Monster (Lactation) Cookies

This is one of my favorite cookie recipes and after the birth of my first child, I just jumped at the chance to make a “lactation” cookie version. These Monster Cookies are from Neighbor Food. To turn them into lactation cookies simply add 2 Tbls Flaxseed meal, and 2-4 Tbls brewers yeast. I also add a few tablespoons of water to keep the dough’s consistency.
Monster Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 C Peanut butter
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Large eggs
  • 1 Tbl vanilla extract
  • 4.5 C old fashioned oats
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 C chocolate Chips
  • 1 C M&Ms
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees
  2. Combine peanut butter, sugars and butter in an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla, continue to beat until smooth. Add oats and baking soda and stir well.
  3. Stir in chocolate chips and M&Ms
  4. Drop cookies by tablespoon onto sheets, flatten gently and add M&Ms
  5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Allow cookies to set for 5 minutes before removing from pans
Some Notes
  • You can freeze this as raw cookie dough or baked cookies.
  • Refrigerating the dough before cooking yields a thicker cookie with a softer center.
  • I have done this with no M&Ms, and all chocolate chips – but not the opposite. 
  • When I am making it for lactation cookies, I do about 3/4 to 1/2 the amount of chocolates.
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Oatmeal Cookies

I can’t remember where I stumbled across these delicious cookies, but I’m very glad I did. These oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Life Made Simple Bakes are made with coconut oil and topped with sea salt. They are a “healthier” change from my usual oatmeal cookie, and a sweet-tooth satisfying option if you’re in search of lactation cookie. You can check out this post for the complete ingredients list and directions.

They were fairly easy to make… pretty much dump all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it, cool it, roll it into balls, and bake. I even got my toddler to help!!

White Bean Chicken Chili

     We recently hosted a small Christmas card family get together for my husband’s family (mostly as a last ditch effort to force ourselves to actually send some out this year). Everybody came with their Christmas cards and address books, and the plan was to make it a group activity. Every year my husband and my intentions and plans for Christmas cards get more elaborate, and each year we fail miserably. This year we were going to take photos for the cards at a Christmas tree farm, the children frolicking like tiny adorable wood nymphs among the trees, me looking like a winter goddess, and my husband manly and strapping as he cut down our tree in his annual Christmas kilt. The reality? It’s the day before the Christmas card party. My 10 year old has lost his only slightly festive and dressy sweater: reindeer t-shirt substituted. We were unable to gather our brood and leave the house as planned that morning before baby’s naptime: instead we rolled down the driveway at 4:45 p.m., just as the sun was going down. My husband is a man determined at this point, and still considered making the trek even after his GPS announced we were 40 minutes from the tree farm. Needless to say, pictures were NOT happening. A 10 minute trip to Home Depot for a tree was in our future.

Last year’s Christmas photo. Will probably take us another 12 months to do this year’s.
     Thankfully, the party was much more successful than our efforts to document our family for the holidays. While the company was awesome, the cookies were divine (OMG everybody must try the Jo’s peppermint cookies from World Market), and the children were adorably well behaved and entertaining, the white bean chicken chili was the piece de resistance. I’ve always loved beans, and this recipe is one of my favorites. This time, however, was off the charts due to borrowing a page from my mother’s brilliance and the innovation forced by missing ingredients. On a side note, my mother successfully freezes cooked beans, and I suspect this meal would translate well into a freezer meal. It is also very cost effective, as I fed 10+ people for under about $15.
     At the last minute I realized I did not have a sufficient amount of frozen homemade chicken stock (gasp!) in the freezer. Thankfully, I had some frozen homemade chicken bouillon squares my mom had made as an experiment, which she made by reducing a gallon of her chicken broth down to approximately 1 cup, then freezing on parchment paper. At the time I had no idea how concentrated these squares were, so I started with the two cups of water and 3-4 squares of the bouillon (approximately 2 in. squares). The broth this made was deep brown like beef broth, and smelled amazing. I had no idea this recipe could taste this good until I took my first bite. 
     My husband, who is usually a man of few words at the dinner table, muttered to himself at least 3 times, “Wow, this is really good.” Even more impressive, my 10 year old took his first bite then looked at me and said, “Wow, I had no idea this was going to taste like this!” This soup received rave reviews from my husband’s family, and was the perfect recipe to make a triple batch and feed a crowd of 10+. The original recipe calls for it to be cooked in the slow cooker (Low, 3.5 hours), but I’ve done it both in the pressure cooker (High, for 20 minutes) and in the oven (250 for 2 hours) with great results.
Best served with crusty bread or cornbread. 

