Monday, December 27, 2010

Grilled Vegetables with balsamic glaze

Say it with me, "Detox", "I must detox". What a refreshing word. So I am currently experiencing seasonal limbo. It is that weird period of time between Christmas and New Years where no one actually gets any work done, nothing is accomplished, everyone is just waiting around for New Years to happen. Also during this time everyone is in this strange food coma like stage. Should we exercise? Should we start that diet we have been talking about? Nah, just wait until New Years and it can fit right in with the resolutions. Speaking of resolutions, I have decided to not make any resolutions. I am pretty much perfect and have no need for reform or redirection of my life goals. Um yeah, not even close. Resolutions, where do I begin? Pray more, exercise more, socialize more...bake less, eat less, sleep more, and most importantly work in get a job more. At the end of the day all that matters is that I fit into my jeans, and currently I do, so all is well.

Another one of my resolutions is to spend more time with the niece. We all just went and saw Tangled, which is a super cute and very tolerable cartoon...which just so happens to feature the vocal talents of my one and only, Zachary Levi...aka Chuck. Growing up I always had long blond hair, and would often imagine my life if I was Rapunzel. Of course my hair never grew past my bum, so if someone wanted me to let down my fair hair to climb they wouldn't get too far.

Two words that go together are detox and vegetables. Aren't they music to your ears? Only if you are a yoga loving, zen driven vegetarian who wears Birkenstocks. I do realize that many of my readers are in fact Birkenstock wearers, and yes, that comment was directed to you. Here enters the recipe. I was first inspired to make this when I had the delicious grilled vegetable salad from California Pizza Kitchen. Of course they served it with grilled chicken and feta, which was awesome. So do that if you want to make a meal of it. Grill up some chicken and toss it with these veggies. Great healthy meal.

Grilled Vegetables with Balsamic glaze

3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS Dijon mustard

1 TBS Balsamic vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grilled vegetables (I used mushrooms, zuchinni, yellow squash, and peppers, eggplant, onions, and shallots also work well.)

Whisk glaze together and pour over warm grilled vegetables. Enjoy hot or cold.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Salted Awkward turtles

Does anyone actually know where the term "awkward turtle" came from? I tried to find out some information online, but nobody seems to know where it came from. I would love to shake the hand of the person who came up with it, but they would probably just go all awkward turtle on me. My mini sister...the queen of awkward, Mimzer loves turtles. The ones of the chocolate kind, not the live ones. I have always wanted to make turtles, but just never got around to it, until today. They were simple, delicious, and mucho yummy. If you are looking for a nice homemade gift, this would be it. I know making your own caramel can be intimidating, but really it is quite simple. You do however need a thermometer. You can buy them at target for $10-15. I use mine all the time for making candies, butter cream icing, meat, and bread. It really is a worthwhile investment, so go ahead and put one in your stocking this year. You can make this without a thermometer, but you have to be careful not to under or overcook the caramel Basically you want it to be a nice dark caramelly color, but not burnt. For guaranteed results use a thermometer.

Speaking of favorite Christmas moment so far has been watching my seven year old niece make Christmas pictures for everyone in the family. She comes home from school everyday and draws these adorable Christmas scenes. Then she gets out the wrapping paper and wraps each picture individually. She was really frustrated the other night because she realized she had been using double stick tape on accident and all the presents were sticking together. That girl has such a big heart, and beautiful soul I love that kid. She helps make Christmas magical for all of us.

Salted Awkward Turtles

Place 2 cups of chopped pecans on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5-8 minutes until slightly colored, you will know they are ready when you start to smell them. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan bring the following to a boil over medium high heat:

1 cup + 2 TBS granulated sugar

4 oz corn syrup*

8 fl oz heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

Stir until sugar is dissolved and then do not stir anymore. Boil until temperature reaches 245 degrees. Then add 3 TBS butter, and 1 tsp vanilla and boil until 245 degrees again. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted chopped pecans. Stir, and then scoop teaspoons of mixture onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Allow to cool until caramel is set. Once cool, melt chocolate according to instructions on type of chocolate you are using. Heat only until just about melted. Do not over heat the chocolate. If it is too hot it will not set properly. Dip each caramel/pecan cluster into the melted chocolate and coat, remove from chocolate with fork and shake off any excess chocolate. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and sprinkle a few grains of coarse sea salt on top of each candy before the chocolate hardens. Cool completely and store at room temperature in an air tight container.

