Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fresh Pea Soup & Food Photography Thoughts

I want to talk a little today about photography. I know I haven’t approached the subject in the past. That’s because I’m still learning to shoot food well and don’t feel I have much to offer you yet. Though today, I want to acknowledge something that’s been bugging the hell out of me since my first photography course in 1996. Light. Or supposedly proper light rather.

From early on I always liked shots with shadows. I know I’m supposed to do all kinds of stuff to get rid of such atrocities, but I don’t want to. If you look at the above picture you’ll see shadows in the soup, and nearly all my shots won’t be “properly” lit.

For me, I feel it’s more powerful, more realistic, to have light and shadow move in a natural way or often in a dynamic way. I’ll even work with high contrast light sometimes when I need texture to come out of something like a boring looking peanut butter cookie. So my point is this. I can’t follow the rules, nor would I want to. Even if my work isn't sometimes well liked. Although often, the opposite happens and I catch the attention of people who can use my work.

This is what I challenge you food photographers and budding food photographers to do. I want you to confront convention. I want you to think, to explore, and to step outside of these ridged regulations sometimes. I think when we’re able to accept food photography as more of a free art than an exact set of rules to be religiously followed, then our medium will be brought to new levels not experienced before. Think of it this way, even Ansel Adams had to shoot his own way as he recreated the rules.

I’m not afraid to be me, and I want you to be brave and explore your own talent and style. Even if that means it takes awhile to catch on with everyone else. This isn’t saying you shouldn’t learn the rules of photography if you don’t know them. Great artists start with the classics. But once you understand them, you’re almost always better off starting trends and breaking new ground.

Who wants to be on the tail end of an outgoing trend anyway? Not me, no thank-you.

Fast & Fresh Pea Soup
"This classic French soup made with fresh peas and shallots comes together in a snap!"

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
2 cups water
3 cups fresh shelled green peas (I used frozen)
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons whipping cream (optional)

1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook the shallots until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Pour in the water and peas, season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the peas are tender, 12 to 18 minutes.

2. Puree the peas in a blender or food processor in batches. Strain back into the saucepan, stir in the cream if using, and reheat. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

Serves 4. Ready in 17 minutes.

Submitted by Lizz C. to Photograph by Laura Flowers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Oreo Truffles, Veronica's Post

I’m 100% positive the best part about being a food blogger is the friends. I can’t believe how many great people I’ve become close to over the last year. Friends who would invite me into their homes and feed me type of people. The best kind in my opinion!

is one of those friends. She came into my life when I wasn’t food blogging yet. Finding me, and my early pathetic food photography attempts on MySpace when I was first learning to shoot food. Veronica’s been making me laugh and encouraging me for nearly two years since. When I finally set up this food blog, she jumped right in and edited my posts. I didn’t even have to ask! She just knew she could help and did.

Veronica also knows my weakness for Oreos. She recently sent me a giant (but evil) box of these Oreo Truffles. This post is her’s, and every time I read it I laugh. The photograph above is what was left from the box. Now she owes me money for bigger pants.

How the heck did I get so lucky to have a Veronica in my life? Veronica thank-you for the truffles, the friendship, and the fun!

(Ha too late V!)

(Veronica takes pretty darn good pictures too! This is her photograph.)

When my friend, Laura, an Oreo-cookie fanatic, saw my picture of these Oreo truffles, she told me, “Please, please don’t give me the recipe. They’d be my new Rolo crack.”

Rolo Turtles
(aka “Rolo crack” among certain circles) is so delicious that it is absolutely irresistable and has caused weight gain in those who were foolish enough to make it, including Laura herself (the one who gave us the big idea in the first place)!

Hence the blog title. Yes, I’m well aware that it will most likely not deter her, but I can’t be held responsible–I did my best. After all, I couldn’t deprive my other friends of this recipe for her benefit. (Sorry, Laura!)

Now, onto the truffles!

