Instant Pot Yogurt

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First things first – definitely start this in the morning because it can take up to twelve hours before it’s finished.

I’ve read a lot of articles about making yogurt in an instant pot and since we are a big yogurt-eating family, I decided to try it. I found the process to be a little finicky and time consuming, but maybe it was just my Instant Pot. I followed the directions exactly, but the temperature of my milk never got to the requisite 180 degrees F. I tried several times, hoping that each time the milk might get a little warmer, but my milk never got over 175 degrees. Not sure why not, but because I wanted to make sure the recipe worked, I took the liner of the instant pot and put it in a big pan of water, which acted like a double boiler. I heated and stirred the milk until it cooked at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, I then went on with the rest of the recipe.

After 8+ hours in the Instant Pot, I did indeed end up with yogurt, and a nice tangy yogurt too. I used half of it to make this delicious frozen yogurt, and I strained the rest (using a paper towel in a strainer) to make Greek-style yogurt, which we’re eating with fruit.

I’ll definitely make this recipe again, especially if we have milk in the house that we’re not drinking fast enough.


Instant Pot Yogurt

1/2 gallon pasturized whole milk
2 Tablespoons “starter” (plain or vanilla yogurt with active cultures)

Overview:
– Heat milk to 180 degrees F.
– Cool milk to 110 – 116 degrees F.
– Add starter to milk.
– Incubate anywhere from 4 – 12 hours
– Cool and refrigerate

Detailed Instructions:
Pour the milk into the Instant Pot and close the lid. The steam vent can be either open or closed. Press the “Yogurt” button, then press “Adjust” so the digital readout says “Boil”. (Your Instant Pot model might make you then hit “Start.” Mine didn’t.)

The milk should cook for about 30 minutes and the temperature should be raised to 180 degrees F. The readout will say “Yogt” when it’s done. Use a thermometer to make sure the milk gets this hot. I had to run this cycle a couple of times, then result to using the Instant Pot insert in a pot of water to make sure the milk was heated appropriately. If this happens to you, make sure the milk is at 180 degrees F for at least ten minutes.

Now cool the milk until is’s between 110 and 116 degrees F. You can let this happen naturally (it might take up to an hour), or you can submerge the Instant Pot insert into an ice water bath. Monitor the temperature if you choose this method because it will drop pretty quickly. Skim any film off the top of the milk.

Put the 2 Tablespoons of “starter” yogurt in a medium bowl and add about 1/2 cup of the warm milk. Whisk until smooth, then pour into the rest of the milk and whisk to combine.

Set the insert back into the Instant Pot, secure the lid (again, it doesn’t matter if the vent is open or closed) and hit the “Yogurt” button. The digital readout should say 8:00. If it doesn’t, use the +/- buttons to get to 8:00. Your Instant Pot will then start to count UP as it incubates the yogurt. Once four hours have passed, you can check on your yogurt. The incubation process can take from four to twelve hours, depending upon how fresh your starter is. The fresher your starter, the faster you’ll have yogurt, but it’ll take at least four hours. When you check to see if the yogurt is done, carefully remove the lid. Condensation will have accumulated on it and you ideally don’t want it running into your yogurt.

Your yogurt is done when it jiggles as a unit when you gently nudge the Instant Pot insert. You should also be able to tip the instant pot and not have the yogurt run (that said, there may be some liquid that runs a bit – that’s just whey from the milk.) Let the yogurt cool to room temperature and put it into a container and then into the refrigerator. Let it chill for at least 6 hours.

If you would like to make Greek-style yogurt, pour the yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth that it sitting over a mixing bowl. You might have to do this in batches. If you don’t have cheesecloth, you can use a coffee filter or a white paper towel. The yogurt will drain and become thicker. The straining will take at least an hour, but you can strain it overnight if you like. If the yogurt seems a bit lumpy when it’s strained, whisk it and it should become smooth.

