Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A lesson learned

After posting the last post on Christmas cookies, I noticed that it posted all funky. It turns out that copy and pasting from Microsoft Word into Blogger freaks it out. Apparently, I need to past it into Notepad to strip it of its formatting, or do it in Google Doc's before posting it here. Oh well, you live and you learn.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wanna see my cookies?

This year for Christmas, I decided to do something I have never done before. Bake some cookies! But where do I start on this venture? What kind of cookies should I bake? Should I bake more than one kind of cookie? Sure, I have eaten enough home baked cookies to have a handle on this. But could I do it without them coming out of the oven as bland, rock hard coasters? And would they be Christmasy?I decided to jump in with both feet and bake several kinds of cookies. Of coarse it would be totally un-american to not include Chocolate Chip cookies in the mix. I'll admit that yes, on my first outing into cookie baking, I took the easy route and used the Toll House recipe. While not the absolute best choice, but the recipe does turn out decent but run-of-the-mill cookies. I did make one small change to make them a little more festive. I used M&M's instead of chocolate chips. Not enough of a change to showcase them here, but they did lead me into making something great: Peanut Butter and Oatmeal cookies with M&M's!

The other cookies I made were: Shortbread cookies with Heath bit's and Rice Krispies cookies. While they all came out pretty good, it was the Peanut Butter and Oatmeal with M&M's cookies that really got the raves. Although I really think that I need to come up with a better and/or shorter name for them.

While making the regular M&M cookies, I decided that cookies made with M&M's with Peanuts would be pretty good. After a Google search turned up nothing of greatness, I took a little detour. What better to go with the peanut M&M's, than Peanut Butter cookies? So back to the search. After finding many close but not good enough recipe's, I ended up on this recipe by Michele at allrecipes.com. The only changes I made to the recipe were the additions of Almond extract and Peanut M&M's. They were definitely a hit with everybody that tried them.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies


½ Cup Shortening

½ Cup Butter, softened

1 Cup packed Brown Sugar

¾ Cup White Sugar

1 Teaspoon Almond Extract

1 Cup Peanut Butter

2 Eggs

1 ½ Cups All-purpose Flour

2 Teaspoons Baking Soda

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Cup Quick-cooking Oats

1 Cup Peanut M&M's, plus enough to stick onto tops of cookies


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, peanut butter and almond extract until smooth.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended.

4. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture.

5. Mix in the oats until just combined.

6. Put M&M's into a baggie. Using a hammer or rolling pin, break up M&M's into irregular pieces. Don't make the pieces too small. Striking each M&M just once or twice should make them the correct size.

7. Gently mix M&M's into cookie dough.

8. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

9. If desired, push 1 or 2 M&M's into the top of each cookie.

10. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until just light brown. Don't over-bake.

11. Cool on cookie sheets for a couple minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter is here again Oh lord,

It's that time of year yet again. Winter. Oh sure, the calender says winter is not until december 22nd. But it here now nonetheless. I can prove it... I have photo's!
See? I just have to face it... grilling season is really over. But on the bright side, now is the time that call's for hearty comfort food. While trying to come up with something great to cook to kickstart the winter season, i came across a recipe for Chicken and dumplings at smittenkitchen.com. It had a lot going for it. It's chicken and dumplings for heavens sake. What could be better on a cold winters day? Secondly, one of the main ingredients is leeks. I have never cooked with (or knowingly eaten) leeks before, and couldn't wait to try them. Every time I see them in the store they peak my interest. And as is turns out, leeks are yummylisious!
Due to the fact that I dont follow directions well, and due to neccessity, I did change the recipe a wee bit. The original recipe called for using Sherry, which I didn't have. So I used Chardonnay instead. I also added some celery and carrots because I wanted it a little more "Chicken Stew" like. And I used Buttermilk instead of regular whole milk for both the stew and the dumplings. Overall, it came out pretty good. And I'm not sure if there is any better hearty comfort foods that Chicken and Dumplings. Even if, it's not made in the traditional way. Chicken and Dumplings
Adapted from recipe at smittenkitchen.com


· 4 Large chicken Leg Quarters
· Salt and Pepper
· 4 Teaspoons Olive Oil
· 4 Teaspoons Butter (1/2 stick)
· 2 Medium Leeks – White and light green parts only – Cut into 1” pieces
· 1 Large Vidalia onion – chopped
· 4 Stalks of Celery – sliced in half lengthwise, then sliced diagonally
· 2 Medium carrots – thinly sliced
· ¼ Teaspoon Salt
· 6 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
· 1 Cup Chardonnay
· 5 Cups Chicken broth
· 1 Cup Buttermilk
· 1 Teaspoon Thyme
· 2 Bay leaves
· ½ Cup Frozen Green Peas
· 1 ½ Tablespoons Tarragon

· 2 Cups All-Purpose flour
· 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
· 1 Teaspoon Salt
· 1 ½ Cup Buttermilk
· 1 ½ Tablespoons reserved chicken fat or butter


Pat chicken dry with paper towels
Season with salt and pepper
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking.
Add 2 chicken leg quarters
Cook until skin on both sides is well browned. Approx. 10 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin.
Pour off the chicken fat and reserve.
Repeat with second 2 leg quarters.
Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat.
Add the leeks, onion, celery, carrots and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until softened.
Whisk in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
Stir in chicken broth, buttermilk, thyme, and bay leaves.
Return chicken to pot along with any juices on plate.
Cover pot and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked. Approx. 1 hour.
Remove pot from heat.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board
Shred chicken meat from bones and discard bones.
Remove and discard bay leaves.
Skim fat from surface of stew with a large spoon.
Return chicken back into stew.
Bring stew back to a simmer.
Stir in peas and tarragon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
Microwave buttermilk and chicken fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat). Approx. 1 minute.
Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.
Using a soup spoon, drop large spoonfuls of dumpling mixture into stew, about ¼ inch apart.
Cover pot and reduce heat to low.
Simmer about 15 – 20 minutes until dumplings double in size and are cooked through.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Hanukkah Ham!

