1.20.14

Cheeeeese

Dear Libby, I took this picture of you today.  Somehow, in this moment you aren’t my 18 month old.  No, in this moment I see the big girl you will become peeking out at me.  And it makes me all melty inside because it happens so quickly.

I swear it was just yesterday you were this wee crying baby that we brought home.  And now you say actual words like cat, night night, elmo, more, and up.  You don’t just walk, you run…even when there isn’t enough room for you to, you run at full speed.  I’ve watched you mimic with your dolls the things your Dad and I do with you…you give them medicine, you feed them, you show them books, and you hug and kiss on them.  Watching you be the momma taking care of your dolls reminds me that you don’t miss a trick and I need to be mindful that your eyes are always on me.

You won’t remember these days.  So I want you to know that even from the time you were just getting to know the world, you found joy in it, sometimes in the most unlikely places.  Whether it’s turning any request into a game of catch me, providing the sound effects when we read that all the hippos go bezerk, or discovering that momma’s black loafers and old watch are the perfect accessories, you embrace where you are. I hope you will always hold on to that trait.

I also want you to know how you got that the tiny scar by your right eye.  By the time you grow up it will probably be hardly noticeable, but I will always know it’s there.  And so before that particular detail gets lost to me….you had a real knack for knocking into the coffee table.  Usually it just resulted in a bump or bruise.  But this one time you hit the corner just right and got a cut that turned into your very first scar.  I know you can’t even see it in this picture, but I promise you it’s there. I also know it won’t be the only hurt you will ever experience but I hope that the others that are sure to come will fade in time as well.

Happy half birthday to you dear Libby.  I love you to pieces.

Posted in Random | Tagged ,

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Red Pepper and TomatoI have a news flash for you…life with a one year old is pretty freaking chaotic. Pick me up, put me down, catch me, chase me up the stairs, read me a book, let’s play picnic, BANANA! Put that on a loop and repeat at 90 second intervals throughout the day.  This can’t possibly continue indefinitely, can it?  Because just typing that sentence makes me feel manic AND exhausted.

In my house there are two barometers that show the current level of crazy.  The toys scattered around every inch of floor space don’t count because that’s just a given.  No, I’m talking about the dining room table and the refrigerator.

When the surface of the table is no longer visible because of the mail, receipts, grocery bags, boxes and cans of food that didn’t get put away, daily reports from daycare, lunch bags, the Sunday Post, and god only knows what else, it makes me twitchy.  The longer the mess sits around, the more anxious I get, until finally I go through it grumbling and cursing the whole time about people not cleaning up after themselves.  Naturally then, the majority of the crap on the table turns out to be mine.  So I could save myself a whole lot of time and aggravation by either not letting the table deteriorate into a DEFCON 1 situation or by choosing to ignore it.

Likewise, peeking into the fridge will give you a pretty accurate assessment of my mental state even if I’m faking it with the dining room table organization.  Is the fridge relatively clean?  Then all is well…or as well as it can be.  Is the fridge disorganized and maybe a wee bit crowded? This tells you that I am being hijacked by my toddler to entertain her.  This may or may not include viewing episodes of Peppa Pig and hosting spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen . Does my fridge have an unidentified funk that haunts your senses?  Then simply close the door and run because the person having a nuclear meltdown in the corner is not my child, it is me.  Little Miss won’t take a nap and refuses to drink milk from anything but a bottle, she insists on watering the tables with the contents of her sippy cups, there is cat litter scattered all over the floor along with cheerios and bits of half chewed chicken, I have three or four sewing projects in various stages of completion, the dirty laundry is multiplying exponentially, and there is a knob of ginger on my counter that I have so utterly neglected that it actually sprouted.

By the time things actually start to smell, pretending not to notice….the chaos or the funk…is no longer an option.  That’s where I was last night.  So while The Mistah was on duty with bath night (also known as I will scream at you until you take me out of this damn tub), I emptied the fridge shelf by shelf, sniffed out the offenders (yeah, I’m looking at you cauliflower and ignored cup of milk), tossed a few other things that were about to take a turn for the stinky, wiped everything down, and restored order in my Frigidaire.  And damn if it didn’t feel so good when I was done that I kept going with the clean and tackled my stovetop.  For someone who hasn’t been doing a whole lot in the kitchen, I sure managed to make one hell of a mess of my stove.

