Sunday, December 12, 2010

Little Lemon Meringue "Cookies"

I admit, I have a bit of a hard time calling meringues cookies.  But, especially when you're dealing with lemon meringues, you have to call them something (otherwise, someone might be fooled into thinking this was a recipe for pie, right?).  Anyway, whatever you call these, I thought they would make a lovely (and surprisingly simple!) addition to a cookie exchange.  It's nice to have something that's light and guilt-free (about five calories a pop!) but still a little sweet in the midst of so many holiday treats.

Little Lemon Meringue "Cookies"
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon peel, finely grated

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper (silicone baking mats would be lovely as well--maybe someday I'll have some of those! sigh).
In a medium bowl with mixer on high speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form.  With mixer still running, sprinkle in sugar gradually (about 2 tablespoons at a time) beating until peaks are stiff and glossy when beaters are lifted.  Gently fold in lemon peel.
Spoon egg white mixture into a decorating bag (or a quart sized ziploc bag with a tiny corner snipped off) fitted with a star shaped decorating bag.  Pipe meringue into small stars about a 1/2 inch apart onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake meringues about 1 1/2 hours until crisp but not browned.  Turn off oven and allow meringues to stand in hour 1 hour longer to dry.  Cool completely.
Peel from sheets and store in an air tight container.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Indonesian Peanut Chicken

When my first son was born, some friends of ours were very kind and brought us a really delicious dinner, Indonesian Peanut Chicken.  We were very impressed and I told them I must have the recipe.  Little did I know, I already had it in my Betty Crocker cookbook!  Now, my extremely weathered cookbook falls open to the page with this recipe on it.  I have modified the recipe a bit and in doing so, shortened the cook time (always a plus in my book!).  The other night, we served the exotic peanut chicken over rice noodles, but usually eat it with rice.  However you do it, it's a fast family-pleaser.  Serve it with a steamed green vegetable (broccoli, green beans, peapods) and call it a day!

 Indonesian Peanut Chicken 
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1 med.)
1 chopped red bell pepper, reserving 1/2 cup for garnish
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 chopped peanuts
hot cooked brown or white rice (or rice noodles as pictured)
Note: can substitute 1/4 cup chili sauce for ketchup and spices cinnamon through cayenne (usually found in condiment aisle by ketchup).

Season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  In large skillet over medium high heat, brown chicken in oil until cooked through.  Remove from skillet.  Add onions and bell pepper until tender.  Stir in peanut butter, ketchup and spices.  Gradually add chicken broth, stirring, until peanut butter is melted.  Add chicken back into pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes stirring occasionally, until chicken is heated through and sauce begins to thicken.  Serve over rice and sprinkle peanuts and fresh red pepper over top for garnish.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Date Nut Bread

This recipe came from my Mother-in-Law who got it from her Mother (thank you, Jay's Grandma Bevy!) who got it from...I don't know where.  My Mother-in-Law rediscovered it over Thanksgiving weekend while going through her recipe file as we were discussing dishes that have gone out of style (i.e. Raisin Sour Cream Pie, my Father-in-Law's favorite, which someday I'll have to attempt).  She made a couple loaves that my four year old and I liked so much we nearly made ourselves sick eating too much.  Oops.  There's no denying this is a great quick bread recipe.  Even better news was that unlike a lot of other quick bread recipes (banana, pumpkin, etc.) that rely on tons of oil, this one has a mere three tablespoons.  The guilt is already lifting! And, to make for an even clearer conscience, I worked on the recipe and cut the sugar down by a quarter and substituted half whole wheat flour and it did not lose any of its original deliciousness (darn).  Get your hands on some dates (the warehouse clubs--Costco and Sam's usually carry extremely affordable and delicious containers of whole, pitted dates) and try this recipe!

*And, once you have your dates, proceed to snack on them in a multitude of ways.  We are fond of sticking whole roasted almonds inside them (instant dessert!), filling halved dates with homemade cream cheese spread (chopped apricots, cinnamon, chopped toasted pecans and a drizzle of honey in softened cream cheese), or for a rather decadent appetizer, wrap whole dates with bacon and bake until the bacon is crispy!

Date Nut Bread
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup hot water
3 tablespoons melted shortening (I substituted canola oil)
1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
2 beaten eggs
2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
dash salt
1/4 cup roughly chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Pour hot water over dates and let stand until ready to use.  Mix sugar and shortening (oil) in a large bowl.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Sift dry ingredients together and add alternately with the dates and water mixture to the sugar, shortening and egg mixture.  Gently stir in nuts.  Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until browned and a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. 
Great sliced and spread with cream cheese!