Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homemade Oreo Cookies

A couple of weeks ago I was very bored and really wanted something sweet, so I googled "best cookie recipes." After a few minutes of searching I found this great recipe for homemade Oreos on smittenkitchen.com. This recipe is really simple, but very delicious. The cookies are a bit softer and chewier than the Oreos you get at the store, which I liked. If you're looking for a change from making your standard chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies, these are worth a try.

Ingredients
For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass. (I don't have a food processor or an electric mixer, so I just stirred it with a spoon and then mixed it by hand.)
3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pumpkin Chili

I've recently gone on a bit of a pumpkin kick, making a couple of pumpkin pies and this pumpkin chili recipe. The recipe comes from verybestbaking.com. I was happy with how this recipe turned out, though it was not quite perfect. I initially stuck directly to recipe and found that that chili had a nice pumpkin flavor, but lacked spice. To kick it up a bit I added about a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. This definitely added some spiciness, but drowned out the pumpkin flavor. Either way it still tasted good and the pureed pumpkin added a nice creaminess you don't usually find in chili. Anyone have any tips for adding heat to a dish without drowning out the underlying flavors?

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
2 cans (14.5 oz each) no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 can (15.25 oz.) kidney beans, drained
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles
1/2 cup loose-pack frozen whole-kernel corn
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions
1. Heat vegetable oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender.
3. Add turkey; cook until browned. Drain.
4. Add tomatoes with juice, pumpkin, tomato sauce, beans, chiles, corn, chili powder, cumin and black pepper.
5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

The Results

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple pie


A couple weeks ago my girlfriend and I went apple picking at the Stribling Orchard in Markham, Virginia. If you're looking for a place to go apple picking near DC, I'd recommend it. It's a beautiful spot and all of the fruit I've gotten there has been excellent. Their store also has delicious baked goods, salad dressings, salsa and bbq sauce.

The recipe I got from the Food Network calls for 6 Jonagold apples, which are a hybrid of Jonathan and Golden Delicious. Since the orchard didn't have any Jonagolds, I just used 3 Jonathans and 3 Golden Delicious.


I made the crust using Amish butter from the Agora Farms stand at Eastern Market. Amish butter was recently recommended to me and I was amazed at how much better it tastes that Land O' Lakes or Country Crock. It's great on bread and it really enhanced the flavor and texture of the crust.

Ingredients
Piecrust:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
6 tablespoons cold water, plus 5 tablespoons cold water, as needed

Filling:
6 Jonagold apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 egg
Salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. To prepare the piecrust, combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening with your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the pieces are the size of small peas.
3. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons water over the flour, and gently toss with a fork. Push the flour to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining cold water, and mix until all is moistened and combined. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
4. In a large mixing bowl toss the apples with lemon juice.
5. Combine the sugar, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the apples and toss until completely coated. Set mixture aside.
6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one ball into a 12-inch circle, and place into a 9-inch pie plate.
7. Transfer the apple mixture into the pastry lined pie plate. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the apple mixture. For the top crust, roll out remaining dough, place on top, and seal and flute the edge. Cut slits on top crust to allow steam to escape.
8. To make the egg wash, crack egg in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt, whisk, and brush on top of the pie. 9. Cover pie with foil to prevent over browning, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes until crust is golden and apples are tender.

The Results:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chicken and corn chowder


Now that its turning into Fall and getting a bit cooler I've really been craving soup. The surprisingly good chicken and corn chowder from Harris Teeter inspired me to try and make my own. This recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine via myrecipes.com. The recipe suggests that you should be able to have this recipe on the table in half an hour. It took me a little bit longer than that, but it was still quick and convenient. You could definitely make this on a weekday night for dinner. The soup wound up very rich and flavorful, especially considering its lighter chowder using 2% milk instead of half-and-half or heavy cream.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 breast halves)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn

Directions
1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Add onion, celery, and jalapeño; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
3. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
4. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 5 minutes).

The Results

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Penne with shrimp and herbed cream sauce

This recipe is one that I've made several times for company and I'm always happy with the results. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis. Giada is a great resource for me as I'm fairly obsessed with pasta. The sauce in this dish is a pink cream sauce that's subtle but very flavorful. This is one of my favorite dishes to cook.

