Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best ever chocolate chip cookies


Since we got a big pile of snow on the ground yesterday and got invited over to our friend's place for a warm chili dinner, I decided to take advantage of the situation and bake up a batch of cookies. I stumbled upon a recipe from for the best chocolate chip cookies ever and decided to give them a try.

And you know what? The title of that recipe is not an exaggeration. Those cookies were FABULOUS. They turned out just the way I like them. Thick and chewy and soft. They were just puffy enough to make me happy but chewy enough that everyone else just loved them. I did change a few minor things. I used 1 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 3/4 cup white sugar (to help with the chewiness) and I was generous with the flour to make sure they didn't flatten out too much.

I took the cookies with us when we trekked through the snow to our friends' place for dinner. The cookies were raved about and all gobbled up before the night was out. I have to say, I'm pretty happy with this recipe and I think it may be my new go to recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stuffed Peppers with Turkey and Vegetables


I discovered this recipe (surprise it's not a food network recipe!) a few months ago when I decided I wanted to try my hand at making stuffed peppers. It had plenty of good reviews and I liked the idea of making it healthier by using the ground turkey and loads of veggies.  The first couple of times I made it pretty much as listed in the recipe. I like using Italian seasoned canned tomatoes and sun dried tomato paste. This go around I added some fresh parsley and used frozen spinach since we never use up all of the fresh spinach we have left over. I also added mushrooms since I had them on hand. It definitely pays to be generous with the seasonings as well.

It makes a boat load of stuffing (I usually only stuff 2 peppers) so there are usually enough leftovers to eat for dinner again or for a couple of lunches. That's my favorite kind of recipe.

(this is what was left after stuffing two peppers)

We like to have it with rice but you can certainly do without if you are watching calories (the recipe itself is very low cal). I definitely don't feel guilty when I eat a bit extra just because there are so many veggies in this dish. So tasty and so filling and so healthy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back to basics

One of my favorite basic dinners to make is stir fry (which technically it isn't really a stir fry since I don't have a wok and don't cook it hot enough like you're supposed to, but whatever). Kev and I usually have it a couple of times a month. It's easy, tasty, filling and there's usually enough for leftovers for lunch. We normally do chicken stir fry, but occasionally if we catch beef on sale we'll do beef stir fry.

The basic recipe usually includes green or red bell peppers, some hot chilies like habaneros, serranos or jalapenos (usually all of them), onion (caramelized), mushrooms, garlic, and sometimes broccoli if I think to pick it up. I cook the meat first, usually in a bit of olive oil, some stir fry sauce like szechuan suace or teriyaki sauce (usually both), seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic. Then I cook up the onions first to get them nice and browned before adding the other veggies (which have been given the same seasonings as the meat, and broccoli always goes in last just to get it a nice bright green but without making it mushy).

The hotter the peppers and the hotter the stir fry sauce we can use, the happier we are. We love to have it extra hot w/a tall glass if milk to drink. We eat it served over jasmine rice and it's just perfect. I don't think we've ever had a bad batch even though we never measure, never time and the ingredients usually change a little bit each time we make it. And it's a million times better than the frozen bag stir fries and infinitely better for you. And this is simple enough that Kev can make it if I'm not in the mood to cook (which he did last night).

Does anyone have stir fry recipes they like to make? Or any extra veggies we can toss in there that would make a good addition? I'm thinking maybe baby corn would be welcome to the party sometime.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Dear Manda Mae,

I did not do ANY cooking this weekend. Therefore you need to pick up on the posting slack!


Bailie Boo

Saturday, January 23, 2010

compost cookie test case #1

my base recipe is from Cook's Illustrated and i was going to copy the recipe here, but the recipe is copyrighted by CI. i have pretty strong feelings about taking what isn't yours. with that said, the cookie recipe i'm linking to is a workhorse! so do yourself a favor and register for the free trial.

Cook's Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

now on to the first batch of compost cookies!
if you recall the compost cookie from momofuku has chocolate chips, pretzels, chips, butterscotch chips and coffee grounds. i set out with the best of intentions, but naturally was lazy and didn't make it to the grocery store. so ingredients were limited to what was available at cvs and in my pantry.
i started with my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and went from there.

