Friday, September 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips

I love these cookies. Not because they are loaded with peanut butter and chocolate. Not because they are SO easy to make. And not even because the are Laura Friendly. But because they remind me of being a kid.

Before I discovered that I was gluten & dairy-free, my Mom and I would bake these cookies. I did all of the measuring and mixing and Mom popped them into the oven. They are so simple that it was the perfect dessert for a kid to help make. And what’s not to love about peanut butter and chocolate? Absolutely nothing!

The recipe below is actually a double batch so if you only feel like making a dozen cookies just cut everything in half. So easy! I guarantee that these cookies are a crowd pleaser and you will start receiving subtle hints to bake more and more. :)

Makes: 24 cookies
start to finish: 30 minutes (including baking time)
  • 2 cups peanut butter, (if you use natural PB, mix it well to incorporate the oil)
  • 2 cups sugar (I use organic which gives these cookies a darker color)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 organic extra large eggs
  • 1 cup dairy/gluten-free chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. (the parchment paper helps to prevent the bottoms of the cookies from burning)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter and the sugar. Sprinkle in the baking powder and mix well. In a separate bowl mix together the vanilla and eggs until yolks are well blended. Add this into the peanut butter mixture and blend until everything is well combined. Finally, add in the chocolate chips and mix. I suggest doing all of the mixing by hand so you won't over-mix the dough.

Using your hands, roll the dough into balls and place on the baking sheets. Lightly press down on the top of each ball with the palm of your hand, to slightly flatten. You can make these as small or large as you like. I like mine a bit larger so I use an ice-cream scoop to help me determine the size. If you would like to add a crisscross to the top of each cookie, using a fork, lightly press down on the top of each ball of dough, creating score marks.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, time may vary depending on your oven and the size of your cookies. You want them to barely look done, but just starting to hold together. Watch the cookies carefully around the 8 minute mark, to make sure they don’t start to burn.

Let them rest for about 5 minutes, until you can move the cookies without the them falling apart, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Basil Pesto

Fresh basil… Bright. Flavorful. Fragrant. Yum.

As the summer comes to a close, so too does the bounty of fresh basil we planted in Jon’s yard. It’s time to harvest the remaining leaves and make one last batch of herby goodness.

I adore fresh pesto. It is so easy to make and brings incredible flavor to everything. Pasta, scrambled eggs, grilled veggies, chicken, steak, rice or pizza. It adds something lovely to every dish.

Traditional pesto calls for Parmesan cheese, which is not Laura Friendly. So I make this version which has a lot of flavor and zero dairy. It’s Vegan baby. Both gluten & dairy-free it tastes amazing. If you’ve never made a pesto, I encourage you to give it a shot. It’s a quick way to make dinner seem special, without taking a lot of extra time.

Makes: ¾ cup
start to finish: 10 minutes
  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 to 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine the basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until it become a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This is even better after being chilled so you may want to make this ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, in an air tight container.

note: if the mixture seems too thick, continue to add up to ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, until it gets to your desired consistency

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spicy Tomato Soup

The seasons are starting to change in Michigan. The leaves on the trees are beginning to color and the air is getting cooler. Gone are the days of 90 degree heat and it’s time to pull out sweatshirts and jeans. I love the fall. I must confess I’m not quite ready to let go of the beautiful summer but I still love the fall. The smell of wood fires, the sound of leaves crunching under my feet and pulling out my favorite sweater and cozy Uggs.

This week marks the forth gathering of the Yogi Book Club. We just finished reading The Mastery of Love, by Don Miguel Ruiz, and as is our custom, dinner is part of the event. I happen to have a paper-bag full of ripe garden tomatoes from Jon’s Mom… So I’m thinking a Spicy Tomato Soup is the perfect compliment to our Fallish weather.

This soup is full of flavor from the roasted tomatoes and my secret ingredient (and guilty pleasure) Spicy V8. I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it again, I love Spicy V8. Gluten-free and zesty it’s a wonderful treat. If you’re not a fan of V8 feel free to substitute with your favorite tomato juice, this will still taste yummy. But anyway that you choose to make it, I hope it makes you feel warm and toasty as the seasons continue to change!

Serves: 4 to 6
start to finish: 1 hour
  • 3 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill all purpose gluten free flour
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 28-oz. can organic roasted crushed tomatoes (or 10 to 12 large tomatoes roasted and diced)
  • 2 cups Spicy V8
  • 1 small can organic tomato paste
  • juice of 1 lemon (2 to 4 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, diced
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (more or less or to taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

In 5 to 6-quart stock pot, heat the butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onion and garlic. Slowly add the broth and whisk to create a roux.

Add V8, roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice, basil, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and mix well. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.

Let cool briefly and then purée in two or three batches in a blender. Rinse the pot and return the soup to the pot, reheating if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

note: this soup tastes even better the next day so it’s great to make ahead of time and you can store it in the freezer (in a freezer safe container) for up to three months

Your reactions are the key to having a wonderful life. Don Miguel Ruiz

Monday, September 5, 2011

If you're going to San Francisco…

Jon and I just returned from an amazing long weekend in San Francisco. Friends of ours, CJ and Maya, just tied the knot and we flew out to help celebrate their special day. I love San Fran. It’s a beautiful city, stacked on the side of a mountain, that has a wonderful spirit. The wedding took place in the Presidio, which is the old Military base that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay. Its a great area that is now open for civilians to inhabit and enjoy.

Jon and I had the opportunity to steal away and spend a couple of hours in the Muir Woods. This is one of the few Redwood forests remaining and it was breathtaking to see. These majestic trees are relatives to the Giant Sequoia and can grow to over 250 feet high. While taking in their beauty I decided to rock a few yoga poses in their honor.
Muir Woods

Rocking a tree

A little dancer

Jon, looking for Ewoks

One of the many lovely things to enjoy in San Fran is the food. In fact, every restaurant I went to was accommodating to my food sensitivities. My favorite spot was a little place called The Plant Cafe Organic. Affordable, local and organic food served with thoughtfulness and a smile. I dined their twice and both meals were wonderful. Plus, they even had a gluten-free/vegan chocolate hazelnut cake that about knocked me over. It was amazing! The texture was light and spongy while the frosting was thick and creamy. Delicious! If you are ever in the area I highly recommend this modern, tasty little spot.

Even the San Fran airport has great food options. Jon and I hit up the Napa Farms Market before jumping on the plane to fly back to the Midwest.

Overall it was the perfect weekend. We met a lot of lovely people who took us in and made the weekend absolutely fantastic. Thanks for getting married CJ & Maya. :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chipotle, Willie & Coldplay

You all know how I LOVE Chipotle but this just put me over the top.
Nothing could be much better than Chipotle, Willie Nelson & Coldplay's The Scientist.
Awesome. I actually had goosebumps! Thanks Nat for the heads up. :)