Monday, January 28, 2013

Peanut Butter Heart

I have been seeing these cookies everywhere.  They make my mouth water every time I see them.  I finally caved and made a batch.

They are nothing new or super exciting - a basic peanut cookie with chocolate.  The dark chocolate seems to make this everyday treat a little fancy and extra special.  But at heart they are a classic comfort food.

I have two basic recipes for Peanut Butter cookies - an easy  one and an even easier one.  This is the easy one - the even easier one is only three ingredients and great when a quick fix is needed.  These cookies are thick soft and chewy.  They are wonderful with or without the chocolate.  I usually make a half recipe and scoop out small balls of dough, but occasionally I make the full batch and make them super big which the kids just love.

 Peanut Butter Hearts

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cups peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 bag Dove dark chocolate hearts

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together, set aside.  In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium speed if using a stand mixer, scraping bowl occasionally.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fully incorporated, scrape down bowl then add peanut butter, mixing again until fully incorporated.  Add flour mixture,  stirring until just incorporated, do not over mix.

Using a #40 scoop (about 2 Tbsp) drop dough onto baking sheet, evenly spacing cookies.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden on the edges and slightly soft in the center.  Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then top with unwrapped chocolate heart, transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Language Stars

Between high school and college I took about 7 years of Spanish   You might read that and think "wow she must be fluent in Spanish"  but I am not, I am the exact opposite.  I am absolutely lousy when it comes to speaking a foreign language.  My struggle to learn Spanish is a family joke, my struggle with English is also a family joke.

Because of my struggles I vowed I would expose my children to foreign languages at an early age.  I started out strong with Will and signed him up for a class in Mandarin when he was about 3, but that was the end of it.  I know that being able to speak a foreign language is very valuable and the earlier children are exposed the easier it is for them to learn.

In the DC metro area we are lucky to have Language Stars, which offers classes in Spanish, Mandarin, French and German, for children ages 1-10.  The classes are play-based, full-immersion foreign language classes that open children's minds to new worlds. Toddlers, pre-schoolers and K-5th graders benefit from an early start, during a unique window of opportunity when their young brains absorb the magic of another language and culture easily and rapidly.

Language Stars centers are located in the DC and Chicago metro areas and are hosting Open House weeks from From January 14th- 27th so you can experience Language Stars firsthand and save! 

During the open house you will have the opportunity to: 
  • Tour your local Language Stars center
  • Meet our international teaching team
  • Learn about the Window of Opportunity and why NOW is the best time for your child to learn a foreign language
  • Receive a special Open House gift to take home for you and your child
  • Enter our Open House Weeks Giveaway for a chance to win a brand new iPad mini
As an added bonus if you enroll during their Open House Weeks you will receive $100 OFF you tuition (new families only)

To reserve your spot for  the open house weeks today! Fill out the online form or call 866-55-STARS.

If you are already enrolled you can receive $100 OFF your tuition for every family you refer who enrolls through January 27, 2013.

As part of their Open House Weeks event Language Stars is giving away an iPad Mini!!!!  You can enter by visiting Language Stars - DC Facebook Page

Disclosure:  Language Stars is responsible for the the iPad mini giveaway. I am being compensated for this promotion. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

SRC - Granola

This month I got to do two Secret Recipe Club assignments.  Jess, at the Inquiring Chef, was left orphaned and I was lucky enough to be able to get her blog and do a second reveal.  Jess's blog is beautiful.  It is not only filled with wonderful recipes, but also gives a peak into her life as she and her husband reside temporarily in Bangkok.

There were many recipes that were very tempting.  Working my way through the Inquiring Chefs 2012 favorites would be a tasty adventure.  Due to time constraints and pantry limitations I decided on Jess's Cranberry Pecan Granola.

We have been out of granola for about a week and I had been meaning to make it this week, so this was the push I needed to get it done.  I usually stick to the same basic recipe, but Jess's recipe and the use of powdered milk was very intriguing. I have never seen a granola recipe that uses powdered milk and had no idea how it would taste or what it would do.  

Jess jokes about entertaining the idea of using coffee creamer when she was unable to find powdered milk.  She, or actually her husband, eventually found some powdered milk and didn't have to resort to using coffee creamer.  I on the other hand did use the creamer.  I had a napping child, no interest in running to the store and a large container of coffee creamer that I have no idea how I am ever going to use up.

I made about a 1/4 of the recipe, I didn't want to make a full batch and discover that coffee creamer and granola is a disgusting combination.  In the end I was pretty satisfied with the results.  I am still not exactly sure what impact the creamer or powdered milk has.  It was slightly richer than my usual granola, but overall there wasn't a great difference in taste.

I am still curious about the powdered milk and will probably pick some up the next time I go to the store to do some experimenting.  Let me know if you have any suggestions or know what the powdered milk does, I would love to learn more.

Inquiring Chef Cranberry Pecan Granola

4 cups rolled oats
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup oat bran
1 cup powdered milk
2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven 350
In large bowl  mix together oats, pecans and oat bran.  In small bowl combine powdered milk, salt, vegetable oil, honey, vanilla extract and almond extract.  Pour wet mixture over dry ingredients, stir until well combined.  Spread mixture over two baking sheets.  Bake, stirring halfway through, until light golden brown and fragrant, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, mix in cranberries.  Let cool completely.  Store in airtight container.

Monday, January 7, 2013

SRC - Wonderful Winter Soup

Like many I crave simple easy foods at the start of the year.  After a month of indulgence all I want are simple nutritious foods and nothing fits this desire more than soup.  Soups can be made in 30 minutes or can simmer all day.  They can be a simple broth or chocked full of meats, vegetables, beans or pasta.  Being in a soup frame of mind I was thrilled when I came across Lesa's White Bean Sausage Kale Soup for this month's Secret Recipe Club.

Lesa's site, Edesia's Notebook, is filled with wonderful recipes that she shares with her husband and two adorable daughters.  Her holiday treats were mouth watering and the number of challenges and cooking groups she belongs to is definitely inspiring.  I was definitely tempted by many of her recipes, but stuck with the soup.

I made a few changes to Lesa's soup based on what was available in my kitchen, but that is one of the wonderful things about soup is that they are so versatile.  The two main changes I made were using spinach instead of kale and using a chorizo beef sausage and a chicken sausage in place of the Italian sausage Leasa used. We have become big fans of Cacique Beef chorizo it is wonderfully spicy and adds great flavor.  It almost disappears when cooking, so don't look to it if you want to add flavor and texture to the dish.

In my recipe I also added half a bottle of beer to help cut the spiciness of the chorizo and to add a little more flavor.  The addition of the beer is completely optional the soup is yummy either way.  I often add half a bottle or so because I like the hoppy flavor it provides and sometimes I add half a bottle just because it has been one of those afternoons.  It is completely up to you and the soup won't suffer either way.

Spinach White Bean Sausage Soup
5 oz. Cacique Beef Chorizo
2 links chicken sausage, cut into 1/2" slices
4 oz chicken broth
1/2 bottle beer (dark or light whichever flavor you prefer)
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen chopped spinach (or a bunch fresh spinach, chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, heat large soup pot.  Once pan is hot add chorizo, cook for about 5-7 minutes  add sausage cook until sausage is lightly browned.  Add broth and beer cook for 10 minutes or until liquids are warm. Stir in beans and spinach, add salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium low heat  for 10 minutes.

Please visit Lesa over at Edesia's Notebook and be sure to check out all of the wonderful recipes in this month's SRC reveal.