The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

30 Jan

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted in General on 30.01.11 by Octopi

If this was the first time ever this was presented to the world, I’d say, “You are welcome, World.  Enjoy.”  But it’s posted all over the place, so I’ll just say “wished I’d thought of it first”.  This is based on a highly rated recipe on Epicurious called Jose’s Oatmeal Peanut Butter cookies.  Some would say don’t mess with success, but you should know by now that I can’t help but stray from a recipe just a little bit. It’s not completely off the path, but it’s certainly not exact. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (if you don’t have this, no worries. Just use 2 cups total of all regular flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (I had a quarter cup of almond butter to use up so I just used it as part of the 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini-chips)
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, grated or chopped up good.  I threw them in the coffee grinder and that seemed to work pretty well. 

 

Makin it Happen

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • In a large bowl stir together oatmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy and beat in vanilla and peanut butter.
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and gradually beat in flour mixture.
  • Add chocolate chips and grated chocolate, beating just until combined.
  • Chill cookie dough, covered (I wrap mine in plastic wrap) until firm (you can throw them in the freezer to chill them quickly)
  • Form rounded tablespoons of dough into balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls slightly.  Or if the dough is really firm you could probably just cut them into slices if you chilled them in a roll shape.
  • Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven 15-17 minutes, or until just pale golden.
  • Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes and transfer to racks to cool completely.

 

Tips and Tricks

  • When you are making refrigerator cookies (and probably any cookies) here’s a tip for consistent batches of cookies.  Let’s say you put to pans of cookies in the oven.  You take them out, let the cookies cool a bit and then take them off the pans so you can use the pans for the next batch.  You may want to quickly cool the pans down by running cold water over them and give them a quick dry.  If your pan is still hot, your cookies start baking on the bottom, so if you put your cookies in for the same amount of time as the first batch, they may end up being more brown on the bottom or more cooked than you’d like.  Sometimes I do this and sometimes I don’t.

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29 Jan

Café Latte’s Chicken Salsa Chili

Posted in Makin' Food on 29.01.11 by Octopi

My friend J clued me in on this recipe. It’s a bit of a different take on a traditional chili and it is AmaZING with a capital A and a big ZING at the end.  Thanks J!

Café Latte’s Chicken Salsa Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces (I had frozen chicken breasts so I just put them in whole and cut them later after they’d been cooked)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (a large onion)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (I used three cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno chili peppers (I didn’t use the seeds)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I put in three cups because I was started with dry beans)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (I used 2 1/2 because 3 seemed like a shit ton)
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, undrained and broken up
  • 1 can (29 ounces) tomato puree
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) dark red kidney beans drained (I had dry beans, soaked them for a number of hours before I dropped them in the crockpot. If you put them in dry, just make sure to add some extra water.
  • 1 can (15 ounces) hominy (hominy is white corn. I could only find 28 ounce cans so I used it all)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Tortilla chips
  • Cheese

 

Makin It Happen

  • Dump everything into a crockpot except the cilantro and lime juice. I cooked mine on low for six hours.
  • At the end add the fresh cilantro and lime juice.  These two ingredients MAKE the recipe. It is so damn good.  Do NOT skip these ingredients.
  • To serve, crush some tortilla chips on top and add a little shredded cheese on top.  I had chihuahua cheese and that tasted fantastic. 
  • You could skip the chips, add some sour cream, whatever your little heart desires.

 

Tips and Tricks

  • Here are the original cooking directions if you have unfrozen chicken and canned kidney beans.  Pretty quick cook.  I think either way is fine.
  • Warm olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Sauté chicken until cooked. Add onions and reduce heat. Cook for 3 minutes or until onions are tender.
  • Add pepper flakes, garlic, jalapenos, chicken stock, chili powder, tomatoes and tomato puree, kidney beans and hominy. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes

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23 Jan

Braised Chicken with Figs

Posted in Makin' Food on 23.01.11 by Octopi

This is a (very loose) iteration of a recipe I came across on epicurious.  Back to the “one pot” recipes, but it’s pretty tasty and a good way to use up some more of our endless supply of dry goods (this time, quinoa).

