PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

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I can’t think back to a time when there hasn’t been a big jar of chunky peanut butter in one of my cabinets or pantry. I’m crazy about the stuff.

I’m not hugely picky on the brand; Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan have ALL passed the test of my tastebuds–just so long as there’s some there whenever I want it. Even when I went through a ‘health nut’ phase, do you think I turned my back on peanut butter? Tuh. I just spend the extra buck or two and bought the natural chunky pb without the extra hydrogenated oils that you have to stir every once in a while. Wasn’t that much of a difference in taste (albeit it a little less sweet) and it did the trick until I finally caved & went back to the really good stuff. I was NOT going to live my life without peanut butter. No way, no how.

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Can I let you guys in on a little secret?

I never could, and still haven’t grown to like peanut butter and jelly as a combination on a sandwich. Who *needs* jelly when you could just slather more peanut butter on two slices of toasted bread? Jelly can take a hike so far as I’m concerned.

Just shut up, pass me the Skippy Chunky and a spoon, and no one will get hurt.

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Apart from just loving the stuff all on it’s own, I remember that I went through a phase as a kid when I was ka-razy about peanut butter cookies–especially the Nutter Butter sandwiches. I just wanted them all the time. I craved them: ALL.THE.TIME.

You know how when you went to the grocery store with your mom and if you were good (or if she was in a good mood and there was a little extra money) she’d let you pick something out to get? For a while, the ‘thing’ that I would always pick out were Nutter Butters.

At the time it didn’t matter because I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, but looking back (now that I definitely do not), I can admit that it was embarrassing how many I could put away.

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However. These are not Nutter Butters.

They are…dare I say it? Yeah, I will.

They’re better than Nutter Butters. Got your attention yet? Good.

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I decided to make these on a random whim, since #1, I felt like baking, #2, I had all the ingredients in the house at the time and #3, I was feeling guilty for not using my America’s Test Kitchen cookbook more often and this was in it. It’s a fabulous recipe that’s fairly easy to put together, and with my personal modifications, it just tasted even better.

I swapped out the recommended regular dry roasted peanuts for honey roasted ones that are lightly coated in sugar. I prefer the taste of honey roasteds, and I also think the ‘roasted’ flavor just comes out stronger in them for some reason. The cookies themselves remind me of the peanut butter cookies that can often be found in the bakery sections on cookie platters sold in Sam’s Club or Costco. They’re soft and chewy with the perfect contrast of texture from the crunch of the honey roasted peanuts that are chopped inside the dough.

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The filling was another modification. Whereas Nutter Butter cookies are just filled with a stiff peanut butter frosting, the filling in these cookies is smoother in texture. Second, the combination of peanut butter, honey and cinnamon makes it so that the overall sandwich isn’t too ‘one-note’ in flavor. Spoiler alert: it works. Really well.

I don’t know if there are words that can adequately describe what this tastes like when it’s warmed up in the microwave. You know, where the cookies are just on the verge of falling apart from softness of the crumb, and the filling is gooey and sticky so that the whole thing just kinda melts together in your mouth and–

Yeah, let me just stop now.

My twin sister pronounced these as some of “the best PB cookies” she’s ever had, and I really can’t say that she’s too far off on that assesment.

Guess that means I’ve got Nutter Butters beat, huh? Rah rah sis boom bah.

Linking up this post to Fiesta Friday #156.

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PB Sandwich Cookies (with Honey-Cinnamon Filling)

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

For the Cookies:

  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 large egg

For the Filling

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse peanuts in food processor until finely chopped, about 8 pulses.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Whisk melted butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, milk and egg together in second bowl. Stir flour mixture into peanut butter mixture with rubber spatula until combined. Stir in peanuts until evenly distributed.

Using a tablespoon measure, place 12 mounds, evenly spaced on each prepared baking sheet. Using dampened hand, flatten mounds until about 2 inches in diameter.

Bake until deep golden brown and firm to touch, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.

