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Sunday, February 12, 2012

ChezCindy: Vegetable Lasagna "Auditions"

Today I am "auditioning" 2 vegetable lasagna recipes.  The family is hosting a baby shower for my niece.  The food theme is Italian, with the plan to serve a variety of lasagna's; traditional lasagna with ground beef/sausage meat, a chicken mushroom marsala lasagna, and a vegetable lasagna.  The first 2 lasagna's are proven recipes that we have previously made.  But no one has a go-to recipe for vegetable lasagna.  I researched and found 2 recipes that I thought would be interesting, each different from the other.  One will be Roasted Eggplant Lasagna with Parsley/Basil Pesto, that is layered with a creamy bechamel sauce and ricotta cheese.  The other is 4 Cheese Spinach Lasagna, using cottage cheese, goat cheese, parmesan, and mozzarella, with a tomato sauce.  I will make each of these today, using my 2 nieces (mother-to-be and her sister) as judges.  They, and their families, will have to "suffer" through the tasting such that the shower guests will not have to be "guinea pigs".  It's a tough life, but they are up to the task. 
Stay tuned...it is snowing and very cold.  A perfect day for making lasagna.

ChezCindy: Peanut Butter Cookie Comparison

I often enjoy comparing 2 or 3 similar recipes to determine which one I like best, and why.  My family still comments on the time I made 4 versions of a Lemon Tart for an Easter gathering.  They thought I was a bit crazy, but it was fun.  Everyone had their favorite and there were no left-overs!
This weekend I wanted to try a new recipe I saw in a magazine for peanut butter cookies.  The difference in this recipe from the traditional recipe I grew up making, was that this is a flourless peanut butter cookie.  Really, no flour.  That is what triggered me to do the comparison.  The new recipe calls for 2 cups of peanut butter.  Comparing to my childhood recipe, just 3/4 cup of peanut butter and 1 1/4 cup of flour.  Quite a difference in the ingredient list.  Both are good in their own way.  The flourless is more chewy with great peanut butter taste.  The traditional is more crisp, and just slightly chewy in the center.  Below are my adaptations to each recipe. 
For a fun twist, once the cookies have fully cooled, spread grape jelly on the back-side of one cookie.  Top with another cookie to make a PB & J sandwich cookie.  Yum!

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Mix together the peanut butter, the 2 sugars, eggs, baking soda and salt until combined.  Shape the dough into small balls (about 1/2 tablespoon) and place onto the parchment paper, about 1 inch apart allowing for the cookies to spread.  Using the tines of a fork, slightly flatten each cookie in a crisscross pattern.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, rotating the pans half-way through the cooking time.  Remove from oven, slide the parchment paper off of the trays onto your counter.  Allow to cool. 

Traditional Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine together flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.  In a mixer, combine the softened butter and peanut butter, about 1 minute.  Add the sugars, beating till fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until combined.  Add the dry ingredients, mixing to form a dough.  Shape the dough into small balls (about 1/2 tablespoon) and place directly onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 1 inch apart allowing for the cookies to spread.   Using the tines of a fork, slightly flatten each cookie in a crisscross pattern. Bake in the oven for 11 minutes, rotating the pans half-way through the cooking time. Remove from the oven.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking trays for 1-2 minutes.  Using a spatula, remove onto cooling rack or parchment paper to continue cooling completely.