Tag Archives: comfort food

Chicken Soup with Kale and Quinoa {Healthy + Easy}

16 Feb

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-3

All I ate yesterday was this soup, and cookies.

I mean, a lot of each of them, but very little variety throughout the day. I made both because I had cravings – and satisfy said cravings, I did. I hear this cold spell they call “winter” may be breaking soon, but until then, I am all comfort foods, all the time.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup

This soup is incredibly healthy and satisfying – homemade stock, organic chicken, quinoa, kale, and veggies. It also serves as a reminder that when you like all of the ingredients that go into a dish, chances are very high that you will like the end result … and return to the pot for more. Like 4 times.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-2

Stay warm!

Ingredients:

– 3 carrots {wash all; leave one unpeeled and cut it into three pieces; peel two, and cut the tops and bottom off of them}
– 2 pieces of celery {wash all; cut into three pieces each}
– 1 yellow or white onion {wash it; prep it to get read to chop; cut off the top and bottom, and remove the outer peels}
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 whole organic or hormone-free chicken, any size
– water {about 6-10 cups}
– 1 t dried thyme
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced
– 3/4 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and dried
– 1 bunch lacinato kale, washed and sliced in to thin ribbons, and then roughly chopped

How do I make it?

  • Place the unpeeled carrot, the celery, and the trimmings (the parts you cut off and wouldn’t eat) from the carrots, celery, and onion in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the pot over to the counter next to the sink.
  • Wash the chicken in the sink and remove the bag of giblets, if it’s inside the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels (just so it doesn’t drip).
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetable trimmings. Cover with water until the chicken is submerged by an inch.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat; when it boils, reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering – this is about medium heat for me because the pot is so full.
  • Cook for about an hour.
  • During this time, dice the onion, slice the garlic, and slice the two remaining carrots into coins less than 1/4″ thick.
  • After the hour, try to skim off any fat from the top, but don’t worry, you will have another chance to skim off fat.
  • Place a very large bowl (or another soup pot) in your sink, and place a colander inside. Have a second large bowl, and a fine mesh strainer available close by.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs, and place on a surface with a lip (like a curved plate). Let it cool for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, carefully pour the contents from the pot into the colander that is inside the bowl. Discard what lands in the colander – you only want to keep the chicken stock (and the chicken, which you have set aside).
  • Place the fine mesh strainer over the second bowl, and pour the chicken stock from the first bowl into the second.
  • Now, you could choose to cook right through to completion {if you do, skip down to the next curly brackets}. But because the quinoa and kale will soak up the stock, I would stop here to refrigerate the stock overnight, to let the fat rise to the top (then the quinoa and kale will be cooking in slightly healthier stock – I mean, not a TON healthier, but every bit counts, right?). To do so, let the stock cool enough that you can put it in a container that seals tight (like a thick plastic pitcher with a snap-on lid). Pull the chicken off the bone, and refrigerate separately. Refrigerate the carrots, onion, and garlic as well.
  • The next day, skim the fat off of the stock.
  • {If you decide to cook straight through, start again HERE:} Heat a large soup pot over medium-high. Add a bit of olive oil and cook the diced onion and carrots until they start to soften; add the garlic and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the strained, skimmed stock back to the pot, and bring back to a boil.
  • Add the quinoa, and cook with the lid off for 10-12 minutes, or until the “tails” form on the quinoa.
  • Add the shredded kale, and cook for just a few minutes more. Add the chicken and heat through.

Quinoa Kale Chicken Soup-4

More info please?

This is another great lunch to bring to work – just keep a pitcher in the work fridge, and have a bowl on hand for heating.

The kale will hold up well to the boiling and being submerged in liquid for a few days.

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Chicken Noodle Soup {Healthy + Easy}

8 Feb

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-5This is a LONG cold stretch, isn’t it? The winter has been unrelenting for so many parts of the country. Know what helps? Soup.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-7

Soup helps so many things. It is an ultimate comfort food for a reason – it warms from the inside out, and somehow always brings a smile. This winter, I have been thrilled every time I have seen a big bowl of chicken noodle soup staring back at me when I open the fridge. Score.

Making chicken soup from scratch is not difficult, and you know exactly what is going in to it: chicken, vegetables, garlic, herbs, water. Noodles if you want them, and salt to your taste. It is barely more work than boiling all of those things together, I promise. Healthy, easy, satisfying.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-3 copyIngredients:
– 3 carrots {wash all; leave one unpeeled and cut it into three pieces; peel two, and cut the tops and bottom off of them}
– 2 pieces of celery {wash all; cut into three pieces each}
– 1 yellow or white onion {wash it; prep it to get read to chop; cut off the top and bottom, and remove the outer peels}
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/2 t whole black peppercorns
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 whole organic or hormone-free chicken, any size
– water {about 6-10 cups}
– 1 t dried thyme
– 3 cloves garlic, sliced
– 1 c wide egg noodles {optional}

How do I make it?

