Monthly Archives: January 2013

April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don’t have any cookies in my house at the moment.  If I had them, I would eat them.  I have no self-control when it comes to cookies.  So I don’t make them often.  When I do, they do a very quick disappearing act, because they are (if I do say so myself) spectacular.

These are one of my favorite cookies to make.  My little spin on your basic chocolate chip cookie.  I used to use half butter and half margarine or butter flavored crisco to make them a little fluffier.  But these days, I’m using less and less “fake” food, which margarine is in my book (did you know it’s chemically very similar to plastic?) so now I use all butter.  I think they taste better, but they do tend to come out a bit more flat.  I don’t really have a problem with that, although they are not quite as pretty.  But they still taste wonderful and I would happily sit down and eat a whole plate of them, were they here.  It might be time to bake another batch.

Right now, I’m craving a cookie.

A stack of cookie love.

A stack of cookie love.

April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks, slightly softened)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange rind
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
6 squares Bakers bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
1/2 – 1 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon) in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl beat or stir butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and orange rind.  Beat until combined.  Gradually beat or stir in flour mixture about 1/3 at a time.  Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate.  You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method.  Some big chunks, some tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to flavor the dough.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate. You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method. Big chunks, tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to permeate the dough.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  If you prefer you can line your baking sheets with parchment for easier cleanup.  Bake 8-10 minutes until just barely brown around the edges.  Remove from oven.  Using a spatula, transfer cookies to wax paper or cooling racks to cool.  Try not to eat them all at once.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

 

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Beautiful Baked Apples

While feeding my Pinterest addiction the other day I came across a lovely recipe for Pear Pies.  This unique recipe used pear halves wrapped in puff pastry and then filled with a blue cheese concoction of some sort.  I didn’t make it.  I’m not a huge blue cheese fan, but they looked gorgeous and I was inspired.  I didn’t have pears on hand, but I did have apples.  And I didn’t have puff pastry but I had pie crust.  In fact, I don’t think I actually used any of the ingredients in the Pear Pie recipe.  But that didn’t stop me from making the most beautiful and fantastic apple “pies” ever.

I actually made these for breakfast this morning.  Yes, you heard me right.  Apple pie for breakfast.  Don’t look at me like that.  It’s fruit!  It’s baked!  It was amazing!  I might have to try the pears next.

Beautiful Baked Apples. You could eat it just like this if you want.

Beautiful Baked Apples. You could eat it just like this if you want.

Beautiful Baked Apples

Or you could dress it up a little.  Yum!

Beautiful Baked Apples

2 granny smith apples
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 beaten egg
4 tsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup walnuts (toasted)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. dried cranberries
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Peel apples.  Cut each apple in half and scrape or cut out the core and seeds.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat mat.  Place the apples cut side down.

I used granny smith apples but use whichever kind you like (some hold their shape better than others when cooked).

I used granny smith apples but use whichever kind you like (some hold their shape better than others when cooked).

Unroll the pie crust and cut into fourths.  Cover each apple half with a fourth of the crust, stretching or trimming if necessary.  If you want to get fancy with it, you can cut a few leaf and stem shapes using the scraps.  Stab a few holes all over.  Brush with beaten egg.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

All dressed up and ready to cook.

All dressed up and ready to cook.

Using a mortar and pestle or food processor (or chop/crush using whatever method you want), mix brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and cranberries.  Set aside.

I got this mortar and pestle for Christmas from my lovely daughter and this was the test run.  I love it!

I got this mortar and pestle for Christmas from my lovely daughter and this was the test run. I love it!

Remove apples from oven,  gently invert on a plate.  Scoop 1/4 of the brown sugar mixture onto the apple.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and dig in. Makes 4 servings.

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Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

I’ve never been a fan of grits.  I think it’s one of those things you have to grow up eating to appreciate.  But I love polenta.  This doesn’t really make sense because they are basically the same thing.  And yet, it’s true.  I don’t know if it’s the way it’s cooked, or the way it’s presented or if it’s just in my head.  I suppose in the end it doesn’t really matter.  In any case, this post is about polenta.  Which is wonderful.  Especially when you mix cream cheese and butter into it.  If you are on a gluten-free diet, or just wanting something different from rice or potatoes to smother with something, eat this.  You can thank me later.

