Month: May 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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So if I have talked about this before please forgive me.  I LOVE chocolate chip cookies.  Theyre probably the most frequent thing that I do make and I could just about eat them everyday if it didn’t add inches.  I have more of an attachment to them when I’m sick.  Few years ago, I got reallllly sick one night and my friend felt such pity for me and the what a mess I was that she went and brought me chocolate chip cookies.  I sat in bed eating nothing but these cookies and ever since then, whenever I get sick, I must have chocolate chip cookies.  Yeah, it’s weird I know.

I use to buy them from the local grocery store but ever since I spoiled myself from homemade ones, the store ones don’t taste as yummy anymore.  I’ll stand around and stare at them in the bakery aisle but just end up deciding to make them at home instead.  My NY Times recipe makes so many and the other day I found a recipe that makes about 20 (which is still quite a lot but less than NYT)  I got home tonight and was craving some cookies so I immediately put out the butter so it could reach room temperature.  After dinner, I got to baking and it took me very little time to make these goodies.  I used semi-sweet chips since I was trying to get rid of them but I really prefer milk chocolate for these.

Quick Chocolate Chip Cookies (from here)

1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 dark chocolate chips (I use Whole Foods brand, 70%.)

Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and the butter together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.

Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips (and walnuts, if using.)

Scoop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoon into balls, and space them several inches apart on the baking sheets. (The dough will spread in the oven)

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until pale golden brown. The cookies will be pretty soft when you remove them from the oven, but will cool to a pleasant firm-but-still-chewy consistency.

As I mentioned in my last post, I did make Monkey Bread for the potluck that I went to.  When I got done making it, I was afraid that it didn’t come out right because it wasn’t as caramelized as the ones from the pictures.  My top was sort of dry but I took it anyways, praying it would be okay. Everyone was wondering what in the world is monkey bread.  Someone suggested it was bread made out of monkeys fresh from the Amazon! but I told them they had to wait until dessert was served.  When it came to dessert time, I heated up the oven to 250 F and put the monkey bread in for 5 min to help loosen it out of the pan.  With some help, I flipped it over and it looked AMAZING.  <pics soon to be posted>  The whole thing was eaten up so quickly I was amazed.  It was so easy and fun to make.  Glad to have introduced a new dessert 🙂

Recipe can be found here.

I also made blueberry cobbler that morning and it’s another very EASY dessert.  I quickly made it that morning and left the house.  When I came back in the evening more than half had disappeared.  I’m guessing the cobbler monster had gotten to it. :O

I got this recipe from allrecipes.com which I was addicted to pre-foodgawker.  It’s so simple but so good.

(ok i just had way too many cookies while writing up this post. :x)

oh and check out this trailer!

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Recipe Calculator

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I was browsing through an old favorite blog, www.howtoeatacupcake.net, and came across a Recipe Calorie Counter.  This is absolutely AMAZING.  It’s like making your own nutrition label for homemade goods.  I updated my last post with the nutrition facts and will be including them from now on in my posts.  I’m not a calorie counter but it is nice to know how much is too much when you’ve got scrumptious goodies laying around.

Also, I did make zucchini bread the other day and I’m not really a fan.  It taste like spice cake.  I don’t think you could tell the difference between spice cake and zucchini bread.  I mean it’s a good way to sneak some nutrition into your food but it’s not something I would go out of my way making again.  Here is the recipe if you want to try it out.

Berry Good

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Monday morning I was kidnapped.  8:30 am two of my girlfriends kicked me out of bed and told me to get dressed to go to some mystery place.  Now 8:30 isn’t too early for me but it was just that I had slept late the night before and planned on sleeping in late.  I pulled the covers over my head hoping they’d disappear but unfortunately that didn’t work.  I made little conversation on the way there as I was still half sleepy and was trying to get over being pulled out of bed.  We ended up on the outskirts of the city, to towns with population 1,111 or 146 and I LOVE small towns.   Their city hall was maybe the size of an average one story house, maybe smaller.