Yield: between 2 and 3 cups of strained yogurt


One year ago:  “Chorizo” Tacos
Two years ago:  Black Bean Salad
Three years ago:  Farro and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Four years ago:  Pistachio-Crusted Cod Fillets
Five years ago:  Secretly Healthy Fudge Balls
Six years ago:  Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Seven years ago:  Braised Coconut Spinach and Chickpeas with Lemon
Eight years ago:  Peanut Butter Cup Blondies
Nine years ago:  Strawberry-Orange-Vanilla Smoothie
Ten years ago:  Yucatán Pork Tenderloin
Eleven years ago:  Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
Twelve years ago: Chick Pea Soup

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Macaroni Pie

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I have an aunt who moved to South Carolina a couple of years ago. She is a voracious reader and she knows that I love to cook, so every month or so I receive a bulging padded envelope full of recipes that she has torn out of newspapers and magazines. I love receiveing them! This is one of those recipes. It came from a southern newspaper called the Post and Courier on January 29, 2020. The newspaper was holding a reader-recipe contest and this was one of the submissions. Since I only received the recipe itself, torn from the newspaper, I don’t know if it won. If I had been part of the judging panel, I definitely would have voted for it.

Although called macaroni pie, this is really macaroni and cheese with the addition of a bunch of eggs. I have a macaroni and cheese aficionado in the house and he gave this a double thumbs-up. This is the easiest macaroni and cheese I have ever made.

Thanks for the recipes, Aunt Sylvia!



Macaroni Pie
Recipe from G. Hamlin O’Kelley via The Post and Courier

1 16-ounce box elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated by hand
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Big pinch of sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 1 teaspoon to grease dish

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Grease a casserole dish with butter. Don’t skimp. Place half of the cooked noodles in a layer on the bottom of the casserole. Cover with half of the grated cheddar. Repeat with the remaining noodles and cheese.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, and then add milk, salt and sugar. Mix well. To that add the melted butter, which will congeal in the milk mixture. That’s the secret. Pour the milk mixture over the noodle and cheese in the casserole dish. 

Place casserole on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until the milk and eggs set. If it gets too dark in the last 10-15 mins, cover loosely with foil. Let casserole rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: 12 servings




One year ago:  Excellent Blondies
Two years ago:  Black Bean Salad
Three years ago:  Frozen Coconut Limeade
Four years ago:  Fudge-Striped Shortbread Cookies
Five years ago:  Sautéed Edamame Salad
Six years ago:  Chock-Full-of-Chips Drops
Seven years ago:  Provençal Cherry Tomato Gratin
Eight years ago:  Black Bean and Pepper Jack Burgers
Nine years ago:  Carrot-Coconut Milk Soup
Ten years ago:  Shortbread Cookies
Eleven years ago:  Snickerdoodle Blondies
Twelve years ago: Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes

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Mac-and-cheese #3: Amarylis Cranwell's version of the rich dish is cut with dry mustard

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Celery Soup

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I periodically buy celery for specific recipes and never use all of it. I was speaking to my sisters, who said that they make ‘ants on a log’ with their extra celery, but that didn’t sound too appealing to me, so I decided to use my extra celery to make celery soup, and I didn’t regret it. I just received another head of celery from Misfits Market, used some to make potato salad, and will use the rest to make another batch of this soup.

We are still staying at home, due to the coronavirus. If all goes well, NYC will start to open up on June 12th.

Celery Soup
Recipe from Feasting at Home

2 tablespoons olive oil, or butter (I used butter)
1 onion, diced
4 fat garlic cloves, roughly chopped
6 cups celery, sliced thinly (about 1 ¼–1 ½pounds), 1 extra-large head, save some leaves for garnish
2 cups potatoes, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds ( about ¾ lb –  1 extra-large russet peeled, or use a few yukons, unpeeled.
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf (remember to remove it before blending)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh parsley
Optional: 1/2 cup of sour cream, plain yogurt or heavy cream
Optional: 1/4 cup fresh dill (I didn’t have any, so I skipped it)


Heat the oil in a big pot over medium high heat,  and add the onion, stirring occasionally, letting the onions get golden, about 5 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, roughly chop the garlic, celery and potatoes.  When the onions are golden, add the garlic and stir 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the celery, potatoes, broth, water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and cayenne. The liquid should just cover the vegetables. Cover, bring to a rolling boil, turn heat down and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Turn heat off, remove the bay leaf and add the fresh herbs and just wilt them (don’t cook the herbs or you’ll lose their bright color!)

