Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookies

Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookies
Sometimes...to be honest many times...I am overcome by the need to bake.  I might have a dozen things on my plate, including grocery shopping, making dinner, actually feeding lunch to the kids (why are they always so hungry!), and instead I am consumed with the need to bake.


Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookies

Yes, I do enjoy making dinner, but I will admit I don't find the same joy in thinking up new ways to prepare all of those cucumbers in my garden as I do checking out what baking ingredients I have in my pantry.  More than likely I will have the right ingredients on hand and not need to trek to the grocery store for a bottle of soy sauce that I swore I picked up the last time I went to the store.  I can stand in the pantry door, grab that already opened bag of chocolate chips, munch on a few, and get my creative juices flowing.  Oh, what the heck, I'll take one more handful and shove it in.  Yes, now we're talking. Something with chocolate.  Something where I can lick the spoon and that bowl when it's close to being empty.  Maybe I can get the kids to do something outside of the kitchen and hoard it all for myself. Why are they never around when I'm taste-testing salad dressings?

Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookies
So, there I stood in my pantry door, eating chocolate chips, when I was faced with one of those serious dilemmas that I'm sure you've faced at least once in your lifetime.  Cookies or brownies? Ohhh...decisions.  Decisions are dreadful.  They are painful, I know. I feel your pain.  On this particular tortured day, I really wanted something very chocolatey. Very chocolatey.  I really don't care that the others might not.  They're always accusing me of never making what they want anyway so let's not shock them into thinking I actually listen.

Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookies
And, then I'm struck by the other side of my brain (or heart or stomach, wherever these urges come from). I really wanted a cookie.  We'd been eating birthday cake earlier in the week, and I didn't want anything cakey or that I'd actually have to get a plate and stick a fork into it. I wanted a cookie.  I wanted a brownie.

I WILL MAKE COOKIES THAT TASTE LIKE BROWNIES! Gosh, I'm brilliant!


On a mission now with a real purpose, I put my research hat on. Maybe it wasn't the same one I wore to my graduate school ceremony, but at least I was pretending to be studying something very important.  I scoured my cookie recipes.  I scoured my brownie recipes.  I checked out the ingredients for both, looking especially at my two favorite recipes for each.  And, in the end, I settled on a combination of the two.  I merged the two recipes together and came up with a glorious hybrid, mutant, whatever you want to call it. I think I've been watching too many Marvel cartoons this summer.

Chocolate Chip Fudge Cookies

The final result was a delicious cookie that pleased not only the kids on that fine afternoon but also some lovely ladies at a PTA meeting that night.  Like a brownie, these cookies have a cocoa taste that is magnified by the kosher salt added in.  I combined sugar with brown sugar to give a soft and slightly chewy texture to the cookie side of its personality.  The chocolate chips and finely chopped walnuts are right at home no matter which camp you are in.  I made the cookies both by rolling them into balls and placing on a cookie sheet and also by rolling out the dough and cutting into shapes.

My preference in the end was the ball form.  It yielded a softer cookie.  This dough can be frozen and stored for later use.


For a print-friendly version of the recipe, click: https://sites.google.com/site/chocolatechipfudgecookies/

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups of unbleached All-purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa (good-quality goes a long way)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnut pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and kosher salt.  Stir to combine all of the ingredients.


In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and two sugars at medium speed.  Beat until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Scrape down the sides.  Add your eggs one at a time until the yolk disappears.  Again, scrape down the sides.  Add in the vanilla.

With the mixer set at a low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three steps, making sure all of the flour is mixed in before adding in more.  Before the third add-in, pour in the chocolate chips and walnut pieces.  Mix them in at low speed.  It will crumble the chips and walnuts a little, which is what you want. Finally, add in the last of the dry ingredients.

Scoop a tablespoon of dough into your hands and roll into a ball.  Place the ball onto your cookie sheet and then press the middle down with your thumb.  This will keep your cookie from puffing and will flatten it just a bit without spreading.  Cookies can be placed about 1 1/2 inches apart.


Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.  Yields around 36 cookies.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kapnos

You probably thought I'd given up on the food blogging career. Au contraire, my friend.  Life outside of the blogging world has consumed me over the past month. Breathe has become my inner chant. First, it was the final chaos with school ending: end-of-year picnics, half-days off from school, soccer season tryouts and parties.  Then, we immediately set off to our place in the Outer Banks only to be hit with a broken air conditioner, leaks in the ceiling, and of course Hurricane Arthur.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad
If you're a regular reader or know me outside the blogging world, you are probably well aware that I am a devoted shopper of Trader Joe's.  I can tell you what's good, what's ok, and very rarely what isn't worth buying.  In fact, I can't think of anything I haven't liked at all. I have tried almost every product imaginable there. It is a weekly stop for me.  And, my favorite section is their "new products" display, where there is always something fun to try.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad
My newest find is their "Exotic Spice Tower".  It consists of four different spice blends from North Africa, the Middle East,and Latin America, including sumac, which I've been on the hunt to find for a while.  Seeing as though it is the time of year for spices and rubs, I had to pick up a stack of these flavorful blends.