3/4 cup white chocolate chips - i thought i had regular chocolate, but i didn't
3/4 cup pretzels - chopped into manageable pieces
3/4 cup extra crunchy potato chips - i went with the lays kettle cooked hoping the extra crunchy chips would hold up better in the batter
1 king size heath bar - cvs doesn't make a habit of carrying butterscotch, heath seemed close enough
1 tablespoon instant coffee - coffee grounds doesn't sound appetizing, does it?

as you can see it makes for an interesting batter. i broke up the chips a bit before adding them and i was correct in choosing the extra crunchy chips. they didn't break up too much in the batter. i didn't mix the fixins before adding and i really wish i would have. with all the kids in the pool that batter was very stiff and difficult to stir. the goal is to have a bite of every ingredient in every bite. not sure my batch came out all that varied.

here's the final product! i was going to be obnoxious and draw arrows pointing to all the different ingredients, but i trust you can see it all. the heath was a good move (and was chocolate coated) so it easily balanced out the salty pretzels and chips. the white chocolate was a bit too sweet and i'd like to try it again with a dark chocolate. originally i thought the coffee was a bit frivolous but i must say it plays very nicely with all the flavors, even the salty.

see! jill thinks they're yummy. and in the interest of fairness she did do a lot of the chopping.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp

This recipe is once again from the January '10 issue of the food network magazine. It's really light tasting and refreshing compared to the heavier pastas I normally make. I really liked the shrimp roasted in the oven and it's so simple even Kevin can make it! (He pretty much did, in fact.) We followed the recipe as is.The pasta was kind of dry, so I would definitely recommend using less pasta or more sauce. I had to make a second small batch of sauce for the left overs because the pasta was bone dry after being in the fridge. A lot of the reviews said the pasta was bland, but I really got a nice lemony taste with it and it was just

(I remembered to take a photo, but not before I ate a few bites)

I've really started using lemon a lot more frequently in my cooking. Between this, the chicken, and my Lemony Snicket cookies, I think I'm gonna have to start keeping a steady supply of fresh lemons on hand. It really does brighten a dish up quite a bit.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ktichen casualty

it's a sad day folks. we lost a good knife. he died in valiant battle against the damndable sweet potato. a moment of silence, please.

and i realize this may be a bit tacky to discuss at a funeral, but i really want these in pink.

also coming soon:
compost cookie test case #1
the now infamous (and killer!) sweet potato gratin

Pizza, Pizza!

Last night I made a pizza for dinner. I make a pretty damn good pizza if I do say so myself. Between me, Mom and Kevin the entire thing was gone in a flash.

I need to work on the picture thing when it comes to my food. I always forget to take one until I've already started eating and think "Gosh! This is good! I should blog it!". I promise, I'll work on taking the pictures before eating the food. When the pizza came out of the oven it was a sight of beauty!

I used a basic pizza dough recipe from my kitchen aid book. Just flour, salt, yeast, water, sugar and olive oil. You could use your own favorite recipe for dough (and if you have one, please share! I'm still searching for the right one).

The toppings are what really made this pizza. Diced ham, browned in a skillet then I sauteed onions and garlic in the same pan. I used sauce leftover from my last pizza (tomato sauce, canned crushed italian style tomatos, italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, garlic powder and salt and pepper), pepperoni (always!), banana peppers, fresh parsley, italian cheese mix and a light dusting of garlic powder. I prebaked the crust for about 5 minutes and then added the toppings and baked for an additional 15? minutes. Just until the cheese was nice a brown.

The garlic and onions really sang on this pizza. I hate having plain onions on my pizza but if they're sauteed a bit then I'll eat them by the pound. Carmalization is KING when it comes to onions. I was worried about the dough being soggy from the sauce since it was a bit watery after thawing from it's stint in the freezer, but it had a nice crisp bite on the bottom and nice and chewy on the inside. It could stand to have a bit more flavor but I love the thickness and chewiness of this crust.

We had this with a toss salad (green leaf lettuce, onions, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes for Mom and Kev). I made a balsamic vinaigrette that was just delicious. I did 1/2 cup balsamic, 3/4 cup olive oil (ran out of EVOO so I just used olive oil), a healthy squeeze of dill mustard (no Dijon on hand), italian seasonings, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and crushed red pepper. It was delicious, easy and I don't see a need to vinaigrette dressing ever again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

compost cookie

what: compost cookie™ – pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips

where: momofuku, milkbar, nyc see full menu:

why: early in 2009 i went to nyc with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed this cookie. and by thoroughly enjoyed, i mean happy time explosion in my mouth. (um... should really think about things before i post them. no! eff that noise! IT WAS happy time explosion in my mouth). so i'm on a mission this weekend. i will recreate this glorious cookie. i've done some googling and it appears that other bloggers have attempted such a feat. however, i maintain that mine will be quite wonderful and i will share my victory with you loyal readers (bailie, mom).
stay tuned and happy friday.

Bread and a minor egg victory

For Christmas my wonderful boyfriend Kevin got me a handy dandy Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I've been lusting after one of those bad boys for years now so to say I was excited about getting it is probably the understatement of the year. So far I've used it to make pretzels, pizza dough, chocolate chip cookies and as of this week, bread. I've dipped my toe into bread making before with simple beer breads and pumpkin breads and the like, and some stuff involving yeast like pretzels and pizza dough. This was my first time really trying my hand at making a loaf of real bread. Like sandwich bread.