*If you don't want to use corn syrup you can substitute honey or maple syrup. The end result will be slightly softer, but still taste really good.

Traditionally turtles are arranged with 3-4 pecan halves that are laid flat and then caramel is poured in the middle, thus making it look like a turtle. I like having caramel cover all the pecans, so I like to chop and mix instead. Do what you prefer, in the end it still tastes great.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil soup

I meant to post this recipe a long time ago, I just never got around to it. The cold weather has me constantly thinking of what soup to make. This one is next on my list. While visiting our relatives in Louisiana this past September we stopped in at this new little restaurant. From the outside it looks like it just sells cupcakes, and when you walk looks like they just sell cupcakes. So, needless to say, we bought a cupcake. Well that little cupcake was nothing to write home about. Anyways, while we were sitting there eating the cupcake the owner brought us a sample of her eggplant and lentil soup. Now that was something to write home about. Super yummy and light, very very nice. When we got home I immediately set out to recreate that lovely soup. I think I did a pretty good job and was pleased with the end result. I need to make it again, and soon.

Eggplant facts:

1) Also known as aubergine, melongene, brinjal, or guinea squash...I wonder what my aliases are?

2) Native to India...oh...that explains why it is in so many Indian dishes, it is all coming together now.

3) They come in a nice variety of colors that can color coordinate with any kitchen color scheme you have going on in your humble abode...yellow, green, purple, reddish purple, or white.

4) Technically is a fruit. Go figure.

5) It is bitter tasting when please cook it first.

6) The larger fatter eggplants usually require "degorging". Which is salting and then rinsing the sliced fruit, this makes it soft and helps take away some of the bitterness.

7) Recently I have been buying the small skinny squashes and using them in stir fries. So good!

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil Soup

Take 2 large eggplants and peel them. Then slice them into large flat disks. Then place the slices on a rack and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let the disks sit for 30 minutes. Then rinse them off with water and squeeze out any excess moisture.

Place the slices in a single layer onto a baking pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Flip them over after 10 minutes.

Remove eggplant from the oven and cool for a few minutes. At this point you can either dice the slices, or puree them in a food processor. I like my soup to have a hearty texture so I dice. Set aside.

Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and saute 1 large diced onion over medium high heat 5 minutes. Add 3 cloves of diced garlic, and 1 pound of rinsed, drained dry lentils. Add eggplant to pot.

Then add:

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 TBS Apple cider vinegar

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Simmer over medium/high heat until lentils are tender 25-35 minutes. Add more liquid during the cooking process if it is no longer covering the lentils. Taste and season more if needed.

I almost added some diced tomatoes, but didn't. I think I might try that next time, but this was good as is, I need to make it again. I served it along side some nice little spicy lamb chops...very nice combination.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fun homemade decorations...make it now.

Have you visited your local Anthropologie store today? I haven't but I need to. I never can afford anything in that store, but the window displays are out of this world awesome and innovative. I have been tasked with decorating the house for Christmas while my Mom is out of I need to get some major creative inspiration, and soon.

Here is a really cool idea I saw on Martha Stewart. I just made my first tree, and I love it! I don't know if I am going to spray paint the trees or just leave it the urban magazine look instead. So grab some friends or family, put some Christmas music on, make some hot cocoa, and make a bunch of these lovely trees. Happy folding, and Happy Advent!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's raining Christmas Cookies!

Aren't they cute little guys? I have been making these and ones with pink hats or green hats...super cute!

I fall asleep every night having nightmares about snowmen and Christmas trees chasing me through the forest. In these dreams I am always racing towards something. Is it a bright light? Is it Superman? Well, kinda both. It is Christmas. Lord help me make it to Christmas! This year I decided to focus on two main Christmas cookies and make them look uber nice. The lucky cookie cutters that won a weekend for two in the Bahamas were my snowman and Christmas tree cookie cutters. Come on down! For the last 4 days I have been in constant icing mode...which is a good thing, because that means I am getting orders!!! Yipee!!! A special thanks goes out to my wonderful friend Maddie who stopped in for a visit and helped me ice the first batch of cookies. Thanks Maddie, you are the best! I was originally planning on opening up an Etsy store in time for the holidays, but my grandma's unexpected passing set me back and I just ran out of time. Plus, I have been keeping busy with local orders...which is AWESOME!!!! So thank you to anyone out there who reads this and buys my cookies. If anyone does want to order any Snowmen or Trees ($25/dozen+shipping), or a tray of my heaven bars ($18+ Shipping)...layers of oats, homemade caramel, and good does that sound? Then shoot me an email Happy Advent and Happy Christmas Baking to you all!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chai Spiced Snowball Cookies

So my goal was to find or create a cookie that tasted like gingerbread but had the texture of a wedding cake cookie. Instead I got sidetracked and came across this recipe. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice taste of this cookie. Not to knock the traditional wedding cookie, which I love, but this one is refreshingly different.