It seams that a grocery store in NYC had a real deal in its deli section. Boneless Spiral Ham ($8.99/lb.) and Petite Smoke Ham ($6.99/lb.) advertised behind the glass as "Delicious for Chanukah". I applaud them for offering such a fine deal for the Jewish holiday. To bad they traditionally don't eat ham. Oops.

While I think it's a tad funny, I'm not surprised. People make mistakes, thing's happen. What does surprise me however, is that the women that initially noticed this. All she did, was take a picture of the ham, and post them on her blog. Really. That's all she did. She didn't get all offended and make a scene in the store. She didn't sue the store owners. She's not boycotting them either. O.k., she answered some reporters questions about it. But that's all! I'm pleasantly surprised.

It's nice to see somebody realize that other people make mistakes. Either they just didn't pay attention, and used the wrong tags, or they just didn't know that Jewish people are not supposed to eat pork. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be that understanding? Maybe even see the humor in life?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Honey! I didn't drug the kids!

I have always been a big believer in the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method of doing things. And I have never been a big fan of taking medicine until absolutely necessary. I don't even like to take aspirin for my headaches, unless they are unbelievably bad. It's not that I'm from some freaky cult that doesn't believe in medicine... I do think most of them are worthwhile. It's mostly because I figure that most of us take medicine more than we really need to. So much so, that a lot of the antibiotics in use are no longer effective.

Which brings be to my point. Yes, there is a point! What does most parents do when their sweet little tike becomes a coughing, snot machine? They run for the medicine cabinet and get the little puddle jumper some cough syrup! But as is reported in this article, that just might not be the best option. It seems as that research shows that honey of all things is better for soothing both children's AND their parents coughs better than cough syrups! Its long been known that honey is great for a lot of things. But who would have thought that it can sooth your cough and be yummy at the same time!

That brings me full circle back to the K.I.S.S method. Let's face it, not matter how much cherry flavoring they add, cough syrup still tastes like sweaty armpit. O.K., sweaty armpit with a cherry aftertaste. Trying to get a kid to drink that stuff, is like trying to herd cats. Is it not a lot simpler to get them to eat a little honey. And as a second benefit, honey doesn't go bad. With cough syrup, you almost always end up throwing half a bottle in the trash because its past its expiration date.

And the best part of using honey instead of drugs? No matter what the artificial flavor, cough syrup still taste's like crap on a biscuit.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Legal Crack

Everybody loves a good snack. Some of use love a good snack more than our belt can faithfully hold in. I don't mean those healthy snacks: apples, celery sticks and the like. I'm talking about those snack foods that you can feel your arteries hardening as you eat them. While I do like the occasional celery sticks, they have never given me that "Oh damn these are good" feeling. This week I discovered a new such treat, and rediscovered and old favorite.

Although for the most part, I have never been a big fan of Cheese Puffs, I have fallen for my local snack pushers pitch. They were on sale at a local truck stop I was at getting fuel, and looking for a quick snack to hold me off til dinner. Normally, i would have just passed them by. After all, cheese puff's are mostly sugar infused puffs of air, not that filling at all! But I was intrigued buy the flavor combo printed on the bag........"Honey Cheese Curls". I'm just a sucker for crazy junk food like this, and those deep fried Twinkies at the Covered Bridge Festival. (More on that in a future post.) I'm pretty glad that I tried them. OK, sure.. they have that processed food taste that most of these types of snack usually have. And sure, they leave a greasy fake cheese coating on your hands while you eat them. But somehow it all works out to a pretty good massed produced, sugar high inducing snack! Herr's Honey Cheese Curl's are now the only Cheese Puff snack I will ever buy!

The snack that I rediscovered is: Jenny's Caramel Corn Ditto's! These are the crack of the snack world. If your you are not careful, you will end up laying bed in a sugar induced stupor and Caramel Ditto's strewn all over the bed. Here's what your getting: It's basically like taking Kellogg's Corn Pops cereal, and coating them in a caramel glaze! What could be better! If only these were available when I was a kid. I think that I would still be in a sugar coma, or at the very least bouncing off the walls like Calvin and his "Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs".
I'm sure that the W.F.O. (the World Foodie Organization - an arm of the U.N. I think) will want to revoke my membership for encouraging people to eat food as unhealthy as these are. But in reality, when most of us want a sweet snack, is this not REALLY what we want? Something super bad for you, but really yummylisious? Let's face it... Even as adults that know we need to eat healthy, need our little sugar crack fixes from time to time.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Beginning

For the first post of my new Blog, I should let everyone in on its goal. As most people already know..... NOBODY wants to keep reading pointless rants about every little bit of minutia from some boring persons life. Hopefully this Blog will develop into something more substantial than that. Sure, it will start out with my musings about inane crap. But hopefully, it will evolve and narrow its scope into something more focused and interesting. We can only hope....

The name of the Blog, The Urban Platypus, is a reference to Richard Jeni's HBO Comedy Hour special "The Platypus Man", and his UPN show with the same name. He was one of my all time favorite comedians, who sadly is no longer with us. The idea behind the bit of Platypus man, was that he had watched a Nation Geographic show about the Platypus, and how he related to it as a single guy. In the T.V. show, he played himself, not as a comedian, but as a television cooking show host. The cooking show, "Cooking with the Platypus Man", was mostly geared towards single guys cooking. It pretty much lambasted what has become a television staple. Being that I'm single, like to cook, watch all those cooking shows and hopefully have a good sense of humor, I thought borrowing the platypus name was appropriate.