  • Place the unpeeled carrot, the celery, and the trimmings (the parts you cut off and wouldn’t eat) from the carrots, celery, and onion in a large soup pot. Add the bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the pot over to the counter next to the sink.
  • Wash the chicken in the sink and remove the bag of giblets, if it’s inside the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels (just so it doesn’t drip).
  • Place the chicken on top of the vegetable trimmings. Cover with water until the chicken is submerged by an inch.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat; when it boils, reduce the heat so the liquid is just simmering – this is about medium heat for me because the pot is so full.
  • Cook for about an hour.
  • During this time, dice the onion, slice the garlic, and slice the two remaining carrots into coins less than 1/4″ thick.
  • After the hour, try to skim off any fat from the top, but don’t worry, you will have another chance to skim off fat.
  • Place a very large bowl (or another soup pot) in your sink, and place a colander inside. Have a second bowl, and a fine mesh strainer available close by.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot with tongs, and place on a surface with a lip (like a curved plate). Let it cool for a bit.
  • Meanwhile, carefully pour the contents from the pot into the colander that is inside the bowl. Discard what lands in the colander – you only want to keep the chicken stock (and the chicken, which you have set aside).
  • Place the fine mesh strainer over the second bowl, and pour the chicken stock from the first bowl into the second.
  • Take the empty pot and heat over medium-high. Add a bit of olive oil and cook the diced onion and carrots until they start to soften; add the garlic and thyme, and cook for a few minutes more.
  • Add the strained stock back to the pot, and bring back to a boil.
  • While you are waiting for it to boil, pull the chicken off of the bone. I usually just use the white meat in my soup. You can chop it or shred it.
  • Add the noodles {if using} and chicken, and cook until the noodles are cooked through.
  • You could eat the soup now, but you will probably find it to taste a bit greasy. So, if you can bear to wait, once it cools a bit, refrigerate it over night. I find that a thick plastic pitcher (or two) with a snap-on lid words great for refrigerating and serving purposes.
  • In the morning, you will find that the fat has risen to the top and solidified. Just scoop it off with a large spoon and throw it away. You may be scooping out a bit of thyme this way, but don’t worry, you already cooked the flavor out of it.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-8

More info please?

This is a great lunch to bring to work – just keep a pitcher in the work fridge, and have a bowl on hand for heating. It also freezes really well, I would recommend portioning into the round ziplock containers before freezing. You can change up the noodles you use, but the wide egg noodles just scream chicken noodle soup, don’t they? Want to make your own chicken stock for use in another recipe?  I would use this same method and just stop at the point where you strain the stock. Use the chicken for another purpose, like a chicken salad.

Healthy Chicken Noodle Soup-6

Cheesy Breakfast Grits

28 Jan

Cheesy Grits-3I grew up in the Midwest, where all I knew about grits was “That’s something they eat in the South.” Really? How was this corn derivative not a staple in the Corn Belt?

I first became acquainted with grits when I attended law school in the South – Shrimp and Grits made a believer out of me. But it wasn’t until the last year or two that I have kept a package of it in my pantry and cooked with it on a regular basis.

Grits are just ground corn. Depending on the brand you buy, they may look exactly like cornmeal that you would use to make corn bread. I am currently working on a bag of Bob’s Red Mill, and the grains are a bit bigger than Quaker, which had been my previous standard. Both are great; Bob’s is a bit heartier, while Quaker is smoother. Just a matter of personal preference. In this video, Bob explains that his family has found a method of grinding corn that does not “degerminate” it – that is good news! It means that their particular variety qualifies as a whole grain – which is healthier than when the germ is removed.  Corn GritsGrits are cooked in liquid, either water or milk. Experiment as you will, but I find that 1/4 c of grits and 3/4 c skim milk, with a pinch or two of cheese, makes a perfect, filling, warm (fast!) breakfast. It will keep you full until lunch, for sure – and what a great way to sneak in another serving (or so) of milk and whole grains (if the brand you use has the germ intact). Just pop the bowl in the microwave, and it will be ready in the time you take your morning shower {if you keep your shower to less than 7 minutes}.