Chai Spiced Snowball Cookies


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped or ground toasted almonds

  • Cream butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla, and almond extract, mix until smooth. Sift together spices, salt, and flour then mix in almonds. Mix into butter mixture until dough comes together. Scoop into small balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
    bake 350 degrees 18 minutes. Cool for a few minutes then roll in additional powdered sugar. Cool completely and roll in more powdered sugar.

    Happy Advent!

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Moosewood Brown Sugar Brownies

    Brownies are so weird looking. They honestly just look like a big chunk of chocolate...but oh how they do sooth the weary soul. I have fond memories of one of my friends making brownies in college, the one bowl Baker's recipe...oh so good, and even better while we were all away from home and stressing during exams. They were magic brownies...and no, not in that way. I usually make the Ina Garten Outrageous brownies...which I posted about last year, but I decided to try something new. It seems like most brownie recipes are basically the same...same ingredients, same method, same taste. The thing that grabbed my attention in this recipe is the fact that it called for brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. I love that. I found that using brown sugar made the brownies have a more complex flavor, a certain je ne sais quoi to it. The other thing I like about these brownies is they are super simple. One pot, one pan, and you are good to go.

    Now for all you die hard "box mix brownies are the best" people, please, humor me and give these guys a try. Oh, and one more out of the oven I didn't really like these brownies, but then I let them sit and had one the next, they were out of this world. So for best results make these a day ahead and then indulge. Happy eating my friends!

    Moosewood Fudge Brownies
    directions adapted

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9" cake pan with parchment. In a medium/large pot melt the following over medium heat:

    2 sticks butter
    6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

    Once melted remove from heat and add the following and whisk until combined:

    2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    Then carefully and quickly beat in 4 lightly beaten eggs. Be sure to whisk continuously otherwise you will end up with scrambled eggs. Once smooth and combined add 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour and mix just until combined.

    Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes until they start to pull away from the edges.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Eating my way around NYC, one cookie at a time

    NYC! My sister and her husband moved up to NYC this summer, and I finally had the chance to visit them. It all started when we were lucky enough to win tickets to the Martha Stewart Show. A lifelong, and I know lame dream of mine. : ) I figured while I was up there I should do a bakery tour of the city and try out some of these infamous bakeries I hear so much about all the time. I thought I would hate the city, with its over crowded streets, dirty subways, and over priced activities...but no...I LOVED IT! The people were super friendly, the subway wasn't all that bad, and I really enjoyed my time there. My sister is a human GPS and was great at navigating us around the city as we bakery hopped. She is not a sweets person, so I have to apologize to her for making cookies our main sustenance for the week. So here it is journal of what I ate that one awesome week I spent in NYC.

    Front row seats at Martha BABY!

    Hum...what exactly are we eating here? Still not sure what it was.
    A dark chill followed us as we wandered aimlessly around the city searching for nourishment. Then suddenly a bright light emerged from the darkness. The warm, white, and clean restaurant called our names like a hypnotic melody from the past. We were quickly lured in by the fragrant Italian dishes that filled our senses. Say what? Hum yeah, basically we ate at Mario Batalli's new restaurant. For $60 we got two small, uber thin, not so special pizzas and one really nasty creepy looking antipasto salad. Never again. We were however seated next to a famous cookie blogger and cookbook author that I recognized, Bakerella. I introduced myself, she laughed and said nothing. I don't like her stuff anyways. Take that famous lady with bad food. : )

    I love the name of this place. Mostly because I really wanted to eat one of their famous brownies and say, "what a wicked brownie." Besides the cute logo and clever marketing this place really didn't have much to write home about. I saved my two brownies for an end of the long sight seeing day treat...but ended up tricked...haha get it? : ) These brownies were boring and tasteless. How on earth did they become famous?

    This place wasn't originally on my list of places to visit, but it was right next store to Fat Witch in Chelsea Market so we stopped in. This was a lovely bakery. You walk in and are instantly intoxicated by the smell of yummy freshly baked bread. The back and side wall of the bakery is covered with baskets upon baskets of crusty loaves. We got a French Baguette, and a Raisin/Walnut/Wheat Breakfast twist. The Baguette was decent, but the breakfast twist was d-licious!


