Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I fought the cookie and the cookie won...

***picture forthcoming***

SO. For a while now, I have been having a little "cookie problem." I'm not sure from whence my dysfunction stems, but I can't seem to produce a normal-ish cookie. In the past few months, I've had cookies that hopelessly ran together, cookies that burned to a crisp and cookies that refused to spread out (but instead puffed straight up). What's the DEAL? I think my oven is functioning properly, so the problem must rely with the cook.

On Sunday I set out to change this unfortunate streak with a tried and true recipe (Cook's Illustrated--how could I go wrong?). I made their oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies and while I'm happy to report that 90% of them turned out just fine, I probably should mention that three of them caught fire. Yes. Really. I still have no idea what happened there.

All in all, the cookies were great (lots of nice butter flavor and a dense and chewy texture) and, Lord willing, if you try them they probably won't spontaneously combust.

Stephen says: Why is the kitchen filled with black smoke? Have you been making cookies again?
Stephen's rating (of the non-burnt cookies): 7.5

Courtesy Cook's Illustrated

If you prefer a less sweet cookie, you can reduce the white sugar by one-quarter cup, but you will lose some crispness. Do not overbake these cookies. The edges should be brown but the rest of the cookie should still be very light in color. Parchment makes for easy cookie removal and cleanup, but it’s not a necessity. If you don’t use parchment, let the cookies cool directly on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

2 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 pound), softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir them into butter-sugar mixture with wooden spoon or large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

3. Form dough into sixteen to twenty 2-inch balls, placing each dough round onto one of two parchment paper–covered, large cookie sheets. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (Halfway during baking, turn cookie sheets from front to back and also switch them from top to bottom.) Slide cookies on parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It may be 90 degrees outside, but it's fall dammit!

At least that was my attitude last weekend when I decided to make pumpkin bread. To me, nothing says "fall" like a house filled with the smell of cinnamon and cloves. The rain and cold weather will be here soon enough (boo!), so in the meantime we enjoyed an easy fall favorite. I used a recipe I found online and thought it was actually very good. I will probably reduce the amount of sugar next time, but otherwise will keep it as is.

As a firm butter devotee, it was a little strange baking with oil, but I found that it kept the bread incredibly moist so it all worked out in the end. If you don't eat this bread liberally with cream cheese, you'll be doing yourself a disservice. Who cares about heart health? Am I right?

Stephen says: This is healthy, yes? I mean...pumpkin's a vegetable, isn't it?
Stephen's rating: 9

Recipe for Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread
Courtesy Laurie Bennett (http://www.allrecipes.com/)

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.

Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A healthy meal! (sort of)

After chowing down on dinner last night, Stephen casually asks me, "So...what's in pea salad? You know...nutritionally." I was puzzled. Stephen never asks about the nutritional content of, well, anything. But, last night he was health-focused and happy to learn that our meal was (for the most part) pretty healthy.

I made honey-brushed chicken thighs and they were incredibly spicy, flavorful and so moist and juicy. I highly encourage "breast fans" to try a chicken thigh from time to time: dark meat isn't scary, people! Our pea salad was a perfect compliment to the spicy chicken: cool, creamy and mild in flavor. I used reduced fat sour cream and skipped the nuts and bacon to keep it more heart-friendly. It was still delish!

Stephen says: I wish the Mariners were this hot!
Stephen's rating: 8
Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs
Courtesy Cooking Light
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder object
1 teaspoon salt object
1 teaspoon ground cumin object
1 teaspoon paprika object
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper object
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6 tablespoons honey object
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.

Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An apology & a promise...

I have a confession: I have been avoiding our blog because of shame. Shame that we have been cooking delicious meals (hey! nachos are delicious!) and not taking photos and writing about them. I am most particularly apologetic to my grandparents, who are the inspiration for this blog.

So, grandma and grandpa: this is a promise that Stephen and I will add a minimum of three new entries each week. So, starting tomorrow look forward to reading all about our new culinary adventures! And keep us honest!

We love you!