Nutella Cookies

I have a long history with cookies. I’ve been baking them since I was 5 – old enough to read and follow the directions on the back of the Betty Crocker “Just Add Water!” chocolate chip cookie package. I can’t promise those actually got baked in the oven; it’s likely I just mixed things together and ate the batter. My sweet tooth runs deep.

Happy 2nd birthday to me!

Happy 2nd birthday to me!

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Not too much has changed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started making cookies from scratch when I was 12, memorizing my mom’s famous no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe. I’ll give y’all that recipe in another post, because chocolate oatmeal cookies are a whole other story all together.

When I got to Auburn, Mrs. South’s party cookie recipe became famous, and has since become my most requested recipe, making appearances at every sort of gathering from tailgates to random Tuesdays in a shared teaching assistant office to baby showers. They are buttery, melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.

However, I recently found my absolute favorite cookie of all time. I’m not being dramatic – I’m being totally serious. They’re cookies made out of Nutella. Are you surprised these are my favorite?

They’re based on a recipe from Giada, but I adjusted it based on some suggestions in the reviews. The first two ingredients are Nutella and softened butter. I just… I mean… there are no words to describe how much I love these cookies. They turned out different than how Giada said they should, which would be to stay in a ball-like shape that you dust in powdered sugar. Mine flattened out into chewy discs that melt in your mouth, and I think I liked them better that way. nutella

Nutella Cookies

Preheat oven to 350.

With a mixer, combine 2 sticks room temperature butter, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup Nutella.

Here’s where I veer from Giada’s version: take out a spoon, and eat some of the batter at this stage. Try not to eat all of it, though; you still have cookies to make. But seriously. If you need to make someone love you, and that person is in your house, take them a spoonful of the batter at this point. I would dare them not to make out with you.

If you’ve been able to refrain from eating all of the Nutella buttery goodness, continue with making the cookies.

Add in 2 cups of flour – not all at once, maybe in thirds – and mix until just incorporated.

Place dough onto a silpat or baking sheet lined with parchment, in small, teaspoon-sized balls. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Here’s something that requires great patience from me: let them cool before trying to remove them from the baking sheet. They will be all melty and gooey and irresistible. However: patience, grasshopper. Let them cool, so you don’t have a mess on your hands. While they’re cooling, dust them with some more powdered sugar.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures of them. I ate them all. 299000164_4d7398dbf6

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Cheesy Vegetarian Lasagna

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I really can’t explain what on earth possessed me, at 5 pm in Kroger, exhausted from working all day, to randomly pick up a few ingredients that would facilitate my creation of a lasagna, a dish that I know takes at least 2.5 hours to compile and cook. Maybe it’s part of the start-of-the-semester nesting that takes place every year, where I try to stock my freezer with individual portions of food, ready to grab & go for quick lunches or for those emergency nights where I just can’t bring myself to cook anything. Or maybe it’s because this weekend, when we went to Nino’s, I was secretly drooling over the lasagna one of our friends ordered (I held back on ordering something decadent since I decided, that day, to sign up for a triathlon the next – cheese, cream-based sauces and a 3 hour, 3 sport race don’t exactly mix, but my eggplant & tomato penne fueled me up just fine).

But really, I think I just *had* to make this lasagna because sometimes, the only thing that makes me feel better after a long couple of days at work is coming home and totally destroying my kitchen, blaring my “The Hollies” Pandora station, and getting totally lost in the creative act of throwing together something that may or may not work, from scratch, just for the fun of it. Luckily for both Dave and me, tonight, it turned out pretty delicious.

I learned something by making this particular version of lasagna, too: if you run out of homemade marinara sauce but you have extra homemade bechamel, you can substitute the bechamel for marinara and it works just fine. In fact, it works better than fine, because bechamel is basically cheese sauce, and I just don’t think there’s any such thing as a lasagna with too much cheese.

Cheesy Vegetarian Lasagna

First: cook 1 pound of lasagna noodles in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes. (They’ll finish cooking in the oven.) Drain & drizzle with oil to keep them from drying out. Set aside while you continue your prep.

Second: make some homemade marinara sauce. Sure – use a jarred Barilla if you must. But I gave up on jarred sauces a while back – they just don’t taste as good to me anymore. Here’s my basic, go-to recipe:
* In a large saucepan over medium heat, sautee a small onion, diced, with salt & pepper.
* After a few minutes, add a few diced garlic cloves. Then add some dried oregano (or Italian seasoning blend).
* Then add 1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, pureed. Add some more salt & pepper to taste.
* Simmer for 15 minutes & set aside. Add fresh parsley & basil at the end if you’ve got it.
* See? That’s nothing. You can totally make your own marinara. You’re welcome.