    My poor sister. I am such a pain to eat with. I refuse to eat at chain restaurants when I travel, and I take forever to decide where I want to eat. We walked up and down Chelsea Market about 5 times before I finally decided that we should eat here. Well worth the wait! We shared a large pulled pork sandwich with pickled red onions, a medium sized fresh green salad with vinaigrette, a large order of heavenly sweet potato fries, and 1 glass of red wine. All for $20! This place uses fresh local seasonal ingredients, and change their menu accordingly. If I ever visit NYC again I am definitely stopping by...and this time I am getting my own sandwich. : ) I want those fries everyday for lunch...they were out of this world!

    Magnolia Bakery: FAIL PRICE:HIGH TASTE:TOO SWEET, put your dentist on speed dial.

    This place is famous. Lord knows why. People are always talking about Magnolia Bakery on food blogs, magazines, and tv shows. So naturally I wanted to stop by and test out some of their items. The location is great and the general set up is inviting. I sat there looking at their pastry case for quiet some time. Mostly because I was unimpressed and couldn't decide if I should actually spend money on items that didn't look appealing. Nothing was calling my name, so I finally decided upon a chocolate chunk Blondie. What a let down. This bar was waxy tasting, corn syrupy, and way too sweet. I hope this Blondie doesn't represent all their items accurately.


    After having so much fun at the Martha Stewart Show we decided we were going to try and get into another show. My sister is a fan of the Regis and Kelly show so we woke up super early and went and stood in the stand by line at the show from 7am-9am. Everyone who worked there kept telling us the chances looked good. So we waited. We saw the hosts and guests walk in. We waited. We saw the audience walk in and be seated. Still we waited. We saw the doors close. We waited. Then we saw the show on the TV screen come on and we knew we hadn't made it in. Darn it all! So tired, cold, and starving we started walking in hopes of finding a nice hot breakfast. We saw this place and they had a good crowd so we grabbed a table. I guess it was more like we crawled and bumped our way to a table, talk about too many table in a tiny space! The fresh squeezed orange juice was refreshing and made me feel healthy. The sausage potato fritatta was cold and tasteless. The bread was nice and crispy with some decent jam. The restaurant had a great view and for $20 bucks for the both of us it wasn't too bad...but I wouldn't go back.

    Levain: MAJOR PASS PRICE:HIGH BUT WORTH IT TASTE:If heaven was a flavor this would be it!
    I heart Levain Bakery. What I love about this place is they are honest. There are no gimmicks, barely any marketing, their product speaks and sells itself. Pure honest to goodness awesome pastry! This place was a little hole in the wall on a back street. We circled the block a few times before finding it. There was barely room for 5 customers to stand in line. Looked like a bakery you would find in France. Their pastry case only had a few options, a few breads, cookies, and scones. I loved that I had limited options, and couldn't decide, but this time because everything looked AMAZING! Way to be Levain Bakery, I am coming back soon! I got the chocolate chip walnut cookie, $4, but it was a mother huge cookie. My sister got a cinnamon butter brioche stick, it was light, and perfectly sweet. Here is a video about their famous cookie.

    This place is also popular among foodie gatherings, so I searched it out and found it. I went to one of it's branch locations called, "Birdbath". I thought the display idea was cool, little shelves on the back wall piled high with cookies. I got an oatmeal raisin cookie that looked pretty and tasted good. However, I like chewy cookies and this cookie was flat and crisp. That being said, next time I go I am going to try what they are famous for, their pretzel croissant.

    Grey Dog Cafe: WAY PASS PRICE:PERFECT TASTE:EXCELLENTAfter a long day of waiting in line for Regis and Kelly, walking through Central Park, and eating lots of cookies we meandered over to Greenwich Village. We searched and searched for a decent looking non-Italian restaurant. After walking down what seemed to be a million streets we finally stumbled upon this place. It was small, urban looking, and hip. The staff was friendly, the room was warm, and the food was comforting to our weary souls. We once again shared a pulled pork sandwich, Greek salad, and a split pea soup. The sandwich was good, but Friedman's was better. The salad was awesome, and the soup was nice and light. They had some really good looking slab pies and brownies I just couldn't bring myself to eat any more sugar at that point. Next time I am in town I will go back and save room for dessert.

