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Recent Kitchen Happenings

Monday, August 25, 2014

nutty "raw" chocolate chip cookie dough (the healthy kind)

I, undoubtedly, have a sweet tooth.  In fact (truth be told), I have a mouth full of them!  That is why this recipe caught my eye quickly.  And I just so happened to have all the ingredients on hand, so it was a quick trip to the end of the experiment and, most definitely, worth it!

I won't get too much into my recent attempt to lower my carb intake.  I think I'll save that for later.  But for a variety of reasons, namely joint pain, I have drastically cut back on them the last two weeks.  I would dare say I'm a sugar "addict," so cutting everything out is not an option… nor do I think it's healthy or necessary.  So, I'm constantly keeping an eye open for just this kind of recipe.  It makes my attempt to reduce inflammation, by reducing sugar and flour, a little more palatable, and… well… it's just really, really good.

I recently saw this recipe on a newer Food Network show, The Kitchen.  There was a segment regarding quick and healthy snacks for kids, and the words "raw cookie dough" caught my attention.

Can't imagine why.

I went and searched online to find the recipe and was able to watch the rest of the episode and taste-test  these goodies before I could turn around.  I now keep them in the freezer at the ready, and if I can keep Daniel out of them, I usually enjoy a couple a day.  He thinks they favor Samoas.  I think they favor the perfect balance of sweet and healthy.

Another score in my book!

one year ago: snickerdoodlesapple cider pork tenderloin
two years ago: peanut butter bacon butterscotch cookieschocolate waffleslemon herb rice salad

Nutty "Raw" Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
makes approx. 20 balls
  • 3 dates, pitted
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I use dark or bittersweet)
~ Soak the dates in 1/4 cup of hot water for 5 minutes, reserving water.

~ In a food processor, combine the nuts, coconut, oats and salt.  Pulse until a fine meal forms.  

~  Add the peanut butter, dates, 3 tbsp of the reserved water and vanilla.  Process until the mixture is cookie dough consistency.  

~ Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add chips.  I just mixed in with my hands.  

~ Line a pan with parchment paper and refrigerate 15-20 minutes until set, or place the pan in the freezer and allow to freeze.  Place in freezer bag and store in freezer or store in airtight container in the fridge.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

jen's cucumber salad

I am desperately trying to hang on to the last days of Summer, folks.  It actually used to not be one of my favorites, but after having children and realizing the quality time I get with them during that season - especially after going back to work full-time - it's so incredibly hard to let go.  

When I do get some days off in the summer, I love the care-free nature of them.  I adore the dirty feet of my boys from being outside all day long and having to scrub their knees extra hard to get a full day's play off of 'em.  I love the freeze pops by the dozen and the feel of the air conditioner after getting a shower following a sticky, balmy afternoon.  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention how very much I love the bounty of veggies and fruit that seemingly make their way into our kitchen, whether we planted them or not.  

This year, one of John's students brought us an abundance of small cucumbers.  They were fantastic and not at all bitter.  We both really love keeping a huge Mason jar stocked with them in sugary vinegar brine, sliced onions, and some seasonings.  They are crisp, crunchy, cool, and a perfect side or condiment to so many different things.  They will last forever, unless - of course - you're like us.  Then the jar is empty more than it's full, and we're a little sad until another generous soul passes on their harvest.  

A quick tip:  these can be added to the brine as you get them, but they flavor up much more quickly if you pour boiling brine over them.  I don't know… the slices are infused from the inside-out, and once cooled, they're absolutely perfect!


Cucumber Salad
makes 2 quarts
  • 8 small cucumbers
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tbsp celery seed
~ Mix vinegar, sugar, water and seasonings in saucepan and bring to a boil.

~ While mixture is heating, slice cucumbers about a 1/4 inch thick.

~ Pour mixture over cucumbers, cover tightly, and let cool on counter.  Place in 
    refrigerator until fully chilled.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

plain ol' vanilla ice cream

It wasn't too long after we started visiting our current church congregation that we took part in their "Ice Cream Supper."  With my love of ice cream and all, you can imagine the points they scored with me when I read that in the "upcoming events" section of the bulletin.

