Category Archives: Cooking

M&M Cookies

MM Cookies from LaurenFoodE
I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that most of my memories are tied to food, including my earliest memory of eating an apple at the YMCA while I watched my mom take aerobics class. So while I was perusing Pinterest a couple weeks ago, an image caught my eye that immediately took me back… back to the mall. Remember how you’d be walking through the mall on a weekend and suddenly there was a scent… a warm, chocolatey, freshly baked scent that forced you past 5-7-9, past DEB, past Charlotte Russe, past Wet Seal… to The Cookie Place. Did it have a real name? Who cares. To me it was The Cookie Place. I would beg my mom with every ounce of gusto I had in me for one of those beautiful cookies. Sometimes I got one, sometimes I didn’t. But when I did it was always the same: M&M. In the recesses of my mind it seemed like two treats in one, candy and a cookie. See what I did there? Always thinking.

It should be noted that later in life I would work at the mall across from said Cookie Place and I ate so many that I gained some weight… enough weight that one day the button on my pants popped while I was driving to the mall and when I got there I had to buy myself some new pants. It’s amazing how life comes full circle, am I right?

Anyway, I saw the picture on Pinterest and committed myself to making the mall M&M cookies. I did leave the blogger who originally posted them (Liz of the amazingly named That Skinny Chick Can Bake!) a note to make that these cookies are CHEWY and not CRISPY (obviously) and she assured me they are, in fact, chewy. That is, if you eat them within the first day or two of making them. But don’t worry. You will.

M&M Cookies
Makes approximately 18 cookies
Originally from That Skinny Chick Can Bake!

3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together butter and sugars with an electric mixer. Add egg and egg yolk and combine. Add vanilla and combine. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the butter mixture and mix well until combined. Add flour and mix by hand.

Take 2 Tbsp of dough and roll into a ball. Place dough balls on cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart (these spread a LOT) and flatten slightly with palm of your hand. Top with 6 – 8 M&Ms and press down a little so they’re nestled in the dough.

Bake for 11 – 13 minutes or until brown around the edges. Let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Spinach, Tomato and Chicken Pasta Bake

Spinach, tomato and chicken bake
Is there a better combination than basil, tomato, and mozzarella? There’s something so soothing about the familiar flavor combination and truth be told, I’ll look for any excuse I can to use it. A few weeks back I marinated cherry tomatoes in espresso balsamic vinegar and skewered them with squares of fresh mozzarella and a basil leaf, and called it an appetizer. Or I called it dinner. Whatever.

This chicken pasta bake is easy as pie and is a great way to use up leftover shredded chicken if you have some in the fridge. And who doesn’t ALWAYS have leftover shredded chicken in the fridge? This is also a brilliant way to get spinach-haters to eat the good greens. The BF barely noticed it underneath all that cheese. #Win

On the menu:
Spinach, tomato and chicken pasta bake
Serves 3

1 1/2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
2 cups fresh spinach
1 medium sized tomato, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large chicken breast, cooked and shredded
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to instructions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and spinach and cook for 3 minutes or until spinach is cooked down. Add chicken and basil and stir until combined.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, chicken mixture, ricotta cheese, and 1/2 the mozzarella. Stir mixture until combined and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a large baking dish (I used a 9 inch round tart dish) and cover with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

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Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

No, that's not mold, it's blue candle wax.

No, that’s not mold, it’s blue candle wax.

I have this HUGE problem, in that The BF doesn’t want me to bake anything but chocolate chip cookies and occasionally BOXED chocolate brownies (never brownies from scratch). No molasses cookies, no cupcakes, no blondies, no muffins, nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I make these things anyway, but they inevitably get stale or the entire batch ends up as that extra 5 pounds on my thighs. It’s starting to become a reeeeeeal problem for me.

So for his birthday I said, “Do you want me to make a cake?” He said, “Surprise me!” I said, “Do you want brownies?” He said, “Surprise me!” So I did. I make red velvet cheesecake brownies. Who wouldn’t like red velvet cheesecake brownies?! Probably just runway models and I don’t know any of those.

