Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hi everyone!  It feels so good to be posting on a more regular basis again.  Now that I passed my oral exams and am officially a doctoral candidate, my schedule is freed up considerably.  I'll be finishing up some side projects that were put on the back burner, and of course, doing a lot more blogging and gardening and whatnot.  Oo and reading for fun!  

Anyway, yesterday was my birthday (the big 2-5, woo woo)!  And since I didn't bake myself a cake or anything, I figured I should at least post a recipe for something sweet.

I made these cookies sometime last month when I was stressing over writing my dissertation proposal.  Baking is therapeutic for me, remember?  Anyway, I know that everyone has at least one recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Why would you need yet another?  Well, these are a little different, thanks to the addition of Panko bread crumbs, and totally worth a try.

I found this recipe on the blog Newly Wife.

You'll need:

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Set aside.

Cream together the melted butter and sugars until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk.  Next, mix in the flour mixture little by little until everything is just blended.  Stir in the Panko bread crumbs and chocolate chips.

Drop cookie dough onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Bake for 15-17 minutes until the edges are lightly toasted.

Crispy and delicious!  They were a huge hit with the research group I work with.  If you're hungry for some chocolate chip cookies with a twist, please give these a try!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Blueberry French Toast Breakfast Casserole

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!!  Sean and I have had a wonderful weekend thus far, and hope that you have had a good one too.  Our friends Matt and Adrienne just left a little bit ago.  While we're definitely sad that they had to leave, we had a blast while they were here.  I made this casserole one morning for breakfast as a nice change of pace from the usual breakfast casserole that I make every time they visit.  I got this recipe from my mom.

You'll need:

6 eggs
3 cups milk
3/4 cups maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
3 slices of 1 inch thick bread, cut into cubes
2 cups frozen blueberries
3 tbs sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish, set aside.

Beat the eggs, add milk, maple syrup, salt, lemon zest, bread cubes, and blue berries.  Let this sit for a moment.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar.  Pour your bread-egg-milk mixture into the buttered dish.  Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keep Pests from Munching on Your Plants, the Natural Way

Hello everyone!  For a while there, an as-of-yet-unidentified pest was eating my bell pepper plant's leaves.  Not wanting to use some sort of chemicals to keep insects away (Maeby likes to lick the water off of my plants' leaves), I searched for a less toxic solution.  As it turns out, a little Epsom salts and water in a spray bottle does the trick.  Mix 1-2 tsp of Epsom salts with some lukewarm water, shake, and spritz away.  You don't need to soak the leaves, and you don't need to do it every day, but it does seem to help!  My bell pepper plant is growing like crazy, and whatever was eating it before seems to have been repelled.  

See?  Growing like crazy.  There are no peppers on it just yet, but there are flowers, and I'm hoping that this little green nub is the start of a pepper.  

Does anyone have any thoughts?  I've never grown peppers before, so I'm not sure what it looks like when the fruit starts to set.

The rest of my little container garden is flourishing, as well.  It's starting to feel like summer in Baltimore, with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, which I'm pretty sure has helped.  

My Meyer lemon tree, while still more of a twig than anything, has grown so much that it now needs to be supported by a wooden skewer and some twist ties.

As usual, the basil is flourishing, and my tomato plants are out of control.  

Both plants have a lot of green fruit, but the Better Bush has a red one on the vine.  AND...


I was able to pick my first tomatoes yesterday!!  They don't know it yet, but later today they'll be turned into a Caprese salad, along with some fresh mozzarella that I picked up at the farmer's market today and some of my basil.

I'm hoping that these will be just the first of many more tomatoes that we get to enjoy this summer.  And judging by the amount of flowers on each of the plants, we'll soon have more than we know what to do with.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Holy crap I've been away from this blog for what feels like forever.  I've been ultra busy with school lately, preparing for my preliminary oral exams.  The good news is, I PASSED BOTH OF THEM!!!  I passed the second exam this morning.  For those of you outside of the academic world, passing these exams means that I can start working on my dissertation!  Needless to say, I am extremely relieved that I passed, and very excited to begin this next chapter.  I promised myself that I would take a little time off from dissertation stuff to catch up on other projects that have been pushed aside while preparing for my orals and take some time to relax.  The relaxation component will definitely include lots of cooking and baking, so look for lots of updates in the future!

Can you think of a better way to celebrate my return to blogging and passing my orals than with a post about an alcoholic beverage?  Yeah, me either.  With that, I bring you a recipe for making homemade limoncello!  It's very easy, but takes quite a bit of time.  One month, to be exact.

I found this recipe on the website The Full Moxie.

You'll need:

To start

1 750 ml bottle of plain vodka (use something at least middle of the road here, but also don't feel obligated to shell out the cash dollars for Belvedere or something)
15 lemons

To finish

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Zest all of your lemons into a bowl, or do it over some foil or something.  Be careful to not accidentally zest your hands.  That really kind of sucks, and stings a lot.  Not that I'd know...

Combine your vodka and zest in a container that has a lid.  Put this container in a cupboard, or some other cool, dark, out of the way place for 30 days.

~1 month later~

Now that you've been patiently waiting for 30ish days, let's get back to work by making a simple syrup.  Pour the sugar and water into a small sauce pan and turn the heat up to medium.  Stir occasionally, allowing the mixture to come to a boil.  Let it boil for a minute or so, just until all of the sugar is dissolved.  Let this cool to room temperature.

While the simple syrup is cooling, run your vodka-zest mixture through a strainer.  I ran mine through once, then lined the strainer with paper towels and gave it another pass through, just to be sure that I got all of the smaller particles.

Once the simple syrup has cooled, combine it with the vodka, and give it a stir.  Then pour it into the vessel of your choice!  A funnel will help greatly here.  You should be left with a clear, yellow liquid.  Enjoy!  

  Not sure what to do with your limoncello?  I have a feeling that Foodgawker can help.

UPDATE!  You can also use this limoncello to make a delicious cocktail known as the Limoncello Collins!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pasta with Ricotta, Herbs, and Lemon

I found this recipe on the website Real Simple when looking for a quick an easy dinner, and have adapted it.  The amounts of ingredients can be fudged to meet the needs of however many people you're planning to serve.  As a result, any amounts shown below are approximate.

You'll need:

Penne pasta (or whatever you want to use)
1-2 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup ricotta cheese, store-bought or homemade
A few tablespoons of parmesan cheese, shredded
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Walnuts, chopped and toasted (I used a generous handful or so)
1/3-1/2 cup pasta water, reserved
Chopped fresh herbs, to taste (I used basil and parsley)
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the packaging.  While the pasta cooks, combine the ricotta, butter, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, and walnuts in a bowl.  Set aside until the pasta is just about done cooking.

Before draining the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Start by pouring ~1/3 cup of the water into the bowl with the cheese mixture.  Stir to combine.  If a creamier texture is desired, add more water.

Strain the pasta and add it back into the pot in which it was cooked (or a large serving bowl).  Pour the cheese sauce mixture over the pasta.  Toss to combine.  Add the herbs and salt.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

And there you have it.  A quick and easy dinner perfect for a Meatless Monday, or any other day of the week.  Enjoy!