Monday, July 27, 2009

NYT Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've read a lot about the NYT chocolate chip cookie since I started Sweet Melissa Sundays, so I had to see what all the buzz was about. I fell in love with Melissa Murphy's recipe when we made it a few weeks back, and decided it was going to be pretty hard to beat. Since we were going to the beach this past weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to make them as they would be a nice treat after lunch on the beach.

The recipe is a little more complicated than the cookie recipes I have made in the past. It calls for two different kinds of flours and you are supposed to sift all the dry ingredients together. Honestly, I normally skip sifting together dry ingredients unless its for a cake, but I wanted to follow the recipe exactly as written to see what all the hub-bub was about. The only thing I changed was I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips instead of the favres that the recipe calls for. I had never even heard of them until I read the recipe and I knew our grocery store wouldn't have them. When I read about the recipe on Eliana's (of A Chica Bakes) blog, she mentioned it was definitely worth it to splurge on the chocolate. When we were out last weekend, I saw a bag of Guittard chips, but much to my dismay they were butterscotch chips, not chocolate. So I picked up the Ghiradelli instead.

It wasn't until the last step before baking that I realized why these cookies are so good. You are supposed to sprinkle the tops with sea salt. Brilliant- its like crack to any woman that is in the least bit hormonal. Sweet, salty, and chocolate all in one cookie! Its like eating potato chips and M&M's... The sea salt is a flavor explosion in your mouth that lingers after the cookie is gone.

This recipe really is a great one, but I still like the Melissa Murphy one as well. I asked my husband which he liked better and he said he would have to taste them both at the same time, so maybe there will be a bake-off sometime in the near future! You can find the recipe from the New York Times here.

Anadama Bread

There is another baking group out there following the Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart and the recipes looked really interesting, so I decided to buy the book last week. I'm really quite behind where everyone else is, but I would still like to make my way through the book. And let me tell you, if you are interested in baking breads, this book is way more than just a cookbook. There are so many interesting things in it about the science of baking bread- it was definitely worth the money.

The first receipe in the book is for Anadama bread. Evidently, this is a classic New England bread that came to fruition after a man's wife walked out on him and left him with nothing to eat. He threw the cornmeal mush that was left together with some molasses and flour and said "Anna damn her", hense the name. When I read about the bread on Tracey's Culinary Adventures, she mentioned she had lived in New England her entire life and had never heard of this bread. So I called my friend who has lived in Boston her whole life and she said the same thing. Interesting...

The bread starts with a cornmeal soaker. I had never made a bread that involved a soaker so this step was entirely new to me. The rest of the recipe comes together fairly simply. It suggested using golden molasses for a milder flavor, but all I had was blackstrap molasses- the complete opposite of what I was supposed to use! I had picked it up last weekend because its very hard to find around here and the recipe we use at Christmas to make molasses cookies calls for it. Oh well...

The dough rose beautifully and baked to a nice brown color unlike the golden loaf in the picture- probably because of the darker molasses. It smelled wonderful when it was in the oven. There is nothing like the smell of yeast bread baking! And I loved the texture of this bread. There was a nice crust on the outside and it was soft but kind of dense on the inside. I NEVER had white bread when I was growing up (I kid you not- I don't think I had white bread until I was in college) so I like a denser bread. It was very tasty and I think it will make a wonderful sandwich, but you could definitely taste the molasses. Next time I make it, I am going to try to find the golden molasses so there is a more subtle molasses flavor.

Even though the recipe is a little time intensive, it is definitely worth the effort! Per the request of the group, the recipes for the breads in the BBA book won't be posted on my blog, but you can check out the book on Amazon. Like I said, it is well worth the money and there are some really interesting recipes!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Skirt Steak Tostadas

My dad made this recipe a few weeks ago and I absolutely loved it! I am not a huge steak person- if I am going to eat a steak it has to be a really good one. But this recipe is really flavorful and I love the salsa that is served with it.

The recipe was featured in USA Weekend a couple weeks ago. Evidently they sponsored an episode of The Next Food Network star and this was the winning recipe. Skirt steak (or flank steak as it was labeled when I bought it) is one of those things I have seen in the grocery store but I never know what to do with it. Its really a shame people don't buy this cut more often as its very tender and less expensive than something like a strip steak. The recipe calls to marinate it in a soy and honey based marinade and to serve it with a mango salsa. It suggests serving it with a tostada and black beans, but we've been trying to lighten things up a little around here so I bypassed the tostada and served with salad greens. The juice from the salsa made a wonderful dressing.

