Cloves Sugar Cookies

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I know, I know.  It’s not time for Christmas baking yet.  But making cut-out cookies is so fun, I really think you can safely get away with doing it more than just at Christmas time.  And Christmas cookies are not any less delicious in November.

My favorite sugar cookie recipe is from an old cookbook, copyright 1903, that my mom found second hand quite some time ago – Household Discoveries by Sidney Morse.  We gave them the name of “Cloves Cookies” and make them many ways – with or without frosting, plain circles, or cut-out.  Several years ago, my sister shared the recipe here.

Cloves Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (use 4 – 4 1/2 if you’re making cut-out cookies)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

1. Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves and stir until well mixed.

If making round cookies, form 1-inch balls, place onto greased cookie sheets, press down with your fingers, and bake at 375°F for 10-13 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

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If making cut out cookies, refrigeration is not necessary, although it can be helpful.

Roll out 1/3-1/2 of the dough at a time on a floured surface.  Don’t roll it too thin or too thick – just about 1/4 inch thick, or as desired.  Cut cookies.  Place onto greased baking sheets, and bake at 375°F for 10-13 minutes.  Remember that little cookies may have to be removed from the oven sooner than large cookies.  Cool on wire racks.

If you put frosting on these cookies, I recommend butter frosting!  This is another recipe from my mom, but I don’t know where it originated.

butter frosting_smallerJust whip it up either by hand or with an electric mixer, color it if desired, and have fun decorating!

2We certainly did.

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Homemade Yogurt!!

yogurt!

Homemade yogurt has been a little bit of a mystery to me for a while now.  I know that my mom makes it and I have heard other people mention it, but honestly?  The thought of letting my milk turn into yogurt kind of scared me!  I was kind of afraid that I’d ruin it.

Another thing that scared me about trying to make yogurt is that so much yogurt is bitter – even the plain yogurt you buy in the store.  The only yogurt I had ever tried that was not bitter was homemade yogurt a friend made with milk from their own cow.

Thankfully, I found this incredibly helpful blog post that told some common pit-falls of homemade yogurt!

Bitterness – milk not fresh enough
Runny – Not cooked long enough or let sit long enough

So even though the freshest milk I could get was at the grocery store, I decided to give this a try last night/this morning.  I am SO glad I did and I know I’m going to be primarily making my own yogurt in the future.

Seriously, check out how it’s done!

It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious.

You guys already know that I love to put PB2 in my plain yogurt, but some of my other favorite plain yogurt additions are granola, Honey Bunches of Oats, pomegranate, maple syrup, and honey. (What are some of yours?)

yogurt! 2The blog where I got the recipe estimates the cost of a one-half cup serving of this yogurt to be $0.16.  I get my milk at Aldi for $1.99/gallon, so my cost for this recipe is even cheaper yet!  I am a big fan of easy, better-tasting ways to save money! (Especially ways that help me eat healthfully, too!)

PS: I just have to brag that last week I got my pomegranates at Aldi for $0.59/each.  Is this the right time of the year to get pomegranates?  Because they are *so* sweet, and they are literally huge!

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Lentil and Brown Rice Soup

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup_smaller

This is a recipe I stole from my mom’s recipe box before I got married.  It’s full of protein and fiber, incredibly affordable, and really easy to make!  Plus it’s even vegetarian vegan!

Lentil and Brown Rice Soup

Ingredients:

3/4 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (more can be added to taste after cooking)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 T fresh parsley leaves, chopped (can substitute dried)
1/16 teaspoon poppy seeds (honestly, I don’t know if you can taste these? haha)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 rib celery, chopped
1 pint chopped tomatoes or juice (canned or fresh)
1-3 cups chopped spinach or kale (can use frozen if you don’t have fresh!)

Directions:

1. Heat lentils, rice, water, cumin, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, parsley, poppy seeds, seasoned salt, celery, and tomatoes to boiling in a 4-quart pan.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender (about 40 minutes).