Using an immersion blender,  blend until the soup is smooth and the herbs are fully blended. Stir in your choice of sour cream, or any of the other options.

Yield: ~7 cups of soup


One year ago:  Star Crunch
Two years ago:  Black Bean Salad
Three years ago:  Cacio e Pepe Potatoes Anna
Four years ago:  Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Five years ago:  Sautéed Edamame Salad
Six years ago:  Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Seven years ago:  Chocolate Sheet Cake with Delicious Vanilla Frosting
Eight years ago:  Pasta and White Beans with Broccoli Pesto
Nine years ago:  Vietnamese-Style Chicken Salad
Ten years ago:  Mexican-Style Slaw with Jícama, Cilantro and Lime
Eleven years ago:  Carole’s Country Style Spare Ribs
Twelve years ago: Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

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Peanut Butter Brownies

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These brownies were a big hit in our house. If you decide to try them, I have a few tips. First, make sure you have marshmallows available, and not rock-hard ones. I tried to use some from a bag that had been opened a couple of months ago, and it was a disaster. Definitely use fresh marshmallows. If you’re like me, and you don’t read the entire recipe before beginning to cook it, and you get to the frosting part only to find that you don’t have marshmallows, just use any frosting recipe that you have. No big deal.

Second, allow some time to make this recipe. There’s quite a bit of freezing of the different layers before the brownies are ready to eat. It’s not hard to do, just make sure you allow yourself enough time – at least two and a half hours from when you start to when you intend to eat them.


Peanut Butter Brownies
Recipe from New York Times Cooking

Cooking spray
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1/3  cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1  16-ounce jar creamy peanut butter

For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
10 large marshmallows (about 65 grams)
4 cups (500 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (25 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder


Prepare the brownies: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan lightly with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the two long sides.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and cocoa over low heat until the butter melts, about 5 minutes. Whisk to combine then set aside to cool, 5 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the granulated sugar, flour and salt. Add the butter mixture and beat on medium speed until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, incorporating each before adding the next, then add the vanilla and mix until combined.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let the brownies cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Prepare the topping: Add the peanut butter to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until softened, about 15 seconds. Stir it well to distribute heat evenly then spread it in an even layer on top of the brownies. Freeze the brownies for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the frosting: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and marshmallows over medium heat, stirring often, until both are melted and no lumps remain, about 5 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk and cocoa, and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Spread the frosting over the peanut butter layer and freeze for 30 minutes.

Remove the brownies from the pan: First, separate the brownies from the pan edge on both short sides, then lift them out using the parchment paper handles. Cut into 24 squares. Keep refrigerated.

Yield: 24 brownies



One year ago:  “Chorizo” Tacos
Two years ago:  Tomato and Feta White Bean Salad
Three years ago:  Veggie Balls
Four years ago:  Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Five years ago:  Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Six years ago:  Chock-Full-of-Chips Drops
Seven years ago:  Coconut-Crusted Shrimp
Eight years ago:  Indian-Style Mustard Greens
Nine years ago:  Marinated Swordfish
Ten years ago:  Orange Scones with Chocolate Chips
Eleven years ago:  Sweet Potato Bread
Twelve years ago: Buttermilk Bran Muffins


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All-Purpose Maple Buttermilk Bread

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If you have some buttermilk kicking around consider putting it to good use by making this bread. If you’re not afraid of baking with yeast, and you shouldn’t be if you use this very forgiving yeast, this bread recipe is a winner. The recipe makes enough for a loaf of bread and a pan of dinner rolls. Our boys inhaled the rolls at dinner when they were fresh out of the oven. The loaf of bread was used for sandwiches the next day.


