Soft Molasses Cookies

I love these cookies​. I don’t know how to say it more emphatically than that. When I was pregnant with my first son I gorged myself ​on them. I had​ no willpower. As in, I could eat every single cookie by myself.  I had no shame! I have since come to realize pregnancy was not the only reason I have no willpower; I will ​still ​eat these nonstop if they are in my presence!  

In fact, this is the recipe that inspired (and began) my annual ​Christmas card recipe for family and friends. I have used this cookie for cookie exchanges, for parties, for dropping off at a friend’s,  and of course to enjoy at home.   ​

These are ​a flawless, soft, warm​ balance of spice and sweet. Even people that say they don’t like molasses or ginger love these cookies.

​It’s a perfect cookie for fall. It’s a perfect cookie for holidays. It. Is. The​. Perfect. Cookie​! ~Kathy

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Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened

1/2 c. shortening

1 1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. molasses

2 eggs, lightly beaten

4 c. flour

1/2 tsp salt

2-1/4 tsp baking soda

2-1/4 tsp ground ginger

1-1/2 tsp ground cloves

1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening and sugar until light-colored and fluffy. Beat in molasses and eggs; set mixture aside.

In another large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Blend thoroughly with wire whisk. Gradually mix flour mixture into creamed ingredients until dough is blended and smooth.

Roll dough into 1½ inch balls. Roll cookies in sugar; place on greased or parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Bake for 11 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool on wire rack.  

Store in tightly covered container to maintain softness.  

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Lemon Dill Broccoli

Are you always looking for ways to eat vegetables that don’t involve ranch dressing or some sort of cheese sauce? When you’re in a family like ours – one that seems to have a genetic predisposition to love all things that involve carbs and sugar – a good vegetable recipe is dinner-time gold! ~Tracy

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Ingredients: 
1 large head of raw, fresh broccoli
1 c. prepared chicken bouillion
½ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. dill (or more to taste)
¾ tsp. garlic salt
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (can use bottled lemon juice)

Instructions: 
Chop broccoli into bite sized pieces leaving a small piece of the stalk on each to hold the
broccoli together.

Prepare chicken bouillon according to directions. Pour into a saucepan large enough for the broccoli to be in one layer. Add broccoli to bullion in saucepan. Sprinkle basil, dill, and garlic salt onto broccoli.

Turn on low heat and allow to simmer, covered, until broccoli becomes tender. Remove from heat; toss to coat well with all seasoning and bullion. Remove broccoli from saucepan and add lemon juice; toss to coat.

Weight Watchers info.:  ZERO SmartPoints!

Busy Day Crockpot Potato Soup

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It’s county fair season!  My 2 kiddos entered their rabbits this year.  This was their first year to enter so I prepared them, as any momma who has two kids competing against each other would.  You know the dialog… “You may not win anything”… “If your sister wins something and you don’t, I want you to be happy for her – no whining”… that kind of thing.  Well, all that was for naught because they both won prizes!  My daughter’s rabbit, Blueberry, won Best of Show and Champion Fur Rabbit – 2 trophies!  My son’s rabbit, Ninja (love that he named a rabbit ‘Ninja’ – funny boy!), won Reserve Champion Fur Rabbit.

 

The funny thing is, I have no idea what qualifies as a champion rabbit.  We just thought it would be fun to let the kids enter, and we lucked out, apparently, by getting good quality show rabbits.  Who knew?!

The kids were so proud of their trophies and have shown them to everybody they know, of course.  My daughter must have felt sorry for her brother though, since he only got one, so later she made him this:

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It says “1st Most Improved Brother.”  Ha!  I couldn’t help but chuckle at her handmade consolation prize.  Such a sweet sister!

On this busy fair day, while the kids were readying their rabbits, I threw together our favorite potato soup in the crockpot.  I love potato soup but I used to hate making it simply because it’s time consuming to peel and chop the potatoes and onion, cook bacon for the toppings (gotta have bacon – see my handy tip below!), etc.  I also struggled for a long time to come up with a good potato soup recipe.  I don’t like it brothy (not a word but it works here).  I like a creamy, rich, thick potato soup.  This recipe is all that without all the usual work because it uses frozen hash brown potatoes!  It’s quick and easy to get in the crockpot on a day you are feeling not-so-motivated to make supper (or in a hurry, like today) but need some good comfort food.  With 5 minutes of work, this was prepped and cooking away.  A few hours later, we came home to supper… ready, warm, and waiting.  It was exactly what we were craving!  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.   ~Erin

Ingredients:

4 oz. Greek cream cheese, softened (This can be found next to the other cream cheeses in the grocery store.  I get it at Walmart.)*

1 (10 ¾ oz.) can Campbell’s Healthy Request condensed cheddar cheese soup

1 (32 oz.) box fat-free chicken broth

½ c. fat-free half & half

½ a medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped

1 (32 ounce) bag frozen “Southern style” diced hash brown potatoes (not shredded!)