Third: make your bechamel. This isn’t a perfect ratio, but it worked for me and is based loosely on Giada’s recipe:
* In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter.
* As soon as it’s melted, add a scant 1/3 cup all purpose flour
* Stir constantly for 2 minutes
* Whisk in 2 cups whole milk (or, if you’re like me and don’t keep whole milk, something like 1 cup heavy cream & 1 cup 2%, or some half & half… whatever you’ve got will work)
* Add some salt, pepper & freshly grated nutmeg (mmmm… fresh nutmeg)
* Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. The sauce should thicken up & coat the back of a spoon.
* Set aside.
* Try not to eat it all before it goes in the lasagna.

Fourth: prepare your veggies. You’ll need:
* 1 package frozen spinach, thawed & drained
* a diced bell pepper, squash & zucchini, sauteed in olive oil
* about a pound of mushrooms, diced & sauteed in butter

Fifth: get your ricotta filling ready. I used:
* about 16 ounces whole-milk ricotta

* some grated parmesan (maybe 1/4 cup… whatever I had leftover from the last big parm purchase)
* 1 egg
* salt & pepper
* fresh parsley
* whisk all that together.

Oh, somewhere in there, you should probably preheat your oven to 375.

Sixth: assemble the lasagna. Here’s what I did:
* Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray
* Cover the bottom of the pan with half the bechamel
* Put one layer of semi-cooked lasagna noodles on top of the bechamel
* Put half the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles
* Put half the spinach, mushrooms & sauteed squash & pepper mixture on top of that
* Put a whole bunch of mozzarella cheese on top of the veggies
* Put at least half, up to 2/3 of the tomato sauce on top of all that
* Repeat the process as follows: noodles, ricotta, veggies, mozzarella, and then – the rest of the bechamel (mmmm)
* Top with another layer of noodles
* Then top with the rest of your tomato sauce and another large few handfuls of cheese
* Throw in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes
* Allow it to sit out at room temp for 15 minutes before eating

Yeah, I can’t believe I did all that after working all day either. This is more like a Saturday afternoon sort of meal, but it really did alleviate some of my stress.

Of course, if you absolutely must have meat in your lasagna, add some crumbled ground beef or Italian sausage, but I happen to prefer vegetarian lasagna to the meat-based one. This makes enough to feed a small army, so if you aren’t feeding a small army, have your Ziploc containers ready & freeze small portions for a rainy day.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Some mornings, I wake up at 4:30 am, unable to sleep any more because my brain just knows that the fall semester starts in a week, and I still haven’t finalized my syllabi, despite (presumably) having the last “3 weeks off” since my summer course ended, and I have no choice but to get out of bed – rather cheerfully, for 4:30 am – make some espresso, and get to work. (That was yesterday.)

And then some mornings, I have to have a little conversation with myself while laying in bed, convincing myself that getting out of bed is really what needs to happen *pronto* because there’s still *tons* of work to do between now and next Wednesday, drag myself out of bed, take a few hours to get going, and eschew the work that prompted me to get out of bed in order to make some banana muffins. (That was today.)
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Anyway, y’all: I’m super proud of myself for making up, all by myself, this muffin recipe. It’s rare that I come up with things like this on my own. Usually I steal other people’s recipes and tweak them, or – like the rule-follower that I am – do exactly what they say. Not this time! Granola bars and biscuits are the only two other baked items for which I have invented my very own, original recipe – and those took months of disastrous experimenting. Today marks the third thing I’ve just invented on the fly, after reading a few recipes that did not give me exactly what I wanted. They turned out surprisingly well for such a renegade attempt. There’s actually no butter or milk here, so your lactose-intolerant friends can enjoy them as much as you will. 

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins 

(this yielded 21 muffins for me, but could be more or less depending on your pans & the amount of batter you pour in there)

Preheat oven to 350, and line two muffin tins with paper liners. Spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the following dry ingredients with a fork:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup thick rolled oats

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

In another small bowl, mash together 3-ish bananas. (Only have 2 bananas? Use them; don’t run out to buy more. Have 4 and don’t want to just use 3? Use all 4. That’s why I said 3-ish. It’s flexible.) I used a fork to mash mine into a pulp, but if there happens to be a small child somewhere within yelling distance, I imagine they would take great pleasure in using their hands to smash the bananas without the help of a fork.

