Thursday, June 30, 2016

Best Cocoa Brownies

I love brownies. I didn't love that my previous go-to recipe required me to buy a bar of unsweetened chocolate (but damn, they were fudge-y.)  Sometimes you just want to make brownies with the big ol' jar of cocoa powder you have on hand.

After massive googling, I discovered the best cocoa brownies recipe from smitten kitchen. It had simple ingredients that I had on hand, and came together relatively quickly.  The only thing that was frustrating was that every time I inserted the toothpick tester, I couldn't really tell if it was "done" - the tester is supposed to come out "slightly moist with batter" and every time I poked it I was convinced it was undercooked.  However, even baking it an extra 10 minutes (meaning I went 40 minutes instead of 30), the brownies still taste soft, moist, and thankfully, unburned.

best cocoa brownies from smitten kitchen

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (this is the 16 larger brownies)
  •  10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
  1. Position rack in lower third of your oven and preheat to 325.  Butter and line a 8x8 pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium heatproof bowl.  Set it over a pan of barely simmering water.  Since I am convinced I'll make every pyrex bowl I own explode when I do this, I simply put the ingredients in the microwave for 1 minute at 50% power.  You do not want the mixture to get hot - just warm.  Stir until the butter is melted and smooth-ish - the mixture will look gritty - the important thing is to make sure everything is combined.
  3. Stir in vanilla.  
  4. Add eggs one at a time. (Lazy me added both at the same time.)  Stir vigorously after each egg addition.
  5.  When the batter looks thick and shiny, add the flour until combined.
  6. Beat batter vigorously for 40 strokes with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  7. Stir in nuts, if using.
  8. Pour and spread in prepared ban, and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick tester emerges slightly moist with batter.  (note: it will always emerge moist with batter.)
  9. Allow to cool in pan completely on the rack, and then remove from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board.  As you can see, my edges are not perfect (seriously, it's close enough, I tried to clean it as much as I can) and I used a very sharp ceramic knife.  You can try freezing them for a little while to get the brownies to set even more and it may cut cleaner.

Monday, June 27, 2016

One Pot Pasta

It's ALL the rage - short quick videos of recipes, and even better - make your meal in one pot! No pesky additional pots to clean!

I've done it. A pasta purist would probably cringe, as I poured dried pasta on top of cooked vegetables and chicken, and added barely enough water to cover, let it come to a boil, then drain off my excess liquid, add cream and cheese, and voila, dinner.  But hey, I only had to clean one (massive) pot and I kinda like the result.

This recipe is adapted from Tasty's One Pot Cajun Pasta to my tastes because I don't like spicy food.  Never feel beholden to a recipe word for word - I adapted the recipe to my needs.  Also because I don't really like bell peppers.

only the finest of dinnerware, from the dixie collection

One Pot Pasta adapted from Tasty's One Pot Cajun Pasta
Serves approximately four.

  • One chicken breast, cubed (cut it as small as you'd like)
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms (I use crimini)
  • Half of a medium onion, sliced and sliced in half again
  • Any other vegetable you'd like to throw in (pictured is kale because it was on sale, but I also recommend asparagus, or you can use bell peppers)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 8 oz pasta (cavatappi pictured)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 0.5 cups cream (I use half and half)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup of parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dried oregano

  1. Using a large pot (I have a 4.5 quart Le Creuset) warm up the pot on the stove.
  2. With one teaspoon of oil, cook mushrooms and onions together until browned. Remove from pot.
  3. Throw in vegetables and brown (or if using kale, until wilted), and remove from pot
  4. With a teaspoon of oil, add garlic.  Add chicken. Season with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano.  Cook until no longer pink-ish.
  5. Re-add all vegetables to the pot.
  6. Add pasta.
  7. Add chicken broth and water.  (add enough to only just cover the pasta. Do not submerge the pasta. That is too much liquid.)  Try to scrape the bottom of the pot.  
  8. Cover and bring to a boil.  Stir for as long as it takes pasta to cook (cavatappi took 12 minutes.)  Liquid should reduce as you stir.
  9. Remove excess broth with a ladle - you want it to be slightly wet but not overly wet, if that makes sense.  There should be about 1/4th cup of liquid left in the pot.  The excess broth should be delicious.
  10. Add cream (or half and half) and stir in.
  11. Add parmesan cheese slowly and stir to combine. Continue adding until sauce thickens.  It should start getting cheesy gooey stringy but not quite mac and cheese gooey.  
  12. Serve!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Who the hell am I, to show up after four years and to post again?

A lazy bum, that's who, but hey, when you make a new cookie and actually remember to take a photo of it, blog you must.

There is a baking competition at work, and I also wanted to pass some cookies along to a group I work with, so I said "let's try these out." I had them bookmarked from the Cook's Illustrated Nov/Dec 2014 issue, and it has been a while since I actually baked a new cookie. (by the way, did you read Christopher Kimball is leaving ATK/CI? They've filmed the upcoming season, but it's like I'm losing one of my favorite parts of my weekend. I hope the company can keep it up after he's gone.)

(Life Pro Tip: Check your local library's online offerings. My local library offers a lot of great magazines available for free through the Zinio app. I can read Food Network, Rachael Ray, Martha Stewart Living, Bon Appetit and Saveur. I promptly ended by Bon Appetit sub when it was added.)