Cheesy Grits-6

Ingredients:
– 1/4 c grits
– 3/4 c skim milk
– 2 t shredded cheese {I used a cheddar-jack mix – you should experiment with any mild cheese you have on hand}
– 1/4 t grated parmesan

How do I make it?

  • In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl (bigger than a cereal bowl – it will bubble up just a bit), place 1/4 c grits and 3/4 c skim milk less 2 T (so, use all of it except 2 T).
  • Microwave on medium power for 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the remaining milk, and extra if you would like, until it has a creamy, thick consistency.
  • Stir in cheeses of your choice.
  • You may want to add a pinch of salt, because grits have no sodium, but your cheese may give it the flavor you need, so give it a taste first.

Cheesy Grits

Cheesy Grits-2

Cheesy Grits-4

More info please?
Polenta is also just ground corn, but from my understanding and research, polenta (Italian) and grits (Southern American) are traditionally made from different types of corn, and ground to a different consistency. This results in a slightly different taste and texture. But do you want to know what Bob’s Red Mill thinks about that?

Bob's Red Mill Grits PolentaI also enjoy a bowl of cheesy grits with a poached egg on top – the runny yolk stirred in to the grits is a treat.

Puppy Chow

18 Jan

Puppy Chow-2When I was growing up, I distinctly remember the mother of one of my classmates making “puppy chow” for slumber parties and other gatherings. And I distinctly remember loving it. If you have had “puppy chow” – which I have learned is called “muddy buddies” in some regions – you understand how wide my eyes opened on my first bite of the crunchy, sweet treat – and how quickly I reached my powder sugar-coated fingertips back in the bowl for more.

Puppy Chow-3I think I am glad, calorie-wise, that I did not realize puppy chow was so easy to make – it can be completed in under 5 minutes, with ingredients you can easily keep on hand. Because I had never seen a batch smaller than an enormous serving bowl, it just seemed like an ordeal. Well, it’s not, as long as you have a huge bowl to mix it in. But you also don’t have to make 9 cups of cereal at a time: I have broken the recipe down to a single serving – one cup – and this might be my new go-to treat when I am looking for something sweet and satisfying. And super-easy. The recipe can be scaled for any amount in between, too.

With every bite, you will get an even distribution of chocolate, peanut butter, a bit of sugar, and a bite of crunch. It’s addictive, so good luck with that.

Puppy Chow-15

The base for puppy chow is Chex cereal – rice chex is recommended, but probably any of them would work. A melted mixture of chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter is poured on top, and as you toss the creamy mixture all around the cereal, it will cling to the cereal pieces. A coating of powdered sugar helps to separate and hold each piece together. The resulting chunks, I suppose, look a little like kibble – but this treat, covered in chocolate, is decidedly not for dogs!

Puppy Chow-4Puppy chow is great to put out at casual parties for easy snacking – but make sure to have a stack of napkins on hand because powdered sugar’s reputation is well-earned.

Puppy Chow-5{Large batch} Ingredients:
– 9 c Rice Chex cereal
– 1 c chocolate chips
– 1/2 c peanut butter
– 1/4 c (= 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
– 1 t vanilla
– 1.5 c powdered sugar

{Small batch} Ingredients:
– 1 c Rice Chex cereal
– 2 T chocolate chips
– 1 T  peanut butter
– 1/2 T unsalted butter
– a few drops of vanilla
– 3 T powdered sugar

How do I make it?

  • Place the cereal in a large bowl.
  • In a smaller, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir until it’s smooth. If you can’t get all the lumps out, microwave for a few more seconds – but there is probably enough heat in the bowl to stir it all out gently. Once it’s smooth, stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour the mixture evenly over the cereal, and then use a large spoon to distribute it. Stir it well!
  • Once all of the cereal is covered in the mixture, dust it all with half of the powdered sugar. Stir to distribute, and continue to add a small amount of powdered sugar at a time, stirring until each piece is coated in powdered sugar. {Some people put the cereal and powdered sugar in a bag, seal, and then shake to distribute. I have never tried this option, the bowl is just fine for me, but that might be a fun task for little hands who want to help out in the kitchen!}

Puppy Chow-8

Puppy Chow-9

Puppy Chow-11

Puppy Chow-12

Original recipe: http://www.chex.com/Recipes/RecipeView.aspx?RecipeId=45860&CategoryId=342

New Year’s Resolutions

14 Jan

We are two weeks in to 2014, and I thought I would check in on how everyone is doing with their New Year’s Resolutions. How goes it?