White Bean Chicken Chili

3/4 pound chicken thighs, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I’m lazy and mash jarred diced jalapeno with a fork)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 15-oz cans white beans (I prefer Great Northern, made from scratch to avoid BPA)
3 cups chicken broth (or water with a few squares of reduced broth bouillon, recipe HERE!)
Optional toppings: sharp cheddar, sour cream, cilantro
Directions:
1. Brown cubed chicken in oil
2. Add onions and garlic the last few minutes and cook until the onions are translucent.
3. Rinse and drain beans into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker, and add broth and spices.
4. Mash the beans lightly a few times with a potato masher, as this thickens the final soup into a creamy stew-like consistency.
5. Add chicken and onion mixture into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker and stir.
6. Slow cook on low 3-3.5 hours OR pressure cook on high 20 minutes OR bake at 250 for 1.5-2 hours or until chicken is tender.

Uncle Guy, a satisfied customer who came back for seconds.

FYI – Best. Cookies. Ever. (Buy them here at World Market). I wish I could un-learn of their existence.

Fried Rice and Cookies


[This is a follow-up to a previous post, The Dream House – Cooking for a Crowd.  In that post, I talked about how to adapt a recipe to feed a lot of people.  Here is how I make this in a far smaller portion for myself.]

This is a quick and easy way to use little bits and pieces of leftovers to make a satisfying main dish. You can use any kind of cooked protein – chicken, beef, pork, etc. – or keep it meatless.  The one crucial ingredient is cold, cooked rice or quinoa.  You can use any kind of vegetables you have on hand, either cooked or raw.  If they are cooked, add them at the end and cook just until heated through.   This is a perfect way to use very small amounts of meat or veggies that aren’t enough to serve by themselves.  One of my favorite meats to use is bacon, since I always have it on hand, or leftover meat from a rotisserie chicken.

This recipe is more of a guide, since just about everything can be left out or substituted, according to your tastes and what you have on hand.  I purposely didn’t give quantities since it all depends on what you have available and your personal tastes.  I usually use about 1/2 – 1 cup of rice, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic, 2 strips of bacon and about a cup or so of assorted veggies for one serving for myself.
Fried Rice
  • Cold cooked rice or quinoa (preferably cooked with chicken or beef stock)*
  • Cooked meat, cut in bite-sized pieces (chicken, beef, pork, bacon, etc.)
  • Raw veggies, cut in bite-sized pieces (mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, greens, green beans, snow or snap peas, green onions, asparagus, bean sprouts, etc.)
  • Chopped or minced garlic
  • Oil for frying (I use avocado oil and a little sesame oil)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Soy sauce or tamari
Heat oil in skillet, add garlic and raw veggies, stir frying until just until crisp/tender. (If using cooked veggies, be sure they are well drained and wait and add them in at the last, heating just until heated through.) Add meat and rice, breaking rice up into individual grains, and stir fry briefly until heated through.  Push everything over to one side of the skillet, add a little oil if needed, and quickly scramble the egg, breaking into small pieces and mixing with the rice mixture.  Sprinkle with soy sauce, cover and let set off the heat for a minute or two.  (There is usually some of the mixture stuck on the bottom of the pan, and this allows it to soften so you can stir it in.)  This is easily converted to vegetarian or vegan by leaving out the meat and/or egg.

*You can also substitute cauliflower rice (raw cauliflower grated or finely chopped in a food processor).

In my previous post, I talked about two kinds of cookies that I made and promised I would post the recipe for the Oatmeal Raisin ones.  (There is a link to the pumpkin cookie recipes in that post.)  I don’t remember where I got the original Oatmeal Raisin recipe, but I have changed it quite a bit anyhow.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil* 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup  raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Set aside.  Beat the coconut oil, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the oil/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, drained raisins and walnuts, if using them.
To get a thick, chewy cookie, chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.  You can bake them right away, but they will be thinner.  Heat oven to 350° before forming the cookies, so that oven is hot when you put them in to bake.
Drop by spoonfuls two inches apart on a parchment paper-lined or greased baking sheet. The dough is very thick and I usually flatten them down a bit with my hand.  Bake them for 12-15 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges. Transfer them to a rack to cool.
This recipe also works great to freeze the unbaked cookies ahead of time and then just bake however many you want right before eating.  Prepare as instructed down through forming the cookies on the baking sheet (be sure to use parchment paper).  Put the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze, then put the frozen cookies in a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer until needed, taking out only as many as you want at any one time.  If cooking unthawed, increase baking time by about 5 minutes.