All-Purpose Maple Buttermilk Bread
Recipe from Taste Cooking

1 packet active dry yeast (7 g)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water, warmed
4 3/4 cups + 1/2 to 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups buttermilk, warmed
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 egg, lightly whisked
Flaky salt

Mix the yeast and sugar with warm water and let it proof for about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 3/4 cups of the flour and the kosher salt.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the buttermilk and stir gently until it is warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup and yeast mixture.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour and, using a spoon or your hands, stir to form a shaggy dough. It will be very sticky.

Once it is cohesive, scrape it out onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead in 1/4 cup of flour at a time. Continue kneading until it becomes smooth, elastic, and bounces back when poked. (Note: You may not need to use the entire 3/4 cups of flour.)

Form into a ball and transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel (or plastic wrap), and let it rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Gently punch the dough down, to make both rolls and a loaf, divide the dough in half and place one half in an oiled 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Divide the remaining dough into small balls, about 1.5 ounces each and place them in an oiled baking dish (I used a 7 x 11 inch pyrex dish.) Cover with a damp towel and let them rise until the dough has doubled in volume, about an hour. Toward the end of the rising time, place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat it to 375°F.

When the second rise is complete, brush the top with the egg and sprinkle with flaky salt.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30–45 minutes, until golden brown and the loaf is hollow-sounding when knocked on the bottom (190°F).

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Allow loaf to fully cool before slicing.

Yield: one loaf and a dozen or so rolls



One year ago:  Excellent Blondies
Two years ago:  Delicious Lemon Loaf
Three years ago:  Pistachio-Crusted Cod Fillets
Four years ago:  Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Five years ago:  Grapefruit Yogurt Cake
Six years ago:  Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Seven years ago:  Soft Batch Dark Brown Sugar Coconut Oil Cookies
Eight years ago:  Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
Nine years ago:  Vegetable Parmigiana
Ten years ago:  Irish Cream Caramel Cheesecake
Eleven years ago:  Vanilla Brown Sugar Breakfast Polenta
Twelve years ago: Asian Salmon Burgers

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Cowboy Bean Salad with Lime Dressing

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As the weather gets warmer, I enjoy making big salads that will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. They’re great for a quick lunch or side dish. Serve this dish with chips and you have a great appetizer.

Because the avocado is bathed in dressing, it won’t turn brown! If you don’t eat all of the salad in one sitting, a nice squeeze of lime juice will freshen it up for your next meal.

Cowboy Bean Salad with Lime Dressing
Recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

14 oz can black beans , rinsed and drained
1.5 cups frozen corn, thawed 
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 small red onion, diced
3/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 2 large tomatoes, deseeded and diced)

Lime Dressing
2 Tablespoons lime juice
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or chili powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add the dressing ingredients to a jar with a lid. Shake well.

Add the salad ingredients to a large bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Serve immediately.

The salad will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

One year ago:  Excellent Blondies
Two years ago:  Delicious Lemon Loaf
Three years ago:  Pistachio-Crusted Cod Fillets
Four years ago:  Pistachio-Crusted Cod Fillets
Five years ago:  Secretly Healthy Fudge Balls
Six years ago:  Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Seven years ago:  M&M’s Cookie Bars
Eight years ago:  Kale with Bacon and Cannellini Beans
Nine years ago:  Orange Sherbet
Ten years ago:  The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes
Eleven years ago:  Sugar Cookie Bars
Twelve years ago: Chick Pea Soup

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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I bought a giant bag of cubed butternut squash at Costco a couple of months ago and it has been kicking around in my freezer. My mother bought the same bag and roasted some as a side-dish for dinner and didn’t love it. I love roasted vegetables, but based on my mom’s review I turned my frozen squash into this delicious soup.

This recipe uses a blender to puree the soup. A high-powered blender like a Vitamix is best. An immersion blender can be used as well. If you choose to use an immersion blender, add the squash to the soup pot rather than to the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then use your immersion blender.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe from COOKIE + kate

~3 lbs of frozen, cubed butternut squash (fresh can be used as well)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallot (about 1 large shallot bulb)
1 teaspoon salt
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth, as needed
1 to 2 Tablespoons butter, to taste


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the butternut squash cubes on the pan and drizzle and toss the squash with just enough olive oil to lightly coat it. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until the squash is cooked through – approximately 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped shallot and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the shallot has softened and is starting to turn golden on the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Transfer the contents to your stand blender (see notes on how to use an immersion blender instead).