Along with the physical clutter that I cleared out, I also gave myself a bit of mental breathing room.  And I have to say that felt pretty good too.  I know it will get better and that eventually Miss Libby won’t need constant supervision. Which means that my days of manic exhaustion are numbered.

Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen

BAH Note:  I wanted a bigger batch of this sauce so that I could put some up in the freezer for those DEFCON 1 days.  Since I didn’t bother to write down a single note on how much tomato or peppers I used, I’m going to use the quantity from Alexandra’s post as a starting point.  You can bend and twist this to your liking.

PS…I discovered that this also makes the base for a pretty rocking red pepper tomato soup.  So you do what you like.

  • 2 cups red bell peppers, chopped (about 2 peppers)
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • basil (optional)

Place the peppers, tomato, salt, pepper, and water in a pot.  Simmer for approximately 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.  If the tomatoes want to stick to the pan during cooking, add a bit more water to the pot.

The sauce is done when the tomatoes and peppers are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor, add the basil (if using) and process till smooth.

Return the sauce to the pot and add the butter and olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as desired.   Serve with your pasta of choice, or if the day has been really bad, enjoy a nice tomato sauce sandwich.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Food, Photo, Recipe | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Beefyroni

Cheesy Beefaroni

I’ve been visiting rehab lately.  Something about that sentence has a whole lot of shock value until I clarify that I was going to visit my grandmother who was getting physical therapy/rehab for a broken arm.  After a number of weeks and an operation to reset the bones with pins, the powers that be at her insurance company decided they were done paying for her stay at the facility.  And that was that.

Yup, my 90 year old grandmother got kicked out of rehab.  I can add that to the list of things I never thought I’d hear myself say.

I’m at the point in my life where I’m flanked by life beginning and ending.  On one hand there is Miss Libby just starting out on this journey.  On the other is my grandmother whose journey is winding down.  And both metaphorically as well as mathematically I am almost exactly in the middle of the two.  Somehow that feels so very right.  I get to watch Libby’s light grow and shine while I also get to see my grandmother’s fade.  Both are a privilege but there is sadness in the certainty of knowing I face a profound loss ahead.

I was talking about this recently with a friend and said how unfair I thought it was that after such a long life my grandmother should be facing a growing list of health issues.  And my friend said something that really made me think.  She reminded me that it takes time for a life to begin.  And it takes time for a life to end.  The notion of people peacefully passing on in their sleep?  It looks nice in the movies, but life isn’t The Notebook.  So what I’m seeing, and struggling with, this is part of the process.

That doesn’t make me dislike it any less.  But at least I can look at it a little differently now.  And in those moments when my heart breaks just a little at seeing my grandmother look so old and frail, I can take comfort in the delight she gets from seeing Libby’s joy and wonder unfold at the world around her.

Beefyroni

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

Note:  This is all about comfort.  I’m not suggesting that you should feed your feelings…well, maybe I am.  But there is something reassuring about ground beef, macaroni, and cheese.  Maybe it’s the simplicity of the dish.  Or maybe it’s just a trifecta of perfection.  Mine is not to reason why…yours shouldn’t be either…just enjoy.

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Cheddar cheese, grated

Brown the beef and onion in a large skillet on medium high heat, breaking the beef apart with your spoon or spatula as it browns.

While the beef and onion cooks, combine the beef broth, mustard, ketchup, and salt in a bowl.

Once the beef is no longer pink, drain off most of the grease (remember, there’s a lot of flavor in those drippings).  Add the broth mixture to your pan with the beef and bring to a boil.  Add the macaroni, give it a stir, and then cover the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for approximately 10 to 12 minutes until the macaroni is tender.

Add the cheese, stir to combine, and dig in to a heaping bowl of comfort.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Cooking, Food, Main Course, Pasta, Photo, Recipe, Retro Recipe | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Secret to Homemade Chicken Soup

chicken soup

my grandmother’s secret to chicken soup? her homemade noodles.
flour + egg is all you need.

