24 January 2010

the first chocolate chip cookie I *didn't* like

Recently I've been craving an American classic: chocolate chip cookies.

Now which one to make? My oatmeal choco chip one is one of my signature cookies, so no need to make that again. Alton Brown's The Chewy is delicious and my go to regular chocolate chip cookie. I've tried the NYT cookie and thought that was pretty good. I tried the recipe Ghirardelli printed on their can of choco chips. And of course I've made the classic Tollhouse cookie. I know how all of those taste. While they're all good, I'm always on the look out for other recipes to try. Maybe there's something better out there, and maybe there's not. But only one way to find out...

Instead of searching for another random chocolate chip cookie recipe online, I went with something right in my living room. This particular chocolate chip cookie came from one of my Christmas gifts: the book Baking by James Peterson. From the look of the recipe I already knew it'd be different from any of the ones I'd already tried. Only 1 egg yolk, bittersweet chocolate, and an odd butter to sugar ratio? What the hell... maybe this would Wow me.

And honestly, it didn't. They're pretty cookies, don't get me wrong... but I love a chewy, caramely, gooey centered, crisp edged cookie. These were sandy and crispy throughout, almost like shortbread. There was no balace of dough flavor to the strong chocolate at all. Full disclosure, though: I left out the nuts (I'm definitely in the no nuts in choco chip cookies camp) and maybe that would have helped the flavor balance, but by texture alone I was not a fan. But in case you do like nuts and crispier cookies... here is the recipe to try.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Baking by James Peterson

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (kosher)
3/4 C butter, sliced
1/4 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Mix in the egg yolk and vanilla. Dump in all of the flour mix then mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate at least 30 min.
Preheat oven to 375.
To make approx 12 large cookies, scoop 2 tbsp of dough, round into a ball and flatten a bit. Bake for 12-14 min. To make approx 20 medium cookies (my personal preference), scoop 1 tbsp of dough into a ball, place on cookie sheet, bake 8-9 min.

They sure are pretty, and would be great with a glass of milk.

21 January 2010

cauliflower fritters + 2 quickie recipes

I feel like I've been away forEVER, but it's only been a few days. This is probably because despite my best intentions to cook more, I have spent little to no time in the kitchen. In that little time I made some tasty yet generic burgers (1 lb 90/10 ground beef, 1 pack onion soup mix, split into 4, fry) with roasted sweet potato fries (heat oven to 400, slice 1 sweet potato into fry size pieces, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and ground red pepper flakes, bake for 25 min, tossing twice for even baking). Let me tell you those sweet potato fries were so darn tasty and ridiculously easy to make that I've added that to my Go to Recipe list.

But tonight, I went with another veggie: leftover cauliflower. I used half of a head to make some roasted florets, and had the other half just sitting around. That's one of the things that's a challenge about cooking for one - the normal portion of veggies you buy at the grocery are too much for 1, and I don't want to eat the same thing over and over. Thus: cauliflower fritters, which look and taste a bit like latkes, but (I think/hope) healthier. I found on this recipe on another blog I stumbled on - Gina's WW Recipes - and all her stuff looks so delish AND healthy that I'll be happy to try more of her recipes in the future.

Cauliflower Fritters

1/2 head cauliflower, steamed and mashed chunky
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
1/4 C parmesan, shredded via microplane
salt and pepper
hot water
olive or canola oil to fry
Mix all the ingredients from the cauliflower to the salt/pepper. Add enough water to make the batter look like really thick pancake mix. Heat oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Scoop 1/4 C (or use a large pampered chef cookie scoop) of the cauliflower mix and flatten a bit. Fry each side til golden brown (see the pretty gold edges in the pic above!)

17 January 2010

and a 10 in '10 challenge update

Wow where did this past week go! I think I say this more frequently as I get older, but I'll say it one more time: time FLIES. It's damn near impossible to sit back and relax lately, much less update this. But here I am anyways :)

Week 2 wrap up for 10 in '10? Well... It wasn't exactly a good week food wise. I only ate maybe 5 home made meals. Apparently I'm incapable of saying no when people buy/bring in food at work and that happend a few times this past week (now I know why people hate me when I bring in cookies all the time... speaking of which I have a hankering to bake something). And I've substituted popcorn for dinner twice this week when I went to go watch movies. Horrible week for food. BUT I did get fruit and veggies in each day, so small victories. And while I did not make fish, I did eat it. And it was good.