We made it to Destination X an hour and a half later.  We were visiting a farm to pick fruits and veges!  I had been wanting to go picking for quite some time and was amazed that they remembered.  The orchard has strawberries, blueberries, and zucchini in season.  What’s more fun than summer berry picking!  We spent the next two hours plucking succulent berries from their stems to fill our bushels under the warm summer sun.  We were also accompanied by friendly grasshoppers that hopped along with us.

The strawberries were soooo small.  Probably not pumped with hormones to make them giant sized like the ones that you find at the grocery store.  We made our way up and down the field until we were satisfied.  As we went to check out, we also got some flavored honey sticks (mine didn’t even last me a day!) that were absolutely scrumptious.  The trip was amazing and I will be definitely be going back.  A great outdoorsy thing that you can enjoy with anyone.

So with all the fresh produce I had, today I made some traditional blueberry muffins.  I thought about making pie, but my tummy was rumbling for some muffins.

Now the original recipe calls for 1 stick of butter but at times I like to reduce the fat content and use a 1:1 butter to apple sauce.  So here instead of 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, I used 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter and 1/4 cup apple sauce.   Butter imparts flavor so you’ll be sacrificing that, but most of the time, I can never tell the difference.

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Blueberry Muffins (adapted from here)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh blueberries (you can use frozen, just make sure that you dry them as best you can)

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, room temperature

1/4 cup apple sauce

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 375 F.  Line a muffin pan with muffin cups.  In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1 tbs flour.  This helps keep the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the muffin.  In another bowl, whip your sugar, applesauce, and butter for 3 min.  Add in your egg, one at a time, mixing thoroughly.  Fold in the flour, salt, and baking powder, mixing only until incorporated.  Mix in milk. Don’t over mix.  Fold in berries.  Carefully divide batter into individual muffin cups and set to bake for 25-30 min.  Remove from pan and let cool (I like to enjoy them nice and warm)

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I got some zucchini as well and will be makin zucchini bread tomorrow.  I know that just sounds weird but I’ve heard raving reviews and I have to test it out myself to believe it.

Nutrition Facts

 

16 Servings 

Amount Per Serving
Calories 134.8
Total Fat 1.6 g
  Saturated Fat 0.7 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol 28.7 mg
Sodium 131.7 mg
Potassium 55.0 mg
Total Carbohydrate 27.7 g
  Dietary Fiber 0.9 g
  Sugars 12.7 g
Protein 2.8 g

Summer Bash

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As a end of school thing, I had some girlfriends over for a pool party.   Surprisingly the water was cold and left us with goosebumps and shivers but fun nevertheless.  I tried to keep the food light and this is what my menu looked like:

Appetizers

Mango Salsa

Guacamole

Tostados

Main Course

Chicken Spinach Orzo Salad

Dessert

Jell-o Popsicle

Funnel Cakes!  (yes, you don’t have to pay $10 for them at carnivals!!)

Please pardon the photography as my photographer wasn’t unavailable at the time.

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For the Mango Salsa, I got beautiful directions from this blog which had step by step directions with pictures.  I try to do that, but my hands are always a mess and I’d probably spend more time on washing my hands and taking pictures then actually making food.  I finally mastered the technique of properly dicing onions through this blogs directions as well as mangoes.

I usually like to do everything fresh, but I succumbed to a packet of seasonings that you get at the grocery store for my Guacamole.  I used three large avocados and mashed them with a fork.  In addition to adding the packet seasonings, squeeze in juice of one lime, a quarter of a red bell pepper, diced and red onion, diced and mix!

My salad was very light and refreshing that can be used as a side or a simple lunch that doesn’t take very long.

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Chicken Spinach Orzo Salad (adapted from here)

6 pieces of boneless chicken breast

1 tsp Italian herbs

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp garlic, minced

1 lb fresh spinach (you can get the baby spinach that’s in pre-washed bags to make it easier)

1/2 cup feta cheese

zest of two lemons

2 tomatoes, chopped

1.5 cups orzo pasta

24 basil leaves

1-2 tbs olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbs toasted pine nuts

Wash your chicken and pat it dry.  Marinate it with salt, pepper, 1 tsp olive oil, cayenne pepper, and Italian herbs.  Line a pan with foil and place the chicken in the pan.  Bake chicken at 350 F until meat has turned white (15 min).  While chicken is baking, boil a large pot with water and liberal amount of salt.  Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook till el-dente (8-10 min) Drain the water and set aside.  Once the chicken is done, shred chicken one it has cooled.

