Friday, June 26, 2009

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Drops

I found another great way to get rid of an excess of milk. Cookies! If you leave a plate of these little goodies out on the table, your family members will be reaching for a glass of milk in no time flat.

This is the ultimate cookie recipe, with something for everyone. It has peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate chips all rolled into one delicious recipe, which I found in The Ultimate Cookie Book by Better Homes and Gardens. (Thanks, Mom!)

The cookbook has more than 500 cookie recipes and it includes tips for how to make better cookies, which comes in handy for people like me who are a tad bit cookie challenged. One of the things I don’t like about cookies is how long it takes to bake them. This recipe was easy, but it must make a billion cookies. Actually the recipe says it makes 48 (!!!), but I wouldn’t know because I gave up after 24 because we were heading out to the movies and I ran out of time. So I put the remaining dough in the fridge and the next day, I let it come to room temperature and then pressed it into an ungreased 8 by 11 inch pan and baked it at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

The cookies were fabulous, but the bars were even better! So moist and chewy and full of flavor. Pass the milk, please… Chick update: The girls are finally outside! The Kitchen Genius has built them a wonderful home that includes a 8 by 12 foot pen.

My reluctant chicken farmer now loves his chicklets and built them a play set made out of a sawhorse and a corner roost that's about 4 feet high. Of course, we had to teach them how to use their new toys.

It didn’t take them any time at all to figure out how to climb up onto their new playground.

I was pretty darn nervous on their first night outside and sat on my back deck reading and listening for predators for hours. So far, so good (knock on wood). I was told that the chickens would automatically go into their coop as soon as the sun went down, but our chicks perched on their corner roost instead.

We’ve been tucking them into bed by hand ever since they first began going outside in their mobile pen and they needed me to do that the first couple of nights. Buttercup and Rosie figured it out first and I swear they stood at the doorway calling the others up, until one by one they figured it out.

Now at 7:30 every night, they all climb their little ladder and when I go out to close up the coop, they are all happily perched side by side on their roosting bar. I can't believe how big they are now...

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Drops
(slightly adapted from The Ultimate Cookie Book by Better Homes and Gardens)

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup of creamy or chunky peanut butter (I used creamy)
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 package chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking soda, baking power and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in flour. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

For a printable recipe click here

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Living Like a Locavore

I’ve wanted to be a locavore ever since I read Barbara Kingsolver’s most excellent memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I live on a one third acre lot, on sandy Cape Cod, in the oh so chilly Northeast, and it’s a challenging proposition.

But this past weekend it actually felt possible. For the past month, every Saturday morning I head down to the Orleans Farmers Market to buy our produce. It’s been fun catching up with my farmer friends, but the pickings have been slim, until this weekend.

Finally, things are starting to grow on Cape Cod and we filled our bag with salad greens, winter kale, radishes, scallions, leeks, and a dozen quail eggs.

The quail eggs taste just like regular eggs, but they are so tiny and cute. You simply boil them for five minutes and then let them rest in a cold water bath for ten minutes. They’re fabulous in a salad.

We also recently joined a raw milk co-op from Paskamansett Farms in Dartmouth. There are 12 members in the coop who take turns driving 145 miles round trip to pick up the weekly milk supply for everyone. A two and a half hour drive once every 12 weeks does not seem like too much work for the pleasure of drinking raw milk. It comes in glass bottles like I remember from my early childhood.

Being in a milk coop is a bit different than running to the store when you run out of milk, because you have a standard order each week. That means if you don’t use it all, more is still coming. So this week, in addition to an abundance of bluefish, we have an abundance of milk.

I’m discovering the life of a locavore involves a certain amount of repetition. Rather than cooking what you have a craving for, you have to dream up recipes that use what you have on hand. So far I haven’t tired of the challenge, or the flavors, but all that milk left me flummoxed.

Thankfully Karen at Karen Cooks, recently posted a recipe for Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Her recipe called for 1 1/2 cups each of whole milk and half and half, but we decided the cream that rose to the top of our milk might be creamy enough substitute all milk for the half and half. Besides, we were psyched to use up three cups of milk.

First you steep fresh mint leaves in the milk for a half an hour.

Then you make the mixture, put it in your ice cream maker and let it do it’s work for 40 minutes. Freeze for four hours and this is what you get:

We didn't add food coloring for a prettier color and our raw milk version wasn’t as creamy as ice cream, but it was plenty rich and the fresh mint flavor is indescribable.