The middles of these truffles are black, soft, and taste just like an Oreo cookie. If you have a food processor, they’re a snap to prepare. In fact, they’re the easiest truffles I’ve ever dipped in chocolate, because I didn’t have to refrigerate them first (they don’t melt when dipped in warm chocolate), which means the chocolate cooled much slower and I didn’t have to keep zapping it in the microwave. None of the filling melted off into the chocolate when I dunked them, and the chocolate slid off the truffles effortlessly, making a perfect, smooth, thin coating. I really deplore dipping truffles and usually just roll them in cocoa, but if I must dip, I would love it if the job were this easy every time.

Whip up a batch and take them to your next party or package them up as a gift–I guarantee they’ll be a hit!

Oreo Truffles
1 package (1 lb. 2 oz) Oreo cookies

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

6 squares chocolate almond bark

1 square white almond bark (optional)

*It is OK to eat several of the cookies before you crush them. If you use the whole package, you will be left with over a cup of extra crushed cookies once you’re done making the truffles.

Put the cookies in the bowl of your food processor and process until very finely crushed. Measure out 3 cups of the crumbs and put them in a mixing bowl. Set the remaining crumbs aside for later. Add the cream cheese and mush it all up with your hands until it is a soft dough and is uniform in texture.

Form the mixture into balls, rolling until smooth, and place on a plate. Set a long piece of wax paper on a work surface, such as your counter.

Melt the chocolate almond bark according to package directions and dip each truffle in the chocolate with a fork. Tap the excess chocolate off and use a second fork to push the coated truffle onto the waxed paper. Sprinkle cookie crumbs onto the chocolate while it is still wet.

Continue until all the truffles are coated, leaving half uncovered if you wish.

If you choose, you can melt the white almond bark and, using a fork or pastry bag, drizzle it over the truffles without crumbs on top.

Mine were OK at room temp for several days, but to be safe, I’d recommend storing them in the fridge if you aren’t going to serve them within 24 hours.

Original Oreo Truffle Recipe may be from Post content by Veronica Miller. Visit and say hi to Veronica at her blog Recipe Rhapsody. Top shot by Laura Flowers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cherry Tea Cookies, Demands from Mom, & Niece Rowan

These are my mom’s favorite cookies and lately she’s been demanding them to be sent via care package to her home. Aren’t mother’s supposed to send their children care packages, not the other way around?

I never did mail a package to her, so instead I made them while I visited this weekend. It’s not quite the same as getting a box in the mail, but hopefully she’ll forgive me.

I also took a few photographs of my new niece Rowan while I was there. I’ve forgotten how small babies are! They're such cute little grumpy aliens. It took some time to get a photograph where she didn’t look l
ike she wanted to protest this strange new world, but I was armed with my camera when she smiled a little in her sleep. I didn't even bother fighting for an open eye shot. Although mom did try to wake her for one.

I’ll try again when she’s a little happier wi
th all of us. I figure I’ve got years to chase this kid around with a camera.

Cherry Tea Cookies
This recipe is simple, but the dough should rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and cure overnight after baking for the best cookies. So try to plan a day in advanced. But if you don't have extra time don't worry about waiting, just bake them right away.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

½ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon maraschino cherry liquid

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup drained maraschino cherries, chopped well

1. With an electric mixer beat together the sugar, butter, salt, maraschino cherry liquid, and almond extract. Once combined, add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Add the chopped maraschino cherries and mix together. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and set on the counter for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3. Scoop the dough with a standard (size 50) cookie scoop and roll into balls. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets and bake one sheet at a time for 9 to 11 minutes or until very lightly brown on the bottom. Let rest on the cookie sheets for a few minutes and move to a cooling rack. Once cool, store in an airtight container to cure overnight before serving.

Recipe and Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Weeknight Riccioli in Creamy Walnut Sauce

Score one for good weeknight food. It took me longer to boil pasta than it did to throw together the walnut sauce, making this one of my new go to meals on busy chaotic nights. I like to serve it with a Caesar salad, garlic bread, and a glass of Pinot Grigio or a sweet Riesling to cut through the wonderfully creamy walnut sauce.

I think I’ll pass this recipe on to my sister-in-law Dorian. She’s going to need some quick easy meals for awhile. Dorian and my brother Steve welcomed their first child into the family Wednesday the 20th at 11:44p.m. Rowan Kay weighed in at a very healthy 8.07 pounds and is 20 inches long.