For the Filling:

Microwave peanut butter until melted and warm, about 40 seconds. Stir honey and ground cinnamon into the warm peanut butter before using a rubber spatula to stir in the confectioner’s sugar.

Place 24 cookies upside down on counter. Place 1 level tablespoon of warm filling in the center of each cookie. Place second cookie on top of filling, right side up, pressing gently until filling spreads to edges. Allow filling to set for 1 hour before serving. Assembled cookies can be stored at room temp for up to 3 days.

   

Texas BBQ Pot Roast

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It’s January. It’s cold outside. In most parts of the country, the weather is pretty crappy. It still gets dark pretty early in the evening. It’s Friday afternoon.

And you-know-who is now the president.

All of the above means that we deserve some MAJOR comfort food.

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I almost didn’t post this recipe. Almost. The lighting on the day I cooked it was REALLY bad, to the point where there was barely any sunlight outside at all and very little natural light to shine on the food.

All my fellow food bloggers out there know that shooting pictures of monochrome ‘brown’ foods like beef are difficult enough as it is, but without sunlight? Eh. It’s not picnic, I’ll tell you.

But ultimately I decided, what the heck? It’s a few hunks of beef. I think it looks like a few hunks of beef. Maybe not as pretty as they could be, but what makes a dish at the end of the day is the taste.

And I promise you, it does not fail to deliver on that.

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There’s not many bells and whistles to this dish. It takes the sweet and tangy flavors that remind me of barbecue and infuses them into a hunk of beef that is cooked low and slow in the oven until fork tender. It’s no grilled so we obviously don’t have that charred, charcoal flavor, but…it’s still pretty great stuff.

In fact, upon tasting, my older sister remarked that the sauce that it produces is VERRRRRRY close to the homemade barbecue sauce that our grandmother always made for holidays when we would grill out.

Which suffice to say, is very high praise indeed.

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The low roasting temp makes the beef come out so juicy, moist and tender. The sauce that it makes is the perfect blend of sweet and tangy flavors. It made for an absolutely delicious sandwich, guys. I mean, wow. I ate mine with caramelized onions and peppers and pickled gherkins, as pictured. But however you’d like to eat it, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied.

Linking this post up to Fiesta Friday #155. Y’all be easy.

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Texas BBQ Pot Roast

Recipe Adapted from Family Circle Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 1 pot roast (about 4-5 pounds), such as bottom round or chuck (I used a London Broil cut)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1 cup bottled barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory Brown Sugar)
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 1/8 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon or Honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 large onion (1/2 pound), chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed and minced

 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, smoked paprika, pepper and seasoning salt. Rub the mixture evenly over both sides of the meat.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or pot over the stove over medium high heat. Just before it starts to smoke, sear the meat in the pot until a crust forms on surface, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove the meat to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Place the onions and green pepper together in the Dutch oven and sauté them in the residual oil and drippings until just tender/translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute more until the garlic is fragrant.

In a medium bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, vinegar, broth, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and chili powder. Pour into the Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Add the meat back into the pot, cover and place in the oven. Roast for about 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork tender, turning the meat every hour or so.

Let the meat stand in the pot for about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, drain off about 2 cups of the liquid from the pot and place in a small saucepan. Bring the liquid in saucepan to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer until thickened into a sauce. Skim off the fat on the surface, then serve with the meat.

Curry and Ginger Crackers

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I know what you all are thinking.

Crackers. This chick actually took the trouble to make crackers? Like, from scratch?

But…why? For what? There are grocery stores with entire aisles of shelves holding droves and droves of crackers. Good ones. Some, *really* good. So, what is even the point of this post?

I can explain. Not only the why and how of me taking the trouble to make crackers, but why they’re actually something that I think YOU should be taking the trouble to make for yourself as well.

The first reason is that they’re actually not hard to make at all. They come together VERY quickly, the ingredients are not only minimal, they’re ALL recognizable and easy to pronounce–something that can’t be said of many of the mass produced popular name brand crackers out there.