The first thing I did when I brought home my lovely blends was to open each one to see how they spoke to me.  The nose is a wonderful tool.  Close your eyes, take a sniff, and ask yourself what food you think of when smelling these intoxicating scents.  If you open your senses up without knowing which spices you are smelling, chances are some sort of food will come to mind.  When you allow yourself to open up to the possibilities your aroma memory will often spawn creative food ideas that you won't even need a recipe for.  Trust your senses.  And, truth be told, it is your nose and its memory of food and food smells that needs to be tapped into most often rather than your taste buds.  Smell first, taste later.

The first spice blend I tried was the Pilpelchuma, which is a blend often found in Lybian cuisine. This blend is full of chili powder mixed with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and caraway.  
Love my George Foreman grill
One sniff and I knew I had to have it as a spicy rub for a grilled pork tenderloin I had in the refrigerator.  Brushing my tenderloin with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, I spread the rub on and coated it using my hands on both sides.  I heated my George Foreman grill to high (yes, don't laugh because it works!), and I heated it for 7 minutes on each side.  And, it turned out fantastic.  
Pipelchuma Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

The initial bite carries a lot of heat in the front part of your mouth, not the kind of heat that makes your head sweat, but spicy enough that it makes you say "Wow".  Let it sit though because the after-taste is a heavenly smoky taste that lingers in the back of your mouth and leaves you wanting that next bite of heat.  It's a vicious cycle meant for those who can't say no to just one more bite.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad
Beautiful Colors
Having my pork set I set about to make a salad that would go perfectly with my chili flavored pork.  I had tons of corn that I'd bought in bulk last week and it needed to be used before the week was out.  I also had a can of black beans, an avocado, a red pepper, basil, and parsley from my garden.  Perfect blend!  All I needed now was a dressing that would bring all of the flavors together.  

The latest craze in cooking seems to be miso.  The Wall Street Journal recently featured this fun ingredient as a secret weapon in desserts, and David Lebovitz recently featured it in his blog while making miso ice cream.  I am finding it all over the place in many different recipes, but my favorite use so far is in salad dressings.  It kicks up the flavor very subtly and gives a nice depth of buttery saltiness in otherwise bland foods.  A little goes a long way, so you do have to be careful.  In this case, a simple blend of grapeseed oil (which is a very mild oil and won't clash with the miso fighting for the flavor trophy), white wine vinegar, and half a teaspoon of white miso. Mmmm...perfect and not overpowering.  

Check out the Pipelchuma sprinkled over top
I sprinkled it over my salad, stood back and admired all of the pretty colors.  And, then, I mixed it all up and took a bite. Perfect, except it was missing something.  I went back for my Pilpelchuma and sprinkled a bit over the top of my salad, added some lime peel, and now it was ready for consumption.

Note: I had trouble finding miso initially, thinking it would only be in specialty sections in Wegman's.  I actually found it in the international food section in our very own Harris Teeter.  And, then, I found it again in, but where else, Trader Joe's near their pre-made salads and sushi. Trader Joe's does it again!

For a print-friendly version of the recipe, click: https://sites.google.com/site/blackbeancornandavocadosalad/.

Ingredients:
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the ear
2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of lime peel
1 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 Red Pepper, diced
1 Avocado, peeled and cubed
1 Tablespoon, fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon, fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white miso

Directions:
In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the corn kernels and saute until they are a nice yellow, no more than five minutes.  They will be slightly tender but maintain their crispy, juiciness.  Sprinkle lime peel and mix in, removing pan from heat.
Corn is nice and shiny with lime peel adding a sprinkle of green


In a medium bowl, add the black beans, red pepper, avocado, parsley and basil.  Stir to mix the ingredients together.  Add the corn and mix it in.


In a small bowl, combine the grapeseed oil, vinegar, and miso. Whisk until all of the ingredients are combined and it has a smooth and creamy appearance.  Pour your vinaigrette over the salad ingredients and stir to mix it all in together.
Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, and Fried Grit Fingers



Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

Friday, June 6, 2014

Nutmeg Muffins

Nutmeg Muffins
I have many recipes to share, but I've been so busy lately that it's been hard to find the time to share them with you.  Much, much, much going on with the end of the school year approaching, school concerts, recitals, soccer tryouts, colds, and new puppies. "What?", you say. "New Puppy?" Well, yes, indeed! We got a new puppy!