In another medium-sized bowl, combine the following wet ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup natural peanut butter (if you use non-natural peanut butter, definitely cut back on the sugar content)

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing with a fork, just to combine. Then add your mashed bananas. Throw in a handful of chocolate chips and maybe some chopped walnuts or pecans if you feel so inclined.

Bake in lined muffin cups for 18 minutes.

I wouldn’t be offended if you decide to slather one with Nutella or more peanut butter (or both, depending on what kind of morning you’ve had) before chowing down, but these are dang tasty all by themselves. Like I do with almost all of my baked goods, I froze most of these. Zap a frozen one in the microwave for 30 seconds on your way out the door for a nice treat on your way to work.

Granola Bars

ImageFor the most part, I think store-bought granola bars either taste like cardboard (that would be the Kashi and Nature’s Valley varieties) or corn syrup (Cascadian Farms, Cliff Bars and Quaker). They’re one of those products that marketers want you to think are healthy, when really, most of the time, they’re over-processed, full of sugar, and don’t really satiate your hunger. The only store-bought granola bars I love are Larabars and Kind bars. Though they’re tasty, they are not cheap, and I’m still not 100% sold on them because I’m a big eater and need more to my granola bars than those tiny portions provide. So, about a year ago, I took matters into my own hands and went on the search for the perfect homemade granola bar recipe.

And I couldn’t find it. 

I know, I’m picky. I wanted the *perfect* balance of crunchy & chewy. I tried so many different recipes. Most called for ingredients I wanted to avoid completely: butter, vegetable oil, and corn syrup. Eventually, I decided to play around in the kitchen until I figured out what worked for me. And, finally – like with my biscuits – I got there. 

Everyone always asks for the recipe, so, here you go. It’s really more of a ratio than a recipe, so you can play around with it, adjusting the contents to your liking. As long as you keep the ratios the same, these should turn out fantastic every time.

Granola Bars

Reader’s digest version (i.e. the ratio): 2.5 cups oats (with dash of salt & cinnamon), 3.5 cups nuts & dried fruits, 1 cup nut butter, 1 cup honey. 

That’s it! I promise. Here’s the details on how I work them:

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment, spray parchment with cooking spray. This step is crucial to making bars. If you don’t take the time to line your pan, you’ll end up with granola bars that stick in the pan and turn into crumbled granola which – while tasty, especially in a bowl with soy milk – doesn’t work so well for eating on the go, as I do with these nearly every day.

In a large bowl, combine the following:

2.5 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking; I use Bob’s Red Mill)

pinch of salt

some cinnamon (maybe a 1/2 tablespoon?)

1/3 – 2/3 c. flax seed (and if you’ve got any chia seeds, throw them in there, too)

Then, stir in 3.5 cups of nuts, seeds & dried fruit. My combo is usually: sunflower seeds, craisins, raisins, walnuts, pecans, cashews. However, sometimes I throw in dates instead of raisins. Or pistachios instead of pecans. Or pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower. Or add in a handful of dark chocolate chips. Or add some apricots. Or slivered almonds. I do not measure any of these ingredients, so I can’t tell you how much of any I put in there. But I can tell you this:

* I always make the grand total 3.5 cups and 

* I thoroughly chop all my nuts and

* I use more nuts than fruit. 

And I can tell you that all combinations of nuts & fruit I’ve tried have been equally as successful and tasty, though I do tend to stay away from super sweet dried fruits, like pineapple and banana, and I also use plain, unsalted nuts. Except for pistachios. Because, really. Dry roasted & salted pistachios are ah-mazing. 

Then, on the stove, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine: 

1 cup of natural nut butter (my favorite combo is 1/3 cup each peanut, cashew and almond, but you could easily use all peanut butter). NOTE: natural peanut butter contains no sugar, which is why I use so much honey. So if you use non-natural nut butter, you might want to adjust the sugar content in the next step. I haven’t tried this, so you’ll be going rogue – just a warning. 

and 1 cup honey. You can switch it up and use part honey & part agave nectar, but I find the agave nectar to be too sweet. (Keep in mind this is coming from someone who is unhappy with iced tea unless it tastes like tea-flavored sugar water and eats Nutella by the spoonful.) 

