Recipe | Almond Cookies

I have had this recipe in the back of my recipe book for well over two years and decided it was finally time to give it a try. With the holidays coming up, I am always in need of new cookie recipes. This one reminds me of my favorite almond cookies from my days working at the local coffee shop, Bella Bru, while in high school. These little cookies are filled with tons of almond flavor and are perfect to enjoy with your morning coffee or as an after dinner treat!

Italian Almond Cookie

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 (16-oz) package Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced almonds
Powered sugar

Directions:
1. Beat egg whites until foamy in a large bowl. Stir in almond meal, sugar, almond extract and salt; cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to chill.

2. Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Press almonds with your fingers to break into smaller pieces. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch crescents and roll in almonds; place on baking sheets.

3. Bake for 20 minutes for softer or 30 minutes for firmer cookies. Dust with powdered sugar.


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Recipe | Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

So, I will admit that chocolate chip cookies aren’t really my thing which surprises even me because I love just about any sweet you put in front of me, except chocolate that is.  I am not sure if this is a blessing or a curse, but nonetheless, I am not a chocolate lover.  Unfortunately for my husband, this means I often forget about his favorite cookie, the old fashioned chocolate chip cookie (I tell ya, he is a basic guy that is easy to please in the kitchen!).

So when I read about these chocolate chip cookies on Cupcakes and Cashmere’s blog, I knew I had to try them at least for his sake right? While the 24-36 hour wait time may be a bit discouraging, if you are anything like me and must eat one right away, the batter makes plenty to pop a few in immediately and honestly, I didn’t really notice the carmely difference the original recipe talks about. Lastly, if you don’t have the bread flour, cake flour, or patience to wait 24 hours for the batter to rest you can always try these which we made during our trip to Bodega Bay which were almost equally as good – I made Ry decide which he liked better 🙂 (Notes: For the Epicurious recipe, we did not melt the butter as stated in the recipe, only used 1 6oz bag of chocolate chips because they were $5 a bag at the general store, and cooked for 13 minutes at 375 degrees and they turned out excellent as well).

But, if you are up for the challenge of waiting, feel free to try these cookies and maybe you can have one happy husband like mine!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Published: July 9, 2008

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

Ingredients

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

Directions
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.


Recipe | Garlic Chips

Whenever I go back home there are a few restaurants that I always try to make my way to and Pizzeria Classico is one of them as we go specifically for their delectable garlic chips. So you can imagine my excitement when my best friend pinned this recipe on her Pinterest because it might be the closest thing I can get to them in LA.

The result was finger lickin’ good and almost as good as the original!

My tips: add more cheese than you think, double the garlic, and roll the dough as thin as possible!

Enjoy!

Popover, Do-Over

I was informed by a certain popover connoisseur that my popover post here was not a total success and the popovers were lacking…well, “pop”. I didn’t quite believe her at first because no. 1 they tasted good and no. 2 they more than doubled in size which seemed to be popped enough for me! But, since I was the annoying girl in class that always did the extra credit to ensure I got an A+, not an A, I had to go for the A+ and try them again. Miss Popover connoisseur is from Texas, so naturally she had endless comparisons to the “Neiman Marcus” popovers. Therefore, after a bit of research we decided I should try this Neiman Marcus popover recipe.

Success???

You be the judge, but I think I will give myself an A for this attempt! These definitely had more “pop”; however, they tasted a bit more floury than the Tyler Florence recipe. I decided I will try this recipe again using more butter and hope they keep their pop but the extra butter will add just a bit more flavor.

If anyone has a great popover recipe send it my way before I try these again for the A+!

xoxo

They’re baaaack…..and yummy as ever!

These macarons seem to be the fan favorite thus far! Annie Rigg says it best, “Salted caramel seems to be the flavor of the moment, and the combination works like a dream sandwiched in the middle of macarons.” Good thing the recipe only makes about 20 cookies because these things are dangerous to have around the house!