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs of chicken breasts, chopped into large cubes
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped into one-inch lengths
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • serve over quinoa, rice, or similar

 

Makin It Happen

  • Lightly coat chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and flour.
  • Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken pieces to pot and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium-high. Add green onions to pot of chicken for a few minutes.
  • Add cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne.
  • Stir, add broth and lemon juice.
  • Bring to boil; keep at medium / medium-high for another 10-15 minutes (burn off some of the water).  I did this in an uncovered pot.  The quinoa can be cooking while this is happening.
  • Stir in figs and peanuts.  Serve over rice or quinoa.

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22 Jan

Spicy Roasted Tater Slices

Posted in Makin' Food on 22.01.11 by Octopi

I’m typically a “one-pot” cooking kind of gal; throw it all in a pot and dump it in a bowl.  However, lately I’ve been craving some meals with actual entrees and sides at home.  Here’s a side I recently made.  I made a whole bunch so I’m hoping they freeze well.  I’m thinking I can just pull them out and stick them in the oven to reheat.  We’ll see. (Actually, I just re-heated them in the microwave with some shredded cheese sprinkled on top and that was fine.  Though if you have the time, reheating in the oven is probably better). 

Caution: Flammable!  These were pretty spicy.  You may want to half the spices.  I liked them that way but you may not.  We’re talking fire-breathing here.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium baking potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 

 

Makin it Happen

  • Cut potatoes into wedges or slices and lightly spray a baking sheet with fat-free oil.
  • Place potato wedges on the baking sheet.
  • Mix spices and the oil in a small bowl, then brush to cover all.
  • Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes turning and brushing often with the remaining mixture

 

Tips and Tricks

You could probably just brush some olive oil over the taters and then sprinkle the seasonings over them rather than mixing it all up and then brushing on.  To each his/her own.

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16 Jan

Scones

Posted in Makin' Food on 16.01.11 by Octopi

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at scones for a bit now.  They’re a tasty breakfast treat and I don’t want to spend $2.50 every time I want one.  My scheme is that I’d make a bunch, freeze some, and take the rest to work for a little breakfast with coffee once I got in.  We’ll see how the freezing thing goes, but I’m willing to try!

So there was this amazing sounding recipe on Epicurious. (Can you tell I’ve been spending some quality time with that phone app on my bus ride home from work?)  Anyway, amazing recipe: Ginger Scones.  Alas, I didn’t have any candied ginger and didn’t feel like seeking it out so I tweaked the recipe.  But as soon as I happen upon some candied ginger this is the first thing I’m going to make with it.

Here’s the tweaked version.  I used dried cherries and I’m obsessed with cardamom so I threw some of that in there as well.  Thought it would be particularly tasty seeing as how cream is an ingredient.  Also, in the ginger scone recipe they refer to it as a “cream scone” recipe.  So I guess at some point I’ll try to make other kinds of scones.  I’ll try to do a separate post on the different types of scones.  Scone recipes differ by geography so if you’ve got a good scone recipe representative of the area in which you reside or are from, send it my way please!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour (I included 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour to make up part of the 2 1/4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 3/4 – 1 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops of the scones
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon) (I had some dried lemon peel, so just used that)

 

Makin it Happen

  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Mix (ideally with a food processor with a paddle or at the least an electric hand mixer) the flour, sugar, baking powder, and ground cardamom.  If you are using a hand mixer, mix the dry ingredients on low or you’ll have flour all over the kitchen and you.
  • Add the lemon zest and butter (pulsing the processor) until the mixture is pale yellow and the consistency of fine meal. If you don’t have a processor, watch the video (first ever on Get In The Mess!) for some tips on getting the butter cut in.

 

 

  • Stir in the dried cherries.
  • Make a well in the center of the mix and pour in the cream. Using one hand, draw in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Yep. Get in there. Get messy!  Note: I ended up putting about 1 cup of cream in there instead of 3/4 cup because I thought the dough wasn’t coming together well.  This meant a couple extra minutes in the oven.
  • Wash and dry your hands and dust them with flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead a few times to gather it into a ball. Roll or pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 inch thick.
  • Cut out the circles, cutting as closely together as possible and keeping the trimmings intact.  Gather the scraps, pat and press the pieces back together, and cut out the remaining dough. 
  • Place the scones 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Brush the tops with the remaining cream. (OK, you should probably do it, but I didn’t)
  • Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until the surface cracks and they are slightly browned.  Because I had some extra cream in there, mine were in for about 18 minutes. 