In a large bowl, shred the spinach and basil with kitchen scissors.  Zest the lemon and add to the spinach with the chopped tomatoes. Toast your pine nuts over the stove in a non-stick frying pan if they aren’t already toasted.  Just add the nuts straight to the pan and stir them around until they’re are golden.  Layer the chicken, orzo, pine nuts, and feta cheese.  Add in olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Toss before serving.

For my Jell-o Popsicle,  I mixed one packet of jell-o with 2 cups boiling water.   Stir until dissolved.  Slightly cool and pour into Popsicle molds and freeze over night.  To take them out of their molds, run some warm water over the molds and the Popsicle will slip right out.

I wasn’t planning on making funnel cakes for this lunch but one of my girlfriends mentioned that she’s never had one before and I told her that was completely unacceptable!  I had been wanting to make them for a while and thought this was the best time to give it a try.  And as silly as it sounds, we found out that they’re called funnel cakes because you pour the batter through an actuall funnel!

Funnel Cake (adapted from here)

3 eggs

2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp cinnamon

vegetable oil, for frying

powdered sugar, cinnamon, brown sugar, honey for toppings

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together and then add the milk slowly and beat.  Add dry ingredients till smooth.  The consistency of the batter shouldn’t be too thin or thick.  In a large cast iron pot, or any deep frying pot, heat 2 in of oil.  Pour the batter into a funnel, keeping one finger to plug the hole. When the oil is hot (test by dropping in some batter)  release your finger from the hole and slowly move the funnel around the pot to make designs.  As one side cooks, flip it over to cook the other side.  When both sides are golden, remove it from the pot and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.  Add desired toppings.

You can also make chocolate funnel cake by adding in a little bit of unsweetened cocoa

Someone had also brought fresh strawberries and dipped them into some chocolate for us.  They were gone in a blink of an eye!

We probably ended up eating more dessert than actual food but it was too scrumptious to pass up.

Pizza Pizza!

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Home-made pizza is the best! hands down.  It’s fun.  It’s easy.  And you get to control your toppings.  It’s amazing.  THE hardest part was putting in some muscle when rolling out the pizza dough but it’s such a cinch after you get over that hurdle.  Martha Stewart features Chris Bianco’s Pizza Dough recipe here which includes step-by-step photo instructions.  It makes four 12 in round pizzas.  Here are some tips:

Use a big bowl while letting dough rise.  Allow it to rise the allotted time.  Your dough might get smelly but that’s the gas that’s being produced and you must press it out.  I made the dough the night before and refrigerated it in four separate rounds.  I lightly floured my surface and rolled out my dough which took some time but you’ll get there.   Lightly oil the pan that you use to put your dough on.  Bake the crust in the oven at 350 F for 10 min.  Take it out and add on your toppings.

For one of my pizzas, I did a fresh basil pesto sauce with cremini mushrooms, orange bell peppers (soo sweet) and feta cheese.  I hadn’t made any pesto before, thinking it was a hard process but thanks to the handy-dandy food processor, it only took minutes. 

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Basil Pesto (adapted from here)

1 oz Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic

2 cups basil

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 tsp salt

olive oil

Start by pulsing your garlic and cheese in the food processor.  Once that is chopped, add in your basil till it is in shreds.  Drizzle in olive oil while the machine is running to your desired consistency.  The more you add, the thinner the sauce.  Toast your pine nuts over the stove in a non-stick frying pan if they aren’t already toasted.  Just add the nuts straight to the pan and stir them around until they’re are golden and add them into the pesto mixture.  Pulse until you have a smooth consistency.

Put it in a jar and cover if it is for later use.  It will brown if left open.  Note:  You can use spinach and mint if you want to reduce the amount of basil in the mixture as basil can get a little expensive.