I used a basic recipe from the book that came with the mixer.

1/2 low fat milk (I used 2%)
3 tablespoons sugar (I used 2.5 and a healthy drizzle of honey)
2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons butter
2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
5 to 6 cups ap flour (I used bread flour and it wound up being more like 7 cups)

You put the milk, sugar, salt, butter, in a saucepan and warm it until the sugar dissolves. You dissolve the yeast in the water. The recipe had me start out with 4 1/2 cups flour and then you ad more a 1/2 cup at a time. Mix on speed 2 until the dough clings to the hook. It's supposed to be smooth and elastic but mine just stayed sticky. I had already put in 7 cups of flour and didn't want to push it so I went ahead and put it in a greased bowl and let it rise in the oven.

It rose up beautifully and I actually had to pull it out before the hour was up because it was threatening to go over the bowl.

The bread turned out ok. Not bad for my first try, but it's a bit dry and...well white. I'm ready to dip my toes into more healthy, hearty breads now after getting this one to turn out ok.

It does make some awfully pretty toast.

Oh and on the eggs, I've never been one for making fried eggs. I couldn't ever get the flip down right and I'm always breaking the yolks. As you can see I finally got the flip (albeit awkwardly w/two spatulas) and no broken yolks! I use the Alton Brown method of lots of butter, cook on low, and letting the whites set almost completely before flipping. It works and I am a believer now. From now on, I am no longer limited to scrambled eggs for breakfast! Now I just need to tackled poached eggs and then I can have the holy grail of breakfasts at home: Eggs Benedict.

Mini Skillet Meatloaves

Just as a general disclaimer, I've never been one for eating meatloaf. As a child I decided that it was just one of those meals that I didn't like (you know, how diplomatic and rational children can be with their decisions) and spent most of my life avoiding eating meatloaf as much as possible. Well I saw this recipe in the December 09 food network magazine and decided that I was going to be a grown up and try some meatloaf and this meatloaf recipe sounded tasty enough to try out. 

I followed the recipe as written (except I just used ground beef instead of meatloaf mix of pork and beef). I even went out and bought some apple cider vinegar (my pantry was seriously lacking in the vinegar category. All we had was a big jug of regular white vinegar). The meatloaves were fairly delicate and crumbly and I accidentally browned them a bit too much on the first side w/my super hot pan but all in all they turned out great. They were very flavorful (if a bit sweet) and not dry at all. I think maybe if I make the recipe again I'll add more crushed red pepper to the mix and sauce to add a little kick. I might also cut back a bit on the brown sugar, the sauce was just a wee bit too sweet for me. I served this dish with leftover buttered egg noodles from the chicken dinner and roasted broccoli (w/chili powder, salt, pepper and olive oil).

Kev has requested I make this recipe again and I have to say, for not being a meatloaf fan, I thought this dish was really tasty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crinkle Cutter

no recipe tonight, just showing off a nifty gadget. my mother has a knack for finding weird little gifts and this year i had this in my stocking. i'm calling it the crinkle cutter, because i'm creative like that.
i attacked a sweet potato yesterday and here are the results:

roasted 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees with salt and pepper.
and yes that is my cookie sheet. it's disgusting, how do people keep theirs looking like new? am i doing something wrong? am i a bad person?

Broiled Lemon Garlic Chicken w/buttered egg noodles and roasted brussel sprouts.

Once again the recipe is from the food network website. I've got a back log of these recipes that I tried that I didn't take pictures of. But! I promise they were good and next time I will take pictures!

Lemon garlic chicken was the first recipe I tried from my new food network magazine (Dec 09 issue). I made it with buttered egg noodles and roasted brussels sprouts.

While delicious, this meal was certainly a learning experience for me. I've never broiled anything. Ever. I'm not even sure I've seen anyone broil anything before. I certainly don't remember my Mom broiling anything growing up. see where this is going. I seasoned up my chicken, turned the oven on broil, threw it in and 5 minutes later my kitchen looked like a serious fire hazard. The smoke detector went off, my eyes were burning from the smoke and I had to open the window and turn on a fan to make it bearable.  (It wasn't until the end of the broil when Kevin helpfully mentioned that the oven door should've been left open. Doh!)

Ok, so aside from the smokey kitchen the chicken did turn out beautifully. I did the brussels sprouts in the toaster often since my oven was a frightening place at the time. The buttered egg noodles were easy and very tasty. All of the parts went together and added up to a wonderful meal. I did everything pretty much exactly to the recipe. I used just parsley on the noodles and forgot to drizzle the white wine vinegar (probably because I don't own any) and honey on the brussels sprouts. Other than that everything was by the book.