I try more and more to not have to find a reason to make positive changes, but there is something about a crisp new page on the calendar that is conducive to new behaviors, attitudes, and … food! New ideas in the kitchen, new recipes, new ingredients, you name it: 2014 seems like a great opportunity.

I have a few food-related New Year’s Resolutions for myself and want to share them with you here, and then I will check those boxes, so to speak, in future posts. I even made a “New Year’s Resolution” tag, if you would like to follow along that way. We are more likely to stick to our goals when we share them with others, right? Well here we go!

  1. Take healthy lunches and snacks to work: It’s often a struggle for me, time-wise, to plan meals for the week, get to the grocery store, cook, pack lunches the night before, and remember to bring it the next day. I would love to get this down to a system! It seems like casseroles and other one-pot comfort foods might be a good option (one container – easy to transport; and filling – our work cafeteria closes at 2pm so healthy afternoon snacks can be challenging). For snacks, healthy, filling, and easy to transport are also key. On busy days, I maaaay be guilty of trolling the halls for unattended candy jars (sigh), and I would love to curb that habit.
  2. Eat filling and healthy breakfasts: Too often I find myself needing to hunker down and work hard between 10:30 and 11:30 on weekdays … not because of any particular deadline or project at work, but because 10:30 is about when my coffee buzz has waned, and 11:30 is when it’s socially acceptable to eat lunch. When I have a full breakfast, I can power through; when I skip breakfast, I feel it. I generally don’t have a ton of time to prepare breakfast in the morning, but oatmeal is one option; I would also like to get into a routine of make-ahead breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos, and other similar dishes that I can grab on the go or heat quickly right when I get to work.
  3. Eat less meat: I love meat. I do. But I would like to exercise more moderation. I can’t promise that I will have “Meatless Mondays,” but I don’t think that one or two days per week is unreasonable.
  4. Get to know a few herbs and spices better: How many spices are in your spice rack? I counted once, when a friend of mine was writing an article for a magazine on a related topic, and it was more than 60 – I have to guess I am over 70 or 75 now. Some I crank through, like oregano, cumin, and red pepper flakes … others, like garam masala, tarragon, and even paprika I would like to find a few solid recipes for. And as fresh herbs become more bountiful in the warmer months, I am looking forward to picking up something pretty at the farmer’s market and exploring! Which herbs do you wish you knew more about or used more?
  5. Make my father proud: My dad wishes I had a Jewish food blog. I don’t. That niche is not really sustainable for me, but I like the idea of trying to make one traditional recipe per month. It will be worth it even if only to hear my dad do his impersonation of what he thinks it sounds like when I write blog posts. So cute.

If you have ideas for anything in this post, please leave them in the comments!

Mini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cream Cookies

12 Jan

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies with Creme FillingI was in a pretty intense baking streak in December, and in preparation for an afternoon of baking with AWP, I came across this recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies. I love a good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, and who doesn’t love a fluffy cream filling … just thinking about the sugar shell that forms on a great cream … give me a minute …

Sandwich Cookies-7

And I’m back.

I usually cook with whole ingredients, and opt for butter and oil over margarine or shortening. But from time to time a recipe looks really good and calls for something I don’t normally use. I had a partially-finished can of vegetable shortening in my pantry from a few recipes in the not-too-distant past, and it had just enough remaining in it for this recipe.

As I lifted the head of the stand mixer and AWP and I dipped our fingers in for a little taste, AWP immediately commented on how fluffy, light, and creamy the filling tasted. It looked like buttercream frosting, but tasted like a fluffier version of the inside of an Oreo. We nodded at each other and decided that shortening gave it that taste and texture. I still prefer to bake with butter, but a bit of shortening from time to time won’t hurt – still better than buying something packaged and pre-made, to me.

These cookies were delicious when fresh out of the oven – check out those melty chips! – but also lasted for several days in an airtight container. And by “several days,” I mean, “until I finished them.” Which did not take very long. These are a great treat to give as a gift in a cute box or tin, and would be fun for small hands to help assemble. I liked making these mini-sized, so I didn’t feel that guilty about eating two cookies at a time.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies with Creme Filling

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
– 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
– 1/3 c brown sugar
– 1/4 c sugar
– 1 egg
– 1 t vanilla
– 3/4 c flour
– 1/2 t baking soda
– 1 t cinnamon
– 1/4 t ground nutmeg
– 1/4 t kosher salt
– 1 3/4 c oats (quick or traditional)
– 1 c chocolate chips (any type)
For the cream filling:
1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
– 1/4 c vegetable shortening
– 2 1/4 c powdered sugar, sifted
– 1 T cream
– 1 t vanilla

How do I make it?