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A few weeks ago, I started making my own ginger syrup. I’ve been drinking water diluted with lemon juice and the ginger syrup to ease some digestive issues that I’ve had for a while; the stuff really works. Maybe I’ll get around to sharing the ‘recipe’ to that one of these days, but the main takeaway for today’s is that to make the syrup I would simmer raw ginger slices in water and sugar until their flavor infused the syrup. The ginger was ‘candied’ by the syrup, then I rolled it in some white sugar and let it chill out in the fridge overnight. Voila: crystallized ginger that comes MUCH cheaper than the pricey stuff in the spice aisle.

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There are many things you can do with crystallized ginger, most involving a dessert of some kind.  My first instincts before resolving to make a cake or gingerbread or something like that, was to see if there was something else I could do with it using the ingredients that were already in my house as opposed to buying extra stuff. A quick scanning of the index of my King Arthur Flour cookbook brought me to this recipe. I’d never made crackers before, but the instructions did look very easy to follow, the flavor combination was intriguing and finally I figured hey…I hadn’t done it before, after all. Why not?

I’ll be upfront with you guys: besides these, I’ve already made 3 OTHER cracker recipes in the last few weeks. This is NOT the last you’ve seen of my homemade cracker endeavors. I’m kinda hooked on it. That’s how much I liked these.

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Look, I know they’re far from pretty. This WAS my first time. I’ve gotten better with practice, but for these, I just cut them out in haphazard shapes with a pizza cutter. But that’s the thing: the recipe is so easy to follow and hard to mess up that you can cut these out however the heck you want, and it won’t make a lick of difference because they’re just so damn tasty. The combination of the ginger with the curry powder is a match made in Heaven: it’s a perfect blend of sweet & balanced spice. There’s a kick in the aftertaste for sure, but it’s a subtle one that’s quite pleasant. ANDAND! Ginger and turmeric are natural remedies for upset stomach/nausea. Sooooo, how cool would it be to have these around for an absolutely delicious alternative to plain ol’ saltines? I’m pretty sure this is a cracker you can’t find on just any grocery store shelf anywhere–and in my humble opinion, these can compete with the best of them. Just saying.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #154. Have a great weekend everyone.

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Curry and Ginger Crackers

Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour Baking Companion

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup crystallized/candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • About 6 tablespoons cold water
  • Coarse sugar or salt, optional

 

Directions 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a blender or food processor, combine 1 cup of the flour and candied ginger. Process until the ginger is very finely diced.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour-ginger mixture, the rest of the flour, salt, curry powder, turmeric, sugar and cayenne pepper if using. Cut in the butter using a fork, working it into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms small and even crumbs. Add enough of the water to form a smooth, workable dough.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll each out to a flatness of about 1/8 inch thick. Using a pizza cutter, a bench scraper or a sharp knife, cut the dough into squares and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Freeze the crackers for about 15 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, prick the crackers evenly, pressing down all the way through to make holes. Sprinkle with either the coarse salt or sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they’re a very light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Shakshuka

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Today, we’re going to have a little chat about eggs and tomato sauce.

More specifically, egg and tomato sauce for breakfast.

Say whaaaa?

I know. That was my initial reaction too. But just hear me out, because it’s not as out there as it may sound.

 

I know more than a few of you guys have heard of Eggs in Purgatory, right? How about Huevos Rancheros?

This really isn’t so far off from those dishes.

I first heard of Shakshua from watching a cooking show where the host said that they first tried it at a tiny hole in the wall spot in Jerusalem, Israel. It was a meal that was regularly eaten for breakfast/brunch. Normally, I tend to not go much more ‘savory’ than an omelette for breakfast in my preferences, but this dish caught my eye because it just looked SO good. It stuck in my head–and you guys know what happens when a particular dish gets stuck in my head. I just have to try it for myself.

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So. Shakshuka. After you’ve tried to say it three times fast, you’re probably wondering what it is, right?