Seems to me that the people who write recipes must have have some secrets up their sleeves, or a rabbit in their hat.  Because I can’t otherwise explain how they can possibly do things like caramelize onions in 30 minutes or get a really good sear on a cut of meat in 2 minutes per side.  It’s as though time is suspended in their kitchen.

Anytime I read a recipe I feel like I should start mentally marking up the cooking time that is quoted as guidelines.  I need to sweat onion and celery till soft and you say it should take about five minutes.  In my kitchen it’s more like ten or fifteen minutes.  Roast my veg for 30 minutes until tender?  Please, I’m giving that pan a shake every 30 minutes.

Am I responsible for some of the discrepancies?  Absolutely.  Am I using a large enough pan?  Maybe not.  Am I cooking over a high enough heat?  Maybe not.  Have I overcrowded my pan?  Possibly.  All of these differences could partly explain why it takes me longer to get from Point A to Point B than you say it will.  As far as the rest of the explanation…I will never know.

One thing I do know is that some secrets can be cracked.  Like the secret to homemade chicken soup.

The secret is simple, use a rotisserie chicken as both the base of the stock and the meat for the finished soup.  No more taking up valuable freezer space to save random chicken parts until you have enough for a soup.  And no more spending a whole day with a pot slowly simmering away on the stove.  Who has time for that?

One rotisserie chicken is all you need.  Simmering the stripped carcass and skin in chicken broth gives you a full and rich stock in no time at all.  Now, if you want to tell people that this soup took you all day so that you could sneak in some alone time, I can promise that your secret is safe with me.

Easy Chicken Soup

Adapted from Cook’s Country

BAH Note:  Use this as your guide and then fancy it up any way you like.  Add rice or noodles!  Don’t want to give peas a chance?  Substitute frozen corn instead.  Do what makes you happy.

I make a mess in the kitchen on my good days.  So when a recipe tells me to pour 8 cups of hot liquid through a strainer, I see danger signs.  Instead of tempting fate, and 2nd degree burns, by trying to pour steaming hot liquid out of the hot stock pot, I break the process down into a few steps.  I place a mesh strainer in a bowl large enough to hold all the liquid.  Then I use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and place it in the strainer.  Using a big ladle, I run the stock from the pot through the strainer.  Lastly I scrape any bits from the bottom of the stock pot into the strainer.  Once all the liquid has drained off the chicken and vegetables, the strainer rests in the sink until the bones and veg have cooled enough to go in the trash.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Break down the rotisserie chicken and shred the meat into bite sized pieces.  Keep the skin and bones for making the stock.  And be sure to scrape any gelled juices out of the chicken carrier.  That’s pure gold right there and it needs to go in your soup pot.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken bones and skin, broth, water, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and garlic to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Strain your stock through a mesh strainer and press on the solids to get as much liquid out as possible.  Return the stock to your dutch oven.  You want to have about 8 cups of liquid by this point.  If you have less than 8 cups, add water till you get there.

While the stock cooks, take the diced carrot and onion and remaining 1/2 tablespoon (that’s 1 1/2 teaspoons) olive oil and microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.

Transfer the softened carrot and onion mixture to the chicken stock.  Stir in the frozen peas and chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, Recipe, Soup, Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

10.10.13

9 years low res

Happy Anniversary!

Posted in Random | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Apple Upside Down Cake

Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

I have a love/hate relationship with CSA’s.  I love the premise…buying local fruits and vegetables to support the farms and growers in the area.   Or, as one of the more popular local CSA’s says:

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a mutually beneficial relationship between farmers and the community. Participants provide funding for the farmer in advance of the growing season in exchange for produce when it’s ready. Items vary according to the season. They could be beets, lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, a watermelon — whatever is ripe for picking.

Sounds like a win-win, right?  As much I want to say the answer is yes, I can’t.

Because a traditional CSA obligates you to participate every week for the length of the season. Considering that I don’t know what life is going to throw my way from week to week to week, how in the world does it makes sense for me to commit to 24 weeks of anything, let alone produce buying?  Not to mention the fact that despite my best intentions, sometimes the produce I bring home doesn’t get used up in a week.  It often lingers and takes up the limited amount of storage space in the crisper and on the counter.  If I manage to line up a weekend get away, I can skip my pickup but I’ve still paid for that week.  So in the larger picture the produce just got more expensive on a per item basis.

