Big and Chewy Speculoos Toffee Cookies

Cookie Butter Cookies1

There are several ‘downsides’ to living in Lansing, but if I had to pick the biggest one, it would have be that we don’t have access to certain foods and restaurants. Quite a few, actually. It’s gotta be one of the lamest capital cities in the country, so far as food goes.

As well as other things. But for the sake of this post, let’s just focus on the food.

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I think one of  the  most egregious sins of our Food Desert is that we don’t have a Waffle House. I haven’t had a Waffle House waffle (the best waffle I’ve EVER had)  since I visited my aunt in Georgia 5+ years ago. This just should not be. Granted, there are no Waffle Houses in Michigan period, but still…I take it especially personal that there isn’t one in my city.

Second: We don’t have an In-N-Out-Burger. From what I gather, a burger from In-N-Out  is…well…everything. What I wouldn’t give to find out for myself.

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There are no joints in Lansing where I can go to get a traditional,  delicious NYC-style pizza. So far as pizza places go, we’re pretty much limited to the ‘big chains’- and neither of those count. (Especially since Pizza Hut axed the Big New Yorker pizza from their menu years ago *throws stank eye*)

We don’t have a Costco. Yep; you heard that right. No Costco.

We had a Krispy Kreme. It closed. In retrospect, it may have been for the best- for my thighs, I mean. But sometimes, I still miss seeing that Hot ‘n Ready neon red sign glowing in their window.

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Finally, should either of you ever choose to pay a visit to the capital city of Michigan, be advised: there is no Trader Joe’s to be found here. Don’t ask me why this is. I really couldn’t tell you.

But it is a shame: Trader Joe’s is one of those stores that I just really like walking around in and looking at everything, trying to come up with various excuses as to why I should buy ‘this’ and ‘that’ and ‘that and that and that’. They just have a lot of really good products, including but not limited to this unbelievably AMAZING product called Cookie Butter.

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Cookie Butter, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is made of Speculoos cookies that have been pulverized and blended with vegetable oils until they form a smooth spread that has a peanut-butter consistency.

It.is.MARVELOUS. There are imitators out there, but don’t be fooled: TJ’s makes the best.

The nearest Trader Joe’s to us in Michigan is in Ann Arbor. So, the last time that my older sister was driving up through the area, she stopped by a Trader Joe’s and bought me a jar each of Crunchy and Creamy Trader Joe’s Cookie butter.

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So I know what you’re probably thinking: “Jess, what’s the point of using COOKIE butter to just make more COOKIES?”

My answer to that would have to be…because I wanted to.

And you know what?  I think it turned out pretty darn good.

I referenced a recipe that I’ve used before for to make really awesome peanut butter cookies, then tweaked it a little to make it work for this idea. To give the cookies some texture, I mixed in some Heath toffee bits to the dough. Yeah. It was definitely one of my better ideas.

I’m super pumped to be able to co-host this week’s Fiesta Friday #79 along with Loretta@SafarioftheMind. Be sure to come on over and join us with your own recipes to share-it’s always a blast!

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Big and Chewy Speculoos Toffee Cookies

Recipe Adapted from Food.com

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy or chunky Speculoos cookie butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup Heath toffee bits

Directions

Cream together both sugars, the butter and the Speculoos cookie butter until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and salt and stir to combine.

In separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and corn starch together with whisk or fork until well combined. Slowly add it to the wet mixture, mixing until well incorporated.

Using the lowest speed of mixer, or by hand, stir in the Heath toffee bits.

Refrigerate cookie dough at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheet pans with parchment paper.

Using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon out portions of dough and roll into balls. Place onto sheet pans and slightly flatten with the bottom of a glass or the top of your hand.

Bake cookies for 12 minutes, or until bottoms just being to brown, rotating the baking pans halfway through.

Allow cookies to sit on the baking pans for about 3-5 minutes, before moving to cooling rack to completely cool.

Summer Pasta Salad

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What do hot, hot, HOT summer days make you think of? For me, it’s a number of things.

Growing up and eating MASSIVE amounts of watermelon with my grandpa.