It was everything I imagined it would be.  Old-fashioned.  Homey.  Delicious.  Everyone who brought a freezer full walked in the door a little taller, a little more confident, a little more eager, as if to say, 

"You think hers is good… wait'll you try this!"  

We've continued to have the suppers over the years, and it's a hit without fail.  The event is no respecter of age or level of expertise, and we all know some good milk, sugar… maybe a little fruit here, or a bit of chocolate there... is a winner every time.

At our last get-together a few weeks ago, I didn't take the preparation on as some big challenge out to win a blue ribbon.  I didn't pour through cookbooks or websites to try to find some obscure concoction.  I actually just considered the basics and came up with what I ended up calling, Plain Ol' Vanilla.  I didn't really mean to call it exactly that, but when my freezer was placed amid flavors like Peppermint Cream and Sunshine Berry, I found myself referring to it as Plain Ol' Vanilla with every patron that passed.

I was pleased that many came back and asked for seconds, and when one suggested it was the best vanilla ice cream they'd ever had, I knew I needed to share it with you, because listen to me, friends - it is SO. SO. EASY.  And after it has cured a while in the freezer, it scoops out beautifully.  

I'm milking the last of  the summer days for all their worth.  We're bound to have a few more in the 90's with high humidity, especially in these parts.  If you're needing a cool-down, gather just a few staples you probably already have in your pantry and whip up a batch of this.  I'm tellin' ya.  Plain never tasted so good!  

Plain Ol' Vanilla Ice Cream
makes 1.5 quarts
  • one 8 oz carton whipped topping
  • 1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 tbsp vanilla 
  • 5 tbsp confectioner's sugar
  • enough milk to make 2 quarts
~  After whipped topping has thawed completely, in large measuring bowl, mix together 
    topping, condensed milk, vanilla and confectioner's sugar with whisk until fully blended.

~ Add enough milk to make 2 quarts.  

~ Pour mixture into ice cream stand and freeze according to manufacturer's directions.

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen

Friday, June 27, 2014

pineberry sorbet

I was going for a quick refresher after a long walk in some pretty good heat - think smoothie - but I ended up with this.  Closer to a sorbet (which is even closer to ice cream than a smoothie is, and you know what I've told you before about me and ice cream!), it scooped out in beautiful rounds as soon as it came out of my Ninja.  

This pic is actually the second batch I made and refroze within hours of the first, because as I shared with you here, John and I nearly came to blows on the front porch when I first arrived with the treat.

By the way, that would not have been a good move if wanting to win over new neighbors and influence people.

We both begrudgingly took turns scraping the bottom of the bowl, and then I went back inside to begin mixing again.  

This is not rocket science or even unique, I'm sure.  But the consistency and ease was so unexpected, I wanted to share.  Though, one word of advice.  If there are two of you and only one bowlful of the dessert, make sure you have a pair of gloves and bell in tow; a knock-down, drag-out is a given.

Pineberry Sorbet
  • 14 one-inch pineapple chunks, frozen
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (I used strawberry, raspberry, blackberry blend)
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
~ Pour all ingredients in device (blender, Ninja, etc) and blend until smooth.  

~ Serve immediately, or pour into airtight container and store in freezer. 

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

easy-peasy chicken salad and an update

I have a secret.

Sometimes, I rush into the kitchen after getting home from work, and while the kids are busy playing, I throw together a super-quick meal for just John and me so we can eat in peace.


But hear me out.  

Now that we ride all together to and from school most days, if the journey home is long and drawn-out,  full of traffic, feisty with sibling dispute, loud with everyone talking over each other to tell their most pressing needs, I just… well… hide food from my kids.

I know.  It's bad isn't it.

But is it really that terrible?

Plus, I usually do a salad, because (in my mind) a big fancy, schmancy salad my 9 and 11-year-old do not want.

Well.  I don't ask them if they do.  But I'm pretty sure they don't.

