by Caroline

I know I’ve posted this recipe for Oreos before, but it is so easy, and so delicious, it’s worth reposting. This time I happened to make pink filling for Valentine’s Day, but you could make egg-shaped Oreos with pastel filling for Easter, or baseball Oreos for your kid’s team, or you could simply make Oreos today because it is Friday and that’s as good a reason as any.

Oreo Cookies

In a mixing bowl, beat till fluffy
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
In a separate bowl, sift together
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa*
1/2 tsp salt

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter to make a stiff dough. Remove from the bowl, knead a couple times on a lightly floured board to make sure it’s fully combined, then shape into a disk and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Cut the dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time and keeping the remainder cold, roll out to about 1/4” thickness. Cut into circles or whatever shape you desire, place on a cookie sheet, and bake 15 minutes or till firm. Cool on a rack. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

When cool, make sandwiches with the following filling:
1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter beaten till fluffy with
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and
1/2 tsp. vanilla

*Note: I use half regular cocoa and half black cocoa (available from King Arthur Flour) for a real “oreo” color.

The Boys’ Granola

by Caroline

For years, I was unwavering in my granola routine. I started with the recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast and while over the years I abandoned certain ingredients (the applesauce, the ginger) and eventually all measurements, the granola still remained essentially Nigella’s recipe and my daily breakfast.

But then there was that new granola I started to make, which renewed the boys’ interest in (and taste for) granola. Except Ben was picking out the pumpkin seeds and Eli was picking out the pistachios. So I invited them to make their own.

A lot of this granola-making exercise for kids is simply teaching them about the process: assembling the ingredients; learning how to open bags of nuts and seeds so they don’t explode all over the kitchen; remembering to finish measuring the dry ingredients before measuring the sticky liquid ingredients; getting comfortable with leaning a little ways into the hot oven to stir the pan of baking granola; cleaning up afterwards (the first time the boys did this, I had to leave the room while they cleaned because they are simultaneously so deliberate and ineffective).

But the more exciting part of this, clearly, is cooking something to their own tastes, and I love giving the boys that opportunity. Ben’s granola is a bit sweeter than I like, and Eli’s a little paler (he always eats a bowl unbaked). But they are making granola. We eat it every morning. The last time they made a batch (our third time in what they’ve now dubbed GranoLab) was the most pleasant half hour I’ve had in the kitchen with my children in a long time.

Ben has updated his recipe twice since I first drafted it here on the blog and continues to tinker with it every time, measuring carefully. Eli, like me, just eyeballs the ingredients. Either way, the method is the same: combine the dry ingredients, stir in the liquid ingredients, spread into a baking pan and bake at 325 for 20-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted brown to taste.

Ben’s Recipe

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 cups oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sesame sends
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cup pine nuts

Eli’s Granola

3 cups oats
a sprinkle of sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds

Brown sugar
Rice syrup
Vegetable oil

Cranberry Coconut Cookies

by Caroline

Apparently some folks out there have strong feelings about coconut. I have even heard the H-word bandied about. Not in my family, though. We put it in granola, in cake, in amazing no-bake brownies and ice cream, quick macaroons and muffins. And while mostly we bake with it (and I admit it was fun sifting through the archives to find all our coconut recipes) we also put it in savory dishes like curries and kale.

So of course I was going to try this cookie recipe from Sunset Magazine, which incorporates three of our favorite winter flavors: orange, cranberry, and coconut. If you’re a coconut fan, you’ll want to give them a try.

1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb.) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked dried coconut

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla until smooth.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture, then mix until dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Mix in cranberries and coconut.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets.

Bake until cookie edges just begin to brown, 8 to 11 minutes (shorter baking time will yield a chewier cookie; longer baking time will yield a crispier cookie). Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then use a wide spatula to transfer to racks to cool completely.

More Adventures in Slow Cooking: Swedish Meatballs

by Lisa

Tuesday night I have a plan: Swedish Meatballs. I take the pork and beef out of the freezer just fine.

Wednesday morning: I realize I have no onion, no potatoes.  Kids say they will boycott Swedish meatballs if mashed potatoes aren’t involved. I have no plan B. Resolve to go to store.

Later Wednesday morning: Put off trip to store for onions and potatoes.

Wednesday afternoon: Forget to go to store entirely.