Being on summer vacation from school and getting to wake up whenever the heck I want. (I’m an ‘adult’ with a regular ‘job’ now, so this doesn’t happen anymore.)

The song “Summer Nights” from Grease.

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The sound of the ice cream truck music playing in my grandmother’s neighborhood.

Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing”.

The handful of summer camps/programs that my Mom signed me up for…neither of which I ever liked.

Cedar Point trips.

Beautiful, cool(er) sunsets.

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Now how about food? I know that for me, I have “Summer Memories”, and then apart from that, I have “Summer Food Memories.”

Watermelon. Eating watermelon wedge after watermelon wedge until I start burping- that’s how I know when to stop.

Ice cream. One of the only things that I like about extreme summer heat is that it gives me an excuse to eat ice cream. It’s not like I ever NEED an excuse. I definitely eat ice cream in the dead of winter as well, but…still.

Popsicles. Not the watery kind in the plastic wrappers; REAL popsicles with chunks of fruit that are so thick and creamy, you can chew them.

Barbecue. Nothing replaces  the flavor that a charcoal grill can inject into a piece of meat. Nothing.

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Finally, there’s pasta salad.

Pasta salad has gotta be one of the most quintessential summer foods there is. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I don’t know if I even WANT to know anyone who doesn’t like pasta salad.

I’ve tried lots of different kinds of pasta salads in the past that experimented with different flavors, including this VERY delicious Supreme Pizza Pasta Salad. However, this recipe sticks to the ‘basics’ of pasta salad, resulting in a dish that is pretty much guaranteed to please everybody.

I’ve included all of the ingredients that I personally prefer in my pasta salad, but should you try this out, feel free to add or swap out stuff that you or your family prefers, like cheese, olives, or meat.

I think it’ll make for a pretty cool summer memory 😉

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Summer Pasta Salad


Recipe Adapted from Southern Living

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz. Penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 green , yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped and undrained
  • 1 cup yellow canned corn, drained
  • 3 mini salad cucumbers, thinly sliced

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

 

Directions

Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass measuring cup with a whisk.. Taste and adjust for seasoning if need be.

In a large bowl, toss all of the salad ingredients together, then drizzle in your desired amount of the dressing.

Refrigerate pasta salad for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld, but preferably overnight. Serve chilled.

Garlic Knots

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‘Sup, peeps?

See what I’ve been up to?

Garlic Knots.

They look pretty awesome, right? I made quite a few.

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I mean, a LOT.  As in, I had to throw them all in a great big gallon size Ziploc bag to store them.

So, you know what I’m gonna do?

I’m gonna give you guys a crap load of excuses (I mean, REASONS) to eat just as many of these Garlic Knots as you want. Because in actuality, garlic is actually pretty good for you. And these have garlic in them. So it all floooooows together.

Incidentally, they are also the “reasons” I gave myself that having just this many carbs in my house is a good idea.

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Garlic can combat common sicknesses, including the common cold. Apparently, by 63%.

So when you start to feel those summer sniffles or itching coming on, what do you think you should do?

Have some hot chicken noodle soup. And a Garlic Knot. Of course.

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Garlic may improve bone health, minimizing bone loss in females by increasing estrogen in females.

Now don’t get me wrong: you should DEFINITELY keep taking those calcium supplements. Drink your milk. All that good stuff.

But you know what else you should do? That’s right.

Have a garlic knot.

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Garlic is chock full of good nutrients. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Manganese: 23% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA.
  • Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA.
  • Selenium: 6% of the RDA.
  • Fiber: 1 gram.
  • Decent amounts of Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron and Vitamin B1.

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Listen up, cause this is important:

You gotta get your vitamins in, guys. Don’t neglect your health. Eat a Garlic Knot. They’ll make you feel better. Trust me: I know.  They’re light, fluffy and oh so delicious. They’ll also be at this week’s Fiesta Friday #78, co-hosted by  Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

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Garlic Knots

Recipe Courtesy of My Life and Travels

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Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup or Honey
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • About 4 C flour
  • 1 Tsp salt
Garlic Butter
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp minced garlic cloves
  • 1 Tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 Tsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Combine the water, maple syrup and yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Stir in the oil then, stir in flour and salt. Add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together, if needed.