Salt & pepper

Optional toppings:  shredded cheese, bacon bits, chopped green onions

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Instructions:

Whisk softened cream cheese and cheddar soup together in your crockpot.  (Or if you are lazy like me you can use your crockpot to soften the cream cheese as it warms up.)

Whisk while adding chicken broth and half & half until smooth.

Stir in the onion and 2/3 of the bag of frozen hash browns; reserve remainder for the last 30 min of cook-time.

Salt and pepper lightly.

Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the remaining 1/3 of the hash browns when 30 minutes cook time is left.

Top with shredded cheese, bacon bits, and green onions if desired.

Tip:  Use prepackaged real bacon bits and toss them in a small skillet for 30 seconds or so to crisp them up.  You could also put them on a paper towel lined plate and pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds to crisp them.  They are never crispy enough straight from the package for my liking.

Weight Watchers info.:  This makes 8 one-cup servings at 5 SmartPoints per cup, not including optional toppings.  I like to add ½ cup fat-free shredded cheddar for 1 SmartPoint, 1 Tablespoon real bacon bits for 1 Smartpoint, and chopped green onions.

*If you can’t find Greek cream cheese, you can substitute reduced fat cream cheese but it will increase the Weight Watchers SmartPoints to 6 per cup.

Ham & Pepperoni Stromboli

This is something I make a lot on weeknights. It literally takes 5 minutes of prep, and my family devours it!  I also like to throw this together to take to get-togethers. I took it to Bunco with my teacher friends quite a bit, and everyone asked for the recipe. Make this next time you need a quick dinner or appetizer.  It’s family-friendly and always a crowd-pleaser!  ͂ Erin

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Ingredients:

Refrigerated pizza crust (I use Pillsbury Thin Crust)

12 slices thin deli ham

25 slices turkey pepperoni

1 cup shredded mozzarella (I use Kraft 2%)

1 T. Italian Seasoning (plus more for the outside of the crust)

½ tsp. garlic powder, optional

1 egg white

Non-stick cooking spray

Pizza sauce or Ranch dressing, for dipping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Spray a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Unroll the pizza dough on the sheet pan.  Arrange the ham in a single layer across the crust, then spread the pepperoni over the ham.  Top with shredded mozzarella and sprinkle the Italian seasoning across the cheese.  Roll the stromboli and place, seam side down, in the center of the pan, tucking the ends of the roll under.  Brush the outside of the dough with egg whites and sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Slice into 6 pieces and serve with pizza sauce and/or Ranch dressing.

Weight Watchers info.:  6 servings at 7 SmartPoints per serving, not counting dipping sauces.

White Chicken Chili

I couldn’t ever find a white chicken chili I liked, so after trying several “meh” recipes, I decided to make my own.  Threw this together on a whim thinking it would at least be a quick, easy weekend prep to weekday meal kind of item.  But it turns out that Barry declared this his favorite thing I’ve ever made, so I figured I better share.  I make this pretty spicy but you can adjust (or eliminate) the heat easily. ~Robin 

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Ingredients: 

2 T. olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, diced*

4 medium jalapeño peppers, seeded, diced (reduce for lessened spice)

4 4-oz. cans (2 c.) chopped Hatch** green chiles; don’t drain (I use mild on these – more for flavor than heat)

4 cloves minced fresh garlic (or about 2 tsp. minced jarred garlic)

13 c. low-sodium chicken broth (can always add more if you need it, but you don’t want it too soupy)

4 c. cooked shredded chicken breast

3 cans cannellini beans, drained well

3 T. fresh lime juice (I just juice one small lime)

1 T. cumin

1 – 3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (I do the whole tablespoon because I like it spicy!)  

23 c. cilantro (about 1/2 a bunch) chopped; reserve some for garnish

12 tsp. garlic salt

Optional garnishes/accompaniments (not figured in WW points): sliced avocado, shredded Monterey jack cheese, tortilla chips, and/or a cilantro sprig.

Instructions:

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil on med-high heat. Then add onion, jalapeño, chiles, garlic, and sauté for 5-7 minutes (until veggies soften).

Reduce to medium heat. Add drained beans, chicken, broth, cumin, lime juice, garlic salt (sounds like a lot of garlic, but it’s a whole lot of food too — trust me), cilantro, & red pepper flakes. Cook for 12-15 min.

Serve and garnish as desired.

Weight Watchers Info.: This makes a whopping 11 one-cup servings, only 4 SmartPoints each.  