  • For the cookies: Place the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl, and mix until creamy (a few minutes).
  • With a silicone spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  • Stop the mixer, and add about half the flour, and all of the baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Start the mixer on slow, and mix until combined. Add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined.
  • Scrape the batter off of the beaters or paddle attachment, and fold the oats and chocolate chips into the cookie dough until fully combined.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or overnight.
  • While the cookie dough chills, make the filling. Place the butter and shortening in the bowl of a mixer and mix until they are well combined.
  • Turn off the mixer and add a cup of powdered sugar to the butter mixture. Mix until incorporated, and scrape the sides of the bowl. Then add the rest of the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, 2 tablespoons at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
  • Add the cream and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • Using a small cookie scoop, scoop small amounts of the dough into your hand, and roll into a ball. I made the balls about 3/4″ in diameter. Line the balls of dough onto the lined cookie sheets.
  • Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes or until they start to brown. Let them cool for a bit on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack, or to a plate to continue to cool. They shouldn’t take that long to cool, but you want them to be pretty cool to the touch so they don’t melt the butter in the filling.
  • Try to pair each cookie up with another approximately the same size.
  • Spread some frosting – up to you how much! – on the flat side one cookie, and top with the flat side of its mate.

Sandwich Cookies-6

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies with Creme Filling

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies with Creme Filling

Original link: http://www.spoonforkbacon.com/2011/10/oatmeal-chocolate-chip-sandwich-cookies/

And a special thank-you to AWP for modeling this cookie with her pretty red nails!

After-Party Egg Scramble {Chicken and Dips}

4 Jan

Egg Scramble-2This year for New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t in the mood to battle crowds at bars, or have dinner out and then make a 10pm decision on where to ring in the new year – and I’m always in the mood to cook.  So I decided to have a few people over. I told my invitees that I didn’t need to know if they were joining until the last minute, and I was happy to be a back-up plan, or a place for them to start or end the evening of they had other plans.

That’s all fine and good, but it made planning a menu a bit difficult! Was I going to have 12 people over for 5 hours (heavier menu), or would 4 people swing by for an hour here and there, maybe on their way to eat (lighter menu)?

I decided to just make a menu that, if I had excessive leftovers, would translate into easy lunches for me for the rest of the week, and healthy snacks to have in my fridge for the weekend.

The “main event” on my NYE buffet, therefore, was a make-your-own mini sandwich station. I poached 3 chicken breasts and roasted a small filet mignon from Trader Joe’s (SUPER easy and delicious, pre-seasoned and ready to put in the oven!). I sliced a baguette, and then sliced the meats to fit, and set them out just on the cutting board with roasted peppers, pesto, and a caramelized onion dip made with greek yogurt and light cream cheese. There was also hummus available with a veggie platter, if people wanted to use the hummus with the sandwiches. It was a hit – my guests loved that it was substantial food that wasn’t too heavy.

The next morning, I was faced with the glorious leftovers. I looked at the chicken, peppers, and dips, and thought they might make an awesome breakfast – and I was right.

Egg Scramble-3

Pesto, when you think about it, is just spinach, herbs, oil, and cheese – all things that go well with eggs {sure, a bit of walnut, but it’s pulverized}. The onion dip was made of richly caramelized onions, and dairy product. If you have never scrambled eggs with a splash of milk, you are missing out; the dip was thicker than milk, but still a dairy product, and I figured I would just try it, to see if it went well with eggs. Win.

Serve with some French Fries or Roasted Potatoes, and call it your hostess gift to yourself.

Egg Scramble-5

Ingredients:
– 2 eggs (pictured here is 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites)
– 1 T skim milk
– 3/4 t pesto
– 3/4 t onion-flavored dip with dairy base {I will post the recipe a bit later!}
– handful of meat, to your taste, chopped small (chicken or beef)
– any other leftover veggies, like spinach from making pesto (optional)
roasted peppers, any amount

How do I make it?

  • Set a medium or large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  • While the skillet is warming, whisk the eggs with milk until it’s uniform. Then whisk in the pesto and onion dip.
  • Spray the warm skillet with olive oil spray.
  • Once the spray has warmed, heat the meat until it browns a bit on the edges. Add the red peppers and mix, just to warm them.
  • Push the meat and veggies to one corner of the pan, and re-spray with oil.
  • Add the egg mixture, and begin to scramble. When they are about half-done, stir in the meat and veggies. Cook until it’s as firm as you like it. When it’s almost done, stir in spinach, to wilt it. Spinach won’t need more than a few seconds in the pan.