Once the honey & nut butters have melted together, pour that mixture in the big bowl with the oats & nuts & fruit, and mix to combine. I use my hands. It’s the only way I can get the granola fully incorporated with the nut butter/honey mixture. (Random aside: I’ve giggled every time I’ve typed “nut butter.”) 

Pour all of the combined granola mixture into the lined pan. Mash it down really well. Get it in all the corners. Really smush it. Then smash it down some more. Take out your aggression on that poor granola. This step is crucial to a dense bar that holds together well. 

Bake for 10 minutes. Take them out of the oven, get a spatula, and smash the granola down in the pan again, using your spatula. This step is crucial, again, to a dense bar.

Return to the oven, and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool completely before trying to cut them. in fact, it’s best if you can let them chill out in the fridge overnight before cutting them into squares. 

These will keep for 2 weeks if you wrap them individually in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge, but I’m guessing they won’t last you that long because you’ll want to eat them all at once. Or, if you’re like me, you share them with people you love and they go pretty quickly that way, too. 

“You haven’t blogged in a while…”

My personality is such that I need closure. On everything. I can’t go to bed if I know there are dishes in the sink – everything has to be put away before I can sleep soundly. If I leave a party or gathering without saying goodbye to everyone I talked with that evening, I am bothered by it the whole way home. And when relationships “just fizzle” without that final “here’s why I am no longer going to be in your life” conversation, I am distraught. Sometimes, for a really, really, really long time.

So it is in that spirit that I write one last blog post… for a while. I can’t say I’ll never blog again. But I know I’m not blogging again for the foreseeable future. 

I’m probably more disappointed about this decision than any of my readers are. I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of writing for fun, especially when I’m writing about what I cook and eat. I think I get even more enjoyment out of clicking this little “stats” tab that tells me how many people have seen my blog in the past day, week or months, as well as from where y’all are reading (apparently someone in Alaska and in a remote part of South America have stumbled upon LBDelicious). But I also enjoy the blog as a way to stay connected with y’all, as I know a lot of my family & maybe a few friends read my humble blog posts for just general updates on my life. 

However, there are a few things going on that are taking up all of my time. And instead of just leaving the blog out there without saying where I’ve gone, this post will explain why, at this point, I’m leaving the blogosphere. 

First, I’m starting a brand new job in August. I’m beyond excited to be joining the faculty at Southern Polytechnic State University (though I will dearly miss my colleagues & students from GHC), but it’s already keeping me busy. In the fall, I’ll be teaching (among some public speaking sections) two upper level courses that I’m creating from scratch, and I want them to be amazing. To pull that off requires a lot of time and energy – time and energy that I am honored and excited to commit, but it’s still means there will be fewer hours available for other leisurely activities. Don’t even get me started on the research projects I have going… they are super duper exciting and I’ll be filling you in on them later, but they are turning into the life-consuming variety rather than the “keep on the back burner and work on them when you can” variety.

Speaking of time, energy, and leisurely activities, let’s talk about the crazy endurance athletic events I’ve perhaps stupidly committed myself to doing this summer. On July 14, I’ll be doing a 5K… SWIM. Am I really swimming 3.1 miles in a lake in a few weeks? Sheesh. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad that Shaun talked me into that one… guess I’ll let you know on the 14th. At least I have good arm muscles this summer?

And I apparently forgot how exhausted and “over” triathlons I was after last year’s Chattanooga Tri and in a moment of complete insanity signed up for the Augusta Half Ironman, taking place on September 30. On that day, I’ll swim 1.2 miles, ride my bike for 56 miles, and then run a half marathon. 

I’m not sure what I was thinking, either. 

As you might imagine, training for these events will (and are) take (and are taking) some time. Luckily, I have lots of friends who are much better athletes than I am who are already helping me get ready. And if anyone is out there who currently doesn’t have anyone to swim open water every Saturday morning or go run 13 miles with or do some speed intervals on the Silver Comet “just for fun,” with, well… holla at me.

Not to mention… I have a husband. And a cat. And family & friends who all need at least a little attention. I’m at a point where something’s gotta give. And right now, that’s the blog. I don’t like having it floating around out here, seemingly active, without giving it a proper farewell.

And, honestly, what I’ve been cooking lately wouldn’t be very blog-worthy. We’ve changed our diets around here in Casa Dawmilam in ways I never really expected we would (or should) change things around. I’m actually at a point where most days, I’d rather tear into a big bowl of salad instead of a big bowl of pasta for dinner.

I know what you’re thinking: “who are you and what have you done with LBDelicious?”