Tips and Tricks

  • Altogether, they turned out pretty well.  I think next time I’ll put in between 3/4 and 1 cup of cream to see if that helps the middle of the scone bake a bit better.  That’ll probably mean one less minute  in the oven.

 

Yum. Tasty goodness!

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15 Jan

Refrigerator Cookies

Posted in Makin' Food on 15.01.11 by Octopi

I don’t know about you but if I’m really busy working a shit ton or general life is just plain ol crazy, I start having irrational thoughts feeling entitlement towards certain things like sweets. “I DESERVE these _fill in the blank_ (cookies, extra grande mocha frappocino with whipped cream and a hot man on the side, whatever”).  Well, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.  Rather than buying an over-priced 800-calorie cookie from Cosi or Starbucks, though, I’m trying to figure out quick recipes to help satisfy the feeling without it completely eroding my wallet or increasing the size of my ass.

I dig refrigerator cookies because you can freeze one or more of the rolls instead of baking them all at once.  Then, when you’re sweet tooth gets the better of you, just pull them out of the freezer, let them thaw a bit, cut them into individual cookies, and bake them up!

This recipe is also a garbage recipe because you can pull random ingredients from your cupboard to make them up.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour (I didn’t have any regular flour on hand so used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips 
  • 1/2 cup coconut

 

Makin it Happen

  • Cream butter, add sugar and eggs.
  • Blend in flour, soda, and salt.
  • Mix in oats, dried cherries, chocolate chips and coconut (or whatever else you found in your cupboard).
  • Shape into three logs about 2 inches in diameter.
  • Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 24 hours.  Or you can choose to freeze one or more logs.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Be sure to let the cookies thaw a bit if they were frozen but don’t let them thaw completely out or you won’t be able to easily cut them. 
  • Slice dough into 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness and bake for about 10 minutes

 

Tasty Goodness!

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08 Jan

Meatballs. Lotsa Meatballs.

Posted in Makin' Food on 08.01.11 by Octopi

OK, if you’re making homemade pasta sauce, you may as well go all the way and make some homemade meatballs as well.

It doesn’t take that long to whip them up.  Give it a whirl!  Again, a recipe from food.com.

Homemade Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef or ground round
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (I put more in than this, cuz what else are you gonna do with it?)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

 

Makin it Happen

  • Dump everything in a bowl
  • Get your hands in there and mix/squish everything together. Fun!!
  • Make little round balls, about golf-ball sized
  • Dump into tomato sauce and cook right along with the sauce in the crock pot (I had it in for 6 hours on low).

 

So I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but if you need a refresher on what a meatball is, here you go.

Tasty Goodness!

Tips and Tricks

  • If you make a bunch of meatballs, you can also make meatball sandwiches. They taste particularly good on leftover garlic bread from the original meal!

 

Nutritional content here:

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07 Jan

Shrimp Fried Rice

Posted in Makin' Food on 07.01.11 by Octopi

I don’t care if you think you can’t cook.  If you can make rice, you can make this.  It’s easy, it’s fast, and it can be healthier than you think, provided you don’t load it with tons of oil or butter.

All you need is rice, eggs, butter or olive oil, an onion, some veggies or meat, and soy sauce.

Shrimp (or whatever you want) Fried Rice

Ingredients

 

  • 1 lb shrimp, deveined, chopped up into small places
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • butter or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • (I didn’t have any but some cooked peas would be might tasty! A pepper too)

 

Makin it Happen

  • Cook rice as per instructions (typically double the water for the amount of dry rice you are cooking but different grains require different cooking times. I added one tablespoon of butter to the mix while it was cooking.)
  • Put some olive oil in a pan.  Cook up onions (and peppers, if you have them) first.  When the onions are about half done, move them over to one side of the pan to finish cooking.  Crack eggs on the other side and start scrambling those up.
  • Once eggs and onion are done cooking, you can dump into the rice.
  • Throw the shrimp in the pan the eggs/onion was just in.  Cook em up.  Doesn’t take long. Only 5 minutes or so.
  • Mix everything up in a bowl and stir in the soy sauce.
  • Eat up. Tasty goodness!

 

Tips and Tricks

  • I like cooking with shrimp during the week because it only take 10 minutes or so to unthaw if you place them in some water and let them sit on the counter.

 

Nutritional content here.

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