Now the question is, will this child ever learn to walk? I have a feeling Rowan’s going to move from one set of arms to the other until she’s ten. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a baby in the family.

Congratulations Dorian, Steve & Rowan! We love you!

2 thick slices whole wheat bread
1 1/4 cups milk
2 1/2 cups walnuts pieces
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Riccioli pasta, or any other favorite pasta shape
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried parsley

1. Cut the crust off the bread and soak in the milk, until most of the milk is absorbed.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.

3. Place the bread, walnuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water according to instructions on the package. Near the end of cooking time set aside about 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and place back in the pan.

5. Toss the pasta, walnut sauce, and parsley together. Add some of the pasta water if needed for creaminess. Top with a little parmesan cheese and parsley for garnish if desired. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted slightly from my friend Rhonda’s MySpace. Thanks Rhonda for the great recipe! Picture by Laura Flowers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hershey's Hot Cocoa Eleven Ways

Here’s a hot chocolate with more variations than you may ever use. After the kiddo went to bed Saturday night, we took the opportunity to sample a few liquors in our hot cocoas while we chatted.

This isn’t a super rich cocoa. It’s light and nice on it’s own, but really shines sharing the stage with other flavors. I like to serve hot cocoa in six ounce servings, but if you want bigger portion sizes by all means go for it.

The Chambord won hands down for the best flavor. Although I must say, the rest were quite excellent.

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup Hershey’s Cocoa, packed

Dash of Salt

1/3 cup hot water

4 cups (1 quart) milk

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Stir together sugar, cocoa, and salt in medium saucepan; stir in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk; heat to serving temperature, stirring constantly. Do not boil.

2. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Beat with rotary beater or whisk until foamy (I often skip this part to save time). Serve topped with marshmallows or sweetened whipped cream, if desired.

Makes about 6 (3/4 cup) servings, or 5 (1 cup) servings.

Our Own Individual Serving Variations

Luxurious Chambord Hot Cocoa

Add 1 Tablespoon Chambord to a ¾ cup serving of hot cocoa.

Cool Peppermint Schnapps Hot Cocoa

Add 1 to 1 ½ Tablespoons Peppermint Schnapps to a ¾ cup serving of hot cocoa.

Special Coffee Liquor Hot Cocoa

Add 2 Tablespoons Kahlua Especial to a ¾ cup serving of hot cocoa.

Cowgirl Style
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste per serving. Top with whipped cream.

Hershey’s Variations for Entire Recipe

Spiced Cocoa
Add 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
and 1/8 teaspoons ground nutmeg with vanilla extract. Serve with cinnamon stick, if desired.

Mint Cocoa
Add ½ teaspoon mint extract or 3 Tablespoons crushed hard peppermint candy or 2 to 3 tablespoons white crème de menthe with the vanilla extract. Serve with peppermint candy stick, if desired.

Citrus Cocoa
Add ½ teaspoon orange extract or 2 to 3 Tablespoons orange liqueur with vanilla extract.

Swiss Mocha
Add 2 to 2 ½ teaspoons powdered instant coffee with vanilla extract.

Canadian Cocoa
Add ½ teaspoons maple extract with vanilla extract.

Cocoa Au Lait
Omit marshmallows or sweetened whipped cream. Spoon 2 Tablespoons softened vanilla ice cream on top of each cup of cocoa at serving time.

Hershey’s Single Serving Variation

Quick Microwave Cocoa for One
To make one serving, in a microwave-safe cup of mug, combine 1 heaping teaspoon Hershey’s Cocoa, 2 heaping teaspoons sugar and dash of salt. Add 2 teaspoons cold milk; stir until smooth. Fill cup with milk. Microwave at high (100%) 1 to 1 ½ minutes or until hot. Stir to blend.

Hershey’s Hot Cocoa recipe from "Hershey’s Recipe Collection", Copyright 2009, Page 472. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Best Broccoli Cheddar Baked Potatoes

What makes these the best you ask? Fondue is my answer! I use the recipe for Hard Apple Cider Cheese Fondue for these amazing stuffed potatoes. What makes them so incredible is the extra-aged award winning Washington State University Cougar Gold Cheese that the cheese sauce is made from.

