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!