28 June 2009

C is for Cookie

Some days just call for chocolate chip cookies. This past Saturday was one of those days. I had two dear friends from college coming over for dinner, have been stressed over work, and hell - for some reason I really craved a fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookie with some ice cream. Or a chipwich. You get the point.

I decided to venture away from my mother's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe and try Alton Brown's Chewy recipe, found over at chaos in the kitchen. With a few substitutions, I was all set to bake.

The cookies were very buttery (2 sticks of butter will do that), and didn't seem to hold up shape very well, or at least in my attempts. Also, since I don't usually keep a lot of milk in the house, used 2 TB of buttermilk in the recipe (shh, don't tell) and cut down the melted butter count by about 1 TB. For the chips, I added about 1.5 cups of chocolate chips and the rest of the 1/2 cup of peanut butter chips.

My grandmother's standing rule for making cookies and when to take them out of the oven didn't kick in until after batch 1. Her voice then popped into my head, and I remembered my mother explaining to me why we take the cookies out just before they look done, as she covered 3 counters of chocolate chip cookies for my brothers and I. Now, this doesn't work for all cookies, but I swear, for my mother's, it was like the secret ingredient (that, or shortening), and boy could she make cookies. They continued to bake on the counter out of the oven, she'd say. A trick she'd learned from her mother, whom I didn't know very well but I took my mother's word on it.

All in all, the cookies were delicious, but I may stick to the family recipe from now on.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (w/ a splash of peanut butter for good measure)
Adapted from Alton Brown and chaos in the kitchen

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp milk (* I used buttermilk, and took 1 TB out of the butter content up top ... try using the real stuff when ya can though :) )
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips.

Melt butter, add to mixing bowl. In another bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda. Add white and brown sugars to mixing bowl with butter. Cream butter and sugar together. I do this by hand (still haven't purchased the hand mixer). Mix in eggs, milk, and vanilla. Slowly add in flour until well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and peanut butter. Chill dough until firm enough to scoop.

Preheat oven to 375° F. I recommend lining the sheets with parchment paper. Greasing the pan leaves for oily or burnt bottoms of the cookies, and with this much butter in the recipe, it seemed destined for disaster.

Bake for 9-11 minutes and allow to cool. Or just pop in a bowl with some ice cream (hey, sometimes, it just has to be done.)

Repurposing old coffee grounds. Diana this one's for you.

So, my yoga teacher's been on a bit of a compost rant for the last few weeks. She's phenomenal, and not too preachy or overly wacky - which some yoga teachers are. Her name's Diana and she's the tops. By far my favorite yoga teacher yet by a landslide.

She's been doing a lot of gardening, and recently discovered the world of self composting. It's garnered so much excitement that she's worked it into Sunday's classes as a lesson to "compost your soul". It makes me giggle, I'm not gonna lie.

Anywho, thought of Diana this week with all of her compost-ness, when I was making coffee of all things. My ex converted me to the world of french press coffee and electric kettles last year - a decision that not only freed up my counter a bit but also seems to have a bit more character. I dig. I was cleaning out the grounds as I normally do, when I got on the Googles and decided to see if there was something I could do with these. My apartment lacks a back yard, so composting in the traditional sense was out of the question.

What I did find was a facial treatment using the grounds and an egg white, that you let dry on your face. Supposedly the caffeine is supposed to work its magic, while the grounds exfoliate, all while helping you feel like a mud creature from a B-list horror movie. Hell, why not, right?

The texture was a bit coarser than usual, since I grind my own coffee a bit less than normal folks, but all in all an interesting experience. I'd recommend leaning over a sink or something for this whole process because it is a bit messy, with bits of coffee falling off your face, with the very serious potential of staining your clothes. But refreshing nevertheless, and a sight to see for anyone around, I'm sure. :)

27 June 2009

Oatmeal cookie pancakes with dried cranberries

Two things you may not know about me.

1. I often don a Susie-homemaker-polka dot-headband when I cook. And 2. I love Saturday mornings. Typically these two come together in some joyous union at the end of each work week. This was one of those weeks.

Depending on the week, I either get up and go to Haymarket early or go for a jog, then treat myself to a big breakfast. Sometimes it's Dutch baby pancakes, other weeks frittatas, or a breakfast burrito (if I happen to have a fiery salsa on hand).

Last weekend, I decided to give Joy the Baker's oatmeal cookie pancakes a try. I, like Joy, absolutely love pancakes of all shapes and sizes, from potato to buttermilk and beyond. I headed to the store to pick up some buttermilk, some eggs, splurging on some turkey bacon as well and headed home.

Now, buttermilk's a strange substance to me. I've never cooked with it before (shh, don't tell) and was really taken aback at the rich buttery smell of it. It makes sense, I realize, for butter-milk to have a buttery aspect to it, I know. I'm not that dumb. It's part of my liquid milk phobia, I swear.