For the recipe, visit Karen’s Blog and while you’re there, check our her gorgeous gardens!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Clam Pizza and a Chick Update

We’re still clamming and we’re discovering that it’s a lot like a treasure hunt. You can’t predict what you will dig up. Our last haul consisted of large “chowda” clams. Since we’ve already made stuffed clams, clam chowder and Portuguese clam stew, it was time to get creative.

Since last October I’ve been making homemade pizza about once a week. As much as I love it, I get bored making anything the same every time. That has led to a whole bunch of fun experiments and I have yet to regret a single one, but the clam pizza ranks as one of my favorites.

I used the dough recipe I wrote about here. I steamed the clams, just until they opened and then removed them from the shells, chopped them and rinsed them in a colander to remove any stray sand.

After I rolled out the dough, I gave it a drizzle of olive oil and then spread the chopped steamed clams on the dough. I wanted to keep them under the cheese so they wouldn’t dry out and it worked perfectly. Then I topped it with cheese, some caramelized onions and garlic and chopped bacon. Totally delicious!

In other news, we’ve been busy tending our garden and building a chicken condo in our back yard. This project seems to become more complex with each pounded nail (meaning it still isn’t done and those chicklets are still living in my basement). But the Kitchen Genius did build them a mobile poultry run and now they spend their days outside. We love to just sit and watch them (even the teenagers!) It’s so darned peaceful.

Until it isn’t! We’ve had our first run in with a predator and it wasn’t a raccoon, fox, coyote, skunk or hawk like I feared. Instead it was our backyard neighbor’s dog, a little tan colored bat out of hell that made a bee-line for our chickens and went berserk, barking and trying to dig a hole under the pen to get in. Poor little Tinkerbell got a cut on her comb that actually bled! Luckily our daughter Julie was home and scared the crazy dog away.

I’m not a “call the police on your neighbor kind of gal,” but I was so upset (and worried about a repeat attack) that I called the animal control officer. She gave the neighbors a reminder that there is a leash law in our town and informed them about the chicken incident.

For some reason, this attack shocked me. The chickens have been living in our house for a month and our dog and cat have almost completely ignored them. They are in an enclosed pen and I’m not sure what they think is going on down in the basement, but they haven’t been curious enough to check it out.

Now that the chickens spend their days outside, our cat (and the other neighborhood felines) seem slightly fascinated but mostly terrified of the chickens. Our Daisy literally hides behind a tree when she watches them and she hasn’t gotten closer than 20 feet - ever.

They actually get bigger EVERY day, and here they were going through an awkward stage with spiked new feathers. It must be time to get out there with my camera and capture their new sleek feathered look.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Grilled Bluefish with Lemon Dijon Dill Sauce

How much do you think I loved the Kitchen Genius when he brought that fabulous bluefish home?

And then he brought home twice the pleasure a few nights later. Oh yeah!

The bluefish proved to be the perfect ingredient to finally post about the wonderful fresh frozen herbs that Matt from Daregal Gourmet sent me a few months ago. (Click on the link and enter the Daregal sweepstakes to win some yourself!) Matt sent me six different herbs or herb blends to try and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Fresh herbs are so far superior to dry, but even if you have an herb garden (which I do), it’s really hard to use fresh herbs in the winter unless you pay a fortune at the grocery store. Daregal’s herbs are already chopped and so easy to use that I’m still using them even though my herb garden is going strong.

I’ve never had much luck growing dill so I don’t even try any more. Daregal’s chopped dill was perfect for the sauce I made to baste the bluefish. A lot of people aren’t big fans of bluefish, but we love it. It is a meaty fish with a slightly stronger flavor than striped bass.

One of the best ways to cook it is to slather it in mayonnaise and throw it on the grill. We decided to make a sauce with mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon and dill. We coated our filets with the sauce, put them in a fish basket and grilled them. I saved some of the sauce to drizzle over the top when the fish was done.

Some grilled vegetables (rubbed with olive oil and Daregal Grilling Blend) and a simple salad of sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and some Daregal chopped basil made the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

The Recipe:

Grilled Bluefish with Lemon Dijon Dill Sauce
Serves 4

2 pounds bluefish fillets
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Daregal chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the bluefish into four servings. Mix remaining ingredients and coat both sides of bluefish with sauce, reserving 1/4 cup. Place fish in wire grill baskets and grill over medium high heat for five minutes per side or until fish flakes easily. Drizzle fish with remaining sauce and serve.

For a printable recipe click here