*If you don’t like coconut, use softened butter instead.

The Dream House – Cooking for a Crowd

I recently had the privilege of cooking dinner for Maia Moms’ first Mentor Match Night at The Dream House.  It was a truly inspirational night, with such a wonderful spirit of love, support and acceptance.  It was also a lot of fun with the little ones, running about and playing – no chance of it getting too formal and boring!
Let me start off with a little background information. MaiaMoms is a nonprofit organization located in North Charleston, SC, whose mission is to support single moms and their children who are struggling to make a better life for themselves. The organization is funded primarily by private donations, along with some fundraisers, corporate support and grants, and is always looking for supporters and volunteers.  Maia Moms helps by subsidizing the rent for moms who are pursuing higher education for themselves to enable them to spend more time with their children while they prepare for a career that can provide a decent living for their family.  While they are receiving the subsidy, they have to meet certain requirements including meeting with their family advocate regularly and attending a variety of life skills classes.  Another very important part of the program is matching each of them up with mentor teams of up to 3 women who just “do life” with them, providing love, encouragement and leading by example.    Calling these team members “mentors” is a bit of a misnomer, and a more accurate term would be “mom coachs”. 
A few months ago, Maia Moms was given the opportunity to partner with Seacoast Church’s Dream Center in The Dream House, a transitional home for mothers and children.  The Dream Center bought the house and handles all the upkeep and repairs, and Maia Moms provides and supervises the residents, all of whom are in the Maia Moms program.  The requirements for the moms living in The Dream House are a bit different than the rent subsidy moms in that they are not required to be pursuing higher education, but all the other requirements are the same – meeting with a family advocate, taking life skills classes, having a mom coach team.  The Dream House can house up to 4 families, although due to space constraints, they each must have children no older than 4 years old.  The first residents moved in on November 1st.
On November 18th, the moms, including the ones in the rent subsidy program, and their mom coach teams met up to be officially matched.  I cooked a simple dinner for everyone of a chicken and rice dish, a kale salad and both pumpkin and oatmeal raisin cookies.  I like to cook, but this was a challenge since I am not used to cooking for a larger crowd, and it was especially important that the meal be toddler-friendly.
For the main dish, I bought two rotisserie chickens from Costco and stripped all the meat off, leaving it in bite-sized chunks, and putting it in the refrigerator.  I took all the left-over scraps and bones and put them in a large slow cooker, adding an onion, a generous handful of carrots, and a heaping teaspoon of chopped garlic, and then filling it with water.  I set it on high until it was close to boiling and then turned it down to low, allowing it to cook overnight.  The next day, I strained all the solid pieces out of the broth and discarded them, added 1 teaspoon of each thyme and basil, and then simmered the broth for a couple of hours to reduce it down a bit and concentrate the flavors, adding salt to taste.  I used this broth as the liquid to cook 3 cups of uncooked rice.  While the rice was cooking, I prepared about 5 cups of frozen mixed vegetables according to package directions, and reheated the cooked chicken by quickly stir frying it in batches in a little sesame oil.  Once everything was cooked and hot, I combined it all in the slow cooker set on warm, and served it directly out of there.

The salad was super easy and won rave reviews.  I bought packaged kale salad from Costco – it contains everything including poppy seed dressing, dried cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds right in the same package.  It has several different types of green ingredients including kale, sliced brussels sprouts, chicory, broccoli and cabbage.  It sounds like a crazy combination, but it is absolutely delicious.  (Side note: It is also great stir fried, especially if you add a little bacon.)
I baked 2 kinds of cookies, and the pumpkin ones were the most popular. I will do a separate post on the oatmeal raisin ones, since I changed the recipe a bit and this post is getting a bit long.  In that next post, I will also tell you how I would normally do the chicken and rice for a much smaller batch.
For more information about Maia Moms, check out their website and follow them on Facebook.