This recipe is great for a weeknight dinner. You can make the marinade the night before, throw the meat in a plastic bag with the marinade in the morning, and throw it on the grill that night. And leftovers make a great salad topper for lunch (mmm... I can't wait until lunch tomorrow). We will definitely be making this one again!

Skirt Steak Tostadas
from USA Weekend July 3-5, 2009


1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
Juice of 3 Lemons
1/2 Cup Honey
1 Cup Finely Chopped Onion
1 Habanero Chili Seeded and Finely Chopped
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Pound Skirt Steak

Mango Salsa:

1 Red Onion Finely Chopped
1 Mango Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Cilantro Leaves Chopped
1 Poblano Chile Seeded and Minced
1/4 Cup Honey
Juice of 3 Limes
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In large shallow bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add the meat, cover and refrigerate at least one hour (I just threw everything in a ziploc). It is best to marinate for several hours.

Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Preheat a grill pan to medium high heat. Remove meat from dish and discard marinade. Place steak on grill for about 4 to 6 minutes for medium rare to medium, turning once. Remove from the grill and let the meat rest for five minutes. Thinly slice on the diagonal into strips.

You can serve as is or as suggested by the recipe... Place tostada on individual plate. Spoon black beans (see below) over tostada and then top with steak and salsa. Garnish with sour cream and cheese if desired.

Black Beans:

1 16 oz can Black Beans
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Red Wine
1 Jalepeno Seeded and Chopped

Simmer ingredients in a saucepan for 20 minutes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Whole Orange Poppy Seed Cake

This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was chosen by Melissa of Lulu the Baker- a whole orange poppy seed cake. I almost sat this week out- I had a really busy week at work and my littlest one has the start of a chest cold, but I really enjoy Melissa's blog and wanted to bake along in support. When I saw how easy the recipe was, I decided to give it a go.

I have one other recipe in my collection that uses the entire orange- orange flax muffins. My mom found the recipe when we were running a "health week" at work. She came across it on a breast cancer awareness website. It was amazing how the bitterness of the orange peel dissipate d after baking the muffins. This recipe was super easy to throw together. I didn't even have to pull out my stand mixer this week! I decided to bake them in my mini bundt cake pan my sister gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I haven't had much luck using it in the past as it is a really dark nonstick pan and everything has a tendency to come out burnt. But I decreased the baking temperature to 325 degrees and kept a very close eye on it.

I ended up pulling the cakes out after about 25 minutes. The texture of the tops looked a little funny- not smooth like I'm used to with recipes like these. But they weren't burnt so I was happy. But then I went to take them out of the pan and evidently I didn't grease them enough. The first one broke when I took it out and I had to ease the rest of them out with a spoon. You can see from the picture that the cakes definitely stuck to the pan.

So the verdict... I really wanted to like these little cakes and I'm not sure if I was discouraged by yet another disappointing experience with my mini bundt pan, but I have to admit, this isn't amongst my favorites from the book. I found the texture to be a little off which I suspect may be due to lowering the baking temperature. I also did not have time to make the glaze for it as we were out all day so I would like to try the recipe one more time before I make a final decision.

Be sure to check out what the other Sweet Melissa Bakers thought of the recipe. You can find the recipe on Melissa's blog.

And here are some pictures from the gardens we visited this afternoon. They are a little more pleasing to the eye than my cake!

I love this orange lilly- the flower was so interesting!

And some beautiful yellow daisies- my favorite color!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eggplant Rolatini

Did you ever have one of those recipes that you really, really wanted to try, but you weren't sure if it was ever going to happen? My husband and I used to like to get take-out from this Italian restaurant we lived close to. They had a dish called eggplant rollatini that I absolutely loved and its the only place I have ever seen it. It is basically eggplant that has been sliced lengthwise, breaded and fried, and then rolled up with a ricotta and spinach filling. We moved two years ago, and although we are still relatively close, not close enough to go back for take-out. So I decided to try to make the dish myself.

I had made the creamy pesto that Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventure had posted on her blog a couple weeks ago and I had quite a bit of leftover ricotta so I thought it was the perfect time to try the recipe out. I bought an eggplant at the store on Sunday and as I was putting it away I noticed two small holes in it. I thought I could just cut around it, but to my dismay, when I began to slice it on Monday evening, the entire thing was wormed through and there was a very hungry caterpillar inside (I kid you not- it looked exactly like the very hungry caterpillar). So Tuesday afternoon after I left work and picked up my girls from daycare, I made my way over to the local produce shop figuring it was easier to go there than the grocery store. No eggplant. So I headed over to the butcher shop next door because they have a produce section as well. No eggplant. There was no way I was driving all the way to the grocery store, and navigating the parking lot and store aisles in four inch heels and two kids in tow so I resigned myself to the fact I was going to have to wait ONE more day.