The base is a tomato sauce of peppers and onions that’s heavily seasoned with garlic and smoky spices, then has eggs poached inside of it. It’s also mostly eaten with pita bread that gets dunked in the sauce. The foundation was a great starter for me to start with, then add some of those personal ‘Jess’ touches.

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Most of the traditional Shakshukas I’ve seen were vegetarian friendly, with either chickpeas or mushrooms giving the sauce the ‘meaty’ texture. But, well um…we’re carnivores around here so I knew that there was no way that meat was NOT going to make an appearance in a dinner I made. Not a lot; but enough to make it’s presence known. I used ground beef, but ground turkey or sausage would work just as well for any other carnivores. (Oh, and you can absolutely throw in the chickpeas WITH the meat too. Extra protein is nice.)

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The second major addition I made to the recipe was a particular spice that I got introduced to a little while ago called ras el hanout. It’s a Moroccan spice blend that’s very smoky, slightly sweet, a little bit spicy, and extremely delicious. It’s often used in curries or in rice/couscous, but I thought that it would work pretty well to liven up that acidic and potentially flat tomato flavor of the shakshuka sauce. I was right. For my American friends, you can find a pouch of the ras el hanout at World Market for a very inexpensive price. If there are any Middle Eastern markets in your area then they’ll most likely have some there too. You can of course find it on Amazon too. However, if you’d rather do without, that’s fine: just substitute it with additional cumin.

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After you give the sauce time to cook down, it becomes robust and slightly thick with the added body from the meat and veggies. The flavors are really outstanding. You’ve got the acidity from the tomato, the smoky punch of flavor from the ras el hanout/cumin/paprika, the slight sweetness from the honey and the added flavor that the meat itself gives to it. You’ll kinda feel a little indulgent adding the eggs to finish the dish off, but who cares? I sure didn’t. Cook them until just set, then feel freed to spread and drag that runny yolk all through the sauce.

I got myself a short stack of sturdy pita bread and ate this dish entirely with my hands, using the bread as a spoon to dip and scoop up every single bit of the meaty/eggy sauce. And yes; I absolutely did use it to scrape the last bits up off the bottom until I’d pretty much wiped the bottom clean. Do.not.judge.me.

I hope you guys at Fiesta Friday #153 are hungry. I brought some Shakshuka and pita to share. Thanks to this week’s cohosts, Quinn @ Dad What’s 4 Dinner and Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes.

Shakshuka

Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • One large sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • One red bell pepper, thinly sliced,
  • 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 heaping tablespoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons cumin
  • 1 heaping tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (28 ounce can) of pre-crushed tomatoes (or 1 -28 oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes that you crush with a potato masher or whisk yourself)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • About 1 1/2 cups of browned ground beef, turkey or sausage (optional)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • Handful of spinach, roughly chopped
  • Pita bread, for serving

 

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron or non-stick skillet that’s around 2 inches deep. Add the red bell pepper and saute until softened and pepper begins to get limp, around 3-5 minutes. Add the onions and stir together with pepper until both soften and become slightly charred.

Add the garlic and continue to cook until fragrant about 1 minute more.

Add in the tomato paste,  ras el hanout, cumin, and smoked paprika. Allow to cook for about 2 to 3 more minutes until the spices release their fragrance, stirring frequently.

Add the crushed tomatoes, honey, bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to just barely a simmer. Stir in the meat, if using. Allow to cook for about 15-20 more minutes until flavors have blended and sauce has begun to reduce/thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if needed. (If sauce becomes too thick, you can always add about 1/2 cup of water and stir to loosen)

Using a spoon, make small wells in the sauce around the perimeter of the skillet. Carefully crack eggs into the wells, spooning some of the sauce onto the whites and sprinkling some salt & pepper onto the eggs. Cover the skillet, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to cook until eggs have cooked— whites just barely set and yolks have begun to firm—about 5-8 minutes.

Sprinkle sauce with the spinach and serve with the pita for dipping.