Use a large spoon to scoop the butternut squash flesh into your blender. Add the maple syrup, nutmeg and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper to the blender. Pour in 3 cups vegetable broth, being careful not to fill the container past the maximum fill line (you can work in batches if necessary, and stir in any remaining broth later).

Securely fasten the lid. Blend on high (or select the soup preset, if available), being careful to avoid hot steam escaping from the lid. Stop once your soup is ultra creamy and warmed through. Add additional broth if you would like a thinner consistency. Add 1 – 2 Tablespoons of butter or olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: ~6 cups of soup


One year ago:  Star Crunch
Two years ago:  Delicious Lemon Loaf
Three years ago:  Frozen Coconut Limeade
Four years ago:  Fudge-Striped Shortbread Cookies
Five years ago:  Sautéed Edamame Salad
Six years ago:  Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
Seven years ago:  Crispy Quinoa Sliders
Eight years ago:  Tomato Peanut Soup
Nine years ago:  Vanilla Bean Sables
Ten years ago:  Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes
Eleven years ago:  Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
Twelve years ago: Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes


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Peanut Butter Cookies

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Who doesn’t love a good peanut butter cookie? During this pandemic I have been doing lots of cooking and lots of reading. I love to borrow e-books from the library, and I have found that lots of cookbooks are available to borrow. This cookie recipe comes from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. Magnolia Bakery is a great NYC bakery that happens to be around the corner from our apartment. They make a wonderful banana pudding and delicious cupcakes. That said, pretty much anything they make is excellent.

If you’re a fan of peanut butter cookies, try these. The only problem is that they call for peanut butter chips, which you might not have on hand, but if you decide to buy a bag, I bet you’ll make these cookies a couple of times to use them up.

The school year is winding down for the boys. AP exams are next week and will be taken online from home. Finals will be taken from home as well. There will be no graduation this year for the triplets. I hope they’re able to safely start school again in the fall. Although the school year is not ending with the celebrations that we expected, we are extremely grateful for all we have, especially for our health.


Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipe adapted slightly from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen

1 1/4 cups (165 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (255 grams) peanut butter at room temperature 
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (145 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar for coating the dough before baking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Place the 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar in a small bowl. Either using a small ice cream/cookie scoop or two teaspoons, created a rounded ball of dough (about a Tablespoon’s worth) and roll it in the granulated sugar. Place the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving several inches between each cookie. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.



One year ago:  “Chorizo” Tacos (my vegetarian son LOVES these!)
Two years ago:  Delicious Lemon Loaf
Three years ago:  Cacio e Pepe Potatoes Anna
Four years ago:  Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
Five years ago:  Texas Sheet Cake
Six years ago:  Chock-Full-of-Chips Drops
Seven years ago:  Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Salted Peanut Butter Filling
Eight years ago:  Tzatziki Potato Salad
Nine years ago:  Super Moist Banana Bread
Ten years ago:  Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Eleven years ago:  Snickerdoodle Blondies
Twelve years ago: Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins


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Polenta Florentine

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The photo isn’t so great, but this is a dish I make regularly, so I wanted to add the recipe to the blog. My husband and I love this dish. It uses something that for years I walked right by in a supermarket without paying any attention to it – a tube of polenta. I have made polenta dishes in the past from corn meal, but until a year or so ago, I had never come across a recipe that called for a tube of polenta. Now I buy polenta tubes all the time, just to make this dish. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the boys won’t go near it. The triplets head off to college this fall. I don’t know how they’re going to survive in college dining halls. Hopefully they’ll surprise us.




Polenta Florentine
Recipe adapted slightly from TheKitchn

Cooking spray or butter, for coating the baking dish
1 (18-ounce) tube prepared polenta, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Freshly ground black pepper
Between 8 and 12 oz. baby spinach
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced (sometimes I dice the whole onion and throw it in)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
Generous 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided**
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Coat either a 7×11-inch baking dish or a 9×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Season the tops of the polenta rounds lightly with salt and pepper. Place the rounds in the baking dish in 3 rows (or more, depending upon which baking dish you use), overlapping them slightly; set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the spinach and toss until completely wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a strainer set over a medium bowl. Press most of the water out of the spinach. If the baby spinach leaves were large, sometimes I take kitchen shears and cut the spinach into smaller pieces, once it has been drained. This makes it easier to mix into the sauce.