2. Stir in spinach or kale.  Heat until spinach is done.

My husband adds sour cream to this (and every) soup.  It is delicious with sour cream, but does take away the vegan status. :)

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Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

stuffed quinoa peppers

I love cooking with quinoa!  I also love any type of stuffed pepper and anything with cheese.  That makes this recipe a win, win, win in my house.  It’s also easy to prepare ahead and bake at a later time if you’re having guests or have a busy day coming.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers*

Ingredients:

1/3 cup quinoa
2/3 cup water
4 green bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil (omit if you use beef)
1 pound ground turkey or beef from chuck
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
3 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
1/4 cup freshly grater Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup water
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave the covered saucepan on the burner for another 6 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish or spray with cooking oil.

3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Cut peppers in half lengthwise, removing the stems, seeds, and membranes.  Place them in the boiling water for 2 minutes, until they are tender-crisp.  Remove and drain on a kitchen towel.

4. Place a large frying pan on medium-high heat.  Add the oil, turkey, onion, Italian seasoning, and garlic.  Sauté until the turkey is cooked and the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the quinoa, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, and water, blending well.

5. Spoon the filling into the pepper halves and place them in the prepared dish.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of each pepper.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the peppers are tender and the filling is hot.  Serve immediately.

* This is a slightly modified version of the recipe “Turkey-Stuffed Mozzarella Peppers” from the book Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood.

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PB2

PB2

Thanks to recommendations from others, I finally picked up some PB2!  If you haven’t heard of or tried PB2 yet, it is essentially peanut butter powder with 85% less fat calories than traditional peanut butter.  To make it a peanut butter consistency, you just add some water. (I still use natural peanut butter sometimes because I am not against having some fat in my diet, of course.)

oikos yogurt

My favorite way, so far, to use PB2 is by adding it to plain Greek yogurt.  I love adding things to plain Greek yogurt instead of buying the individual cups of already flavored yogurt for two reasons:

- Unless I have coupons (in which case I do buy the individual cups), this is cheaper
- I can control what ingredients I put in: meaning no strange things I have never even heard of

I add about 1 teaspoonful of PB2 to 4 ounces of plain Greek yogurt.  If you want to sweeten the yogurt, you can add honey, stevia, or sugar.  It’s super creamy and almost dessert-like, but with few calories.

What are your favorite ways to use PB2?

If you want to check out what I normally eat, I have been relatively-regularly using My Fitness Pal.

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I’m Back! Catching Up.

me

Well, that was unexpected.

I am finally back to blogging!  I stopped earlier this summer because of how many things were going on in my life at the time, but I am happy to say that I am finally back.  I have been asked by so many people when and if I planned to blog again, so here I am at last!

Several things kept us busy this summer -

- We went to Romania and had a Romanian wedding, shortly after our 1-year anniversary of our wedding here in the states

wedding 2 wedding

We had a fantastic photographer, and you can view his Facebook album here. (For some reason WordPress is making my pictures slightly grainy; I assure you, his pictures are flawless.) He and his wife were phenomenal and gave us over 1300 priceless pictures! Venue: here.

romania city

Overlooking the city where Bogdan’s parents live, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

- We took a second honeymoon to Italy

Rome!

Rome!!

Ischia

The Island of Ischia. You can see our hotel in this picture.

Da Salvatore

At a restaurant on the Amalfi coast – pure beauty!

Bogdan _ amalfi coast

Amalfi coast

Driving near the Amalfi coast

- We bought our first home (with a yard! and a big kitchen! and an apple tree!!)

house _blog

Admittedly, that last even has consumed most of our time and money this summer!

I’m excited to get back into blogging – sharing my life (and most importantly food!) with you!

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Asparagus Season

asparagus and peppers_blogI haven’t posted lately; I have been around but busy. :) When I am not at work I have been doing a little spring cleaning (tossing/giving away a lot of things I haven’t used for a few months), visiting friends, planning our trip to Europe at the end of the month (!!) and, yes, cooking.

My mom has given us asparagus from her garden when she has seen us recently, and I just love it!  It’s so delicious and tender, and I love finding new ways to fix it.  I love making it with my Venetian Apricot Chicken recipe (and it’s so much better than the store-bought stuff I had for those pictures).

I have also been baking it with olive oil, salt, garlic, and ginger.  I tried that with some orange bell pepper (unbaked picture above) and that was a delicious combination as well!  Another great way to make asparagus is this simple Asparagus and Onions recipe.

Have you gotten any fresh asparagus this season?

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