Knead dough for 5 minutes.

Place dough in a large, greased bowl. Turn to coat dough. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Divide dough into 16 equal pieces.

Roll each piece into a dough rope/snake that is about 9-10 inches long and about 1/2-inch thick.

Shape into a knot (fold one end of dough over the other so that it looks like an awareness ribbon. Twist dough at the place where the two sides overlap. Fold ends back, and tuck under). You can also just tie the dough into a knot and leave the ends out.

Place knots on a baking sheet. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden brown.

To make the garlic butter, melt butter in a small saucepan.

When the butter has melted, stir in the garlic, Italian seasoning, garlic powder and parmesan cheese.

Toss knots in the garlic butter

Roasted Maple Curry Brussel Sprouts

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My twin sister is getting married soon. Really soon. Like, September soon.

She’s been engaged for over a year now, but I still don’t think it’s really sunk in for me yet. Jas has lived with me every single day of our lives since we were conceived. Literally That’s 25 years, plus change since our birthday also happens to be in September.

There are 9,131 days in twenty five years. Of those 9,131 days, I don’t think more than 10 (and I mean, 10 maximum) have went by that Jas and I have not seen each other.

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But come September, Jas will be moving out and living elsewhere from me. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like she’s moving to another state.  Her house is about twenty minutes away from where we live now. She’s already informed me that she plans to visit here often and that I’m more than welcome to come over to her place, and I believe her.

Still. The closer we get to the actual Big Day, I have to confess the idea of her moving out does feel a little…weird.

It’s definitely gonna be different not having her here all the time. It’ll definitely be an adjustment. But I’m sure it won’t take too long for me to get the hang of it.

I hope.

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On the brighter/less sappy side, I’m REALLY happy for my sister and her fiance. They’ve known each other for over ten years, and I could tell even way back when we were in high school when they were in that “just friends” stage that they were really into each other. They’ve always had a really awesome dynamic that at times, I have even felt myself being a little envious of. I think that the best couples are the couples that first of all, have a lot of fun together, and second, complement each other very well. That’s definitely the case with Jas and her guy.

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They’ve been friends just as long as they’ve been together romantically. They have lots of inside jokes. They like’doing things’ together, but they’re also just as cool with being together and ‘doing nothing’. They’re not similar people personality-wise, but the different elements of their personality work together really well.

They just have a great relationship, and as a sister, I’m really proud of the choice that Jas has made for her life partner.

The main ingredients for this dish kinda remind me of the relationship that Jas has with her fiance, as well as the relationship that I’ve seen with other happy couples.

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Maple syrup and curry powder. I know it’s maybe not exactly an union that may seem to be successful at first. On their own, the ingredients are already pretty strong and assertive: maple syrup with it’s prominent sweetness, and curry powder with it’s pungent spiciness. Kinda polar opposites, right?

Still, I gotta insist that you guys trust me on this: once you combine them together, they really really REALLY work well. The assertiveness of both spices, combined with the slight bitterness from the brussel sprouts creates this harmonious marriage of flavors (pun intended) that I was really very impressed with. It made for a delicious side dish that I’m definitely sticking in my bag of tricks to use repeatedly in the future.

I’ll be taking myself and my sprouts over to the Fiesta Friday #76 party by the way. See you guys there 🙂

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Roasted Maple Curry Brussel Sprouts

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@Cooking is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. fresh Brussel sprouts, washed, trimmed and halved
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder

Directions

400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and coat evenly with cooking spray.

Toss Brussel sprouts with olive oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange in a single layer on sheet pan and roast in oven, 35-40 minutes, stirring halfway through until sprouts are tender in the center and crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile, combine maple syrup and curry powder in a glass measuring cup. When sprouts are done roasting, drizzle curry maple syrup over them*. Serve.

*You may not want to use all of the syrup, depending on your personal preference of sweetness and spice.