard the growth with lower temperatures (retard is the correct term for slowing the growth of the yeast), simply bring the sponge to room temperature and let it expand to three times its original volume before proceeding. For the dough: All of the sponge11/2 cups flour (more or less)2 teaspoons saltMix the salt with the flour. Knead the combination into the sponge by hand until you have a smooth, elastic, slightly sticky dough, adding more flour as needed. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise again until doubled, about an hour.Bakers note: Notice that the salt is not added until the last stage. Salt in the sponge would inhibit yeast growth. Form the loaves: Though you can make this bread in pans, it works best as a large freestanding round or oval loaf or two smaller loaves. Place a clean cotton cloth in a bowl or basket in which to hold the loaf. Lightly dust the interior of the bowl with flour. Place each formed loaf upside down in a bowl on top of the dusted flour. Cover the loaves with plastic and let them rise again until doubled. This rising will probably take less than an hour. Bakers note: You want a light dusting of flour on the cloth to be transferred to the bread, not a heavy caking. Softly sifting flour from a strainer is the easiest way to achieve an even coating. If you choose to bake the bread in pans, omit this step. Instead, let the dough rise in a greased bowl covered with plastic until doubled. Form the loaves for pans, place the loaves in greased pans, and let rise until well-expanded and puffy. Bake at 350 degrees until done, about 30 minutes. To bake crusty bread:To form the thick, chewy crust that is typical of artisan breads, follow these instructions: Place a large, shallow, metal pan in the oven on the lowest shelf. You will pour hot water in this pan to create steam in the oven. (High heat is hard on pans so don't use one of your better pans and dont use a glass or ceramic pan which might shatter.) An old sheet pan is ideal. Fill a spray bottle with water. You will use this to spray water into the oven to create even more steam. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is hot and the bread is fully risen and is soft and puffy--being very careful not to burn yourself with the rising steam and with a mitted handturn your head away and pour two or three cups of very hot water in the pan in the oven. Quickly close the oven door to capture the steam. With spray bottle in hand, open the door and quickly spray the oven walls to create more steam and close the door. The oven is now ready for the loaves. Work quickly to get the bread in the oven before the steam subsides. Gently invert the loaf or loaves onto a slightly greased non-insulated baking sheet on which a little cornmeal has been dusted. With your sharpest knife, quickly make two or three slashes 1/4-inch deep across the top of each loaf. This will vent the steam in the bread and allow the bread to expand properly. Immediately, put the bread in the steamy oven. After a few moments, open the door and spray the walls again to recharge the steam. Do this twice more during the first fifteen minutes of baking. This steamy environment will create the chewy crust prized in artisan breads. Let the bread bake at 425 degrees for fifteen minutes in the hot steamy oven and then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for a total of 35 to 40 minutes. Check on the bread ten minutes before the baking should be complete. If the top is browning too quickly, tent the loaf with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking to keep it from burning. The bread is done when the crust turns a dark golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees. It is important that the bread is well-baked to drive moisture from the loaf. If the bread is under baked, the excess moisture will migrate to the crust and you will no longer have the dry chewy crust of a great artisan loaf. This sourdough bread is to die for. The prolonged rising gives the yeast plenty of time to convert the starch to sugars and the friendly bacteria a chance to impart their nut-like flavors. Storing your crusty bread: Unused crusty bread should be stored in a paper bag at room temperature. If the bread is stored in a plastic bag, the crust will become soft.Copyright 2003-2007, The Prepared Pantry (http://www.prepraredpantry.com ). Published by permission
Eggs are marvelous. They are used in so many products and in so many ways. They provide structure and mouth feel; they provide moisture and nutritional value. Baking would be dramatically different without the egg. There are three parts to the egg:The shell is fragile and porous. It is important to remember that eggs will absorb flavors and odors through the shell and therefore must be protected from strong smelling substances and unsanitary surfaces. A tainted egg will spoil your product. The yolk is high in both fat and protein and is a natural emulsifier. The white is primarily albumin protein. It is clear and soluble before it is cooked. It contains sulfur and becomes odorous when old. About 75% of the egg by weight is water. The remaining portion is nearly equal parts fat and protein. A large egg weighs 1 2/3 ounce without the shell with the yolk weighing two-thirds of an ounce and the white, one ounce. A medium egg without the shell weighs about 1.45 ounces and a small egg weighs about 1 1/4 ounces. You can do the math but about 3 1/2 medium eggs equal three large eggs. Eggs are a potential source of salmonella contamination. The American Egg Board estimates that only one in 20,000 eggs is contaminated. Still, it is recommended that you do not use raw eggs in your food and that egg products be cooked to 160 degrees. Always wash your hands after handling eggs and sanitize any work surfaces where raw eggs may have been used. The egg industry is conscientious and regulated and it is very rare to find an inferior or rotten egg in a carton. It is not rare to find broken or cracked shells. When you open a carton and find a cracked egg, discard it since a crack creates an easy avenue for bacteria to enter. Always buy eggs that are graded A or AA. You can determine the quality of the eggs from your refrigerator just as an inspector does. Open an egg onto a flat surface. If the egg is compact with a plump yolk, it is fresh. If the chalazae, the white strands in the egg white, are prominent, the egg is fresh. Eggs kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator keep up to five weeks, though we plan on using our eggs within two weeks. Fresh eggs make for more stable egg white foams. Eggs become more alkaline as they age and may have a minor affect on the function of chemical leaveners. Because the shells are porous, eggs will lose moisture over time. Eggs packaged for consumers are given a mineral oil bath to help seal the shells, reduce the moisture loss, and protect the egg from odors. Do not wash your eggs since doing so will remove the protective mineral oil covering. Many recipes call for eggs at room temperature. Rather than leaving your eggs on the counter to warm, simply place them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.Copyright 2003-2007, The Prepared Pantry (http://www.prepraredpantry.com ). Published by permission