Topping off the polenta is a delicious mushroom and sausage concoction.  Together it was heaven on a plate.  When I first showed this recipe to my daughter Claire she was suspicious of the whole thing.  It didn’t look like much.  But in the end, she made the loudest yummy noises of all.  This disappeared in record time but it will definitely be making a reappearance in our kitchen very soon!

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta

Mushroom and Sausage Ragú with Creamy Polenta
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces hot Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 – 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked polenta
4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon butter

To make polenta, bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cream cheese, and butter.

Meanwhile, eat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage from pan.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.  Serve over polenta.

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Individual Mushroom & Feta Crustless Quiche

Here’s a little something to think about for your weekend breakfasting, although they are quick and easy enough to make on weekdays too.  I love the individual servings, which make it easy to customize the ingredients if needed.  Plus they just look a little fancy.  Perfect for a brunch or just for the heck of it.  Feel free to use any combo of veggies or meats you like in these.

mushroomsfetaminiquiche3

Delicious Mushroom & Feta Quiche

Individual Mushroom & Feta Crustless Quiche
(This recipe makes 4 quiches.  To make just one, use 1-2 eggs and about 1/2 cup of half & half)

3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup onions, sliced
1 small clove garlic, minced
5 eggs
1 3/4 cup half & half
Salt & pepper
Feta (about a tablespoon for each ramekin)

Saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic in a little olive oil until onions are tender.  Spray each of 4 ramekins with cooking spray.  Divide the veggie mixture among the ramekins.

Sauteed veggies.  Feel free to substitute whatever you like if mushrooms and onions don't rock your world.

Sauteed veggies. Feel free to substitute whatever you like if mushrooms and onions don’t rock your world.

In a bowl beat eggs with half & half and some salt & pepper. Pour into each ramekin on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with feta.

All ready to pop in the oven.

All ready to pop in the oven.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until tops are brown and it stays set when you jiggle it a bit.  Let them cool for 5 minutes or so before eating.

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Lime Pudding Cake

Sometimes when politics and pissy people get you down, there is just one solution.  Dessert.  It is impossible to eat these fluffy delights without smiling.  There may not be many subjects we can all agree on, but for most of us, a little sweetness goes a long way toward putting us in a happy mood.  And for me, puttering about in my kitchen is a way to relax as much as is enjoying the fruits of my labors.

I found these little treasures in a Tyler Florence cookbook at the library.  Single servings, simple ingredients and they looked so light and fluffy.  I just had to make them.  I was delighted with the results.  Sweet, tart, rich and creamy.  For this chocolate lover, it was a little off the beaten path, but I was happy to wander.  After all, that’s how you make the best discoveries.

I dare you to eat this without making yummy noises.

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Lime Pudding Cakes. Delicious.  Next time I think a little shower of raspberries would be a nice added touch.

Lime Pudding Cakes
(recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence)

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Sugar (superfine if you have it)
2 eggs, separated
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. lime zest
2 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup flour
2/3 cup superfine sugar (regular sugar will work too)
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325˚.  Butter and lightly sugar four 6-ounce ramekins.  Using the paddle attachment on a kitchen stand mixer, beat yolks, buttermilk, lime zest and lime juice on medium speed until well combined.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add flour, the 2/3 cup sugar, and the salt, until just combined.  Transfer to another large bowl.  Thoroughly wash mixing bowl with soap and hot water and dry well.  Return to stand mixer.  Using the whisk attachment beat egg whites in the clean bowl until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture, a little at a time.

Divide mixture evenly among ramekins.  Place ramekins in a roasting pan and fill the pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

All cozy in the oven.

All cozy in the oven.

Bake about 1 hour, until the top springs back when gently pressed and the cakes have a light golden color.  Remove ramekins from water; allow to cool slightly.  Carefully invert each onto a plate.  Garnish as desired or just dig in.

Cooling down just a bit before presentation time.

Cooling down just a bit before presentation time.