What I did do well during week 2, though, is hit the gym. A lot. I feel fantastic because of it, too.

So, with stout resolve I will do these things this week:
> eat 5 fruits/veggies each day
> make fish tacos

Yup, that's it.

12 January 2010

italian sausage and spinach over pasta

I made my first whoopsie since I started my Ten in '10 challenge -- I ordered out because I didn't bring a lunch. I ordered out because I failed to cook the way I had planned, so to get right back on the horse, tonight I made my lunch for tomorrow.

Luckily there were a couple Italian sausage links leftover from a lasagna the other day, and I'd just done a quickie grocery run for some veggies. So what was quick (I got home at like 10:30) that I could whip up to eat tomorrow? This!

I basically put the recipe together based on a picture in my head. No doubt I've seen something similar to this somewhere in my endless blog trolling, magazine reading, or cookbook browsing. It's no wonder - it's a snap to make, easy to scale to one person, and you could likely tinker with the seasoning to your taste. I may add some red pepper flakes for some zip next time. Enjoy!

Sausage and Spinach over Pasta

1 C dry whole grain rotini
2 turkey Italian sausage links (3 oz), casings removed
1 tbsp oil
1/4 sweet onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 C (packed) baby spinach
a handful of cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Boil pasta according to the directions.

Heat up oil in a small skillet over med heat and fry sausage, breaking up into bite siz pieces, until browned. Remove sausage to a bowl, but leave oil. Add onion and garlic and sautee until soft. Add baby spinach, salt and pepper, and sautee until soft.
Toss sausage, spinach mix and pasta together. Salt and pepper to taste. Top wth grated parmesan and a handful of cherry tomatoes.

Makes one hefty serving.

09 January 2010

10 in 10 challenge update

So how did week #1 of the Ten in Ten challenge go? Pretty darn well. As a refresher, I wanted to cook balanced meals that have veggies more often with my meals and cook/eat fish 3 times a month. And this week was pretty great! I went out to eat 3 times, which was planned, and every other meal I actually cooked, yay me! For that matter, 6 of the 7 days I had fruits or veggies with every single meal, go me! Oh, haven't cooked fish yet, but I've got 3 weeks left this month... it will happen!

Now it's time for week 2. Same goals: eat well balanced meals with veggies (or fruit). I will make fish sometime this week, too.

Here is one of my healthy and quick meals from this week:

Chicken Parm with Roasted Cauliflower for 1

1 C cauliflower florets
1 4oz chicken cutlet
1/2 C panko
italian seasoning (I used oregano and basil)
little bit of spaghetti sauce or marinara (you could use fresh sliced tomatoes too)
1-2 oz shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking tray with foil for easy clean up. Toss cauliflower onto 1 side of the pan and drizzle with olive oil, then salt and pepper. Put into oven for 10 min.

While cauliflower is cooking, prep chicken: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Mix some panko with several dashes italian seasoning and about 1/4 C parmesan. Coat chicken w/ panko mix. Take cauliflower out of oven (and toss) and put chicken breast on other half of pan and return to oven. Bake for 7 min, then flip sides (and toss cauliflower), then bake for another 5 min. Take cauliflower out and toss with 2 tbsp parmesan. Put 2-3 tbsp spaghetti sauce of choice on chicken and a 2 oz mozzarella and put back in oven until melted.

Eat chicken parm and cauliflower :)

05 January 2010

Hit List 2010

It's nearly a full week into the new year and I'm still on the resolution kick, but this one right here is more of an inspired challenge. After another discussion with Ang. about what to make for dinner, it kind of blew up into something bigger and better. The conversation kind of went like this: Hmm what should I make tonight? Hmm what foods do we really want to learn to make this year? Let's come up with 12 things to make... let's make it a challenge! Let's make a Hit List of 12 things to rock successfully this year!

And what does "successfully" mean, exactly? Basically it'll result in this kind of situation:
Eater of food: Whatcha making?
Me: ~~ insert hit list item here ~~
Eater of food takes a bite.
Me: How do you like th--
Eater of food: ~puts a finger up to interrupt~ Nuh nuh no no no... Shh shh shhh shh shhh. No talking. Must. Eat.