    Mr. Chocolate own this place so I felt it was my duty as a lifelong pastry student to stop by. The shop was very chain feeling, which it is. The staff was pushy and rude. The cookie was expensive and too sweet. The chip to dough ratio was insanely off. The cookie was all chocolate and no dough. Could I get a little dough with my chocolate please? Way over rated, never going back...sorry Mr. Chocolate.

    There were many other places I wanted to go visit, but alas we ran out of time. One day I will visit again, and when I do I plan on going to these places: Kitchenette, Balthazars, Locanda Verde, Momofuko Milk Bar, Tall grass burgers, Ma Peche, Mamasuns, Pomme Frites, Arepa Bar, Palino Salsiccia, Cafe Orlin, Mud, and Butter Lane.

    My NYC visit ended perfectly with a last minute small casual Josh Groban concert at City Hall. What an incredible singer, and such a nice guy. He said he walks in Central Park all the time so my sister is going to stalk him and ask him if she can be his Personal Assistant, and then ask him to marry me. I will bake him cookies, he will sing, and together we will live a sweet musical life. The end.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Where did I go?

    Mom and her Mom

    Death is a funny thing. There is so much sadness surrounding it, yet so much joy. My Grandmother, Mama, passed away suddenly last week. She lived a hard life filled with physical and mental illness, but because of her so much love exists. She had a heart as big as the grand canyon, and tried to love everyone she met in her own way. I have her to thank for my creative mind, and love of writing. I was sad to see her go, but happy knowing that she is finally at peace in heaven. The days surrounding Thanksgiving were spent with family, and friends of the family. It was great reconnecting with all the cousins and relatives again. It had been a long time since the whole family had been in the same room together, and I know Mama would have been over joyed to see the family reunited. RIP Mama, have fun bowling with the angels!

    Needless to say this has been an exhausting 2 weeks for me. I traveled North for 1 week to visit my sisters, then returned home and somehow filled all 40 of my Thanksgiving pie orders, then got the call about my Grandma, hopped in a car and spent 5 days in Louisiana with the family. I have been ignoring sleep for too long now, and after looking at pictures from the last few days I see it has taken its toll on me. Sleep, how I missed you.

    I promise to post my NYC bakery tour details soon! It was so much fun!!! Thanks to all of you who ordered pies, I hope you enjoyed them!

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    First Cookie Winner!!!

    Hey folks thanks for participating in my first cookie contest! I love hearing about everyone's favorite cookies, and cookie memories! Thanks for all the new ideas for cookies to try and make, I look forward to making up some new recipes.

    I picked a random number between 1 and 20, and the lucky number was 16. So congrats to Erin Campell my friend from the good old college days. I will be sending you one dozen cookies of your choice. So watch out for an email from me Erin!

    I am currently in the middle of my North East I will be posting something new after Thanksgiving. Wish I had time to post a good pie recipe, but as soon as I get home I will be busy making 25 pies that people ordered from me. Crazy pie time!!!

    See you soon, and thanks for all the kind comments! My readers are the best!!!

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    100 posts, 1 dozen cookies, and a cake.

    German Chocolate Pecan Pie...don't you wish you were spending Thanksgiving with me? : )
    I wish you were!
    The huge cake my Dad made, it eventually fell over
    Dad proud of his first cake ever!

    Well folks, here it is. My 100th post!!! In honor of my 100th post it just so happens my Dad made a cake. Apparently it is the first cake he has ever made in his entire life! It was funny watching him try to work the kitchen appliances that he had never used before. I must say though, it came out far better then I thought it would, so good job Dad. He came home from the grocery store the other night with all the fixings for making a cake, including cake pans...which we already own a million of. : ) He was suddenly inspired to make a cake after remembering this yellow cake with dark chocolate icing that his Uncle and Dad used to bring home to the family from Schrafft's in NYC. I thought I would be able to find a recipe from the NYC legendary eatery somewhere online, but surprisingly I couldn't find any recipes for their cakes. So, my new goal is to come up with a recipe for this famous yellow cake with chewy chocolate icing.

    I find it shocking that I had 100 ideas to post, and had something to say about all of them. I guess my brain is bigger then I give it credit for...good job brain, way to be. Here's to hoping I have at least 100 more recipes to share with you all! : ) Thanks for sticking with me and reading my humble posts, I keep posting because you keep reading...and hopefully cooking too! In honor of the big 1-0-0 I am having a contest! 1) Because I love anything involving a good fight, 2) I want to reward my faithful wonderful readers, and 3) Nothing makes me happier then giving good people good food!