Selection flexibility varies by grower.  Some prepackage the shares which means that you get what you get.  Other growers allow you to pick your items week to week from whatever they have available.  There is no set guideline so it is up to each CSA to decide how much flexibility you get in selecting your items.

Did I mention that you pay up front for your spot?  Prices vary but a full share (typically 6-8 selections per week) will run between $500 and $600.  Averaged out, it’s about $20 to $25 per week which certainly is a great value.  But I would be hard pressed to come up with that kind of cash in a single transaction.  Sure you can sign up for a half share for a slightly lower cost or split a share with someone.  And some CSA’s even allow you to pay the cost in three or four payments.  Personally, cost has been probably the biggest factor preventing me from really jumping on the CSA wagon.

My last issue with CSA’s is that the pick up isn’t convenient for me.  Could I get myself to the farmer’s market at 8am on a Saturday?  I suppose.  But I’m not inclined to.  Could I arrange to get to a pickup location on a weekday?  That’s even less likely given that I’ve usually got a small person in tow and at the end of the work day, neither of us wants to sit in rush hour traffic to pick up some veg…we’d rather go home and veg.

These are the reasons that I have poo-pooed CSA’s.

But then I stumbled across a CSA, on Facebook of all places, that seemed like it had been created just for me.  There’s no long term commitment.  I get to decide from week to week if I want to purchase anything.  That alone makes me giddy.

No long term commitment means that I pay as I go.  So I don’t have to come up with a chunk of cash to “secure” my share at the beginning of the growing season.  That makes my checkbook happy.

There are multiple share sizes…fruit share, vegetable share, half share, full share, double share, dairy share, egg share.  The choices are almost dizzying.  So I’m able to select the option that is right for me.  As if that wasn’t enough flexibility, I can request a substitution here and there.  If they can accommodate the request, they do!  In my last pickup, I was able to sub out two butternut squash for the week’s kale and watermelon…I totally got the better end of that.  And if I want to add some a la carte items, I can do that too.  I’ve come home with local butter, bacon, and berries thanks to a bit of impulse buying at pick up.

As if that wasn’t enough to arouse my interest, I get a three day pickup window.  All I have to do is say which day and be there between Noon and 7pm.  Seriously, even I can fit in a ride down the highway at some point on a Saturday or Sunday….sometimes even a Monday if the stars align.  That makes my overprogrammed schedule happy.

My discovery of this Wendi-friendly CSA is how I came to be in possession of a crate of local Honey Crisp apples.  On a weekday afternoon.  At home alone.  When The Universe gives me this kind of gift, you better believe I take full advantage of it.

So I pulled out a recipe for Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce and got peeling, chopping, and baking.  I may have taken a few liberties with the recipe and had a complete fail on my first attempt to get the sugar to cook into caramel, but I reveled in the luxury of having the freedom to get my hands, and my pans, dirty, and in finding a CSA that works on my terms.

Apple Upside Down Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2013

BAH Note:  Bon Appetit gave this a fancy French name but when you strip away all the fancypants Francais, it’s an apple upside down cake.  I think the cake shines brightly enough on its own that I’m saying the caramel sauce is optional.  If you’d like to exercise that option, click on the link to Bon Appetit above and you can access the caramel sauce recipe.

  • 10 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 pounds tart apples (Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, Braeburn), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9″ round cake pan with parchment.  Butter and flour the pan and set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add apples and 2 tablespoons sugar and cook until the apples become golden brown, approximately 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Allow the apples to cool slightly while you prepare the cake batter.

Whisk together the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.

Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Spread the apples into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Pour the batter over the apples and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 35 to 45 minutes.  Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes.  Flip the cake out of the pan onto the rack, remove the parchment, and allow the cake to cool completely.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Baking, Dessert, Food, Photo, Sweets | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Deb’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

What is it about getting older that makes my bad memory even worse?  I freely admit that it’s not unusual for someone to tell me a story about a past event that I was part of and have absolutely no recollection of it.  Not a speck.  I just shake my head and mutter “if you say so”.  They could be making it up and I wouldn’t know the difference…not that I’m inviting them to test this theory or anything.