I made the first batch a little large - I can't measure to save my life - so for Christmas, I would like a #30 cookie scoop.  Using a tablespoon to scoop a dough that's kind of sticky is not easy. I also took one picture and no glamour shots.

My notes about this recipe:
1. it tastes like a brownie in cookie form.
2. it is so rich.
3. literally, it's my brownie recipe in cookie form.
4. wearing gloves when forming the balls help.
5. I really like powdered sugar and really doused the balls in them.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Yields 22, or if you're like me and terrible at measurements, 11 huge cookies and 7 normal sized ones.
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's, that's what I have on hand.)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I use Ghiradelli's, because I'm from California)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup powdered sugar 
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  I personally didn't do this until the 10 minute resting part, to try to keep my kitchen from turning into a sauna.

2. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Combine the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Combine the unsweetened chocolate and butter in a small bowl and microwave at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. (it only took me about 2 minutes. Chop the chocolate into really small bits to accelerate the melting process.)

4. Whisk the chocolate/butter mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Fold in the flour mixture until no dry streaks remain. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

5. Place the granulated sugar and powdered sugar in separate shallow bowls. Working with 2 tablespoons dough (or a medium cookie scoop) at a time, roll into balls. Drop dough balls into granulated sugar and roll to coat. Transfer dough balls to powdered sugar and roll to coat evenly. Evenly space the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets.  CI recommends 11 cookies per sheet, in rows of 4-3-4.  I didn't dome the cookies - I slightly flattened them, because I do that.

6. Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until puffed and cracked and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, about 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cool completely on the sheet before serving.

The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If they last.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dried Cranberry-White Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies.

The holidays may be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean holiday related baking has to - just make these cookies!  I found the recipe on a forum I frequent, and I had to make them right away when I saw how well they baked up.

Using Crisco instead of butter is always a concern to me - I love butter - but this came out great in that the cookies didn't spread.  Butter is fine, just be aware the cookies may spread a little more than in my pictured ones.

These are great "Santa" cookies also, if you want to plan ahead for next year.  The recipe is very similar to many oatmeal raisin cookies, if you don't have Craisins on hand.

Dried Cranberry-White Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies
Yields about 30-36 cookies, depending on how big of a cookie you like.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup Crisco (shortening)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, use 1 teaspoon of vinegar in a 1/3 cup measure, and then fill to top with milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1.5 cups dried cranberries (Craisins) (I bought one bag with six smaller single serving bags, which came out to approximately 1.5 cups)
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (Ghiradelli recommended!)

Preheat oven to 375.

1.  In one mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.

2.  In a second bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar and shortening.  Cream until fluffy.

3.  Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

4.  Gradually add in flour mixture.

5.  Stir in oats, craisins, and white chocolate.

6.  Place golf ball sized portions of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment.  Flatten slightly.

7.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Leave on sheets to cool for about 5 minutes, then move to racks to finish cooling.

All lined up in perfect little rows...

Enjoy your last taste of the holidays.

So thick and dense, but so good.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Spicy Szechuan Tofu

For years, I was never a huge fan of Trader Joe's - when I lived in Los Angeles, it was the worst place to go on the weekend.  Every single one had the world's smallest parking lot, and it was a madhouse.

But these ladies are huge fans, and even wrote a book about it - Cooking with all Things Trader Joe's - and it has absolutely beautiful pictures to go with it, taken by the ladies themselves. Itcombines their love of Trader Joe's with simple, quick recipes that ANYONE can cook with just a little TJ's help.

I marked this recipe on my first glance through the book, and I kept going back to it because it reminded me so much of mapo tofu, which is a spicy Chinese tofu dish.  When my mom made it, she always used silken tofu, so it was more soupy, but this version uses firm tofu cubes, making it a bit easier to eat.

This recipe was extremely easy to make.  The prep is minimal, and the prepared General Tsao stir fry sauce really speeds things along in flavorville.

My main changes to the recipe - first, I used ground turkey, as I didn't feel like beef and I could not find ground pork (the traditional meat in mapo tofu) at the grocery store.  Second, I added mushrooms, because they were on sale, and I wanted to bulk up the dish a bit.  Both are delicious additions.

Oh, and one hint - I didn't buy the sesame oil at TJ's - I actually got it at a local Japanese market.  Be careful when purchasing - I somehow grabbed the sesame oil with cayenne extract.  Ouch.

If you're a Trader Joe's fan, this book is definitely worth a glance!

Spicy Szechuan Tofu from Cooking with all things Trader Joe's.  Serves 4

  • 1 package firm tofu (I recommend extra firm)
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey or beef 
  • 1 glove garlic, crushed, or 1 cube frozen crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger (I used powdered)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup General Tsao Stir Fry Sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped (I omitted this, since I don't like raw green onions.)
1.  Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes.  Place cubes between paper towels and press to draw water out.  Set aside.

2.  Cook turkey/beef/pork in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add garlic, ginger, and peas; cook 2 minutes longer.

3.  Add tofu, stir fry sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.

4.  Add green onions and remove from heat.  Serve over steamed white rice.

This recipe makes you look like a Chinese cooking genius, when all the work is done by the delicious (and not that spicy) stir fry sauce.  Yummmm.