    So here is how it is going to work:

    1) Respond to this post via the comments telling me your favorite kind of cookie
    and why

    2) After 1 week I will put all your names in a hat, take a break and eat a cookie, then pick one lucky winner!

    3) I will send you, or someone you love 1 dozen cookies or bars of your choice...and no, I do not make "special" brownies : )

    4) If I get zero comments I will take it upon myself to eat the one dozen cookies on your behalf, yeah, I am that noble. : ) Contest ends 11/18/10

    check back after the week is over to see if you won...if you did you can email me your mailing information. Good luck, and may the person with the sweetest tooth win!

    While we are on the topic of cookies, I thought I would share with you some info about the "cookie."

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a cookie is:

    1) a small flat or slightly raised cake
    2) an attractive woman
    3) a small file or part of a file stored on a World Wide Web user's computer, created and subsequently read by a Web site server, and containing personal information Just to be clear, I will send the winner one dozen of the first definition, not an attractive woman or a small file...that would just be weird.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Holy grail of recipes

    I really hope there are chocolate chip cookies in heaven
    If you knew how many chocolate chip cookie recipes I have tested in my lifetime you would be shocked! I have spent hours pouring through cookbooks and websites trying to uncover the secrets of making THE chocolate chip cookie. There are so many ideas out there! Melting the butter, dissolving the baking soda in water, adding cream of tartar, using bread flour, chilling the batter, clicking your heels three times and then jumping...really the tricks are endless. I finally realized that the trick to achieving the ultimate chocolate chip cookie is the process. You treat your ingredients well and in return they will reward you with a lovely cookie. Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature, and make sure you scrape down the bowl often.

    After comparing hundreds of recipes I finally decided that this was the recipe for me. Thanks to Tyler Florence for this winner of a recipe...I didn't realize he was a cookie man, but now that I know I will have to try more of his recipes. I like this recipe because it is a nice balance of chewy and crispy, and just the right amount of sweetness.

    My Big, Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

    adapted slightly from Tyler Florence

    2 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
    1 tsp baking soda

    1 tsp salt
    2 sticks unsalted butter, must be room temperature
    1/2 cup granulated sugar

    3/4 cup brown sugar
    1 tsp vanilla

    2 large eggs, must be room temperature
    8 oz block coarsely chopped chocolate or 1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
    Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. This will take a few minutes, make sure you scrape the bowl down with a spatula at least once and then mix again for a few seconds. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth and no longer broken looking. Scrape down and mix again.
    Mix the chocolate with the dry ingredients and add the to the wet. Mix until combined. Scrape, mix again briefly.
    Measure 1/4 cup of dough and roll into balls, place on parchment and slightly push down tops. If you want your cookies to look even more impressive top each cookie with an extra 2-3 chocolate chunks. Bake 12 minutes for chewy, 15 minutes for slightly crispier.

    FYI - My next post is my 100TH keep your eyes open for a give away...and it might have something to do with cookies. : )

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Gingerbread Pomegranate Muffins

    I still remember the day I first saw a pomegranate. I was a Freshman or Sophomore in college and I saw an upperclassmen girl eating this really strange looking thing. What on earth was this weirdly shaped, strangely seeded, beautifully colored thing? I was so baffled by the fact that a fruit existed that I had never heard of or seen before. Pom-a-what? My curiosity about this strange thing was lost to my college studies and I soon forgot about wanting to learn more about it. Fast forward 7 years...picture me in a grocery store and somehow by chance my cart runs into the pomegranate fruit stand. Is this my destiny? To finally be reunited with the long lost fruit of my past? It just seemed right, everything fell into place and I heard angels singing...finally, I would eat and cook with a Pomegranate! Okay, okay, I think...wait no, I know I am getting a little too carried away...but seriously people this fruit is pretty awesome. It is like walking into a surprise party for yourself 3 months before your actual birthday...oh yeah, that actually happened to me. : ) True story.

    If you have never encountered a Pomegranate I encourage you to go buy one and try it. They somehow remind me of aliens, bath bubbles, and wall colors...but judge for yourself.

    Here are some tips and facts about the Pomegranate:

    1) They are messy to peel, so for best results peel submerged in water. You can also freeze the fruit and then they are super easy to seed.

    2) They surprisingly have nothing to do with counter tops in your home...that would be granite.