*For easy onion dicing, using a gator chopper will save you some tears, literally. They have varied dicing sizes, so be sure to check on that before purchasing – I used one with a ¼ inch dicing size, but you could use a larger one as well. I used to hate chopping onions before my folks got me this for Christmas one year. Now I can chop without tears and much more quickly.  (We’re not paid or compensated in any way to advertise for the Alligator company; I just really love mine since I’m a big cryer with onions!) 

**You can use any chopped green chile, but I prefer Hatch chiles.  

Mom’s Classic Meatloaf

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Meatloaf can go one of two ways.  It can be a lump of flavorless beef–or it can be a tender, hearty, flavorful, slice of comfort food.  Our mom’s meatloaf is the latter.  Her recipe is classic… made of simple ingredients and topped with good old American ketchup.  Pair it with a pile of creamy mashed potatoes, and you have the flavors of home.

͂ Erin

 

Ingredients:

2 lb. ground beef (93% lean beef)

1 c. canned tomato sauce

60 saltine crackers (about a sleeve and a half)

½ c. diced onion

1 c. diced bell pepper

1 egg

½ c. ketchup

1 tsp. salt

Instructions:  

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Combine all ingredients except ketchup until just mixed.  Do not over mix.  Spread ketchup on top of loaves.  Form two loaves on a sheet pan.  Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through (160°F throughout).

Weight Watchers info:  This recipe makes 8 servings at 8 SmartPoints each.

Mediterranean Skillet Chicken

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One of my top bucket list items is to get to travel outside the U.S.  This dish made me feel like I was dining on a hillside vineyard on a cool Mediterranean evening…I could smell the wine, I swear! The earthy flavors of the chicken, potatoes, asparagus, onions and olives are brightened up nicely by the peppers and lemons. I’ve never had anything like this, but I’m glad I decided to try it out.  By now you know I also love beautiful food too, and this may be the prettiest dish I’ve ever made.  ~Robin

Ingredients:

4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

¼ c. of lemon juice (about 1 lemon) (will need 1 or 2 more lemons—see below)

3 T. olive oil, divided

2 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. table salt

2 tsp. dried oregano

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. dried basil

1 bunch of fresh asparagus

1 red onion, cut into wedges or sliced (I prefer wedges)

1 red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

8 baby potatoes, cut into halves

1-2 T. red pepper flakes (optional, depending on spice preference)

12 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (could use green olives too if don’t have Kalamatas handy – this is a lot of olive but I’m a big fan; could use less if desired)

Lemon slices

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Instructions to marinate:

In a shallow dish, combine lemon juice, 2 T. of olive oil, 2 tsp. red wine vinegar, basil, garlic, oregano, salt, garlic salt, and parsley.  Set aside half of marinade, and add chicken to the rest.  Coat chicken evenly and then marinate for just 15 minutes (can do up to 30 minutes if you like, turning chicken midway through if so).

Instructions when ready to cook: 

Wash and trim the ends from your asparagus spears. Wash & cut baby potatoes in half.  Wash, peel, and cut red onion into wedges. Wash, seed, and slice red bell pepper.  Drain well and measure out ½ c. Kalamata olive slices.  Set vegetables aside.

When ready to cook chicken, preheat the oven to 430°F.  Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large, oven-safe skillet or pan to medium-high heat (I love my 12.5” Swiss Diamond pan — thanks Mom & Dad! — but cast iron or other high heat tolerant dish would be great here too). Sear chicken until it browns up a bit (but note that skinless chicken won’t brown much – just give it a few minutes to start looking cooked on the exterior) to seal in moisture and begin cooking, just about 4 minutes per side. Drain and discard excess fat.

Before adding vegetables, be sure that your boneless thighs are positioned so that the “open” side is facing downward – you’ll be able to tell which side they opened to remove the bones.  It won’t hurt anything, but it’s just not as pretty as the side that’s still intact.  And with everything else here being so gorgeous, you’ll want the visual to be consistent.

Place the vegetables except the olives wherever you can cram them (pan will be full) around the chicken, distributing each evenly. Then carefully sprinkle olives across the dish, as they’re a bit more delicate and shouldn’t be too jostled. Spoon remaining marinade over veggies.

Cover (foil or a lid either one—I used foil) and cook at 430°F for about 35 minutes — until chicken is 165° throughout. Carefully remove cover and broil on medium for 5 or 10 minutes, until veggies/chicken brown a little (remembering that skinless chicken won’t brown as much as thighs with skin would).

Sprinkle with red pepper flakes (optional).

Add cross-section lemon slices to the skillet about ¼ inch thick as a fresh garnish (adds to the lemon flavor as well, of course).

Weight Watcher’s Info.:  Each chicken thigh, plus ¼ of the vegetables (which makes quite a heap as you see in the skillet photo) is only 8 SmartPoints.