So… as was this meal a couple of weeks ago.  A mix of lightly dressed baby lettuces topped with my Easy-Peasy Chicken Salad, a sprinkle of sliced almonds, a side of sharp cheddar and a piece of toasted Italian Easter Bread from the freezer.  All done within minutes.  All done without children.  And I'm fairly certain John and I didn't say a word following his prayer.

Quiet is way underestimated.

As for my veggie re-growing update, I can definitely say the experiment has been a great success thus far.  A little over a week into it, and the celery stalks are emerging (although I only left the leaves to show when I planted) and the green onions… well… take a look for yourself. Unbelievable.  I spend about $4 on the both of these combined when purchasing at the store. Considering our family has been known to drive out of our way five miles to save five cents on gas, I say this is a score!

Easy-Peasy Chicken Salad
makes 4-5 hearty servings
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 green onion, sliced (green parts only)
  • 1/4 cup Craisins
  • 3 heaping tbsp of mayo (or more, if preferred)
  • a sprinkling of Kosher salt
  • course ground pepper to taste
~ Stir together all ingredients and serve.

*For this recipe, I boil my chicken breasts in chicken base.  This one has become my 
  favorite as of late.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

money-saving experiment - you gotta try this!

So I made a salad Friday night (will soon share with you), which left me with the whites of four green onions.  As I was cleaning up, I looked at them and thought, "Surely there is a way to regenerate these!"  To the computer I went… 

Love Google.  

And sure enough, I ended up reading forever about foods you can re-grow.  In fact, I also learned one can regenerate the end of a celery stalk, which I happened to have on the counter, as well.  

I just want you to look at how cool God is.  This is less than 24 hours between shots.

It is really as easy as it looks.  Place the end of a celery bunch in a bowl with just enough water to submerge, about an inch.  Place in a sunny location, and it will quickly begin to grow.  In a few days, I should be able to transplant to a pot and watch the stalks emerge.  

The green onions  just need to be planted in potting soil, leaving about an inch above the dirt. Water thoroughly and they, too, will quickly reform.  

I am really looking forward to seeing how this all turns out.  It will be a treat to just cut what I need, when I need it, as the months go by.  I will most definitely keep you posted on this undertaking and will soon share a terrific, EASY chicken salad recipe that uses both of these veggies nicely. 


Friday, June 6, 2014

high five for friday

When it comes to this blog, Summer is my favorite time of year.  The load of life lightens just enough that I have a little more time to think and create and, really, just be inspired.

I am praying for great weather this weekend, so that Fair on the Square is a success.  I've heard about this neighborhood event in the village since before we moved here, and now I get to experience it myself as a resident.  Artisans, food trucks, free samples (or "try-outs" as the boys refer to them), and so much more is planned for Saturday morning.  I can't wait.  You can rest assured a few dollars will be in my pocket and a camera around my neck.

Speaking of camera, now that baseball is over, it has been able to focus on other things besides a bat and ball, and two cutie patooties in their uniforms.  These are just five snapshots of moments that really make life the gift it is.  It's the little things, most of the time, isn't it?

By the way, have you ever wondered why we refer to them as little?  Why not call 'em big and soak them up, one blessing at a time?  I'm certainly in.  How about you?

High Five for Friday, my friends!

We have been waiting for this moment right here… The youth group in our home, singing, laughing, eating, praising… A dream come true.  Twenty-one lovers of Jesus.  Super-awesome.

The perfect Memorial Day shopping outfit, right?  That's what Luke thought anyway.  He's re-discovered my grandfather's hat he was given a couple of years ago and has been wearing it non-stop. I love it.

Charley has seen the boys with a ball in hand so much over the last months, he doesn't want to be left out.  It's in his mouth more than it's on the ground.  

We're enjoying filling a few empty spaces in the new(er) house.  We finally have time to start really making it home, and I was THRILLED to snag this woven cane-seat rocker at Goodwill.  It's a perfect fit next to the fireplace.

I'm hoping I can do this one again.  By accident, I came up with what I'm calling "Pineberry Sorbet."  I'll share the recipe after I try it again and really measure and make sure it's as good I think it was.  This was a total non-plan, and came to nearly a "knock-down drag-out" between John and me on who was going to get the most.