    3) Pomegranates grow on a small, wonder if they are shaped into anything like a statue of the Pomegranate queen.

    4) The name "pomegranate" is from from the Latin word pomum, meaning "apple", and granatus meaning "seeded".

    5) The seeds inside a Pomegranate are called "arils"

    6) The Pomegranate's birth place is Iran, not Iwalk.
    ..sorry I couldn't help myself : )

    7) Pomegranates are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashana because the seeds symbolize fruitfulness.

    8) Pomegranates are also a symbol of marriage and if you are single maybe if you walk around with a pomegranate you will find your true love...of course if you do that you run the risk of being known as the crazy pomegranate lady...but hey, at least it ain't cats.

    9) I really want to make Pomegranate sorbet...and eat it with dark chocolate sauce.

    10) I dislike pink, but one day when I grow up I want a room in my home to have pomegranate wall adjacent to a wall shellacked with old newspapers.

    I feel bad about making the Pomegranate the focus of this post, because really folks it is more about the gingerbread, but I had to follow my heart and tell you about the Pomegranate. Gingerbread sounds boring and old. Kind of like that pair of sweatpants you put on at the end of a bad know it, you love it, but some days you just want something a pretty dress or a Pomegranate. I do love me some gingerbread though. I don't make it as often as I should, mostly because I am the only one in the house who really likes it. That is an understatement, I love it. : )

    Gingerbread Pomegranate Muffins
    makes 10 muffins

    In large bowl cream the following with a mixer until smooth and not grainy 2-3 minutes:

    6 TBS room temp unsalted butter
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar

    Scrape down the bowl and then slowly add the following while continuing to mix:

    2 eggs room temp
    1/2 cup molasses

    Mix until smooth and no longer broken looking. Scrape down and then add the sifted or whisked together following:

    1 2/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
    3/4 tsp baking powder

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp salt

    Stir just until combined and then add:
    1/2 cup warm water

    Stir, scrape, and then add:

    1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (optional, then these would just be gingerbread muffins)

    Stir and pour 1/3 cup of batter into lined muffin tins. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until tops spring back when lightly touched.

    Cool and enjoy with fresh whipped cream or sweetened cream cheese.

    Did you know that God is a fan of Pomegranates? I mean besides the whole creating them thing they are mentioned in the Bible numerous times. My favorite being here:

    "Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil." - Song of Solomon 4:3

    I am pretty sure that is meant as a compliment...but really if a guy ever told me that I might have to kick him.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    How to make an Iced cookie 101

    Cookies I made for a charity golf tournament this week. Packed up and ready to go. Paired with a Chocolate Chewy cookie.
    I was going to put a vine on them but I thought they looked modern this way
    Are you thankful? I am thankful I finished them : )
    I must admit I am a utilitarian. I like iced cookies solely for the purpose that making and decorating them is fun. I do not like to eat iced cookies, and am therefore not loving the whole iced cookie, just the part that works best for me. How awful of me. C'est la vive. That being said, nothing beats a fun cookie decorating party! I like to have one before every holiday if possible: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter, and even Valentines day. It is so fun to try new designs and colors. So go make a batch of your favorite sugar cookies, make a big batch of icing, gets lots of pretty non nonpareils and sanding sugars, and invite some friends over and have at it! Last Christmas I even got my Dad and my 87 year old Grandpa to join in the fun!

    Here are some tips to making successful iced cookies:
    The dough -

    1) Make sure your dough is completely mixed and there are no clumps of butter hanging around...if there are this will cause your dough to bake unevenly and your gingerbread man might suddenly grow an ear.

    2) I like to work with chilled dough. There is less sticking that way, and then you use less flour, and as a result your cookie isn't as dry. So over all, a chilled dough is a win win.

    3) When rolling the dough out make sure your surface and the dough are floured...enough to prevent sticking, but not too much. Make sure you flip and rotate your dough at least once to ensure even unsticking rolling.

    4) If you want nice uniform cookies I recommend using Rolling pin rings. I have these ones from Sur La Table and have had good results with them.

    Baking -

    1) Make sure you bake the cookies to a nice golden brown. A cookie that is not baked long enough will break easily and result in lots of crumbs.

    2) Always bake your cookies on parchment paper.

    Icing -

    1) Make sure your cookies are completely cooled before icing them otherwise the icing will melt right off...hello.

