Gourmet Boiled Cookies

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I can remember making boiled cookies for a long time. They were always delicious: moist, chewy, peanut buttery, and just a little bit sticky. And to me, they were always "boiled cookies." It wasn't until I got to college that I found out that the rest of the world had a different name for one of my favorite cookies: no-bake cookies.
Then when I was in Switzerland serving my mission for the LDS church, I got a real craving for the cookies, but didn't have the recipe. So I borrowed one from a friend, and tried it out. The result was not anything like what I remembered. They were grainy, hard, and overloaded with chocolate.
After I got married, there arose the occasion to make my beloved boiled cookies for some friends, and just for fun I decided to spruce the recipe up a little. The following recipe is the result.

Summer Garden Soup

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One night after my wife and I were newly married, we were looking through our cookbooks to decide which recipes to make, and we saw a recipe for a vegetable soup that looked appetizing. We tried it, along with a few changes of our own, and decided that it was a keeper. I love this recipe because it is so different from other soups that I make. It's very light, but very flavorful. It has a fresh flavor from zucchini, tomatoes, and a splash of lemon juice. And, as I recently discovered, it is filling without being Calorie-dense. The entire batch of soup has fewer than 1000 Calories!
Another reason my wife and I love this soup is that it doesn't take all day to prepare. It's not quite as fast as cooking up a packet of Ramen noodles, but few things are. We always have this soup with Cheesy Garlic Biscuits, which remind me of the Cheddar Bay Biscuits sold at Red Lobster.

Cheesy Garlic Biscuits

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Did you know, the word biscuit is derived from a French word meaning "twice-baked." Those original biscuits were more like hardtack or Zwieback, and could last for very extended periods of time without going stale. Then again, they probably wouldn't taste very good when fresh, so the point was moot.
These biscuits, on the other hand, are soft and delicious, and make a perfect accompaniment to soup.

Creamy Italian Shells

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Skip the story and go straight to the recipe.
This is probably one of my wife's favorite meals, and we have it 2 or 3 times a month. I have to admit, I am not the original creator of this recipe concept, but it's so simple that I feel that I can post it here. (I also make a couple changes, enough that I think I can call it my own.)

The story goes that my wife wanted something for dinner, but wasn't really sure what. I went through my kitchen, and came up with this:

We have had it before, and really enjoyed it, so I thought, here goes. I looked on the package for the directions, and my eye fell on the recipe printed on the back for “Creamy Garlic and Roasted Pepper Pasta.” It had garlic, red bells peppers, and chicken. Sounds good, yes, but my wife was anti-chicken at the time. The idea sounded good though, so I went through my fridge and came up with a bell pepper (purchased for cheese steaks), and some mushrooms (about 6) nearing the end of their life.
 I diced the half the pepper and tossed them into a skillet with a little oil and a pinch of salt, then turned my attention to the mushrooms. From those I removed the stems (which are really woody), and cut the caps into little wedges. Once they were all dispatched they too went into the pan. When the mushrooms were done I took the pan off the heat and turned my attention to the pasta.

Red Velvet Drop Cookies

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Last week I was asked by a co-worker to make some cookies, specifically red velvet cookies. I agreed, because who can say no to a change to bake some cookies? Anyway, after some consideration, I decided that I didn't want to go through the hassle of rolling out and cutting cookies at work because I would have to bring additional flour, a rolling pin, and my cutters, not to mention only having a half hour for lunch. So being the food scientist that I am, I was confident in my ability to convert a rolled cookie dough into a drop cookie dough, so this morning I weighed out all the ingredients, stuck them in my lunch box, and went to work.
While driving, I thought about the best way to make a drop cookie dough, and came to the conclusion that I would just increase the amount of buttermilk until the consistency was right for scooping. It turned out that I needed 4 times the amount of buttermilk, but the cookies was pretty tasty. Oh, I also baked them in a convection oven set at 350°F, but I think that it would also work the same in a regular oven set at the same temp.
The result was a moist, puffy, cake-like cookie that would be the perfect accompaniment to a tall glass of milk. For a picture tutorial, please see my red velvet cookie recipe.

Versatile Bread Dough

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This post is to enlighten readers on the versatility of bread dough. I am not talking about the stuff that you buy in the freezer section of your favorite grocery store, but rather making minor changes to a master bread dough recipe to fit any of your needs. This isn't as complicated as it may sound, and knowing these tricks will change your bread baking experience forever.

I have been baking bread as long as I can remember (which is only about 8 or 10 years old). I started following recipes exactly, and needing a new recipe for every type of bread or roll I attempted to make. This is how most bakers start out: following recipes as written, making few (if any) changes. I baked like this until I read a Swiss bread cookbook, and my baking was changed forever.

What made such a difference, you may ask? Well, it was quite simple: the author used one bread recipe to make 8 different types of bread, another recipe for 6 types of bread, and a short "textbook" on bread-making in general. It wasn't until then that I realized that all bread recipes are basically the same, with a few minor modifications based on the target application.

The reason why this revelation changed my baking so dramatically was that it allowed me to focus on my bread-making technique instead of worrying about following the recipes. Now, I rarely look for a recipe when I want to bake. Instead I just take my master recipe and modify it a little to make what I want. What follows is my master recipe, followed by some of my modifications.