The next day at work, my mom said she was running out to the store and asked me if I needed anything (yes, I work with my mom- how lucky am I!). I jumped at the chance and she picked up a beautiful eggplant for me. When I got home, I quickly sliced it down and threw it on the grill. The original dish has breaded eggplant, but I was trying to make a healthier version and the idea of grilled eggplant sounded appealing anyway. I had already mixed up the filling so once the eggplant finished cooking, I filled them, popped them in the oven with a little sauce, and about 45 minutes later I had my eggplant rollatini!

They were delicious. I loved the filling and I think I actually liked the dish better with the grilled eggplant. This recipe was super easy to make and tastes wonderful. I'll definitely be making it again!

Eggplant Rollatini

1 Medium Eggplant Sliced Lengthwise (about 1/4 inch thick)
15 oz. Ricotta Cheese (I used part skim)
8 oz. Fresh Mozzarella
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg
1/2 Package Frozen Spinach
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Slice the eggplant lengthwise and baste with olive oil before grilling. Grill on each side for about five minutes. The eggplant should be tender and easily rolled but not falling apart.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grate half of the fresh mozerrella and combine with the ricotta, egg, spinach, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Slice the rest of the mozerrella (about ten slices)

Take the first slice of eggplant and spoon about 1/4 cup of the filling onto the center of the slice. Roll the slice up. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Spoon a small amount of the sauce into a 9x13 baking dish and put rolled up eggplant pieces into the dish. Spoon a little more sauce over the top of the eggplant. Bake for about 30 minutes or until you notice the sauce beginning to bubble along the edges. Place the mozerrella slices over the eggplant and bake for another ten minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for about five minutes before serving.

A medium eggplant yielded about ten eggplant slices. The total recipe yielded about five servings with two rolls per serving.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream

My family and I went to the beach last weekend so I missed out on the brown sugar vanilla ice cream that was chosen by Karen of Karen's Cookies Cakes & More. I was kind of hoping to fit it in before we left but laundry and packing got in the way... I was kind of bummed I missed out on making it because I rarely use my ice cream maker and I love vanilla ice cream, so I am doing double duty for SMS this week.
The last time I made a custard ice cream, I was not quite sure how thick the custard was supposed to be. I was also using an electronic meat thermometer my husband got for the grill so I wasn't confident in the temperature reading I was getting. I wound up overheating the mixture and ended up with a curdled mess. I tried throwing it in the blender to see if it would come back together, but it just wasn't as creamy as it should have been. So I was much more cautious this time around.
The custard was super easy to make. I love recipes like this because they don't require you to temper the eggs. With my trusty meat thermometer in hand, I successfully heated the custard to 182 degrees (I should really get an instant read thermometer). After chilling overnight, I churned the ice cream Sunday morning and was it ever delicious. Super creamy and a nice vanilla flavor... I even got my three year old to eat a piece of chicken by bribing her with an ice cream cone!
Thanks Karen for picking such a great recipe! I was happy for an excuse to use my ice cream maker. You can check out the recipe on her blog.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with Cornmeal Crumble Crust

This week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays was chosen by Eliana of A Chica Bakes. I have to admit there are several recipes in the book that I am a little wary of, but I always end up loving them. While I love cheesecake, the idea of a cornmeal crust didn't sound very appealing.

Aside from being a little time consuming, the recipe is relatively easy to make. I really like the addition of the lemon zest/juice. I am generally not a huge fan of flavored cheesecakes, but the lemon was very subtle. I knew I was going to at least like the cheesecake part when I tasted the batter- so creamy!

I brought the cheesecake over to my parents' house last night and everyone loved it. Very creamy and not dry or gummy as some recipes can turn out to be. My dad kind of had a funny look on his face when he took the first bite and then he asked what the crust was made of. Oh no... I told him it was cornmeal and he said that was what he thought. But surprise, surprise, he loved it! He thought the traditional graham cracker crust would have overpowered the lemon, which I tend to agree with. My husband on the other hand, said he really liked it, but prefers the traditional crust. The only thing I had an issue with was the blueberry sauce. It was a little runnier than what I expected but still delicious.

Thanks Eliana for picking an awesome recipe this week! If you would like the recipe, you can find it on her blog.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seafood Chowder

We went to the beach this past weekend and my husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law caught a few crabs. I guess no one felt like picking at the crabs when there were three pounds of shrimp and a hundred steamers to munch on so I needed to find a recipe to use them up. There were a few shrimp left as well, so I decided to make a seafood chowder (despite the warm weather).