    2)Make sure your icing is a good thickness. If you start to ice the cookie and it is quickly falling off the cookie your icing is too thin. Add more powdered sugar until you get a thicker consistency. Likewise, if you try to spread the icing on and it is thick like peanut is too thick, add a little bit of milk to thin out. So basically you want your icing thick enough to stay on the cookie, but thin enough to spread.

    3) Ahh, the paper piping bag. If you ask my friend Marianna she can attest to the fact that I am not the best paper piping bag maker....she is a master at fair : ) The more I practice the better I am at it, thank goodness. Paper piping bags are so useful, and great for decorating cookies. You can make them big or small. Don't fill your bags too much or they will be hard to handle. Here is a quick demo video to help you out

    4) If you are using nonpareils or sanding sugar make sure you put it on while the icing is still wet so it sticks.

    5) If you are writing something or adding a special design over the base color, wait for the icing to dry a little before adding details to prevent your piping from bleeding.

    6) I use a small flat spatula like this one to spread the icing onto the cookie

    7) Coloring - use gel food coloring so the consistency of your icing isn't altered. You can find gel food coloring at Michaels.

    Here is a video with some ideas for decorating, I don't usually do the pipe and flood method, because it is more time consuming but here it is anyways...

    Here is the basic recipe I use for sugar cookies.

    Sugar Cookiesadapted from Bake at 350 degrees blog

    In stand mixer cream the following 1-2 minutes:

    2 sticks unsalted room temperature butter
    1 cup granulated sugar

    Scrape down bowl and slowly add the following and mix until combined. Scrape down bowl and mix again until the batter is smooth and not broken looking.

    1 egg
    1/2 tsp vanilla

    1/2 tsp of one of these: almond extract, orange extract, peppermint extract, or more vanilla

    In small bowl whisk or sift together the following and then add to the above:

    3 cups all purpose unbleached flour
    2 tsp baking powder

    1/4 tsp salt

    Mix until combined. Scrape down bowl and mix again.

    Roll onto floured surface and cut out desired shapes. Or you can keep the dough wrapped in the fridge for a few days and then roll out. If you do this let the dough sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before rolling out.

    Split Pea Soup...

    Whenever anyone says anything about Pea Soup I instantly think of the movie Rescuers Down Under...there is a scene where Bianca and Bernard are eating dinner at a fancy restaurant and they eat pea is in this clip around the 7:30 minute mark

    I know many people are turned off by the ugly color of pea soup, but really people, get over it. It is so yummy. I like to be crazy and nontraditional and put potatoes in my pea soup, but my Mom prefers it without them so I generally leave them out.

    Some fun facts about Pea Soup:

    1) Scandinavians usually eat pea soup with mustard and dry thank you, not this Scandinavian.

    2) Swedes actually have a whole day every week dedicated to Pea Soup! It is called "Pea Soup Thursdays." Restaurants participate in this tradition as well as the Swedish Armed Forces.

    3) If you see it called "Pea Soup" it is usually a thinner pureed soup, whereas "Split Pea Soup" is a chunkier version with ham and vegetables.

    4) Another nice thing about pea soup is that you can make a big pot of it and feed lots of people for wicked cheap! It cost me $12 to make this pot of soup which can feed 6-8 people.

    Split Pea Soup

    Lightly coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil (about 1 TBS) and heat to medium high. Place 4 ham hocks in oiled pan and brown on each side about 2 minutes.

    Rinse 1 pound of split green peas and drain. Add to pot with ham hocks and cover with 48 oz of chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water and 6 cups of water. Boil over high heat 20 minutes. Reduce heat and add the following:

    6 carrots diced (you can peel them if you want, I don't)
    3 small or 2 large onions diced

    1 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp pepper
    1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

    Reduce heat to medium low and cook 30-45 minutes until vegetables are tender, stir every few minutes to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. You want liquid to be covering the ham hocks and vegetables, so if the liquid looks low just add some more water. Optional - Add 1/2 pound or 1 pound of diced ham steak to pot, or even some cooked bacon. Serve with nice crusty bread.

    Some notes about the ingredients:

    1) I used raw ham hocks, not the smoked ones. It was about $5 for 4 large ham hocks. You can usually find these near the pork in your meat department at the grocery store, if you don't see them ask the butcher, sometimes they don't put them out.

    2) You can use all water instead of broth if you like to make the meal even less expensive : )

    3) I usually make this around the holidays because we are gifted lots of hams and usually have leftovers to use up. You can use any ham you like. If we don't have leftover ham I use Hormel's natural choice no preservatives ham. It was about $5/pound.