Melt the butter in the same pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour or cornstarch and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Continue simmering, stirring constantly, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 2 minutes more.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese (or up to 1/2 cup, if you really like Parmesan), reserved spinach, and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Pour the spinach mixture evenly over the polenta. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup (or more) of cheese. Bake uncovered until bubbling around the edges and golden-brown, about 25 minutes. If the top of the dish hasn’t turned brown, you can turn the oven to broil and broil until the surface is golden-brown in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

**NB: Traditional Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian as it uses animal rennet in its production. If you would like this dish to be vegetarian, please use Parmesan that uses vegetarian rennet. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell vegetarian versions. Sometimes it’s called Italian Hard Cheese.

Yield: 2 main course servings


One year ago:  Chouquettes
Two years ago:  Black Bean Salad
Three years ago:  Sweet, Salty, Spicy Party Nuts
Four years ago:  Oatmeal Scotchies
Five years ago:  Lemon Herb Quinoa with Spring Peas and Basil
Six years ago:  Cinnamon Streusel Baked French Toast Sticks
Seven years ago:  Macaroni and Cheese with Black Beans and Chipotle
Eight years ago:  Monkey Bread Muffins
Nine years ago:  Spanakopita Lasagna
Ten years ago:  Chocolate Chip Waffles
Eleven years ago:  Dinner Spanakopita
Twelve years ago: Cheddar Corn Chowder


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Burger Buns

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Yeast and I have had a rocky relationship over the years. It’s only recently that we’ve become good friends. Our relationship was solidified after I took a bread making class at Sur Le Table with one of my sons. We made several kinds of bread during a three-hour class, and they were all easy to make and delicious. Our instructor swore by the yeast that we used in the class – Saf- Instant Yeast. She highlighted that unlike other yeasts, this yeast required no pre-disolving or proofing. We bought a pound right after the class, which is a lot if you don’t bake bread all the time, but we were told it would last a long time in the freezer, so that’s where ours is right now. This yeast has been life-changing for me.

I attribute the fact that these burger buns turned out so well to the yeast. They rose perfectly during both the initial and the second rise.

The recipe makes 8 buns. If you don’t eat them all on the first day, put them on a plate and wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and they’ll still be good the next day. Because the don’t contain any preservatives, I don’t think they’ll remain fresh much longer than that, but in our house they’ll never last more than two days. Our boys love bread.

The original recipe calls for brushing melted butter on the rolls before baking. I had an extra egg white hanging around, so I brushed them with that and the result was a darker top to the buns.

These buns were a HUGE hit in our house. Some of us ate them with hamburgers, some with veggie burgers and some with tofu. The boys are asking for them again already.


Burger Buns
Recipe from King Arthur Flour

3/4 to 1 cup (170g to 227g) lukewarm water*
2 tablespoons (28g) butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups (418g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

*For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.

Topping: 3 tablespoons (43g) melted butter or one egg white beaten with 2 Tablespoons of water


Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3″ across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.

Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter or the egg white.

Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. This will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust.**

**I skipped brushing the buns with melted butter after they were baked without any ill effects.

Yield: 8 buns


One year ago:  Chouquettes
Two years ago:  Delicious Lemon Loaf
Three years ago:  Lemon White Chocolate Bars
Four years ago:  Oatmeal Scotchies
Five years ago:  Surprise Cookies
Six years ago:  Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup
Seven years ago:  Coconut Bread
Eight years ago:  Curried Lentil Stew with Potatoes
Nine years ago:  Oatmeal, Cranberry and Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Ten years ago:  Crisp Roasted Potatoes
Eleven years ago:  Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas
Twelve years ago: Grandma Sachs’ Crumb Cake (one of my all-time favorite recipes!)



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