Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cinnamon-Scented Quinoa

       Quinoa is a super fun new-to-me ingredient that I've been messing around with lately. People ask me what it is and I usually explain it as "round rice" even though it's technically not a grain. It's actually related to beets and spinach, but as I'm not a biologist I won't get in to technicalities. For all intents and purposes, let's just think of it as a wheaty round rice. =) I like to make things simple. Anyway, I actually made this dish for breakfast one morning. It was super filling and delicious and a nice change to my general morning routine of a quick protein shake. I made it just like rice, but put a couple of cinnamon sticks in the water while the quinoa was cooking. The original recipe told me so, and I thought it was pretty clever. Once the quinoa was done cooking and I took off the lid to the pot, cinnamon scented goodness wafted around the entire kitchen. (It should be noted, though, that the quinoa didn't taste very cinnamony.) I topped the quinoa with chopped walnuts, some honey (a little bit goes a long way on this), and about a half cup of milk. If you want the quinoa to taste more cinnamony, I would recommend mixing some in with the milk and then pour that over the quinoa. Otherwise, sprinkling cinnamon on alone tastes kind of like you were eating cinnamon straight from the jar. At least, that's what happened to me, but I did add an entire half teaspoon...I fixed the problem by adding more milk. =)

Cinnamon-Scented Quinoa
Recipe from

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Topping Ideas
  • chopped walnuts
  • chopped pecans
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • milk
  • sea salt
  • sugar

--Even if the quinoa says it has been pre-rinsed, go ahead and rinse it again until the water runs clear. A mesh strainer works well for this.

--Combine the rinsed quinoa, water, cinnamon sticks, and salt in a medium sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil, covered.

--Once boiling, set the heat to low and continue cooking (still covered) for about another 20 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed into the quinoa.

--When the quinoa is tender, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit (still covered) for another 5 minutes. Then, remove the cinnamon sticks and fluff the quinoa.

--Put some quinoa for yourself in a separate bowl, cover it with your desired toppings, and enjoy!

Happy Cooking!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites

       Happy (almost) Valensday Tine! Hehe, that's how my oldest niece used to say "Valentine's Day". I think it makes the holiday sound that much cuter. Just like these pretzel bites--aren't they adorable? What's great about these is that they're super simple, super cute, super addictive, and super fun to make. (Addictive is a positive thing, right?) For those of you looking for a quick, last minute treat, or even simply looking for a fun Valentine's Day project to do with your kiddos, these pretzel bites should definitely be kept in mind. And don't forget the other holidays! You only need to change the sprinkles to make these bites event-appropriate.
       Because of the brown sugar in this recipe, the peanut butter filling has a unique taste to it. The best way I can describe it is that it almost tastes slightly "mapley", though that's still not quite right. Either way it is tasty. Also, these are best kept chilled before eating for multiple reasons. One, they just taste better cold (like putting Reese's in the fridge or freezer), but that is technically my opinion. Two, keeping the bites chilled keeps them firm. Three, the chocolate doesn't smudge easily when they're cold. So, see? Keep them chilled if possible. It's for the best. If you're bringing them somewhere, just keep them chilled until you leave. By the way, here is where I found the recipe, and this is the original source of it.

Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites
Recipe originally from Foodaphilia

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • Pretzels
  • 1 regular-sized bag of chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
  • Sprinkles (optional)
--Get two baking sheets ready by lining them with wax paper, parchment paper, or a silpat. Cover one of the pans with about 50 pretzels. These will be the bottom halves to your "sandwiches". Set pans aside.
--In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly combine the peanut butter and the butter. (You can use a stand mixture if you really want to.)
--Next, add the sugars and mix until combined. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times if you're using a stand mixer.
--Once you can roll little balls in your hands without the peanut butter mixture sticking to your fingers, then it is ready. If it is still sticky, continue to add more powdered sugar in small doses.
--Roll the peanut butter filling into small balls and place on top of the pretzels on the prepared baking sheet. Top with another pretzel to form a "sandwich". Make sure the pretzels are facing the same direction.
--Once you have all the sandwiches made, chill them in the freezer for about 30 minutes. You want them to be firm when you dip them into the melted chocolate so they don't squish on one side. You'd get lopsided bites if you did that. Though still tasty, they wouldn't be as cute.
--Near the end of the 30 minutes, melt the chocolate chips. Either by a double-boiler method or the microwave. Be careful not to scorch the chocolate. (If using a microwave, first put the chips in for a minute, stir, then stir about every 30 seconds after that until successfully melted.)
--Taking a few pretzel sandwiches out of the freezer at a time (so the rest can stay chilled and firm), dip half of each pretzel into the chocolate and place on another lined baking sheet. If using sprinkles, sprinkle them over the chocolate now.
--Let the chocolate harden on the bites (easiest just to stick them back into the fridge or freezer again), then transfer them to a sealed container or snack-sized Ziploc baggies.
--Enjoy! Tell someone you care about you love them. =)
Happy Baking!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

       Valentine's Day is about celebrating the things you love. I love peanut butter. The other night, while leaving the campus after my final class of the day, I suddenly felt a huge zinger in my stomach--an intense craving for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. (I'm a girl, these things happen sometimes.) I've been trying to eat healthy lately, but cravings like these are hard to ignore. Convincing myself that it would be better for me to give in to a small "naughty" snack every now and again instead of experiencing occasional binge-trips (I'm a realist, I know it'd happen eventually) I made a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up some mini chocolate chips. When I got home, I whipped these suckers up . . . and I fell in love. They were slightly grainier than I would have preferred (which could have been due to the type of peanut butter I used) but they hit the spot. I only changed one thing about the recipe and that was the temperature of the oven. I like my cookies extra chewy so I lowered the temperature down to 350 degrees instead of 375 degrees. I also took them out before they looked completely done, then let them sit on the hot pan for a minute or two to let them set up. I actually  do this with most of my cookies because I like to have the center slightly doughy and the outside to have a small crunch. I also find that cookies last longer when I do this because it takes a lot longer for the cookie to go stale if nobody is around to eat them. That's not a problem with these cookies, though. They're too tasty to not get eaten right away! With that being said, I had to give most of these away so my "naughty little snack" wouldn't turn into my "scandalous binge night". 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe from

  •  1/2 cup butter, softened
  •  1/2 cup peanut butter
  •  1/2 cup granulated sugar
  •  1/2 cup brown sugar (don't forget to pack it down firmly)
  •  1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips (or more depending on preference)


--Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. (Or be like me and do 350 degrees instead for a chewier cookie.)

--In a stand mixture, combine butter, peanut butter, and sugars until creamy.

--Add the egg and mix until fully combined and fluffy.
--In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir it up a little bit.

--Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a little bit at a time (you don't want flour to fly everywhere when the mixture is turning).

--Add the chocolate chips.
--With a cookie scoop, or just plain ol' teaspoons, drop the cookie dough onto non-stick baking sheets. If you don't have non-stick sheets, either lightly grease your sheet or cover it with parchment paper.
--Bake for 10-12 minutes. (Mine always took ten.)

--When you take them out of the oven, let the cookies rest for a minute or two, then transfer to a wire rack.

--Serve happy people.


Happy Baking!