Monday, April 9, 2012

Baking GALS Round 9 - Lemon Sugar Cookies

First things first – no, I didn’t skip Round 8.  I had just gotten back from New Zealand and wasn’t feeling particularly creative, and since I was sending to a guy I hadn’t ship to before, I went with old trusty – Road Cookies (oatmeal white chocolate cranberry).  I hope he liked them!

This month I decided to send the guys something a little more spring-y.  I love a good simple sugar cookie but what better way to brighten them up than with lemon?  These have a real zing to them as I decided to add a lemon glaze as well.  Lemon is such a great fresh flavor – it’s the perfect thing to get you excited about the upcoming warm weather.  Cookies and margaritas anyone?!


1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening (I used unsalted butter)
½ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
Finely grated lemon zest – about 2+ tsp.
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon extract (I used fresh lemon juice as that is what I had)
2 cups AP flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ cup sparkling, sanding or granulated sugar (for rolling – I glazed instead)


Combine the sugar, shortening and oil in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until light and well blended.  Reduce speed to medium-low and add the egg, lemon zest, vanilla and lemon extracts, beating until well incorporated.

Combine flour, baking soda and cream of tartar in a separate bowl.

Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beating until just combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight (or about 1.5-2 hrs in the freezer if you’re impatient like me!).

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350º.

Shape dough into balls (about 1 Tbsp. or use a small cookie scoop).  Roll them in the sparkling sugar and place on ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 7 min then rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back.  Bake 5-7 more min, until just slightly browned on the edges.  Cool cookies on the sheets for 2 min and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

If glazing instead of rolling in sugar:  Combine 1-1 ½ cups powdered sugar with fresh lemon juice.  Add just enough lemon juice to reach “drizzleable” (but not runny) consistency.  Use a small spoon or piping bag to drizzle cookies with glaze.  Add sparkling or colored sugars if desired.

**Note – I like a cakier cookie than this provides, despite the use of the baking soda and cream of tartar.  I think next time I make them I’ll add a little baking powder for some extra leavening – maybe just a ¼ tsp.**

Spiced Pork Tenderloin & Arugula Salad

I’m going to start with the salad as I think I’ve found my new favorite.  Ohmyfreakinggod, this is so good and so easy.  I’ve been on a crazy arugula kick lately.  I can’t get enough of it – it’s crunchy and peppery and a nice change from the romaine I eat several times a week.  This salad is the perfect combination of textures and flavors, which are key in order for me to feel satisfied (keep your comments to yourself!). 

I bought a ton of strawberries so I thought a salad would be a good way to use some up.  I mixed them with some thinly sliced red onion and tossed it all with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I topped the salad with some creamy, tangy goat cheese and some nice salty, crunchy sunflower seeds.  Insanely good.  I almost said screw the pork altogether…but then I remembered how good this pork is too.  Aren’t the colors in the salad awesome though?  How could you not want to eat that?

And the pork?  Well I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now and it’s amazing every time.  Surprisingly, it’s a recipe from P90X.  It’s a great mix of earthy and sweet flavors – of course with a pinch of cayenne too.  The top has a crust of brown sugar and fresh garlic – yum!  The tenderloin stays juicy and absorbs so much from the spices.  Definitely give these a try for an uber flavorful, healthy, fresh meal.

For the pork:

2lb pork tenderloin
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp chili powder
Pinch (or two) cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1Tbsp minced garlic

Sprinkle tenderloin with salt on all sides.  Mix cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne and black pepper.  Rub spice mix on all sides of tenderloin and let stand about 10-15 min.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Sear tenderloin in frying pan coated with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil, just to brown all sides.  After searing, coat the top with the brown sugar and garlic (these can be pre-mixed).  Roast in oven for about 25 min, or until the internal temperature reaches 160º.  Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

*Other ideas for sides - cubed roasted butternut squash or steamed fresh green beans.

Salad dressing:
(this will be enough to dress several salads)

3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (or a couple shakes of garlic powder)
⅓ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (honestly, I never measure this, just keep adding until it reaches the consistency and flavor you like)
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a small bowl, add vinegar, mustard and garlic.  Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If it’s a little to tangy, add a pinch of granulated sugar.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Granola Bars - First Attempt

If you were stranded on a desert island what food would you need to have with you?  I’d definitely need granola in some form or another – I love it and I really love it with yogurt…in fact my obsession with yogurt is borderline frightening.  Thank goodness it’s so good for you or I’d be quite the fatty.  And for the record, my other foods would include good bread, good cheeses, red grapes, bananas, and most definitely bacon.  Ok, I’m totally getting off topic… 

I’ve wanted to make granola bars for a long time and after seeing Ina Garten make them recently (I’ve been on a late afternoon Food Network kick at the gym) I realized that I had most of what I needed at home already so I was sold.

I like this recipe, but I think I can make it better – well, make it more to suite my tastes I should say.  Also, I think I should have baked them for a few more minutes to harden them a bit more as they’re a little crumbly.  I think they’d still be chewy, which I want, but they would just hold together better.  Anyway, this was definitely an encouraging first try.  Next time I plan to add some cinnamon and some seeds – likely pepitas, sunflower and flax (omega 3’s!).  Chocolate chips and/or peanuts would also be great.  There are countless possibilities.  Here’s how it’s done:

Recipe courtesy Ina Garten
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (omitted – you chew forever and it never goes away - blech!!)
½ cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅔ cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chopped pitted dates (omitted – anyone else think these look like roaches?  Gross.)
½ cup chopped dried apricots (use California rather than Turkish if you can, better flavor)
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried tart Montmorency cherries (my addition)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.  **I only had a 9”x13” pan so I made 1.5x the recipe – worked out well.**
Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries (or any other add-ins) and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.