Or something like that :)

So since writing down goals is important, I present to you my Hit List for 2010:

1. matzo ball soup (I made this once, but it was an utter failure, so I can't cross it off quite yet!)
2. fish en papillote

3. pie, chicken pot (most likely chicken pot... definitely some kind of pie, though)
4. chicken stock/broth from scratch
5. chicharron de cerdo
6. stuffed mushrooms

7. a killer risotto
8. french onion soup
9. spanakopita

10. pastitsio
11. patatas bravas
12. my mom's mocha cake

Bring it on.

hot cocoa's best friend: peppermint marshmallows

One of the best things Starbucks ever did for me was introduce me to the hot peppermint mocha a few years back. Other than that, thin mints were the only chocolate-peppermint dream team I knew, and they were best frozen. So thanks, Starbucks, for showing me the way to how great that combo works hot. One of my favorite cold weather treats now is hot cocoa (home made or not) with peppermint marshmallows. Toss a couple in and let them melt a bit to give your cocoa a nice minty twist and enjoy.

Peppermint Marshmallows
adapted from the very awesome Alton Brown

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 C ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 C corn starch
1/2 C powdered (10x) sugar
nonstick spray
red food coloring

Special equipment: candy thermometer

In the bowl of a stand mixer (that has a whisk attachment), pour 1/2 C ice water and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it.
In a small saucepan, stir together 1/2 C ice water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Turn stove to medium high heat, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover and clip the candy thermometer to the side. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F. Immediately remove from heat.
Turn mixer on low and slowly stream in the hot sugar mix. Once it's all in, increase the speed to highest setting and let whip for 12 minutes. Turn down/off and add the extracts, then whip again at highest speed for another 1-2 minutes.
While it's running, combine the corn starch and powdered (10x) sugar. Prepare a 9x13 baking pan: spray with nonstick spray and dump in enough of the corn starch/10x sugar mix to coat evenly. Save the excess.

When the marshmallow is done whipping, spray a spatula as necessary and use it to pour into the baking dish and even out the top. If you want the red swirls like I have, grab a toothpick or skewer and dip into food coloring and swirl it into the marshmallow before evening out the top. Cover with more of the corn starch/10x sugar mix and let sit at least 4 hours or overnight.

When it's ready to cut, turn out onto a big cutting board. Use a sprayed pizza wheel or a giant knife to cut into 1" wide strips (pictured above), then cut again into cubes. Toss in corn starch/10x sugar mix.

Makes about 9 dozen 1" marshmallows.
Store in an airtight container up to 3 weeks.

03 January 2010

Happy New Decade!

Cheers to 2010. I rang in the new year with little hoopla, just a quiet midnight with family and a full night's sleep. It was awesome.

So of course, it's resolution time. So let's skip over the general life resolutions and go right to the kitchen resolutions. Fortunately I stumbled upon RecipeGirl, who's got this nifty Ten in Ten challenge going on. My first 2 resolutions are in line with this foray into making this my healthiest year yet. 10 weeks is a solid, realistic time frame to build good habits, so here we go!
In 2010 I resolve to:

1. Cook! Specifically: cook at home more and should have a veggie!
Baking's a breeze, but cooking is a whole different thing. I usually eat cereal or a sandwich for dinner. It's rare I have a hot meal, much less a well balanced one. A big reason it's so rare is because it's hard to cook for one! But it's time to try. And if I make too much, hey I can bring it in for lunch the next day, yay. Here's the kicker: it has to include a veggie! You know we're supposed to eat, like, 5 servings of veggies a day. I need to increase my minimal consumption so my meals will include veggies :)

2. Eat fish (not seafood, fish) at least 3 times a month.
It's supposed to be good for you to eat fish 3 times a week, but baby steps here. Probably 90% of the time I ate fish last year was at a restaurant, and mostly in sushi form (mmm sushi). I always overcook it, so I left it to the professionals (or my dad, who made it the other 10% of the time). But in an effort to fulfill goal #1 and to make my wallet happier, I will make fish for dinner all by myself!
And finally, my non healthy but definitely still a foodie resolution:
3. Make a mean, knock-your-socks-off pie.
I usually opt to make the pie's easy cousin: crisps. And while failsafe pie crust dough recipes are all over the internet, I just haven't gotten around to making one. So sometime in the fall, since that seems to be pie time, I will master that crust and make some kind of yummy, have-dreams-about-it delicious, pie.

Here's to a great start to a new year :)