Long Post

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This post contains multiple recipes, therefore will be really long.  I didn’t have enough time to post so I’m combining them.  I lack some pictures as of right now as well.

I made some brownies two weeks ago Dorie’s recipe and boy does she have a variety of brownie recipes.  The one I started off with was the classic brownie which called for bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate.  Bittersweet is 60% cacao and unsweetened is 100%.  I’m addicted to the Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips but when I bit into the unsweetened bar for a taste….let’s just say I won’t be doing that again.  The brownies were a lot richer than the boxed due to the higher content of cacao in the chocolate but thy were still was very good.  They weren’t chewy but moist.  I prefer the chewy kind.

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Classic Brownies

5 tbs butter

4 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (or coarsely chopped)

2 oz unsweetened chocolate (coarsely chopped)

3/4 white sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup AP flour

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Grease 8 in baking pan.  In a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate till smooth.  Taking off the boiler, add in sugar.  Whisk in eggs one by one.  Add in vanilla and espresso.  Fold in salt and flour.  Pour into pan and bake for 30-35 min until a toothpick comes out clean.

I also decided to try a different chocolate chip cookies recipe and wanted to use Dorie’s.  I’m not sure I like them as my NY Times one but they were pretty pleasant.  I think I will stick with NY Times though.

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Dorie Greenspan’s “My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies”

2 cups AP Flour

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking soda

2 sticks of unsalted butter

1 cups white sugar

2/3 cups brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 large eggs

12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk, semi and bittersweet)

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Preheat oven to 375 F.  Whip butter with a mixer for 1 minute.  Add in sugars for 2 minutes.  Proceed to add in the vanilla and the eggs, adding in one at a time until well mixed.  Using a lower speed or a spatula, add all dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until incorporated.  Mix in chocolate chips.  Spoon the dough onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Allow to rest for 1 minute and transfer them to a cooling rack.

Ever since I had Salmon and Pea Risotto in a little Italian cafe in Hartford, I’ve been in love with risotto.  It was creamy, delicious, totally comfort food!  They served me such a huge plate I took some back and ate it for breakfast the next morning.  Ever since, it was on my mental list of things I been wanting to try to make but somehow I always manage to make something else.  Finally, I got myself to make some and boy was it a hit!  I was so sad when it was all gone because I was craving some more but I got to enjoy it with a visitor that I had over for lunch as well as two young-uns.  Risotto is very versatile and you can use almost anything in it to your like.

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Seafood Risotto

1 1/2 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup shittake mushrooms (any mushroom will do), roughly chopped

4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)

1 cup milk

1 cup peas

1 oz parmasean cheese shredded

1/2 lb baby scallops

1/2 lb shrimp (deheaded and deviened)

crushed black pepper to taste

In a non-stick pot, sautee your onions and garlic in EVOO until translucent.  Add in the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.  Do not wash rice and put it in directly into the pot and cook till slightly brown.  While doing this, heat up 2 cups of stock with 1/2 cup peas.  Once the peas have defrosted, with an immersion blender puree the peas.  Add the remaining 2 cups of stock to the stock pot.  Next, add the stock to the rice in 1/2 cup increments as the rice absorbs the stock.  Add remaining peas.  Meanwhile stirring the rice, season your shrimp and scallops with salt and pepper.  With some EVOO in a pan, cook the shrimp and scallops till the shrimp are slightly pink and scallops a pale yellow.  Set aside.  Warm up the milk once your near end of your stock.  The rice will begin to plump up and get creamy.  (If you don’t have milk on hand, substitute for more stock.  Also whenever adding liquid to the risotto, it must be warmed so not to “shock” the rice)  Add in the milk in two portions.  This is the point where the rice is nearly done and you should add in your seafood, cheese and black pepper.  The end product should be soft creamy rice.  I would leave it slightly “wet” meaning all of the remaining liquid shouldn’t be cooked out or else the rice will get dry and too thick to eat.

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Again, you can use whatever you have on hand for this dish.  Once you get the technique down, you can use any seasoning, ingrediants, skys the limit!