Don’t you worry. Friday, for Lindsey’s last fun day in the states before she headed to London for study abroad, we hung out at her pool and drank beer, ate chocolate cookies, cheesy quiche and homemade gelato. Today, after the sprint tri I did, we promptly went to La Parilla where I ate an entire bowl of cheese dip, half a fajita entree, and chugged a margarita. I have some triple chocolate brownies hanging out on my counter by the stove (guess I should mention I ate a generous spoonful of the brownie batter last night while I was making them). And I’m contemplating a Nutella snack, here at 9:21 pm on a school night. So, I’m not that healthy all the time. These are just things that are ordinary, routine, and not that exciting to eat. You just have to trust me – nothing I’ve made lately is anything worth writing home about. I’ve just simplified our meals because I’m busy and it’s easier to train harder the next day when your dinner didn’t consist of a buttery cream sauce the night before.

Mmmm. Buttery cream sauce.

So, until my life calms down and I start making blog-worthy food again, this is farewell. Thanks for reading. Happy cooking, until next time. 

Strawberry Mint Sorbet or Cocktails

I fully intended for strawberry mint sorbet (taken from this website here) to be dessert for Saturday, which was declared an official LBD & Lindsey Day of Fun (activities on the Day of Fun may include, but are not limited to, running, eating, drinking adult beverages, watching Food Network and/or Cooking Channel, and laying out – all of which we accomplished on this particular Saturday). But, as I was standing over my ice cream maker, drooling, watching the sorbet turn from a puree into a slushy vat of happiness, I kept thinking it would be so much better served with some liquor.

Hence, these were born:

I swear this is easy to make. The sorbet is delicious on its own, and works as a perfectly light and refreshing summer dessert. There’s really no need to spike it with bubbly, vodka, rum or tequila. But, it certainly did a  great job keeping our prosecco chilled as we drank it with lunch on my patio.

Strawberry Mint Sorbet

Wash and slice 1 pound of fresh strawberries. Place in a bowl with 3/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vodka. Marinate in the fridge for an hour, stirring once. Pour strawberries and any collected juices, along with the juice of one lime and a few tablespoons of fresh mint leaves into a blender; puree until smooth. If using an ice cream maker, pour the puree into the base and churn for about 20 minutes, then move to an air tight container in the freezer.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can probably just put the puree into an air tight container in the freezer and get fairly similar results.

Strawberry Mint Sorbet Cocktails

Take one scoop of the frozen strawberry mint sorbet and place in a champagne flute or wine glass. Top with champagne or prosecco; garnish with a mint leaf.

Yogurt, Fruit & Nut Happy Snack

Snacktime is a pretty big deal for me, especially the post-workout snack. It’s my favorite snack of the day.

You can ask Dave just how excited I get when I come home after a long workout and announce something like “smoothie time!” by jumping up and down, and saying it over and over until I actually start drinking the aforementioned smoothie. These behaviors are not annoying at all, and I’m sure he wouldn’t have appreciated knowing that I can exhibit this level of enthusiasm before he agreed to spend the rest of his life dealing with my over-the-top post-workout energy levels. Yay, endorphins!

Today, instead of my usual smoothie, I created a pretty, filling, happy little fruit, yogurt, flaxseed & walnut bowl that I just had to share with you. It’s not original. It’s not very exciting. It’s not even really a recipe. It’s just a little bowl full of happy, healthy goodness that I encourage you to make the next time you need refueling. It’s a balanced snack – there’s protein in the yogurt, healthy fats and fiber in the walnuts, a serving of fruit, sweetness from the honey and a whole lot of tasty goodness. This is perfect for breakfast (or second breakfast, if you’re like me and love breakfast so much you usually eat it twice in a day).

Hate on instagram all you want – I’m sort of addicted to it and think it makes food look even better.

Here’s what was in my little yogurt bowl of happy this morning:

about 3/4 cup plain, low-fat yogurt (today I used Stoneyfield Organic, but I heart Greek yogurt more)

handful of sliced strawberries

about 1/4 cup blueberries, defrosted from frozen (which means they give off this yummy little blueberry juice that turns everything purple… one of my favorite colors… can you tell I’m in a good mood since it’s FINALS week?)

handful of toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (healthy stuff; you’ll have to forgive me for citing a WebMD article) 

drizzle of honey

I hope this snack brings you as much joy as it brought me this morning! Or maybe it’s just because it’s finals week and my semester is almost over…