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Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

Need a fancy side dish that 99% of people will absolutely love?  Look no further. I’ve made these a few times and they are always a huge hit.  Not only do we love them, but when we have dinner guests they add a little fancy touch to dinner that an ordinary baked potato just wouldn’t have.  They are easy to make but get an A+ for presentation. If these were a house, you could charge extra just for the curb appeal.

You can use any potatoes for this.  I used Yukon Gold potatoes basically because I was too lazy to peel and not a huge fan of russet potato skins.  But feel free to use whichever spud floats your boat.

Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

 

Downright Fancy Baked Potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes (or whatever kind you like)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. butter
A pinch of salt, pepper, & dry Italian seasoning (or use whichever seasonings you like best)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Slice off a thin piece on one side so the potato will sit still and not roll around while you are trying to slice it.  Make thin slices all the way across the potato, but not going all the way to the bottom.  You want the potato to stay together so stop short about 1/4 inch from the bottom (don’t beat yourself up if you slice one in half, it will still taste fine).  Slice garlic very thinly and slip between potato slices here and there.  Slice butter thinly and insert here and there into potato slices as well.  Sprinkle potatoes with seasonings.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Place on a baking pan and bake for about 1 hour until fork tender.

Why not make a couple extra?  They are terrific the next day.

Why not make a couple extra? They are terrific the next day.

I always try to make a couple extra because the next morning I like to do this:

Pull apart, toss in a pan, add a couple of beaten eggs, scramble.  Top off with hot sauce.  Breakfast of champions.

Pull apart, toss in a pan, add a couple of beaten eggs, scramble. Top off with hot sauce. Breakfast of champions.

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Parmesan-Crusted Salmon

Getting my kids to enjoy seafood was a challenge.  This recipe (and a few similar ones) were the turning point for them. A cheesy, crunchy topping is something any kid recognizes and loves, no matter what it’s on.  Doesn’t hurt that I love it too.

The mayo may seem like a weird choice, but it keeps the fish moist, the breadcrumbs stick to it beautifully and it’s non-dairy, which was essential when the kids were younger because Luke had a milk allergy.  Even though he doesn’t have that problem now, it works so well I’ve just kept using it.

Parmesan-Crusted Salmon

Parmesan-Crusted Salmon

Parmesan-Crusted Salmon

1 or more salmon fillets
1-2 tsp. mayonnaise
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
Salt & pepper
1/4 tsp. dill
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚.  In a small bowl mix panko, parmesan, lemon pepper, a pinch of salt & pepper and dill.  Put your fish on a baking pan covered with foil.  Coat surface of fish with mayonnaise.  Pile on the breadcrumb mixture and press into it to make sure it stays put.

Ready to go in the oven.

Ready to go in the oven.

Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until fish flakes easily in the middle.

parmesansalmon2

Parmesan-Crusted Salmon, right out of the oven. By the way, the little crispy breadcrumbs that fell off the salmon make great crouton-ish salad crunchies.

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Bring Me My Turkey Pot Pie!

I woke up to snow falling this morning.  Well, sort of snow.  More like slush.  But it’s Portland, Oregon, and I’ll take whatever snow I can get.  I caught a flake on my tongue and it didn’t taste like rain.

What to do on a snowy/rainy evening?  Whip up a little comfort food of course.

I grew up eating frozen chicken or turkey pot pies.  You know the little individual ones I mean.  I always liked them, even though I burned the roof of my mouth every dang time.  For some reason, I don’t ever buy them.  Probably haven’t eaten one in 20 years.  But in this case, no frozen pie was needed.  I made my own and it was even better than I remember.  I still burned the roof of my mouth.  Sometimes you just can’t wait.

