Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Dried Cherries

Valentine's Day is coming and that means it's time for me to decide exactly what type of sweet treat I'll be giving to Jason as part of his gift. I haven't quite made up my mind (and certainly wouldn't spoil it here before the big day!) but thought I would share a wonderful cookie recipe I made last weekend in case others out there are looking for similar inspiration.

While oatmeal cookies in and of themselves may not seem all that exciting, you can spice them up with a variety of add-ins. From the very traditional raisins to chocolate chips to nuts, oatmeal cookies can be a very versatile cookie indeed. As I mentioned on my last post, I volunteered to bring something sweet to a friend's house last weekend to enjoy while watching the Super Bowl (yay Giants!). I had been thinking about oatmeal cookies for weeks and decided to go in that direction. Rather than the traditional oatmeal raisin cookie I've made in the past, I decided to throw in chocolate chips and some dried cherries-- a combination that is delicious and special enough for your Valentine.

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Dried Cherries
Adapted generously from Smitten Kitchen

1 stick of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup dried cherries, chopped (next time I might add in a few more)
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.   Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add the regular and brown sugars, salt and vanilla and beat until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed. Once incorporated, add the rest of the flour mixture.
4. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and dried cherries until everything is well-mixed.
5. Drop dough by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 1 minute on the baking sheet and then move to a cooling rack. Cook completely.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Making Up for Lost Time

I don't remember if I mentioned it here on the ol' blog, but several months ago I was given additional responsibilities at work which meant that my already hectic work life got even more hectic. As a result, I've been working later and coming home more tired and that has (as you can probably tell) greatly impacted the time I spend in the kitchen during the week.

About a week ago I got some good news--a promotion for a job well done! The flip side of this is that my level of effort at work shows no signs of letting up. This week was particularly rough--I'm not sure whether it was because I felt like I was behind for most of it (trying to get caught up from being on travel for 4 days the previous week) or the two days I drove back and forth to Baltimore, but work really kicked my butt this week. Which meant I only ended up cooking dinner once. The other nights we ate out, ordered in or Jason made eggs for dinner (twice in fact).

 Check out this awesome bagel sandwich Jason made for dinner Friday night-- with bagels I brought home from work of course. Made me feel like a failure in the kitchen but it sure did taste good!

So I've been trying to make up for lost time this weekend by cooking up a storm. Last night I made an eggplant and polenta casserole which turned out really well (see below) as well as a batch of oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies (stay tuned for more on that) to take to a friend's to watch the Super Bowl this evening. And I as I write this, a pot of winter minestrone is simmering away for tomorrow's dinner.

I'm definitely still trying to find a better work/home balance (particularly when it comes to making yummy, nutritious dinners during the week) but am hoping that a little extra time in the kitchen on the weekends will help me get through the week with a little less stress.

I'm anxious to hear if anyone out there has suggestions for getting dinner on the table during the work week??

Layered Eggplant and Polenta Casserole
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart

2 TBL olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes (I used the garlic and onion variety for more flavor)
1 TBL balsamic vinegar
1 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 (16 ounce) log precooked polenta, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella

1. Preheat oven to 400. Place rack on highest position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place eggplant rounds in a single layer on baking sheet and roast in oven for about 10 minutes or until just starting to soften. Set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft and slightly golden, about 5-8 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juices). Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the juices have evaporated and the sauce is thickened--about 30 minutes. Stir in vinegar and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
3. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish. Arrange eggplant slices snugly in a single layer (overlapping so that they all fit). Spoon half of the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant and arrange polenta rounds in slightly overlapping slices on top. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over the top and top with shredded mozzerella.
4. Cover with foil. Move oven rack down one position. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese is browned, about 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly and serve.