Egg Scramble

More info please?

You can really add any meat or veggie to this recipe. Potential party foods you may have on hand that would be delicious in an after-party scramble include broccoli, raw peppers, tomatoes, or marinated mushrooms. Cook any raw veggies at the same time you heat the meat, and add any cooked veggies to warm with the peppers.

You can also add any cheese left over from a cheese platter, when the eggs are almost done. I shredded some parmesan reggiano (that I “forgot” to put out at the party … and got to keep for myself…) on top once it was done.

Egg Scramble-4

Perfect Fudge Brownies {King Arthur Flour Recipe}

22 Dec

King Arthur Fudge BrowniesI have identified these brownies as the beginning of my downfall this holiday season. I usually have considerable willpower, but with the way I acted around these brownies, I was surprised not to find “kryptonite” in the ingredient list.

The photo shoot for these brownies started with sixteen … and ended with … less than sixteen.

King Arthur Fudge Brownies-6

Well, more than four, but less than sixteen.

In the fudgy vs. cakey brownie battle, I side with the fudgy crew. These brownies are thick and fudgy, with a dense texture that I believe is referred to in culinary terms as “perfect.”

I have been using King Arthur flour almost exclusively for a few years (I also love their catalog, full of specialty baking items, so fun to peruse). But I had not explored the recipes available on the King Arthur website until I clicked through an email I received from them. I will be visiting that site often – tons of good stuff there!

I learned something really important, in the brownie realm, from this recipe. You know how sometimes when you make brownies, they have a crackly flaky top layer, and sometimes they don’t? Turns out that layer results from heating the butter and sugar together before mixing them in to the remaining ingredients. I had never paid attention, but some recipes call for this step and some don’t. So there you have it!

King Arthur Fudge Brownies-3How much do people LOVE round “two bite brownies”? Rhetorical question. Make this recipe into nuggets of goodness by using a mini muffin pan instead of a square baking dish. Just make sure to spray and flour the pan first, and have a small implement (like the TINY spatula shown below) to loosen them from the pan after a few minutes of cooling. {Or save yourself some work and just cut the brownies smaller from the square pan.}

King Arthur Fudge Brownies-4

King Arthur Fudge Brownies-5

Ingredients:
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 c + 2 T high-quality cocoa
– 1/2 t kosher salt
– 1/2 t baking powder
– 1/2 t instant coffee granules or espresso powder (you won’t taste it – it just heightens the chocolate flavor!)
– 1.5 t vanilla
– 1 stick unsalted butter
– 1 c + 2 T sugar
– 3/4 c flour
– 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks {I had some Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate squares that I wanted to use up so I chopped them roughly}

How do I make it?

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″ pan.
  • Crack the eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, coffee granules or espresso powder, and vanilla until smooth.
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot and JUST starts to bubble. Once it bubbles and the mixture looks shiny, turn off the heat.
  • Add the hot butter and sugar mixture to the egg mixture, and stir until smooth.
  • Add the flour, and stir until smooth.
  • Add the chocolate chips or chunks, and stir to distribute. If you want the chips to retain their shape and not melt in, let the batter cool in the bowl for a few minutes before stirring in the chips.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes (check around 27 minutes). When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, the brownies are done. The brownies will be more set around the edges, and the middle will still look moist (but still cooked through).
  • Cool on a rack before cutting; use a bench scraper to make sure you get straight lines. But if you don’t get straight lines, and need to keep “evening it off,” I won’t tell.

King Arthur Fudge Brownies-2Original link: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/fudge-brownies-recipe

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

8 Dec

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese FrostingWouldn’t it have been nice to wake up this morning to warm, sweet, soft cinnamon rolls, straight out of the oven?

I agree, especially poring over these pictures on this snowy morning!

These Overnight Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting are perfect to serve when you are hosting a crowd; or make them a tradition to serve your family on a birthday or holiday morning.  Along with the Bagel Bake, they are on any brunch menu I have a hand in (given that I have time to prepare the dough the night before). They are perfect to bring to a friend who has just had a baby, or someone who is recovering from surgery. And I have never heard anyone object to keeping the leftovers!