One of my college roommates has this disturbing power of recollection.  She can talk about something that happened years ago with exquisite detail….we did this and you were wearing this and he said this and blah, blah, blah.  It makes my head hurt to think of all that detail just swimming around in her brain waiting for a chance to be called upon. But good on her for being able to pull random facts out at will.

This forgetfulness of mine recently paid a visit to me in the kitchen.  See, I had been recommending Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken to someone and realized that I couldn’t remember the last time I made it.  Not because I’m walking around like Guy Pearce’s character, Leonard, in Momento but because it had been months since this dish hit my table.  So I put buttermilk and chicken on the grocery list and when the time came to set up the chicken and the buttermilk on a blind date, all I could remember was that the two needed to hang out in the fridge for a day or so.  I forgot that they needed some sweet and spicy chaperones.  It wasn’t until I went back and looked at the recipe for the oven temp that I realized my mistake.

Thankfully, not even my crappy memory was able to break this recipe.  Because I seasoned the chicken with paprika, salt, and some chili seasoning after its milky date and it was every bit as delicious as if I had remembered to season the buttermilk in the first place.

Deb’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

BAH Note:  Super delicious.  This might even become your weeknight go to chicken dish.  You could set your oven as high as 425 degrees and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.  It may sound foolish but that kind of heat makes me nervous….so you do what you’re comfortable with.   Either way you get delicious, moist chicken.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or smoked, whatever you have)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 pounds bone in, skin on chicken (you use the parts you like best)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine the buttermilk, garlic, salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper in a zip top plastic bag or a bowl large enough to hold the chicken.  Add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator anywhere from 2 hours to 48 hours.

When ready to bake, heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking dish or sheet pan with foil.  Remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine and place in your dish or pan.  Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and roast for 45 – 60 minutes until done.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Chicken, Cooking, Food, Main Course, Recipe | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

#1 Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

CC Cookie Dough

Thanks to watching too many episodes of BBQ Pitmaster, The Mistah and I have started referring to ourselves in a rather bizarre third person way.  I’ll try and explain.  On each episode there are three new competitors.  They have a friendly little showdown where they all have to submit their version of two different staples from the world of bbq….ribs, brisket, pork belly, etc.  The judging is blind…entries are only identified to the judges by a number (#1, #2, #3).  But the competitors get to watch the judging in a little Pitmaster Lounge.

{tangent} Hello Pitmasters, you just spent 12 hours working your ass off and the best you get for a lounge in some folding chairs, a few bbq related props, and a television so you can watch the judges critique your entry?  My biscuits would be a little burned up about that…I’m just saying. {end tangent}

So as each competitor’s dish is being discussed and sampled by the judges, there is this highly annoying ritual that takes place:

Judge:  “Let’s judge the entries for taste, tenderness, and appearance.  Entry #1.”

Competitor: “#1, Smokin’ Crack, that’s me!”

Judge:  “Entry #2″

Competitor: “#2, Slap Daddy, that’s me!”

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  And this happens every single freaking time the judges refer to the entries.  I think they could cut the show down to 30 minutes if they would stop this insanity.

So The Mistah and I started jokingly coming up with random third person names for ourselves .  Just last night I called him #1 Best Dada.  And we pretty consistently call Libby #1 Best Baby (because hello, have you met her… she totally is).

{tangent} The funny thing is that these names also remind me of storefront Chinese restaurants…#1 Chinese Restaurant, #1 Chinese Carryout (both of which are actual restaurant names according to yellowpages.com).  Can they all be the #1 Best? {end tangent}

What does any of this have to do with cookies?  Only that when I sat down to tell you about these cookies, I wanted to find a way to convey that they are the absolute. best. chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made.  So I pulled out the BBQ Pitmaster third person name generator and came up with #1 Best Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I think it makes my point.

What makes these so special?

#1 Reason, they bake up thin AND chewy, that’s me. Thin and chewy is my own personal flavor of cookie perfection.