Late Wednesday after, 20 minutes before school pick-up. Rush to store. Buy pre-chopped onion and pre-made mashed potatoes for the first time in my life.

School pickup time: T-1o. Soak bread in milk, dump in egg, meats, salt, nutmeg. No time to sautee onions, dump them in raw. What’s the worst that can happen?  Mix ingredients. Cover bowl. Wash hands.

Pick up kids. On time! Drive straight home.

35 minutes before first run to soccer field.  Begin making 20-something meatballs. Ten minutes later, our sitter arrives. Turn on slow cooker to “brown/sautee” for the first time.  Butter melts.  Meatballs brown evenly and quickly in less than 15 minutes. I begin to breathe again.

With help from sitter, kids have found themselves a snack, filled water bottles. Soccer uniforms are on. No one is yelling.

I melt another tablespoon of butter, stir flour, cook for two minutes, then whisk in chicken broth. Gravy comes to a simmer. Meatballs go back in.  Slow cooker gets turned to “HIGH” and programmed for 30 minutes, after which time, I hope it kicks back to “warm” setting. I stare at it for a minute, willing it not to let me down.

Leave for soccer with child #1.  Child #2 stays home with sitter to do homework and make scarves for her Scandanavian doll, who is largely responsible for the Swedish meatball phase.   We are on time for soccer. No one is crying.

It’s my turn to stay at the field, so an hour later, sitter arrives with child #2, takes home child #1.  By all reports the cooker is doing what it is supposed to . My sitter has heated up the potatoes and cooked the broccoli romanesco (she really is amazing).

An hour and half later, it is very dark and very cold.   I am shivering and can barely feel my extremities.  We drive home. The house is bright. And warm.  It smells like Sweden, or at least the pleasant afterglow of a long, successful trip to IKEA, before you’ve begun to assemble anything. My son has eaten something like ten meatballs.  My daughter tries to match him, meatball for meatball.  I salvage a few for the grownups.

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

  • 2 slices white bread
  • heavy cream/milk (enough to moisten white bread)
  • small onion, diced
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash nutmeg, cardamom, white pepper
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  1. In a medium sized bowl, pour enough cream or milk over the bread to completely moisten both slices.
  2. Dice onion and add to bowl along with meats, egg, salt, and spices.  Mix gently until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  3. Shape mixture into small balls.
  4. With slow cooker on Brown/Sautee setting, fry meatballs in 2T butter until brown on all sides. Remove using a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Whisk flour into pan drippings. If need be, add another 1-2 tablespoons butter.
  6. Whisk in broth and simmer until gravy is thick.
  7. Turn slow cooker to “HIGH” and return meatballs to gravy. Cook on for 30 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

Simit, or Sesame Bread Rings

by Caroline

As part of our culinary preparation for a trip to Turkey this summer, Tony gave me Ghillie Basan’s Classic Turkish Cooking for Christmas. I’ve been paging through it, making lists of things I want to try (Hosmerim, which translates to “Something Nice for the Husband”) and things I don’t (I will skip Bulgar Juice, thank you very much).

But the first thing I tried was the recipe for Simit, or Sesame Bread Rings, which we will apparently find sold everywhere on the streets of Istanbul. They are easy (though kneading the dough is a tougher work out than any other dough I’ve ever encountered) and tasty — rather like bagels, but less chewy. Now all I need is to brew up some Turkish coffee and we’re almost there!

a package yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
150 ml lukewarm water
450 g all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 beaten egg
sesame seeds

Dissolve the yeast and half teaspoon of sugar in the lukewarm water and let it bubble up.
Mix the flour, salt, and tablespoon of sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast-water mixture, then add the tablespoon of oil. Stir well, then turn the mixture out on to a lightly-floured counter to knead. Add more water as necessary and knead well until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Let the dough rest a moment while you wash out the mixing bowl, dry it off, and drizzle a bit of oil into it. Put the dough into the bowl and turn it to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and leave to rise until doubled, about two hours.

Sprinkle a shallow bowl with sesame seeds.

Punch the dough down and divide into 6-8 pieces. Knead each piece and shape into a ring. Brush the rings with the beaten egg and dip into the bowl of sesame seeds. Place the rings on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet and let them rest, covered with the damp towel, for 15-20 minutes.

While the rings are resting, preheat the oven to 400.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until they’re golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.