The skin on the chicken was wonderfully crispy, but I think next time I may just bake it for longer then broil for the last 5-10 minutes to crisp up the skin. There was just way too much broiling time and all the smoke made it impossible to work in the kitchen. I should also mention this was the first time I've ever really eaten brussels sprouts (they're one of those 'yucky' vegetables yanno). I have to say, I prefer asparagus, but they weren't bad and may be willing to try them in other recipes now.

Coming up on the blog soon, mini skillet meatloaves and my first loaf of bread!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


i'm just horrible when it comes to introductions. instead i offer a handy and easy recipe i devised. i've tried different variations, but this is what i keep coming back to. i don't mean to brag but my guacamole is pretty boss. it's only a few ingredients, but i think keeping it simple is what makes it so tasty.

1 avocado
1/2 lime
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

so let's do some quick chop chop. keep the onion and cilantro small, it'll blend and you'll have even flavor throughout.
however i like keeping the avocado in big chunks. salt and pepper to taste and you'll end up with something like this:

the lime juice is key! it keeps the avocado from turning brown once it's cut and adds tons of flavor. juice from half a lime isn't a very specific measurement, but you'll be able to adjust to taste.
and yes i realize it's not the prettiest thing, but it'll taste better than anything you'll find in a jar.

last step: be shifty and eat it all!

but now you're saying 'manda! what the hell? now i have 1/2 a lime and all kinds of fresh cilantro!' - well my friend you're going to squeeze that lime juice over some chicken, add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin and toss in the cilantro. marinate for 15 minutes and you've got some spicy chicken for nachos or a salad.

Shrimp and Chicken Etouffee

Picture from the food network website, I forgot to take pictures of my dish. Mine wasn't nearly this pretty.

I got this recipe from the January '10 issue of the Food Network magazine.

I've never tried making etouffee before. I rarely do anything involving a roux or involving more than one type of meat (unless I'm doing shishkabobs). So this was definitely a branch out recipe for me. 

I did make a few substitutions. I did not have any chicken broth on hand so I used chicken stock instead and supplemented it with half a bottle of beer and a half cup of water to get to the full 4 cups of liquid that it asks for. I only had frozen shrimp on hand so I threw those into the oven for about 10 minutes to precook and dethaw to make it possible to peel them later. I also served over just regular jasmine rice instead of the toasted nutty rice shown in the picture.

I did a analysis on the recipe to get the nutritional data (I'm trying to keep track of the calories I eat) and if I did it right each serving of the etouffee (not including the rice) come in at around 493 calories. Just a little FYI for those that care.

On to the important bit. Was it good? It was. It was damned tasty. I had a very generous bowlful and Kevin ate at least 2.5. We also had it for dinner again last night (I made it on Sunday) and it was just as good the second time around (just less appealing once the soup congeals up). Be warned, this pot makes up a LOT of food so serve it when you have guests or be ready to freeze at least half of it. I did the freezing bit and hopefully it will be a thing to have on hand to thaw out on those nights where I just don't feel like cooking.

It was a bit of work as far as browning the meat and shredding the chicken and making the roux but nothing so advanced that I felt like this recipe was out of my range. I would love to make it for a group of friends sometime, but that will have to wait until Kev and I have a real kitchen where we can entertain folks.Until then, it will have to live out it's life as leftovers.

Digging myself out of a food rut.

I like to cook. I enjoy eating tasty food. Unfortunately a lot of the tasty food that I cook and eat is more or less the same food, over and over and over. Stir fry? Chicken with pasta. Pasta without chicken. Fish with some rice. Pizza if I’m  lazy. Throw in some frozen veggies and lots of bread and you have our ( me and my boyfriend’s) weekly menu. While very tasty, it does get boring after awhile. Occasionally I’ll branch out and try a new recipe (Greek chicken wraps! Stuffed turkey peppers!) and enjoy them, I’ll always inevitably fall back into the usual food rut and forget about all of the other tasty foods out there just waiting to be made and eaten.

Well I’m tired of wallowing in the food rut. I’ve decided to make an effort to try new recipes every week in an attempt to shake up our diet and hopefully stop feeling so bored with food. I got lots of new kitchen tools over Christmas (most importantly, a Kitchen Aid stand mixer) to help with this journey as well as a subscription to the Food Network Magazine. I’ve decided to start this blog to keep track of recipes that I try, and how they turn out and whether I would make them again. Recipes will come from all sources, the magazine, internet and shit I just make up on my own.

I will try to include photos of how the food turns out and substitutions that I make (since I rarely follow a recipe to the letter).

This blog will also be co-written by my OMG BFF Manda and she will also post her kitchen experiments and tasty recipes to enjoy.

So enjoy and bon appetite!