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My friend was craving some lemon poppy seed muffins/cake and I love lemony cake.  Unfortunately lemon poppy seed muffins aren’t as lemony as I’d hope them to be but they were still delicious.  It was less of a dessert and more of a nice snack. I actually didn’t have any sour cream on me but I learned that you can easily substitute it with 1 cup yogurt + 1 tsp baking soda.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (By Dorie Greenspan)

2/3 cup sugar

grated zest and juice of one lemon

2 cup AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 stick butter (melted)

2 tbs black poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 400 F and line your muffin tray with paper muffin cups.  In a large bowl, rub the sugar with the lemon zest with your fingers.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl, combine sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla, butter and pour over the dry ingredients.  Mix only until incorporated.  Stir in the poppy seeds and fill the paper cups half way.  Bake for 18-20 min until lightly golden.

I made some pizza last night as well but I will save that for tomorrow.  I think this is good for one night.  🙂

GMO

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I’ve been trying to do some catching up on my reading as I still haven’t finished my Twinkie book.  I read something the other day that astonished me and it was in great contrast to Sugar Blues.  It stated, “Refined sugar is pure.  Refining it is nothing more than purifying a natural food, McElvaney liked to remind me, a process of separation and removal, not transformation.  In sweet contrast to the corn sweetners that compete for our affection, not one molecule is changed.”  The book also explained the process in which converts sugar canes and sugar beets into the sugar that we add to our teas.  After some thinking over this statement, I realized that in this day and age, if people can just merely stay away from corn sweetners, it is a HUGE accomplishment since most products are replacing sugar with things like corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup.  I haven’t concluded my opinions about sugar as of yet since it seems like I have more research and reading to do on this substance.  My goal now with my diet (and when I say diet, I don’t mean the latest food regimen on the market, but the foods that I intake on a normal day) is to elimanate processed foods that contain corn sweetners which most likely come from a source of GMO (genetically modified Organisms) corn.

Now you’re probably wondering what exactly is GMO and really is it in our food? Yes sir it is.  I just finished a documentry, called The Future of Food,  last night that someone recommended to me and I am so thankful that they did.  It really opens up one’s eyes to the way America’s  food industry is heading and it’s impacts on individuals and the world.  I recommend this documentry to EVERYONE.  It’s an hour and half long but it is totalllly worth your time (you know you won’t gain anything from the latest episode of Gossip Girl).  It makes me want to look more into the different options we have availabe to obtain our produce and food such as Farmer’s Markets, Co-ops, and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture).  If you want to protect your children and the health of loved ones, you will really want to look into these options.  You can find the many options available to you by visting Local Harvest and entering your zip code.  The more we support these entities, the more impact it will have on corporations that are trying to control our food supply.  Companies like Monsanto are only in it for the money, not the health of our nation.  Many high posisitoned USDA and FDA posistions are filled with former Monsanto employees and are able to form regulations in favor of Monsanto.  After watching this video, you’ll think twice about the food that you’re putting in your mouth.  Do a favor to yourself and make sure you know where your food is coming from. 

And this isn’t just about health.  It’s about the environment, our dependency on other countries for our food, and poverty issues in third world countries.  A lot of the produce in the supermarkets travel many miles, even from China.  This increases the amount of fuel that is needed to transport goods.  Some may say that with an increase of GMO food there will be an abudance of food and can save all those people who are starving each day.  Most people who don’t have enough food use to be farmers but they were stripped from their jobs by the government since it was more expensive for the farmers to farm their own food due to government subsidies.  Now they must travel to the city and compete for the scarce jobs that are available.  Instead of being providers of food to their land, they’ve become forcefully dependent.  To watch this video go to The Future of Food  It’s well worth your time.  

This is kind of unrelated to the rest of the post, but since its a post with a bunch of links, why not add one more.  If you havne’t heard of this website yet, you’ve been missing out.  This is where I get majority of my recipes from.  People from all different walks of life post their recipes that include Indian, Chinese, Swiss, Gerrman, Italian recipes.  People will also post ‘how-to’s’ and information about restaurants.  Check it out.  FoodGawker