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-3I love seeing the cinnamon and sugar bursting at the seams. It’s all I can do to not take a bite of the dough … the only thing stopping me is knowing how much better the finished product will be.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-4

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-5This batch is ready to go into the oven, in a disposable or reusable dish, destined for a colleague who recently had a baby. Note there are only 9 here – I saved 3 for myself, to experiment in a muffin pan. It didn’t go well. Stick with the larger pan.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls - SquareThe below picture is the same batch, baked, pre-frosting.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-6And therrrre’s the frosting.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-9

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-7

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-8

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-11… I baked and saved the uneven ends for myself.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls-12

Ingredients:

For the dough:
– 4 egg yolks, room temperature
– 1 whole egg, room temperature
– 1/4 c sugar
– 6 T unsalted butter, melted
– 3/4 c buttermilk, room temperature*
– approximately 4 c flour, plus additional for dusting
– 1 package instant dry yeast
– 1 1/4 t kosher salt

For the filling:
– 1 c brown sugar, packed
– 1 T ground cinnamon
– pinch of salt
– 1.5T unsalted butter

For the frosting:
– 1/4 c cream cheese, softened (low-fat will work)
– 3 T milk
– 1.5 c powdered sugar

How do I make it?

  • For the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or, by hand), whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk.
  • Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined.
  • Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook.
  • Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed until the dough is soft and moist but not sticky, adding more flour if necessary. Knead on low speed a few minutes more, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. It’s ok if it doesn’t completely double in volume.
  • While the dough is rising, make the filling: Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated, and set aside until ready to use.
  • Butter a baking dish (either 9″ x 9″, or 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish).
  • When the dough is done rising, turn it onto a lightly floured work surface (I just use a clean granite countertop, but you can use a smooth cutting board or a special mat made for this purpose. Using a floured rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle, I don’t judge), shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Continue to roll it, pretty much as large as you can get it, or 12″ x 18″.
  • Brush the rectangle of dough with the 1.5 T of melted butter. Leave a small border at the top. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving the same border along the top edge.
  • Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight tube. Roll it so the seam side is down. Using a bench scraper or a serrated knife, slice off the little ends. Then slice into half. Slice each of those halves into half, so you have four equal portions. Then slice each of the four portions into three pieces, so you have 12 rolls.
  • Arrange rolls in the baking dish with the cut sides up (and down). Try to arrange them with the seam facing another roll, so those ends don’t get too crunchy when they bake.
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The next day: Microwave a large Pyrex filled with water until the water boils, and then move it your oven, which should be off, on a law rack. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap, and place in the oven above the water. With the oven door closed, let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy, approximately 30 minutes, then remove the rolls and the water from the oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 350. When preheated, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.
  • Remove the rolls from the oven to cool.
  • While they are cooling, make the frosting: Whisk the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or whisk by hand) until smooth and creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the cooled rolls and serve immediately.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls - bite

More info please?

I never buy a carton of buttermilk; instead, use skim milk and a fresh lemon. I use a Pyrex measuring glass, and place 1 to 2 tsp of fresh lemon juice in the glass, and then fill it up to 3/4 c with milk.  Let it sit until it curdles and comes to room temperature, about 5-10 minutes.

Original link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/overnight-cinnamon-rolls-recipe/index.html

Challah {Four-Strand Braid}

29 Nov

Four Braid ChallahThanksgiving snuck up on me this year – does everyone feel that way every year? I had suggested to my parents that we embrace “Thanksgivukkah” and serve a Jewish-themed appetizer course, followed by the traditional Thanksgiving meal. They did not require much convincing. Any excuse to eat latkes, lox, and pastrami is welcomed around these parts.

I was not able to attend October’s Cooking Club (Hostess: SLSC; Theme: Thanksgiving Inspiration; Date: 10.27.13), but the menu included Pumpkin Challah expertly baked by EDL, which received rave reviews from the attendees, so I decided to include it in my family’s celebration.

However, I have a very traditional family, and as I braided the pumpkin challah, I could tell my dad would have preferred a regular old challah.  The pumpkin-flavored bread ended up being delicious and appreciated, but my dad was right. If you were expecting challah, it wasn’t “challah.”

I have made challah before, but looking through my recipe files, it may have been over 8 years ago – and I have never made a braid with more than 3 strands. The pumpkin challah turned out perfect, so I went back to the same source for her traditional challah recipe. Another winner! I particularly appreciated the tutorial on how to braid challah, and I decided on the four-strand braid. I wanted to use half the batch of dough to make dinner rolls, and didn’t think I would have enough dough to attempt anything more complex that would still have a wow-factor. I literally got “oohs” and “ahhs.” It is hard to deny that braided challah is indeed gorgeous.