Salted Caramel Macaron
source: Annie Rigg’s, Macarons

For the macaron:
200g confectioners’ sugar
100g ground almond
120-125g egg whites {aged for at least 24 hours}
a pinch of salt
40g super fine sugar
a piping bag, fitted with a 1/2″ nozzle tip
2 baking sheets, lined with non-stick baking parchment
**********
To make the macaron:
Follow macaron directions from the original post.
**********
For the salted caramel filling:
75g caster/superfine sugar
2 tbsp water
75g light brown sugar
50g {1/4 cup} unsalted butter
100ml {1/2 cup} heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
**********
To make the caramel filling:
To make the filling, put the caster/superfine sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over low heat and let sugar dissolve completely. Bring to a boil, then cook until the syrup turns to an amber-colored caramel. Remove from the heat and add the brown sugar, butter, and cream (all at room temperature). Stir to dissolve, then return to the low heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the caramel has thickened and will coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, add the salt, pour into a bowl and leave until completely cold and thick.
Spread or pipe the filling in over half the macaron shells and sandwich with the other half.


Recipe | Popovers

Several months ago, I enjoyed these yummy treats at chef, Tyler Florence’s restaurant, Wayfare Tavern, in San Francisco. And let me tell you, they were one of the most memorable parts of the meal – the buttery, golden rolls with a crispy outside and easy to pull apart inside left me wanting more! So when my best friend emailed me the link to his recipe, I knew I had to try re-creating that magic at home.  This weekend, I finally purchased myself a popover pan {although not needed, as most say a muffin pan will do} and began my quest.

This is my view as I eagerly camped out in front of the oven with my fingers crossed hoping that they will rise enough to be considered a popover.

While at Sur La Table purchasing my popover pan, I came across a mini heart cookie cutter which I used to cut out pads of butter. I can’t wait to implement this idea with more shapes.


As you can see these were a success and the best part is that they are made with things that you likely have on hand already: eggs, flour, milk, and salt!  Again, here is the link to the recipe.

xoxo

Recipe | English Toffee

I now have a new favorite dessert to make going into the holiday season and I couldn’t be happier! Despite not being a “chocolate” person, I have always been a fan of toffee – more specifically, I have always been a fan of stealing my Mom’s Almond Roca hoping she wouldn’t notice. {Bad news about having so many siblings in the house is that when everyone takes 1 or 2 the jar disappears quickly}. This toffee is just like I hoped it would be: buttery, crunchy, a soft touch of chocolate, and coated with yummy almonds.

English Toffee
source: adapted from Paula Dean & Melissa Scheffel

Ingredients:
1 cup almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make the roasted ground almonds:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grind 1 cup of whole raw almonds using food processor with ninja slice attachment. Spread almonds on cookie sheet and place into oven for 5 minutes. Rotate and shift almonds halfway through baking. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make the toffee:

Line 9×13 pan with foil. Lightly butter foil to insure easy removal. Put butter, sugar, and water in a heavy pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a bubbling boil, stirring constantly with spoon. The mixture should feel like whipped marshmallows and will start to darken and turn the color of carmel. This should take approximately 10 minutes. Add vanilla and remove from heat.

Evenly spread into foil lined pan. Sprinkle lightly with a few ground almonds. Let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and after 5 minutes spread the chocolate around. Sprinkle with remaining roasted almonds and press lightly. Refrigerate until firm. Cool completely and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Tips:
Because not everything turns out as planned, my first batch was a disaster and the sugar separated from the butter! Now what I thought?! Despite googling several tips, I was unable to bring the mixture back to a marshmallow state and had to scrap it. However, I picked up a few tips which I implemented in my next attempt and I am happy to report that my second try turned out marvelously.
* Do not change heat drastically, if at all. In my first try, I was turning the heat up, down trying to get to a perfect medium-high. Whatever you deem medium-high to start, just keep with that for the entire cooking process.
* Continuously stir, don’t let toffee mixture sit – not even for a few seconds.
* Do not over cook. Take off once the mixture has turned the color of carmel.
* Use a spoon that can handle high heat. I used a wooden salad serving spoon the first time. The coating on the spoon blistered up.
* This stuff is HOT, so be careful.

Recipe | BBQ Pulled Pork

While most bloggers are posting photos of sweet little cookies or their newest ruffled skirt, my post today is about a pulled pork sandwich. Yes, really. This post definitely does not fall into the delicate, cute, or even girlie category which seems to be one of the unwritten requirements for girl bloggers and which I actually adore and generally oogle over everyday!  So beware, you may want to read this during the lunch hour rather than over your morning coffee.

We all know cooking while camping can be, well a pain. Dealing with raw meat in the ice chest and cleaning prep dishes is never fun. To eliminate some of the hassle I cook everything before hand and use the Food Saver to vacuum seal it all in, thus avoiding leaky zip lock bags and other gross ice chest messes.

This is one of my favorite meals to make while camping because {1}  it tastes so yummy and {2} it is sooooo easy yet my husband thinks I am some kitchen god that spent hours making it. Mix this sandwich with a Moscow Mule {recipe} and you got yourself one good campfire meal!

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
for a more homemade version check out: Closet Cooking

Ingredients:
1 3 lb pork butt or whatever size they have in the store
1 Jar of Stubbs Spicy BBQ Sauce {regular is good too}
1 package of coleslaw
Hidden Valley coleslaw dressing
Potato Rolls

To make the pork:
1. Place pork into Crock Pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
2. Remove pork from Crock Pot and cool.
3. Once cooled, shred the pork into big chunks. It will fall apart very easily and you don’t want mush once you mix in the BBQ sauce.
4. Place pork into bowl and pour in Stubb’s BBQ sauce.
5. Mix until well coated.

How to package pork for camping:
1. Divide the pork into servings that will fit your need for 1 nights dinner. {In our case, with 2 people, I just divide all of the pork in half which gives me two servings a night}.
2. Place bbq pork into food saver bag and seal.
3. Place in freezer until ready to use or until its time to pack the ice chest.

How to assemble:
1. Remove pork from food saver package and heat. Add additional BBQ sauce if necessary.
2. Mix up coleslaw and dressing.
3. Assemble and eat!

Seriously, so easy especially for camping!

xoxo

Recipe | Red Velvet Brownies

Please say Hello! to my new favorite dessert — Red Velvet Brownies!

I love these brownies because they are not super chocolaty and they are a welcome deviation from my standard vanilla that I usually adore so much. Not to mention, they are soft and chewy and topped with the yummiest of frosting!

Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
source: adapted from How Sweet It Is

For the brownies:
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz red food coloring or 2 teaspoons if you are using the gel kind
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

For the white chocolate buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz good-quality white chocolate (not chips), melted
1 – 2 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese

To make the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (mine looked like puffy snow).  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  With the mixer off, add in the sifted cocoa (to avoid any lumps that sometimes happens with cocoa) and food coloring, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color.  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored (red) batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.  For prettier brownies, remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, THEN frost, and serve.

To make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next 1/2 cup. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the melted white chocolate and cream cheese and beat on medium speed until incorporated.  (The original recipe did not include cream cheese, but it just wasn’t red velvet to me without the cream cheese frosting). With the mixer on low, add in heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time and beat at medium speed until the frosting has reached your desired consistency.

{Note: This makes a lot of frosting – I might try halving the frosting recipe next time}

xoxo

Recipe | Caprese Panini

This is a classic favorite and I cannot say I have done anything different to this recipe except throw it on the Cuisinart Griddler because the Griddler does something special and makes a regular sandwich melt with magic!

If I have left over fresh baguette I usually place it in the freezer so that I do not have to ask Ryan to make a run to the store every time I am in the mood for a fresh baguette.  I pulled the frozen baguette from the freezer and within 45 minutes the bread was thawed out. I spread store bought pesto on both sides of the bread then layered the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on. I topped it off with fresh basil, salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. The sandwich was placed on the Griddler panini maker for 5-7 minutes and whal-la I had an instant summer sandwich before hitting the beach!

xoxo

Recipe | Watermelon Frosty

This is by far my new favorite drink and I love that it is not sugary like most blended drinks ordered at a restaurant! Rather than using ice, you cut up watermelon and place in freezer for a few hours until frozen. We made some version of these all weekend (swapping out the vodka for a juice on hand or using orange juice instead of banana) and every time they were a hit!  I highly recommend making some version of these soon so you can enjoy all summer long!

Watermelon Frosty (adapted from Healthy Happy Life)
Serves 2

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed (or a few drops of lemon juice concentrate)
  • 1/2 banana
  • Little bit of water or juice if needed to blend (depends on how frozen your watermelon is)

Blend all ingredients together in blender and garnish with frozen watermelon rind.

Recipe | Apple Cinnamon Muffins

For my birthday I received these fabulous measuring spoons from my dearest friend, Melissa, and once I found a few free hours in my schedule I had to put them to work immediately! I made these muffins last Saturday and thought I over cooked them (left them in the oven for 45 minutes), and therefore decided to make the blueberry muffins so I had something to take to Ryan’s Grandma. Turns out, Ryan liked these muffins better than the blueberry muffins, so lets just say we had a whooole-lotta-muffins in the house!

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins
From  Closet Cooking
Makes 18 muffins

Note: This is also be good as a bread, as these are delicious denser muffins than the traditional fluffy recipe.

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups apples (peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces)

For the Streusel Topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with parchment paper liners.

Mix the brown sugar, maple syrup, yogurt, apple sauce, oil, egg and rolled oats in a bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes. Mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mix the wet and dry ingredients along with the apples until just mixed.  Spoon the mixture into a muffin tins.

For the topping, place all the ingredients in a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly. Spoon about the streusel on top of each muffin. Bake the muffins for approximately 25 minutes, until knife comes out clean.

Recipe | Vanilla Ganache French Macaron

Finally, after several attempts documented here, I feel confident to post the  recipe for french macarons from the Annie Rigg recipe book! I made these for the first time in a must-come-out-perfect situation (for my sister-in-law’s bridal shower) and I have to say, I performed better than the Laker’s did in this playoff series (PS I just got husband bonus points for thinking of the Lakers and extra credit for actually mentioning their name in a post)!! 

  Back to the macrons, I had to transport them on a 7 hr drive up north so I decided to make the cookies and ganache on Thursday night and package the cookies and ganache separately which I would then assemble once at my destination. I am not sure how others handle traveling with these pain-in-the butt delicate treats but this worked well for me.

Ingredients
200g confectioners’ sugar
100g ground almond
120-125g egg whites (aged for at least 24 hours)
a pinch of salt
40g super fine sugar
a piping bag, fitted with a 1/2″ nozzle tip
2 baking sheets, lined with non-stick baking parchment
 
Directions
0. Measure all ingredients.
1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and prepare piping bag with tip (I use Ateco tip #807)
2. Sift confectioners’ sugar and ground almond together into a bowl.
3. Place egg whites into a spotlessly clean and dry mixing bowl. Add the salt and, using an electric handheld whisk, beat until they will hold a stiff peak.
4. Continue to whisk at medium speed while adding the regular sugar a teaspoonful at a time. The mixture should be thick, white glossy (like shaving cream).  You should be able to hold the bowl of whisked egg whites over your head. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry (Sorry, but no tricks for telling if you overbeat them). 
5. Using a spatula, fold the confectioners sugar and almond flour, into the egg white mixture. Continue folding until egg white mergine, almond flour, and confectioners sugar resemble molten lava (no more than 50 strokes – AND THIS IS IMPORTANT). Over mixing will result in running batter, so stop yourself at 50 strokes!
6. Fill the pastry bag with mixture and pipe evenly sized rounds about 1.5″ onto the prepared baking sheets.
7. Tap the bottom of the baking sheets sharply one, on the work surface to expec any large air bubbles.
8. Leave macarons for at least 40-60 minutes until they have “set” and formed a dry shell. They should not be sticky, tacky, or wet when tested with your fingertip.
9. Pre-heat oven to 325F.
10. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time for 11-12 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool on baking sheet.
 
White Chocolate Ganache
150g really good white chocolate, finely chopped
5 tablespoons heavy cream (I prefer this to Whipping Cream; Trader Joes sells regular heavy cream)
1 vanilla bean (seeds)
 
Put the cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and head until the cream has come to a boil. Place chopped white chocolate in saucepan along with vanilla bean seeds. Stir until smooth then leave to cool. Cover and refrigerate until thickened (can take up to 24 hours).
 
 
_______
 

Recipe | Key Lime Pie


I have not had many key lime pies in my life, but I have to say this one is yummy, refreshing, and doesn’t involve many ingredients….key limes, graham crackers, sugar and whipping cream. Ms. Ina Garten says it all, “Fabulous flavor, from simple ingredients.” The added bonus to making this…the arm work out you get from zesting and squeezing all of those limes! Hello, Giselle arms (I mean, lets be serious here, we all know she obtains that body from eating zesting limes for pies).


Ingredients

For the CRUST:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (20-ish key limes)

For the decoration:

  • 2 cup (1 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 1/2cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Thin lime wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pyrex pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes until firm and golden. Allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze (preferably overnight).

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Serve immediately (the way I like it) or put back in freezer to freeze whipped cream.

Tips:
– Make sure to zest the limes prior to squeezing the lime juice
– Leave enough time (at least 12 hours) to freeze the filling before adding the whipped cream decoration
– This whipped cream recipe has been doubled from the original because I loooove whipped cream and never want to skimp on that, so you may have a bit extra leftover.
– Recipe calls for refreezing the whipped cream once placed on top, but I prefer to serve it right after I place whipped cream on top (but if serving at dinner party you can place finished pie (whipped cream and all) in the freezer until ready to serve).
– Once frozen, pie filling will melt quickly like ice cream
– I have made it once with key limes and once with regular limes and I don’t think I could tell a difference (Note: Ina used regular limes)
 
 
 
 
 
 
______

Recipe | Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

I have my wonderful hairdresser, Danielle owner of Dia Salon, to thank for this recipe because what better way to end a hair appointment than with a homemade cookie!  On Saturday afternoon after finishing with my hair, Danielle offered me a yummy cookie. So I did what any girl would do, I took two – one for me and…..another one for me (j/k one for Ryan).  After eating my cookie, I was forced to drive back home in LA traffic with this cookie staring at me. I swear the cookie grew eyes and was begging me to eat it.  I knew this little cookie would make my husbands face fill with a smile when presented to him, so I held off and yes, made it home without even as much as a nibble. Even though I did not eat Ry’s cookie, I couldn’t get it out of my head and only wanted more.

So, Sunday afternoon after our walk, I made Barefoot Contessa’s Oatmeal Cookie recipe and substituted dried cranberries for the raisins and used a bit less sugar than the recipe recommends, just as Danielle had done . Now these cookies aren’t very sweet, which make them perfect to consume with my morning coffee.

Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

(Makes 15 to 17 Cookies)

Ingredients
3/4 cup pecans
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2  dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1/3 granulated sugar
1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2   teaspoon kosher salt  + a big pinch
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cups dried cranberries (i used Cransins)
SPACE
Preparation
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop very coarsely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, orange zest, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add the oats, dried cranberries, and pecans and mix just until combined.

Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop 2.5-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. Bake for 13 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

Tips:
1. According to my Barefoot Back to Basic’s Cookbook, roasting the pecans in the oven first brings out their flavor.
2. The cookies don’t spread much, if at all, so make sure you really flatten them out if you want more of a cookie rather than mound.
3. This is a “half” recipe, meaning it only makes 15-17 3-inch cookies. The original recipe makes 30-35 cookies which is way to many for the two of us, so this recipe only makes 15-17 cookies.
4. I decreased the granulated sugar from a 1/2 cup to a 1/3 cup and increased the salt a bit (i.e “+ the big pinch”). This makes them less sugary, but feel free to stick with the original recipe of 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.
4. For chewier cookies: Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet.

Recipe | White Pizza with Arugula

Since returning from Costa Rica,  I have been dying to try and make homemade pizza in hopes of achieving something similar to El Pulpo’s pizza in Santa Teresa. I received this dough recipe from Carrie J. which she has tested several times herself and decided to use the toppings from a recipe in my Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook.  In addition to the toppings Ina Garten recommended, I also added several slices of Italian meats which I picked up from Costco including: spicy sopressata and hot salame.

The pizza’s turned out awesome and I can’t wait to make again and play with more ingredients!!!!

White Pizza with Arugula and Sopressata

Makes: Two  8″ pizzas

Dough

Ingredients
  • 2  teaspoons  honey
  • 1  package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4  cup  warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 2 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces), divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • Cooking spray
Preparation
Dissolve the honey and yeast in 3/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).
Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)
Roll dough into a 12-inch circle (about 1/4 inch thick) on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a rimless baking sheet. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim. Lightly spray surface of dough with cooking spray, and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in refrigerator for up to 30 minutes. Bake according to recipe directions.
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PIZZA TOPPINGS

For the garlic oil:

  • Good olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

For the topping:

  • 2 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1  cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (7 ounces)
  • 6 ounces creamy goat cheese, such as montrachet, crumbled
  • Several slices of Italian meats: sopressata & salame

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup good olive oil (I used much less, just enough to coat the arugula)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used much less, just enough to coat the arugula)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces baby arugula

Directions

Garlic oil:
Place 1/2 cup olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Be sure your oven is clean!)
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Portion the dough.
Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Place the doughs on sheet pans sprayed with cooking spray. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
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Stretch the dough.
Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 1 circles on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (If you’ve chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.)
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Top the dough.
Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.
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Make the vinaigrette.
Meanwhile, whisk together the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
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Add the greens.
When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and a slice of lemon and serve immediately.
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TIP Make sure the bowl is warm before you put the water and yeast in; the water must be warm for the yeast to develop.

TIP Salt inhibits the growth of yeast; add half the flour, then the salt, and then the rest of the flour.

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Recipe | Molten Mocha Cakes

My dear friend Melissa asked me if I have ever made a chocolate souffle. While the answer to that is NO,  it did reminded me of a chocolate molten cake I made a few years ago for Valentines Day using this Martha Stewart recipe.   I thought this was a perfect time to share this recipe because it is yummy, easy to make, and it only serves two which is perfect for a Valentines dinner at home!   I have even made it with a peanut butter version because my husband, like most men, looooove their peanut butter. Next time I make I will have to get a picture of the middle of the cake because it is full of warm, chocolate lava.

 

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Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for ramekins and serving
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 6-ounce ramekins, then dust with sugar. Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring after each, until melted. Let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, sugar, espresso powder, and salt. Add chocolate mixture; whisk to combine. Add flour, and whisk just until combined (do not overmix). Pour batter into prepared ramekins. (Recipe can be made ahead up to this point.)
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted 1/2 inch from edge of ramekins comes out clean, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out wet, 10 to 12 minutes (do not overbake). Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around inside of ramekins to loosen. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Dust with sugar; serve immediately.

 

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Recipe | Chicken Tortilla Soup

I came across this recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup while browsing one of my favorite food blogs, Closet Cooking. Kevin always offers fresh and inspiring recipes which generally involve the use of a few flavorful ingredients. A few of my favorites are his Jalapeno Popper Dip, BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, and Buffalo Wing Dip. The soup is yummy, fresh, and just touch spicy!

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
4 oz can of diced green chilies
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 chicken breasts cooked and shredded
4 cups of chicken stock
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 10 ounce can salsa verde
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen white corn kernels
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
tortillas (sliced and toasted, or tortilla chips)
sour cream (optional)
cheese (grated, optional)
avocado (sliced, optional)

Directions:

– Cook and shred chicken as desired. Set aside.

1. Heat the oil in a pan.
2. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and green chilies and saute until fragrant for a minute.
4. Add the chili and cumin powders and saute for a minute.
5. Add the chicken, corn, stock, tomatoes, salsa verde, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper.
6. Simmer for about an hour. (You could serve as soon as the chicken is cooked if you are in a hurry.)
7. Turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro.
8. Serve with your favorite garnishes such as sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, etc.

Recipe | French Macaron | #2

THEY WORKED! RY – RY – I think THEY WORKED!!! That was me about 18 hours ago, when I saw my first batch of macarons sitting in the oven with two minutes remaining on the timer!

I took the lessons learned from my first attempt documented here and started off the process with the proper equipment — a food scale which was so kindly loaned to me and a newly purchased sifter!

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I started by sifting the powered sugar and almond flour twice – Ryan even got in a little of the sifting action! Ryan decided to come photograph a few “action” shots. I really like the one of the left of me in action sifting! As for the picture on the right, my batter was rather runny and when I filled the bag it leaked out the bottom and created……well, you can see….it created quite messy hands! (When I watch Barefoot Contessa use a pastry bag, I marvel at her ability to maintain hands so clean even the Queen would approve!)

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This is me peaking at them through the glass door getting soooo excited because they resemble something like a macaron I would actually buy!!!! This was a far cry from last week’s! It turns out that they may have looked perfect, but those at Ladurée, one of the elite places to purcahse macaron in Paris, would not have been proud! My macarons had a air between the shell and the cookie. I believe this was caused by my poor meringue or over mixing. BUT, I had a cookie that I could fill!!!

Now that I had a cookie I could actually fill, it was off to the store to pick up heavy whipping cream and white chocolate. I attempted three different white chocolate ganache recipes: vanilla, amaretto, and strawberry. After spending $8 for chocolate and heavy cream, I was disappointed when all three turned out way to runny. I guess I didn’t use enough chocolate, so the ganache never truly firmed up.

Feeling disappointed, I tried one more mini ganache recipe this time it called for butter and less heavy cream. Again, thinking the filling was too runny, I let it sit in the pot as I began cleaning up. I decided to fill a few cookies with Nutella that I had on hand. As I was cleaning up, I went to clean the pot thinking the ganache was ruined, but really it had set to a consistency that wouldn’t spill over the sides – it was perfect!!

Finally, the macarons sitting in their new home!!! And the picture on the right is of the too runny vanilla ganache! I am so excited these things turned out (relatively well) and I can’t wait to start experimenting more with colors and flavors!!!!

Recipe | Cranberry Soda Bread

I do not consider myself a chef, nor do I consider myself a cook. Rather, I think of myself as someone with a fantastic husband, who will eat anything I put on the table and praises me as a God when I do so – seriously lucky I know!

However, bread is something I have yet to have ANY success at making. I tried making this coconut chocolate bread a few months ago and I ended up with an incredibly hard disk of pure gross. I think it weighed close to five pounds but felt more like ten. I am not sure what happened, but it definitely scared me from attempting any sort of bread again.

I am happy to report my first bread success with this Irish Soda Bread (I even watched Ina make it in the video provided to pick up on any tips)! Because I could not find currants at the store, I used cranberries instead. I love almond flavoring, so I decided to add 1/4 teaspoon each of almond and vanilla extract for a little extra flavoring.

Adapted from Ina Garten Recipe

Ingredients
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, orange zest, vanilla, and almond together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the cranberries with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.

Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe | Beer Battered Fish Taco’s

After all of the yummy holiday food, I was in the mood for something a little on the lighter side for dinner last night, so I opted for these fish tacos. I didn’t have much time to scour the internet for recipes because I was at the store when I decided to make these.  So, I searched Google for “fish taco” and went with the second recipe I saw (the first recipe was Bobby Flay’s and I figured it was probably to fancy for me).

I have never made fish taco’s before. I wasn’t sure which to buy cod or tilapia, so I bought a half pound of each. They turned out yummy and neither Ryan or I could tell the difference between the two fish, so perhaps we are just seriously lacking taste buds!

In addition to the sauce, I added chopped cilantro and green onions and topped them off with a drizzle of spicy salsa.

For the Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup beer

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Everything Else:
1 quart oil for frying
1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2 to 3 ounce portions
1 (12 ounce) package corn tortillas
3 Cups coleslaw mix

Directions
1. To make beer batter: In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Blend egg and beer, then quickly stir into the flour mixture (don’t worry about a few lumps).
2. To make white sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt and mayonnaise. Gradually stir in fresh lime juice until consistency is slightly runny. Season with jalapeno, oregano, cumin, and cayenne.
3. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4.Dust fish pieces lightly with flour. Dip into beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Lightly fry (or heat) tortillas; not too crisp. To serve, place fried fish in a tortilla, and top with shredded cabbage, and white sauce.

Recipe | Kelsey’s Brownie Pie

This Thanksgiving, I was looking for something to make that was a little non-traditional, quick, and easy. I flipped through my cookbooks and decided on Kelsey’s Brownie Pie (similar to this recipe). I have been eating this dessert for many, many years, but I think I have only made it myself one time before! And in case you are wondering, Kelsey was the first to make this recipe so therefore she holds the right to name it!

Although the recipe calls for Cool Whip, I decided to make my own whipping cream instead and I have to say it turned out fantastic!

Kelsey’s Brownie Pie

1 package (19-21oz) Ghirardelli‘s Brownie Mix
1 Cup Cold Milk
1 Package (4 servings size) Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 Tub (8oz) Cool Whip or Homemade Whipping Cream*

 

1. Prepare brownie mix as directed on package.

2. Put in 9″ pie plate and bake at 325 about 40 minutes or until done. Cool completely.

3. Scoop out center of brownie with a spoon, leaving 1″ crust around edge and thin layer of brownie on bottom. Reserve brownie scraps.

4. Pour milk into medium bowl. Add pudding mix.

5. Beat with wire wisk until blended.

6. Gently stir in half of the whipping cream and all but a few brownie scraps (to sprinkle on top later).

7. Spoon pudding/whipped cream/brownie mixture into center of crust.

8. Top with remaining whipping cream.

9. Sprinkle with remaining brownie scraps.

10. Refrigerate 3 hours until ready to serve.

* for homemade whipping cream (1 pint cold heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Beat together until peaks form).
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