#2 Reason, they nail the salty/sweet thing perfectly, that’s me.  You definitely taste both but neither is overwhelming.

#3 Reason, they freeze beautifully, that’s me.  I don’t mean after you’ve baked them.  They don’t last long enough in their baked form to worry about long term storage solutions.  But you can scoop the dough onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and put it in the freezer overnight.  The next day transfer the dough to a freezer bag, seal, and pretend you don’t know they are there.  When you need a quick bite of something sweet, pull out one or two dough balls.  Whether you choose to bake them off or eat them as is….that’s totally up to you.  I’ve done both and to this question there really is no wrong answer.

I have a second refrigerator being delivered this weekend….now that Miss Libby is drinking milk we buy it two and three gallons at a time and that takes up some serious refrigerator space.  At least that’s the reason I used with The Mistah for why we needed it.  That there would also be additional freezer space for things like cookie dough, well that’s just the butter on my biscuit.

#1 Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Canal House Cooks and Alexandra’s Kitchen

BAH Note:  Go. Make. These. Now.  You’ll thank me.  And if you have a kitchen scale, I recommend using it.  Makes measuring sooooo much easier.  Again, you’ll thank me.  The quantity of salt is not a misprint….2 teaspoons.

PS, there was a lot of discussion on Alexandra’s original post talking about alternate oven temps, how thin these are supposed to be, etc.  And she has pictures of the cookies after they’ve been baked.  So you might want to mosey over there and take a look.

  • 10 ounces butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (298 grams) brown sugar (dark or light, you choose)
  • 3/4 cup (149 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (265 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces chocolate chips

Heat your oven to 375 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment.  Combine the butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt in the work bowl of your mixer (paddle attachment please) and mix on medium high for approximately 3 minutes until the mixture becomes light.  Add the eggs and mix on medium for about 2 minutes until the eggs are incorporated.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the 1 3/4 cups flour and baking soda.  Add the flour mixture to them dough and mix on medium for about 2 minutes.  Remove the bowl from your mixer.

In yet another bowl, combine the chocolate chips with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.  Use a spatula to stir the flour coated chocolate chips into your dough by hand.  This is to keep you from over mixing your dough.

Use a small ice cream scoop to portion your dough onto the prepared sheet pans.  You want each scoop to be approximately 1 tablespoon…give or take…and I would put no more than four scoops of dough on each pan….these spread like wildfire.

Bake approximately 10 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  The cookies will be thin and the center may look a bit not set but don’t bake for longer than 11 minutes.  Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Baking, Cooking, Food, Photo, Recipe, Sweets | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

No Bake Mint Thin Cookies

No Bake Thin Minty Cookies

Dear Pinterest,

You don’t know me.  But I think I know about all I need to about you.

On the surface, you seem innocent enough.  Lots of pretty pictures and inspiration swirling around like so many feathery party garlands, all for the taking.  Motivational quotes to help us be the people we imagine ourselves to be in our minds?  Got it.  Crafts to enrich our child’s young life experience?  Check.  Recipes that make us drool over their simplicity and perfection?  Roger.

In short, you’re too good to be true.

I submit the following:

  1. It took Google .27 seconds to return about 40,600,000 results when I searched “pinterest fail”.
  2. I just lost something like 30 minutes clicking on a few dozen of those 40,600,000 results.
  3. Websites the likes of Pinstrocity, Epic Pinterest Fail, and Pintester would not be relevant if our attempts to recreate these pins were successful more than they failed.
  4. Those perfectly styled photos are just that….perfectly styled.  They aren’t real life.
  5. Common sense says that if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

So Pinterest, as easy as it is to buy into the idea of a picture perfect life being only a click away, I’m going to keep living the life that says sometimes you have to give up on the idea of perfect and get your hands covered in some chocolate.

No Bake Minty Thin Cookies

Adapted from Top With Cinnamon

BAH Note: You don’t have to temper your chocolate but tempered chocolate will set up firm at room temperature and not need refrigeration.  And if you have a food processor…there’s no reason not to temper it.  Top With Cinnamon will show you how.  Clicky here for a lovely tutorial on the easiest method for tempering your chocolate.