So what did he say when he took a bite? “They’re a little rich for me.”

I guess I’ll stick to chocolate chip and boxed brownies. And eat the entire batch of brownies by myself.

On the menu:
Red velvet cheesecake brownies
Makes 16
Note: I still do not own an 8 x 8 pan which this recipe originally calls for, so I made it in a round 8″ cake pan and then cut the brownies into thin wedges. These truly are rich, so you don’t want to cut them too big.

2 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp red food coloring
3/4 tsp white vinegar
3/4 cup flour
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 (or 8″ round) pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Beat eggs together in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium sized bowl, add warm, just-melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar and stir until combined. Add eggs and stir until combined. Fold in flour until incorporated. Pour batter into baking pan, leaving 4 Tbsp of batter for later.

To make the cheesecake: in a large bowl, blend cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and completely blended. Drop the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie batter in large dollops. Add your reserved brownie batter in dollops on top of the cheesecake. Use a sharp knife to cut lines across the batter until you have a lovely swirl pattern.

Bake for 28 – 30 minutes for a square pan, or 30 – 32 minutes in a round pan. Test with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting.

Note: this should be kept refrigerated because of the cheesecake on top. Set it out for about an hour before serving so the brownies aren’t cold.

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Mustard Crusted Pork Loin

Pork
So sorry for the radio silence lately (although if there had to be an image stuck at the top of the blog, why not scones, am I right?). I am fully employed now (WAHOOOO PAYCHECKS!) but that means significantly less time and energy devoted to Food E. It has seriously taken my body about a month to adjust to waking up and actually getting out of bed in the morning, going somewhere for 9 hours, and then returning home. I forgot how pleasant and not-at-all stressful it is to cram my body between other people’s bodies every morning and evening during rush hour in a subway car that more often than not halts in between stops just long enough for me to feel a bit claustrophobic and like I might elbow the lady with the too-big-bag that she’s not holding in front of her, but NEXT to her, or pass out and let these newly familiar people catch me as I tumble. Think about that the next time you complain about traffic on the 104E.

This lovely little recipe takes all of 10 minutes to prepare and it is so. flippin. good. Pork loin is one of those cuts of meat that is so worth the extra couple bucks it costs in the grocery store. You throw it in the oven and forget about it until 25 – 30 minutes later it pops out, smelling incredible and ready to be inhaled. …Just me?

On the menu:
Mustard crusted pork loin with mashed potatoes and parmesan asparagus
Serves 2

1 pork loin (approximately 1 lb)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp minced garlic cloves
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp rosemary (fresh is best but use dried if you have to)
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread mustard all over pork loin. On a shallow plate, add Panko, garlic, garlic powder, and rosemary and stir to combine. Place pork loin on plate and coat completely in bread crumb mixture. Shake off excess.

Spray a shallow baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place pork loin in the dish and give the pork itself a good spray with the cooking spray. Cook for 25 – 30 minutes or until the pork juices run clear.

Let sit for 5 minutes. Slice into slices.

Parmesan asparagus:
1 bunch of asparagus
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

Toss asparagus with olive oil. Spread across a baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (the last 10 minutes of your pork cooking!). Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for another 3 – 4 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Mashed potatoes:
If you don’t know how to make mashed potatoes, get out of my face.

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Cranberry Scones

LaurenFoodE cranberry scones
For those of you who don’t know me IRL (that’s internet speak for “in real life”), you might not know that I spent six weeks studying abroad in Dublin the summer before my senior year of college. It still lives in my memory as the best consecutive six weeks of my life, mostly because it was six weeks of zero responsibility. Sure, I had to read some Irish books and write the occasional essay on them, but mostly my trip was about hanging out in pubs with the friendliest people on the planet, meeting friends who’d end up my lifelong pals, and traveling around a country teeming with greenery and Guinness. Sounds nice, eh?

One really cruel thing they do to you in Ireland is serve you a scone with Kerrygold butter and a cup of tea on your flight home, just to remind you of the incredible place you’re leaving. The only reason I didn’t cry when they served it to me is because I could barely keep my head up from exhaustion. Let’s just say I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep or sobriety during those six weeks.

Whenever I get a chance to relive that blissful experience, I take it. This recipe is just one of those moments.

On the menu:
Cranberry Scones
Makes 8
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 cup craisins, roughly chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter to the flour mixture until course crumbs and some larger pieces of butter remain. Stir in the craisins. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the cream until combined.

Dump dough onto a clean countertop or cutting board and knead 5 – 6 times, until the dough is one large sticky ball. Press the dough into an 8 inch round cake pan. Dump back onto the counter or cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 identical wedges.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 11 – 15 minutes, or until the tops of the scones are brown. Let cool for around 10 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature alongside  a nice, hot cup of Irish breakfast tea.

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Enchiladas Ay Carumbaaaaa!

LaurenFoodE enchilada
I know you guys have been staring at that One Mug Brownie picture for a long time now, and you’re like, “Gaaaaahd Lauren, switch it up already.” Your wish is my command.

This dish is so delicious, that after whatever monstrosity I made the next night was consumed, The BF rummaged through the fridge and asked, “Are there any of those enchiladas left?”

Note: do NOT buy enchilada sauce. You will die when you see how easy it is to make. And it tastes just like the real deal enchilada sauce you buy from the grocery store, only it’s fresh and you made it without all the preservatives and other nasties you find in store bought sauces.

On the menu:
Chicken and black bean enchiladas
Serves 3

For the sauce:
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder

For the enchilada filling:
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tsp cumin
3 cups shredded cheddar or blended Mexican cheese, divided
6 medium-sized flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add tomato paste, flour, and spices and stir until blended, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook around 8 minutes, or until thickened.

In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken, black beans, corn, green onions, cilantro, cumin, and 2 cups of the shredded cheese. Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of the 9″ x 13″ pan. Fill each tortilla with an ample amount of filling, tuck in the ends, and nestle seam-down in the sprayed pan. Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas, careful to cover them as best you can. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for for about 20 minutes. Garnish with extra cilantro.

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Chicken Marsala

Chicken marsala from LaurenFoodE
I’ve been told my strength is sauces. My Caesar salad dressing is divine, my vodka sauce could make grown men cry, and last night I perfected another: marsala. There is something so rich and deep about this sauce, it tastes like you cooked for hours to achieve it. Truth: it takes 45 minutes tops.

Note: this is a recipe that looks kind of involved, but it’s really not. Just read the whole thing before you start so you know which step comes when, and so your whole meal finishes at the same time.

On the menu:
Chicken marsala
Serves 2 – 3 (truth be told, this was too much for just 2 of us but if you’re serving 2 big eaters, then this might be perfect for 2)

2 large chicken breasts, cut in half length wise and pounded to 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
10 oz. white mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Marsala wine
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 pound angel hair pasta

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Get a large pot of salted water boiling (for pasta).

In a small saucepan, boil chicken stock uncovered until reduced to 1/2 cup. Once cooked down, turn off heat and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add minced shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add mushrooms, sage, salt and pepper and cook for around 6 – 8 minutes or until mushrooms have cooked down. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a shallow dish, spread out the flour. Liberally salt and pepper each piece of chicken and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook each piece of chicken for 1 – 2 minutes, just until browned on each side. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and finish the breasts off in the oven, baking for 7 – 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same large skillet the mushrooms cooked in, add marsala wine and bring to a simmer, scraping off all the little brown bits from the shallots and garlic. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. [Now is a good time to start cooking your angel hair pasta!] Add reduced broth, cream, and mushrooms and stir. Let liquid simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

Plate pasta, then chicken, then top off with sauce. Serve hot.

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