Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies with a Little Something Extra

I've been messing with oatmeal cookie recipes lately because one of my sons wanted a plain oatmeal cookie that was chewy. Since I wouldn't be including any add-ons such as nuts or raisins, I decided to experiment with taste. And if my sons are any indication of success, then I have a winner with this recipe. For your pleasure I present:

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

 1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour (you can use all-purpose or whole wheat, or a combination)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt, scant
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom seed
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 cups oatmeal

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and white and brown sugars until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla and mix well.

In another, smaller mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Add to the creamed mixture and stir well to combine. (At this juncture, I use a large wooden spoon, but you can also use a mixer.) Add oats and mix well.

Cover bowl and chill dough for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough into balls the size of walnuts and place 2 inches apart on the greased cookie sheets. Dip a fork into white sugar (there will be very little sticking to the fork) and then slightly flatten the tops of the balls, sliding the fork across the surface to release the sugar.

Bake 8 - 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool for several minutes and then remove from cookie sheets and cool completely. You can use wire cooling racks or do what I do and put them on waxed or parchment paper.

The cardamom really adds a nice flavor to these cookies. They are great as is...but if you still have a hankering for those add-ons, feel free to mix a handful or two of raisins and/or walnuts into the dough before chilling and baking.

I haven't tried this next idea yet, but I think it would work: roll the dough balls in sugar to coat completely and then set them on the greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly or leave them as is and bake according to the above directions.


Plain and simple living at its homemade best,


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Quick and Easy Lentil Soup

Two facts you need to know right at the start of things:
1) I'm writing a baking book currently, and 2) I had a doctor's appointment last week.

Now to the story: The sad, ugly truth is that I've been gaining weight. I'd like to blame it on my age or hormones, but the fact is, I'm a very good cook. In fact, I consider myself an excellent cook when taking into consideration my personal taste buds. And that makes total sense because when we're the cooks, we get to set the flavor to our personal taste preferences. Add to that the baking book...with the requisite taste testing and "making sure" the ingredients got listed correctly and you can see that my weight gain was inevitable.

Now to the doctor's visit: The doc I saw this last time is very nice, and we have a good relationship, which unfortunately is what possibly made it so easy for her to comment, although to her credit she hemmed and hawed a bit first. Basically she told me that I need to stop eating what I'm writing about and lose some pounds before my next visit.

I stepped on the scale and was pretty horrified. I really need to lose 20 pounds, but if I only lost 10 I'd be happy. I'm not fat per se; just hearty looking. It's not as if this took me by complete surprise, however, because my clothes have been getting tighter and tighter. I eat very healthily, but I just plain eat too much of what I cook. Portion control is my nemesis.

So I decided to take matters in hand and change some of my habits. I've started lifting weights (tiny ones, but still...) and doing crunches and walking two miles most days. B utthe hardest part is that I've begun eating a spartan diet. In the morning I make a smoothie with two handfuls of organic greens and then some fruit and coconut milk or water. I add a couple tablespoons of sunflower seeds, raw pine nuts, or raw almonds for some protein and it gets me by until lunch, but just barely. I do the same for dinner.

But lunch! Lunch is when I have a real meal, although I'm taking care to eat smaller amounts and forego the good stuff like rice and potatoes and gravy. Today's lunch (with enough for tomorrow too) was:

Quick and Easy Lentil Soup

1 quart canned tomatoes with their juice (if you don't can your own, you can use one or two cans of store-bought tomatoes)
3 cups water
2 tsp. organic Better Than Bouillon, beef flavor (I get jars of this at Costco and it's great stuff) or just use whatever bouillon you have on hand...or don't use any at all
1 cup lentils
2 cups baby carrots
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp. coriander, or to taste
1/4 tsp. minced garlic, or to taste
I mixed all the ingredients into my 6-quart pressure cooker (which is a real time saver and I highly recommend them. Just make sure you get a stainless steel pressure cooker, not an aluminum one). Then I turned the heat to high and when the petcock started rocking, I turned down the heat just a tad and set the timer for five minutes. After five minutes I took the pot off the heat and let it cool on its own without putting under cold water; that took about another 10 minutes. Dinner was served and it was very, very good. And even better? It was low calorie and very healthy and hopefully will help me lose some weight.
Now if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can still cook up this soup, but you'll need to let it simmer on the stove for probably somewhere around an hour, or until the lentils are soft enough for your taste. If you don't use bouillon, you'll need to add some salt and pepper to taste also.
That's all I had for lunch today, but if you aren't needing to eat like a bird, add biscuits or cornbread or even just a piece of bread and butter alongside the soup. Yum!
Next I'm going to experiment with whole wheat tortilla wraps. I'm already contemplating the ingredients I'll use and if they turn out well, I'll write about my results. But I can already tell you that they will be heavy on veggies and low on calories.
And three months from now I'm going to waltz into that doctor's office, toned and svelte, and expect her to make much of the new, lesser me.