I found it annoying to separate the cookies and scrape the filling.  Not to mention this resulted in lots of broken cookie bits that went into my mouth.  Yes, the “thin” part of the title is achieved by separating the cookie but the goal of chocolate coated cookies is easier to achieve if you leave the cookies whole.  You choose the approach you like best.

Oh, and I eventually gave up on dipping the cookies in the chocolate and letting the excess drip off.  My solution was to use a silicon pastry brush to slather a layer of chocolate coating all over the cookie.  It didn’t result in as thick a layer of chocolate but it also didn’t make me cry in frustration.

  • 30 to 40 Oreo cookies (if separating the Oreos, use 15 to 20)
  • 7 to 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon mint extract

Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Separate the Oreo cookie halves, if you choose to.  If using halves, scrape the cream filling off the cookies.  Place the cookies on one of the sheet pans.

Melt and/or temper your chocolate.  Add the mint extract and stir it into the chocolate.

Dip the cookies into the melted chocolate using a fork (turning to coat both sides) or paint the cookies with the melted chocolate using a pastry brush.  Transfer the coated cookies to the other cookie sheet.  Allow the chocolate to set up (room temp for tempered or in the fridge for melted).  Store cookies in an airtight container.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Cooking, Dessert, Food, Photo, Recipe, Sweets | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Abby’s Greek Yogurt Coffee Cakes

Coffee Cake Muffin

I know that’s a helluva long title.  But each and every word is important.  Lemme break it down for you.

Abby = Abby Dodge.  Seriously credentialed baking guru.  Author of multiple cookbooks, contributing editor to Fine Cooking, blogger, and teacher.  If we were somehow plopped down in the middle of The Karate Kid, Abby would be Mr. Miyagi.  She would be the sensei to my Daniel-san.  I might also add that she is a lovely human being that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  Do I sound like a fan-girl?  Probably, and that’s ok.  A girl has to have someone to admire.

Greek Yogurt = low fat, tangy deliciousness.  But let’s keep it real…the greek yogurt doesn’t make this a diet recipe.  You’ve still got a whole stick of butter and more than one cup of sugar going into your batter.  In the words of Mr. Miyagi, “You remember lesson about balance?  Lesson not just karate only.  Lesson for whole life.  Whole life have a balance.  Everything be better.  Understand?”  So yeah, some butter and sugar are ok.  Just remember to look for some balance.

Coffee Cake = snack cake perfection.  Tender cake topped with buttery crumble. Perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning or as a late night snack. I’ve had a life long love affair with coffee cake thanks to the folks at Tastykake.  They like to say that “nobody bakes a cake as tasty as a Tastykake”.  I say maybe it’s time for a new slogan.

Individually, these are three good things.  Combined, they are a trifecta of perfect.  They are Daniel-san seeing the wisdom in Mr. Myiagi’s teachings, winning the competition, and getting the girl….minus a soft rock soundtrack.

*Note, all Karate Kid references are to the original 1984 movie.  Why anyone would try to fix what wasn’t broken, I don’t understand.

Abby’s Greek Yogurt Coffee Cake

Adapted from Abby Dodge, Mini Treats and Handheld Sweets

BAH Note:  I think the only thing I would do differently in the future is to double the amount of topping and stir some into the batter.  The topping is my favorite part of coffee cake, so I will always looks for ways to get more of it in my mouth.

Topping

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt

Combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl.  Stir in the melted butter until you get smallish crumbs.  Transfer the topping to the fridge while you make the cakes.

Heat the oven to 350 and line 16 muffin cups with baking papers.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.  In the workbowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for approximately 1 minute.  Add the brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until nicely creamed.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Add half of the flour mixture and stir on low speed until just combined.  Stir in the yogurt and vanilla and mix until just blended.  Fold in the rest of the flour mixture with a rubber spatula.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.  Add the chilled topping and use the back of a spoon to gently press the topping into the batter (and then set that spoon aside for your enjoyment).

Bake for approximately 18 to 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely…or just long enough so that you don’t scorch the top of your mouth as you cram some coffee cake goodness in your face.

{printable recipe}

Posted in Baking, Food, Photo, Recipe, Sweets | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment