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Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Cookies for Halloween

If you're looking for something seasonal to bake, I highly recommend these pumpkin cookies with brown butter icing. As one of my friends said, these are very addicting. Kyle says they kind of almost melt in your mouth, which makes it really easy to eat a lot. We've made them twice already and I'm planning on getting in quite a few more batches before pumpkin season is over. I brought them in to one of the classes I TA today and they were a big hit. You can find the awesome recipe here

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grandma Maddalena's Lasagna

The people that ate this meal now know how far behind I am in my blogging. A few weeks ago, we had some of Kyle's family over for dinner. We had Grandma Maddalena's Lasagna which is a recipe from Kitchen Boss, Buddy Valastro's cooking show. I've made the recipe before, but in the form of cupcake lasagna's with wonton wrappers. I wanted to make sure there was enough food for everyone, so I decided to double the recipe and make two lasagnas. In the middle of assembling the first lasagna, I realized that there was no way a whole recipe was going to fit in my 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan. So, we ended up making 3 lasagnas instead of two. We froze one before baking. Of the two we cooked, only one got eaten. We gave half of the other away to our guests and ate the rest as leftovers. I later confirmed with my mom that lasagna pans are 9 x 13 x 3 inches. Oops. Oh well. The moral of this story is that 2/3 of the recipe will easily feed 8 adults and 4 children with accompanying bread and salad. 

On the subject of the recipe itself, be sure to add some sugar to counteract the acid in the tomatoes. The amount depends on the tomatoes. Also, I can never find veal so I just substitute more ground beef for that. Feel free to substitute whatever meat you prefer.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

I posted earlier about my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. While I love that recipe's cookies for speedy results and deliciousness, these are actually my favorite chocolate chip cookies. They're huge enough to have a crispy outside and an unbelievably chewy middle. They take more patience (24-72 hour rest time) but the outcome is worth it!

I first made these cookies a couple years ago right after the recipe was first published in the times online. I was an avid New York Times reader back in the days before the paid subscriptions. David Leite had me at the title: "Perfection? Hint: It's Warm and Has a Secret". If you like food, great writing and salivating on your keyboard, you should definitely check out his original article which goes into the discovery process for this recipe based on Jacques Torres famous cookies. You can find just the recipe here

I included this picture for a visual representation of a 3 1/2 oz dough ball in case you don't have a scale. You could always make them smaller, but then you'd miss the wonderful textural regions. Another note: I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips because I couldn't find Valhrona and I don't have the money to pay for overnight shipping of Jacques Torres chocolate disks from New York. They still tasted delicious!

These cookies are great dunked in a cold glass of milk.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Brownie Chunk Ice Cream

Fall in a scoop.

Make it.

Recipe here.

We increased the sugar to 1 1/4 cups because we like it sweet.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roast Chicken Thighs and Brown Sugar Acorn Squash

This is another unintentional blog post, but dinner was an improvisation that turned out well, so I had to record it! Hence the half eaten, quickly taken picture. Dinner was supposed to be chicken cutlets with a mustard cider sauce, but then I realized that what we thought were breasts in the freezer were actually thighs. We went into emergency improv mode and this is the awesomeness that arose! I would totally make both of these again because they're quick, easy and very tasty.

Roast Chicken Thighs
Inspired from this recipe from the kitchen
Serves 4

1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1-2 chopped large onions- about the same amount of onions as chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Spread onto a baking sheet with the chicken in the middle and the onions around it. Cook for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the thighs reaches 160. Take out of the oven and tent aluminum foil over the chicken and onions. Rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Brown Sugar Acorn Squash
Adapted from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

1 acorn squash (we used swan white acorn)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Slice the acorn squash in half lengthwise. Microwave on high 20-25 minutes until tender in a microwave safe bowl.  Add water if the bowl is pyrex. Heat the oven to broil. While the squash is cooking melt the butter and sugar on the stovetop. Once the squash is done place it in a baking dish and spoon the butter and sugar mixture into the squash. Broil it in the oven for 5-8 minutes turning halfway.

Update on the grapes

You know how I mentioned in my chicken salad post that I thought we had grapes, but we didn't. Well we totally did. Kyle just found them. They were behind the apples. Oops. Oh well, the salad was still good anyway and now we have grapes for snacks tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicken Salad Sandwich

I meant to make a different chicken salad recipe, but chrome blocked the website saying it had malware, so I improvised instead. Also, I totally thought we had grapes, but we didn't. So apples subbed in! I also meant to not eat this the night I made it. The sandwiches were supposed to be a quick dinner for later, but I ended up making more than enough for 2 nights and a lunch, so we enjoyed some early. This isn't the most stunning or gourmet meal, but it's quick, easy and pretty delicious. I'm posting the recipe so that I can remember what I did. Feel free to adjust amounts and ingredients to what you have. That's what I did! Next time I'd add more nuts and herbs or spices (whole mustard seed?) and possibly the raisins you see on the counter that I was debating but decided against.

We used some 30 minute rolls from here. They were okay, but I don't know if I'd make them again unless I was in a rush.

The creative process mess

Chicken Salad
loosely adapted from epicurious

2 cans cooked shredded chicken
3/4 large apple, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
celery leaves from one bunch, chopped
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup mayonaise
1/4 onion, diced
3 tablespoons chopped almonds
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

Mix all ingredients and serve alone, on bread of choice or on lettuce leaves.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What are your rescue dinners?

image from here

You probably know the feeling- after experimenting with some promising recipe that didn't turn out edible or letting a favorite meal cook past the point of no return, you're left without dinner. You really don't want to spend a lot of time making another dinner, but you need to eat. What do you do?

Some recent rescue dinners for us have been quesadillas, baked potatoes and toast. In the past we've also turned to pasta. What do you turn to for quick and easy nourishment? Unfortunately this scenario has been coming up a few times in a row the last week, so I'd love any new ideas you have!

Also another somewhat related question for parents out there. When we have kids some day we're going to try to teach them to eat at least some of stuff they don't like (I know that may fail). What do you do when the meal isn't something you'd even normally eat? Do you dig in to teach the principle anyway? How do you handle that situation?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Taco Soup

Pardon the ghetto picture. I just really needed to capture this soup before I put the last of it in my lunch. This is straight from the fridge, so it looks thicker than the soup does when it's warm. Just use your imagination and picture the bowl steaming and slightly more soupy.

Taco Soup is an easy comfort food recipe we have a lot during the fall and winter. When we were making this I asked Kyle why we haven't had this forever, and he reminded me that summer happened. Warm, hearty soups are one reason I really love fall!

I usually never make this the same way twice, but I really like how this time turned out so I'm recording it to reference later. It was thicker than normal since I added tomato sauce for liquid instead of water. If you want a thinner soup, feel free to use water instead or in addition. This recipe is well suited for adaptation, so try it out with whatever kind of tomatoes and beans you have on hand!

We've done this in the slow cooker many times before with great success. If you use the ground beef, be sure to brown it before you stick it in the slow cooker. If you want minimal prep, you can skip the ground beef and just stick everything else in there in the morning.

How do you make taco soup?

Taco Soup
1/2 pound ground beef
1 onion diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
4 tablespoons good taco seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 can tomato sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
6 oz frozen corn
1/2 small can jalapenos, diced

Pepper jack cheese
Sour cream
Tortilla chips

Brown the ground beef with the onions in a medium/large saucepan. Drain any fat. Add the garlic and taco seasoning and saute a few minutes until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boiling. If you want a thinner soup add water. Simmer until it reaches your desired consistency.  Serve with toppings.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Plum Crisp

It's been a while since I made this and I'd forgotten I hadn't posted about it. I hope you can still find some plums somewhere to make this because I loved it!

We found some Italian prune plums at the farmers market about a month ago. They weren't sweet enough for snacking in hand, so we decided to make a crisp out of them. 

Don't they look beautiful! 

The crisp was pretty easy and it tasted really good. The crunchy topping perfectly complemented the deep fruity flavor of the filling. I made the filling and mixed together the topping ahead of time so that I could quickly assemble and cook the crisp while I was finishing dinner. Warning- plums make a really good dye, so wear an apron while making this crisp.

 I had about 1/2 pound fewer plums than called for, so I cooked it in a 9" pie pan instead of the suggested 15" x 9". Also, I wanted a thicker topping. Make sure if you use a smaller pan to use a cookie sheet underneath to catch drips when it boils over, demonstrated below. 

Happy crisp making!

Plum Crisp

9x13, 9x15, or 9" pie pan or whatever you have that'll fit it

3/4 cup sliced almonds (I chopped whole almonds)
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 pounds Italian prune plums (or other plums)
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 375

Toast the almonds either on a baking sheet in the oven or in an un-greased frying pan on top of the stove for 10-12 min.

Blend flour, brown sugar, 1/2 cup oats, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a food processor or blender until blended well, but still somewhat coarse. Combine that with rest of the oats (1/4 cup) and the sliced almonds.

Cut the plums in half and remove the pit. Combine the water and corn starch in a small bowl. Cook the plums and sugar in a 12 inch skillet until the sugar is melted. Add the cornstarch and water mixture and stir while simmering until thick, about 15 minutes. 

After the mixture is thickened, put it in you baking dish and put the topping evenly on top. Bake until the top is golden, about 40-45 minutes. Let cool slightly (10 minutes) and serve with vanilla ice cream!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Peanut Butter Torte

This is the dessert I made for a BBQ for Kyle's cousins. I had one cousin come up and hug me when she saw that I brought it and another compare it to heaven, so apparently it's pretty good. I've made this a few times before and it's had an equally good reception each time. This torte is a peanut butter moose in an oreo crust topped with chocolate ganache. It's very velvety rich and best served cold with a big glass of milk. Health disclosure: this has a ton of heavy cream, cream cheese, and peanut butter. Therefore not so great for your physical health, but it works wonders for your mental health. That's how life goes.

Pardon the not so great pictures, but I was enjoying the food and company at the BBQ so I didn't take the time to compose great photos. I got the recipe from my favorite dessert cookbook- Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I highly recommend every recipe I've tried from that book, but if you can't wait to make this until you buy it, you can find the recipe online here. It's a little more involved than cookies, but worth every minute for the delicious results!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ever (Makes Amazing Cookies Too)

I've been eating this stuff since I was a little girl. And it's still as good as ever! This was/is my family's favorite cookie recipe. My siblings and I would fight after church on Sundays (ironic I know) over who got to make dessert, which was usually these cookies and their dough. My grandma actually got the recipe off a Quaker oats container a long time ago. I've checked recently and the recipe's changed. Poor deprived generations!

Many times (actually most times) I'll make this just for the dough. It's that good. The oatmeal makes it feel like something substantial that I shouldn't feel guilty eating for breakfast. Because I totally eat it for breakfast. Oatmeal is good for breakfast, right?

If you aren't a raw cookie dough eater, I'll assure you that it tastes equally amazing cooked. In fact, I've been on an actual cookie kick the past week or so and have cooked at least half the dough we've made!

I promise you that these are the moistest oatmeal chocolate chip cookies you have ever made, provided you bake them like my sister Anne or my husband Kyle. I'm not as good as them, which is why I usually keep them in the dough form. To bake them properly you must not eat half the butter and sugar mixture before you add everything else (guilty!). Also, you must take them out before you think they are done. Or at least before I think they're done. 

Kyle's description: "The very topmost edges will be golden brown. But no more than the topmost edges should be golden brown, unless people like well done cookies.... Also, they will still be squishy."

So there you have it, cookie training from an expert! One more tip, I've found that like most cookies, they bake better after the dough's rested in the fridge for a while (best overnight or more). But if you can't wait, they'll still be delicious! 

P.S. These cookies taste great from the freezer, but mine don't usually make it there! Like the other day, we baked up 13. I won't tell you what happened to most (*ahem* all) of them before we went to bed, but let's just say they're not in the freezer.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3 cups quick oatmeal
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (or more!!) chocolate chips
If desired (I've never actually tried these) 1 cup nuts and or raisins

1. Cream sugars thoroughly with butter until light and fluffy and no granules remain.
2. Beat in eggs and vanilla until light.
3. Stir in oatmeal 
4. Sift flour with salt, soda and baking powder. Work into wet ingredients until combined. Make sure not to overmix or you'll have stiff cookies.
5. Eat! and let the remaining dough rest in the refrigerator. (Or don't- depends on your patience)
6. Preheat oven to 350. Roll into balls and flatten. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on your oven. Take out when slightly golden, as described above. Make sure not to overbake.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Lentil Pilaf Stuffed Peppers and a Baby Pepper!

The stuffed peppers were pretty good (probably because we added cheese), but I don't think I'd make this again because I didn't really like the lentil pilaf on it's own. The recipe didn't compensate for the extra time brown rice takes to cook so the rice was hard and the lentils were mushy.

I decided to share this anyway because I really liked this picture I took of one of the peppers that had sprouted a baby pepper! 

If you want to have an excuse to take a picture like this, I found the recipe here. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it. Stuff your pepper with something more delicious.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Tostadas Salsa Verde

This picture does not do these tostadas justice, but they smelled amazing and I was too hungry to have the patience for a more carefully composed and photographed shot.

If you want to see a great picture of them and the full recipe, head over to

Instead of frying corn tortillas, in these tostadas you bake flour tortillas with pepper jack cheese. It was a fun mix up and made it easier to eat. Once the tortillas are you golden you top with a chicken, green salsa, cilantro and cumin mix. Finish with lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro and additional salsa to serve. The recipe calls for poached chicken, but my recipe book suggests rotisserie chicken for a shortcut. That would make this an easy weeknight meal done in about 20 minutes.

Kyle and I both loved them and agree they're the best tostadas we've had. I think we're going to be using salsa verde more often in our home cooking.