One of the things I don’t like about most turkey pot pies is the mushy crust on the bottom.  Problem solved by not using one.  I used a top crust only and it was every bit as delicious.  Not to mention a little more healthy since the crust is the most fattening part of the whole thing.  I am not a pie crust expert, so I used a refrigerated roll up crust by Pillsbury.  One of the best convenience products ever invented in my opinion.  This was a huge hit in my house.  Hope it is in yours as well.

turkeypotpie4

Turkey Pot Pie

2 cups cooked turkey or chicken
3 medium potatoes
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup frozen peas
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups milk
2 tbsp. chives
1/2 tsp. creole seasoning
1 refrigerated pie crust

Stab the potatoes and microwave for 5 minutes or so, until fork tender.  Remove, let cool a bit and dice.  Add a drizzle of olive oil to a skillet and add carrots, onion and mushrooms, along with a pinch of salt & pepper.  Saute until veggies are tender.  Add frozen peas and toss with the other vegetables.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk flour into the butter until it’s all absorbed and mixture is smooth.  Whisk in milk gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Continue to whisk until mixture is bubbly and thickened.  Remove from heat.  Stir in a big pinch of salt & pepper, chives, and creole seasoning.  Combine sauce in a large bowl with vegetables, potatoes, and turkey.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Prep a casserole dish with cooking spray.  Add your turkey and vegetable mixture.  Cover with a pie crust and tuck around the edges.  Make a few slices in the top for steam to escape.

That is a beautiful pie crust that I didn't make.

That is a beautiful pie crust that I didn’t make.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown on top.

turkeypotpie2

Perfect Turkey Pot Pie

turkeypotpie3

And the cutaway shot, showing all the yummy goodness lurking underneath that crust. Note the absence of gooey gross bottom crust.

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Chocolate Mint Snow-top Cookies

I bought a little paperback Nestle cookbook long, long ago as an impulse buy while waiting to pay for my groceries.  It was one of the best and most-used purchases I ever made.  It’s now so stained and stiff you can barely turn the sticky pages but I still get it out once or twice a year and bake one of my favorites.  These cookies are one of my regular Christmas cookies but I make them the rest of the year too.  The original recipe called for Nestle chocolate mint semi-sweet morsels, which sadly are no longer available.  I just use the regular ones and add mint.  If you don’t like mint in your cookies…well, just leave it out.  They are still delicious.

It took me a couple of weeks to lose the few extra pounds I put on at Christmas time, but let me assure you…if I were to do it all over again (and I will next year) I would still eat every one of these cookies.  They are one of my favorites and the perfect addition to any gift basket, potluck or dessert tray.  Or just to eat hot off the cookie sheet.  Your choice.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies (along with a few friends)

Chocolate Mint Snow-top Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (divided)
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
Powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl add 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the peppermint extract.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir until smooth (microwave a little longer if needed).  Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, beat granulated sugar and butter until creamy.  Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla extract.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap.  Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Coat with powdered sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper).

They don't look like much, but they blossom like magic.

They don’t look like much, but they blossom like magic.

Bake about 10 minutes until tops appear cracked.  Let stand on cookie sheets for a minute or two.  Remove from cookie sheets and cool.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

chocolatesnowtopcookies2

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Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

The day after Thanksgiving my uncle gave me a turkey.  I was thankful.  But at that point I was a little sick of turkey.  So I cooked the bird, stripped off all the meat and froze every last bit of it (including the broth) in little freezer bags for future meals.  And I’m slowly enjoying it bit by bit.

Right now an inordinate number of my friends and family are sick and that makes me think of chicken (or turkey) soup.  While it may not cure you, sometimes when you’re sick it’s just the thing to make you feel a tiny bit better.  Thankfully I’m not sick, but if I get that way, I’m going to have a batch of this all ready to go.

I like this recipe, especially for turkey leftovers, because it doesn’t taste like Thanksgiving.  The wild rice gives it a slightly woodsy flavor all its own.  Perfect wintery food.  If you’re opposed to wild rice, you can substitute another kind of rice or noodles if you want.  You can also substitute chicken for the turkey.

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

Turkey & Wild Rice Soup

1 onion, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
8 cups chicken broth
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (about 1 tsp of leaves)
2 cups cooked turkey or chicken
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans
1/2 cup wild rice
Pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika
Salt & pepper

Saute onion, celery and carrot in a little olive oil.  Add broth, turkey, green beans and thyme.  Bring to a boil and add rice.  Turn heat down and cook for a half hour or so until rice is tender.  Season as needed with salt & pepper.  Add a pinch of cayenne or paprika for a little extra zip.

 

 

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