I served the pasta with a simple salad of mixed greens, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and goat cheese, with a creamy balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, and deveined
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
1/3 cup clam juice
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the shrimp turn pink and is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp and set aside.
3. Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley, and the red pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Add the wine, clam juice, and heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the sauce thickens. 
5. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the cooked shrimp, the cooked pasta, and the remaining herbs. Toss together until all ingredients are coated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
6. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve immediately.

Results

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Iced chocolate

This summer, when it was preposterously hot and humid in DC, I started looking around for some nice cold dessert recipes. I found this recipe for iced chocolate on David Lebowitz's website. His recipe is based on the frozen hot chocolate served at Serendipity in New York. The drink is essentially a very dressed up version of a chocolate milk shake. The melted dark chocolate and cocoa powder really help to take it up to another level. Unsurprisingly, this was a very rich and delicious dessert. Definitely worth trying at home. Next time I'm in Manhattan I'll have to try Serendipity, as everything I've heard about it sounds great.

Ingredients
3/4 cup (180ml) whole or lowfat milk
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
8 chocolates or 4 ounces (115g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces, 175g) ice cubes
2 to 3 scoops chocolate ice cream or chocolate sherbet

Directions
1. In a small saucepan, heat two-thirds of the milk with cocoa powder, just until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and drop in the chocolates, stirring until the chocolates are melted and smooth. Let mixture cool to room temperature.
2. Using a blender, mix the chocolate mixture and the rest of the milk with the ice cubes and ice cream or sorbet (and Kahluà or espresso, if using) until completely smooth.
3. Divide into two glasses, top each with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

The Results

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sichuan Eggplant

When I was visiting my friends Anna and Justin in Madison, WI last month we went to a Sichuan Chinese restaurant called Fugu Asian. As a spoiled New Yorker, I was shocked to find such good Chinese food so far from the East Coast (though the Chinese food in DC's Chinatown is remarkably underwhelming). Fugu had some amazing and highly authentic dishes. In fact some of the dishes on the menu were far too authentic for me to actually try: ox tongue, pork kidney, pork intestine, intestine in hot pot. And that was just on the menu that had been translated into English.


Anna's already talked a good deal about Fugu on her blog, Dining and Opining, so I won't go into too much more detail on it. My favorite of the various dishes we ordered was eggplant in garlic sauce, also known as Sichuan eggplant. This was an amazingly dish, with a very unique flavor that Anna and Justin informed me was Sichuan peppercorn. This is the description wikipedia offers for Sichuan peppercorn: "Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy-alpha-sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices."

You should be able to find Sichuan pepper at an Asian markets or possibly a very well-stocked supermarket. After not finding them at Harris Teeter and Bangkok 54, I lucked out and found some at the aptly titled Oriental Supermarket on Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA.  They had a great selection of hard to find ingredients and the staff was very helpful.

After searching through a bunch of recipes online I settled on a version from appetiteforchina.com, though I added a bit more garlic and Sichuan pepper. It wasn't as good as Fugu's version, but it was very good. The Sichuan pepper is a really unique flavor and chili bean paste gave it a good kick. I may have cut the eggplant chunks a bit too small, so the texture wasn't quite perfect. This will definitely be in my dinner rotation in the future.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds Asian eggplant
2 tablespoons chicken stock, or substitute water
2 tablespoons chili bean paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar, or substitute good-quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced (I upped this to 5 cloves)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (I upped this to 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish


Directions

1. Slice each eggplant in half lengthwise, then slice each length into quarters. Cut each quarter in somewhat substantial, but still bite-sized, cubes (about 1 1/4-inch to 1 1/2-inch cubes).
2. Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the chicken stock, chili bean paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, rice wine, and sugar. Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and swirl the pan to coat the base and sides. Add the eggplants and stir-fry until outsides become golden brown and insides begin to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorn and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
5. Pour in the sauce mixture and mix well. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the eggplant to full cook and the sauce to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat, plate, and sprinkle scallions on top.


The Results