I would swim with piranhas for Cougar Gold Cheese. Big, fat, toothless, vegetarian piranhas. Ok, so I’m a chicken, but seriously, this cheese is super fantastic. But if you can’t get a round of it, any good aged white cheddar will work well.

The Best Broccoli Cheddar Baked Potatoes

4 Good sized Russet potatoes

Broccoli florettes, enough to cover 4 potatoes


Freshly Cracked Pepper

1 recipe Hard Apple Cider Cheese Fondue, below

1. Microwave Method: Scrub the potatoes, pierce with a fork, and place on a paper towel in the microwave. Cook on high, flipping over every 5 minutes until easily pierced with a knife. Set aside.

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, scrub potatoes, pierce with fork, rub with oil and place on the center rack of the oven. Place a foil lined baking sheet below to catch drips and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until easily pierced with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, make the fondue and steam the broccoli.

3. Place the potatoes on individual plates. Cut with a sharp knife down the centers and squeeze potato together so the insides pop out a bit. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the broccoli on top of the potatoes and spoon the cheese fondue on top.

Hard Apple Cider Cheese Fondue


1 pound Cougar Gold (extra aged if you can get it), or other sharp white cheddar

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup hard apple cider (Drink the rest while preparing fondue)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. Crumble or shred the cheese. In a bowl, toss together the cheese and flour.

2. In medium sized sauce pan bring the hard apple cider to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low and add the cheese mixture a handful at a time, stirring until melted before adding more.

4. Add the vinegar and stir together. Spoon over baked potatoes.

Recipe & Picture by Laura Flowers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Potato Pizza and Michael Pollan's Sun Food Agenda Talk

This has to be one of the best weeks of my life. I got to see my food writer hero Michael Pollan give his Sun Food Agenda speech at Washington State University on Wednesday for free! It’s only the second time he’s given it, and the talk was incredible and surprisingly well balanced. Pollan excels at storytelling, combining multiple complex situations and tying them together into simple forms that we can take and use.

I wish I could have taken you to The Sun Food Agenda with me, but here's a small 15 minute clip to give you a taste.

PopTech 2009: Michael Pollan.

I learned some astonishing facts. Did you know that it takes 26 ounces of oil to produce and ship the meat from a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder to us? And that one Midwestern farmer in the 1950s could feed 20 people and his family, and today one Midwestern farmer can feed 150 people? Or how about in 1910 24% of our income went to food, in 1960 18% of our income went to feeding ourselves, and now only about 9.5% of our income does? Less than any other nation, less than at any time in history.

Our farmers have gotten very good at producing food, but at a cost. In the 50s for every calorie of oil used, we produced two calories of food. Now, for every ten calories of oil spent, we get only one calorie of food. This can’t go on forever, but there are all kinds of things that can be done. Pollan stated the Farm Bill needs to be changed into a Food Bill. One that supports farmers growing all kinds of crops, not just soy and corn.

Pollan also gave examples of what's going right. There are a few organic high tech farmers doing remarkable things right now, and mentions Polyface Farms as one example. You won’t believe the incredible production they have without waste. Basically one animal’s manure is another’s lunch. It sounds terrible, but is fascinating.

I’ll keep this short, but if you ever get the chance to sit in on this talk, you must! Do whatever it takes to get there. It’s our food future, and we need to know what’s going on.

Now on to the pizza! Linda from Ciao Chow Linda inspires this pizza. Her version is the Italian original, mine is more of an American adaption from stuff I had in my refrigerator. This pizza is so good I wanted to eat it all by myself, but we had friends over. So I was nice and shared a little of it. A very little.

Mmmmm carby potatoey pizza.

Potato Pizza

A heads up, the potatoes must be soaked overnight before assembling the pizza. Please read all the instructions before beginning.