This recipe, or rather the inspiration for this recipe, came to me from my mother-in-law who owns a daycare center. They had put together a cookbook one year and one of the mother's submitted this delicious soup. The original recipe was a little too rich for me so I have dumbed it down quite a bit. I am all for splurging once in a while, but a quart of cream, a quart of half and half, and a stick of butter was more than even I could take! The recipe comes together very easily. My mother-in-law likes to serve it in bread bowls when she has the time to make them. I prefer to just get a crusty loaf of bread as I am not a huge fan of the bread bowl...

This may be a little runnier than most people make their chowder (the original recipe does use flour as a thickener), but I prefer it this way. If I have it on hand, I will add a fresh firm white fish as well.

2 T Butter
2 T Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion Chopped
2 Stalks Celery Chopped
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Cups Whole Milk
2 Cups Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine
1 lb Crab Meat
1 lb Cooked Shrimp
2 Cups Corn
1/2 t White Pepper
Salt to Taste
2 t Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

In a large stock pot, sautee the onion and celery in the butter and olive oil until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and slowly cook over very low heat until it just comes to a simmer (do not boil).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lemony Ice Cream Pie

My mom had pointed out this recipe when we were thumbing through a Southern Living cookbook looking for a chocolate cake recipe. It looked really good and seemed like a simple dessert to throw together. Since we were having family over for dinner on Sunday, I decided to give it a go.

First of all, I have to say I think this is the easiest dessert recipe I have ever made. You litterally mix a can of frozen lemonade (I used yellow lemonade) into a quart of softened vanilla ice cream, pour it over a graham cracker crust, and you are done. I was not quite sure the best way to mix the lemonade with the ice cream, so I tired using my blender. While it worked out fine, I think next time I will either use the whisk attachment on my stand mixer or use a hand blender. I think the ice cream was a little thick for the blender and I kept having to push it down with a spoon. Of course, I dropped the spoon into the blender while it was on, but luckily no damage was done!

I ended up serving the pie with fresh blueberries we had picked over the weekend and a blueberry sauce I threw together real quick. It was really delicious and very refreshing. This recipe is a definite repeat for the summer months. I also like the versatility of the recipe- you could serve on its own or pair it the blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as my family did!

Lemony Ice Cream Pie

Southern Living Annual Recipes 2006

1 Quart Vanilla Ice Cream
4 oz. Frozen Lemonade Concentrate
1 Graham Cracker Crust
Mix softened frozen lemonade concentrate into softened vanilla ice cream. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust. Freeze until firm.

A couple notes...
  • I used 1 1/2 quarts vanilla ice cream and 6 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate for a nine inch pie.

  • While a blender can be used, it is probably easiest to mix using a stand mixer or hand blender.

  • For the graham cracker crust, I used 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 6 T butter, and 1/2 cup sugar, and poured into a 9 inch springform pan. Press down on the crumbs to set.

Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

So I'm a little late posting for Sweet Melissa Sundays this week. We had a very busy weekend and then I had to go out of town for business on Monday and Tuesday. I did actually make the cookies over the weekend, but had to give up the memory card in my camera to my three year old. My husband snagged the memory card in her V-Tech camera my mom gave her for Christmas and she really wanted to use it over the weekend, so I gave her mine. How different things are these days- my three year old has her very own digital camera!

In any case... This week's recipe was chosen by Megan of My Baking Adventures. I was somewhat skeptical about the recipe this week because I don't generally like cookies made from a chocolate dough. But I knew the people at my work would eat them if my family and I did not. I was pleasantly surprised by them. I only had regular cocoa powder, so I am not sure how much that affected the flavor. To me, they seemed to have just the right amount of chocolate flavor (not too bitter) and I loved the chunks of cherry in them. Per the suggestion of other SMS bakers, I did cut the cherries in half and doubled the amount I put in the dough. 1/3 Cup just didn't seem like enough.

They got really good reviews at dinner on Sunday evening. My sister-in-law, who is four months pregnant, seemed really excited by them when I set them out on the table after dinner. But who isn't excited by chocolate when you are hormonal!

One last comment about these cookies and similar recipes in the book. The recipe calls for the dough to be chilled twice. First you chill in the bowl, then scrape out of the bowl, shape into a log, wrap in plastic, and then chill again. I have found it a little easier to just shape into a log immediately and chill. I divide the dough in half, kind of squish it on the plastic into something that resembles a log, roll the plastic wrap around it, and then shape into a uniform log shape with my hands when it is wrapped in the plastic. I found it kind of difficult to get the dough out of the bowl after it was chilled the first time and this method also cuts down on the amount of time it needs to be chilled.

Thanks Megan for picking such a wonderful recipe! You can check out the recipe on her blog.

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