Ingredients:
– 1 packet active dry yeast
– 1/4 c water (100-110 degrees)
– 1 t sugar
– 1 egg (whole)
– 3 egg yolks {save the whites for breakfast tomorrow!}
– 1/3 cup honey
– 2 T canola oil
– 1 t salt
– 1 1/4 c water (100-110 degrees)
– 6 c flour {you probably won’t use it all, but should have it available}
– 1 egg yolk
– 2 t water

How do I make it?

  • Pour the yeast into a large mixing bowl. Add the 1/4  c water and 1 t sugar. Stir to combine and dissolve, and let it sit until it gets foamy (about 5 minutes).
  • While the yeast is doing its thing, in a medium bowl, whisk together the whole egg, 3 egg yolks, honey, canola oil and salt.
  • When the yeast in the large bowl is foamy and fragrant, add the remaining 1 1/4 c water and pour in the egg mixture you just whisked. Whisk it all together.
  • Add flour to the mixture, one half cup at a time. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead. Continue to add flour until the dough is smooth and pliable. {You can use a stand mixer with the dough hook, but it doesn’t take that long or use too much energy to do it with your hands. When you use your hands, you are very aware of whether it is too sticky. When the dough is ready, it should be slightly tacky on your fingers, but not stick in clumps.}
  • Place the kneaded dough in a large bowl that you have sprayed with cooking oil (if you want to use the same bowl, be sure to wash it out first). Spray the top of the dough with oil too.
  • Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel, and place in your oven (that is OFF) to rise. In a large microwave-safe container (like a 12-cup Pyrex), microwave water until it boils, and place that into the oven with the dough.
  • Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
  • Take the dough bowl out and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Re-microwave the water and place it back in the oven.
  • Cover the dough bowl again with the towel and place it back inside the oven and let it rise for another hour. At this point, it should have approximately doubled.
  • Take the dough out of the oven and punch it down a few times. Flour a smooth surface like a cutting board (or a clean granite countertop). Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling too sticky on your fingers.
  • I used half of the recipe to make small dinner rolls*, and the other half for a braided loaf.
  • Separate the dough you will braid into 4 equal portions. I found it easiest to use a bench scraper to cut the dough into long pieces, rather than balls. You will be rolling the dough into rectangles (rather than a circle), so this served as a little shortcut for me.
  • With a floured rolling pin (or a floured wine bottle – whatever you have – but make sure it is well-floured and stays that way), roll one portion of dough into a rectangle. Now take that rectangle and, using your hands, roll it into a long strand (like a play-doh snake). Roll the strand around and try to work out the seam, and squeeze out any air bubbles. If you can, try to taper the ends a bit by squeezing them and then rolling to smooth them out.
  • Repeat this process with the other three portions.
  • Lay the strands out parallel to each other, with the tapered ends farthest from you.
  • Loosely pinch the strands together at the top. You are now ready to braid.
  • Starting all the way at the right, weave the strand OVER-UNDER-OVER. That is, OVER the first strand to the left of it, then UNDER the next strand, then OVER the final strand. Leave that strand all the way at the left, and repeat with the next strand. Continue this process until you are at the end of the strands.

Four Braid Challah

  • Pinch together and tuck under both ends.

Four Braid Challah-2

  • Step back and admire.
  • Place the braid on a rimmed baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  • Whisk the egg yolk and water together in a small bowl until smooth and uniform.
  • * To make dinner rolls, make more strands, and tie them each in a knot, pinching the ends together and placing that pinched seam down on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
  • Brush the dough (the large braid or the dinner rolls) with the egg wash.

Four Braid Challah-3

  • Let the dough rise, uncovered, for 30-45 more minutes.
  • Place a rack in the middle of your oven, and preheat to 350. You will be baking for 40 minutes total, in two shifts.
    • After the first 20 minutes, pull the challah out of the oven and re-brush it with the remaining egg wash, making sure to get in the little crevasses. {One of my favorite things about challah is that little part that gets exposed during baking – but you need to take this time to brush it with egg wash!}
    • Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes. If the crust is getting too brown, place a piece of tin foil over it (the dough will still bake, but the crust will not get more brown under the foil).
  • The dough is done when it sounds hollow when you tap on it (easier to hear when you tap on the bottom).
  • Serve with pretty much anything – breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Four Braid Challah-5Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Original link: http://theshiksa.com/2010/08/25/challah-bread-part-1-the-blessing-and-the-dough/comment-page-2/#comments

our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly “link up party” called Our Growing Edge, which is an online way to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. Our Growing Edge is the brain child of Genie from Bunny Eats Design, and I am the hostess this month. The posts for November’s link up can be found here. New for me with this post: A four-strand braid for challah!