2 pounds Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced


1 Tablespoon salt

1 recipe pizza dough, below

1 recipe garlic cream sauce, below
Extra virgin olive oil

About 2 to 3 cups shredded Italian Fontina

Fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

Freshly grated or zested Parmesan Reggiano

Freshly ground black pepper

Coarse salt


1. Place the potato slices in a bowl and cover with water. Stir in 1 Tablespoons of salt. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

2. Make the pizza dough about an hour and a half in advance. Make the sauce as well and set aside.

3. When ready to assemble, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.

4. Divide the dough in half and roll out each piece pretty thin pieces about the size and shape of your pizza stone. Place the doughs on parchment paper cut to size.

5. Strain the water from the potatoes. Squeeze out as much water as possible or blot dry. Set aside.

6. Brush the dough with olive oil. Spoon on as much garlic cream sauce as desired. Then top with fontina, then potatoes, parmesan, and sprinkle with rosemary, coarse salt, and pepper.

7. Use a pizza peel or cookie sheet and slide under the parchment. Slide the parchment with the pizza into the oven. Bake one pizza at a time for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Watch it carefully, it can turn from done to burnt in a minute.

8. Carefully remove the pizza and wait about 5 minutes before cutting. Meanwhile cook the other pizza and repeat.

Pizza Dough


1 cup warm (110 degrees F) water
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt


1. In a stand mixer bowl add the water, yeast, and honey and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Add the flour, olive oil, and salt and mix with the dough hook until well kneaded.

2. Olive oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the stand mixer and knead on a clean surface for two more minutes. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for at least an hour before using.

Notes: I use part whole wheat flour in my pizza dough sometimes, when doing this add a little extra water if needed until the dough is lightly tacky.

Garlic Cream Sauce


1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8th teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8th teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1/4th cup Parmesan Reggiano

In a saucepan melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn the heat to medium low and add the rest of the ingredients, but add the cheese last so it doesn’t hit the hot pan and seize up. Stir constantly until it coats the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat and move the sauce to a bowl.

Sauce will thicken quite a bit as it cools.

Recipe & picture by Laura Flowers with total inspiration from Linda @ Ciao Chow Linda.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Szechuan Green Beans and Hope

When I was a 14 year-old-girl a tumor the size of a softball was removed from my ovary. I kept that damaged ovary for another 14 years because doctors were afraid to remove something of importance from someone so young. When I had an emergency hysterectomy at 24 and cancer cells in my cervix I still kept that damaged useless ovary. Until I was 28, when it became obvious my health, and therefore my life, was at risk. Then it was finally removed.

I consider myself lucky. Staying one step ahead of full blown cancer at all times. I can no longer have children, but I’m alive and healthy. There are many women who find out about cancer so late in the game that the battle can be overwhelming and devastating.

Thanks to Foodbuzz and Electrolux I will attend the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund event in New York City. I am in awe that I get to go, and feeling quite overwhelmed. I’m not sure I deserve this, but am grateful for the opportunity.

As I comb through OCRF I can’t help but find myself drawn to the survivor stories, and finally to the tribute page. These pages are filled with vibrant women with beautiful smiles. All of them fought this dangerous cancer. Some won, others lost, and all strove to survive. Their stories are amazing, and worth reading. I hope you’ll take some time to do so.

It’s important, this cause, because ovarian cancer is typically found much to late as there isn't a good tool currently for early detection. If found sooner, there would be a better chance of survival, and hopefully an opportunity for these women to have children of their own.

So today’s recipe is dedicated to living joyfully and to flavorful healthy food to feed our bodies and spirits. I hope that one day cancer will be detected much earlier, and be better treated. Through foundations like OCRF there is hope that our own daughters and granddaughters won’t need to worry about fighting for their lives, when they should be living them instead.

Szechuan Green Beans

I serve these tender garlicky green beans over perfectly cooked brown rice for a fresh, flavorful, healthy meal.


1 ½ pounds fresh or frozen green beans

1 ½ Tablespoons chopped garlic

2 teaspoons chopped ginger

1/2 bunch scallions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon chili paste or chili sauce

3 Tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

3 Tablespoons peanut oil


1. If using fresh beans wash the beans, drain thoroughly, and trim the tops and bottoms.

2. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the beans and stir-fry until they start to shrivel and turn brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the beans and drain in a colander or on paper towels.

3. Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in the wok on high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and scallions. Stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the chili paste and stir-fry for a few more seconds until aromatic. Add the beans and the remaining ingredients. Mix together and serve.

Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish.

Recipe adapted from Rhonda Parkinson from Picture by Laura Flowers.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Peanut Butter Toffee Crunch Cookies

This cookie is a variation on last week’s Cinnamon Toffee Crunch Cookies. I played around with the dough a little bit and sent half the batch to work with Jesse along with the cinnamon ones. What happened was interesting. People tended to take both cookies, but then settled into one camp or the other. The peanut butter verses the cinnamon cookie crowd.

What happened to my buddy Dishboy Scott is an entirely different matter. Scott doesn’t much like cookies, and he strongly dislikes peanut butter, but for some reason he decided to try one of the peanut butter toffee cookies. Astonishingly, Scott didn’t spit it out. Instead he declared them quite good, and after that first cookie couldn’t be persuaded to try the other kind.

Suddenly I began to see much more of Scott. Well briefly anyway. He raided my freezer one afternoon for “work cookies”. He came by to swipe a few pieces of pizza and headed directly to my freezer for “something sweet”, he carried Jesse’s work cookie leftovers home in a bag, and during strange times I find him in my garage freezer opening the now depleted bag of peanut butter toffee cookies.

So much for Scott hating peanut butter, but once their gone I’m certain he’ll make many fewer brief visits to my freezer.


1 cup butter, softened

¾ cup Jiff Peanut Butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 ½ cups all purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup quick 1 minute oats

1 cup well crushed (but not to powder) baked lays potato chips, plain

1 cup lightly chopped salted peanuts

1 (8 ounce) bag Heath English Toffee Bits, Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits


1. Set the rack to the middle in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl cream together butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add the oil, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and beat to combine. Add the oats, crushed chips, peanuts, and toffee bits and mix until incorporated.

3. With a standard (size 50) cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto the parchment 1 ½ inches apart. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes and let cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

Makes about 50 cookies or more. I stopped counting.

Recipe & high contrast photograph by Laura Flowers

Friday, January 8, 2010

Italian Wedding Soup

It’s sometimes difficult for me to think up fresh healthy meal ideas when my store produce is looking so glum. That’s when I head to Southern California food blogs like Esi’s at Dishing Up Delights. She’s almost always cooking up something beautiful and green at any time of year.

The only fresh item I bought for this soup, besides the spinach and holy trinity of carrot, celery, and onion, was some pathetic looking dill. I opened the little herb box when I got home and took a big whiff. A big whiff of nothing! Dill isn’t a winter herb in Northern Idaho obviously, and wherever it came from was much to far away for it to retain its vitality.

The moral of the story for me is, don’t succumb to the temptation to purchase fresh herbs in January when dried ones work just fine.

Italian Wedding Soup


1 pound ground pork or chicken
1/4 pound hot Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (Or make your own in a food processor with leftover bread)
2 teaspoons fresh garlic pressed through a garlic press, or finely minced
2 teaspoons dried parsley leaves
2 tablespoons freshly grated or dried Parmesan
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or to 325 degrees convection if you have it, preferably. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil

2. In a bowl lightly all the ingredients with a fork or with your hands. Scoop with a cookie scoop and shape lightly with your hands into 1 to 1 ¼ inch balls. Place the balls on the cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.


3 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots, cut into ¼ inch pieces
1/2 cup diced celery, cut into ¼ inch pieces
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
5 cups chicken or turkey broth
3 to 4 cups water
¼ cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Acini di pepe, or other very small pasta
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried
1 (6 ounce) bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
Freshly grated or dried Parmesan for garnish

1. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, celery, red pepper flakes, onion powder, and garlic powder and sauté until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the wine and bring to a boil, reduce by half. Next, add the broth and water and bring back to a boil. Then add the pasta and cook for 9 minutes.

3. Add the dill and meatballs to the soup and simmer for 2 minutes. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Adapted from
Esi @ Dishing Up Delights & Ina Garten. Picture by Laura Flowers.

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