(OK, the milk phobia for those that don't already know. Ever since I stopped drinking milk out of a bottle as a kid, the smell and the taste of liquid milk really give me the heebie jeebies, making me gag. Though I've gotten much better about cooking with it and what not, still, to this day, I cannot drink a glass of liquid milk. Flavor it however you want. I still can't take a gulp. Weird, I know.)

Either way, I gave this recipe a go, subbing in dried cranberries for the raisins. With a side of turkey bacon, this was top notch. Somewhat coma-enducing (even took an hour nap afterwards) but delicious nevertheless, and not overly sweet.

Alright featured ingredient ... let's put you to work.

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes w/ Dried Cranberries
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Joy the Baker


2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
cooking spray

In a large bowl beat eggs. Add buttermilk, butter (cooled, or else you'll scramble the eggs), maple syrup and vanilla. Mix, mix, mix. Add flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix well until smooth, or as smooth as an oats batter can be. Fold in cranberries and let batter set for a few minutes.

Heat pan over medium heat. Spray the pan with some non-stick cooking spray and cook up the pancakes. It doesn't really get any simpler than that. Though, be careful ... if you're not used to cooking heartier pancakes, be careful the temp on the pan is just right, so that the pancakes don't brown while the middle is still raw.

The result:

22 June 2009

A smattering of Monday goodness

Some weeks I'm all about keeping the blog up to date. Other weeks ... well, it just doesn't happen. The last month or so has been one of those black holes of updating TTK.

So, here's a roundup of some of the tastier little things I've been making over the last few weeks. Some are staples (broccoli pesto pasta with spinach and olives), others were heartier first whirls (braised chard with white beans) ...

... to failed experiments that ended up being more delicious than initially anticipated (my take on "nut butter"), and a cocktail to help relieve some stress that reminds me of March's trip to Sao Paolo. Plus, it gave me an excuse to crack open a bottle of cachaca and use my tucan muddler. Who doesn't love a tucan muddler, I mean - really now.

The "nut butter", originally a spin on Andrea's Vanilla Cinnamon Almond Butter turned into more of a mix of ingredients. I had a bag of unsalted mixed nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews and hazelnuts) that needed using up, so I gave it a whirl. As Andrea details in her post, getting this to become creamy and not just finely chopped nuts can take forever, so I finally gave up, added a bit more vanilla, a bit of oil (just a teensy bit), and some brown sugar. It's delicious, and while not creamy, it's delicious on toast, great topping for ice cream and really not that bad for a failed try. Better luck next time. Maybe I'll have found some patience by then ... maybe. ;)

All in all, not too shabby ... I still need to post the hot toddy pudding cake night to end all hot toddy nights (let's just say, copious amounts of scotch, baked goods and two close male friends can lead to some interesting stories ... ;) ) but that's to come. Oh, and the oatmeal cookie pancakes from this weekend with dried cranberries. Mmm, pancakes. Those'll come this week.

Stay tuned, and for a little happy Monday music, check out my friend's band Freddy & Francine. It'll sure help if you're stuck in this dreary grey rainy weather loop. And maybe you'll even learn how to do the Brownstone Alley ;)

18 June 2009

Dear phyllo dough, I want a divorce.

Dear phyllo dough,

We're fighting. I think it's best we stay away from one another for a while. You stay in the freezer section, I'll make dishes without you for a while, and maybe, mayyybbbee one of these days we can try this again. But for now, I'm mad at you.


Ya know ... some food experiments turn out well, some ... you just have to chalk up to a failed operation.

This is the tale of my vegetable tart with phyllo dough. It was a mild night in early June. I had a variety of ingredients already that needed to be used, the concept seemed brilliant, the meal sounded delicious and healthy, and all it would take would be a bit of phyllo dough.

I chopped up all of the artichoke hearts and tomatoes and put them in a bowl. I marinated the veggies for an extra kick in a lemony mustard vinaigrette. It tasted wonderful. While those flavors married, I got out my baking dish and pulled this phyllo dough out of the freezer. How hard could this be, right?

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

Somehow, I forgot that I wasn't working with puff pastry or something manageable, instead very thin, easily teared pieces of flakiness. I started laying this out over the pan, leaving ample over the edges to wrap up over the filling, brushing with oil.

Then, I got lazy ... stopped doing this sheet by miserable sheet, and started lumping 2-3 sheets together. Hell, I've got places to be, what can I say. And regardless, it was just a few bits of flakiness, right?

Wrong, again.

I filled with the drained tomatoes and artichoke hearts, crumbled feta cheese over it, squeezed some extra lemon over, wrapped this all up, brushed with oil (before it started to tear ... again) and popped in the oven.

This, was the outcome ...

Pretty enough, right? That's what I thought. Now if only the dough had any taste, but it was like eating thinner, crispier construction paper.

So Mr. Phyllo Dough, we're not friends right now. I think it's best we keep our distance for the time being. I'll call you when I'm ready for you again.

Have suggestions for how I can reacquaint myself with this frozen pastry nemesis? I'd love to hear. Otherwise, I'll stick to store bought tart shells and frozen spanakopita. ;)

17 June 2009