Super Duper Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Epiphany! In the spirit of new traditions, I have decided to extend Christmas with today being the last day of celebration. One thing about having our wedding in December, we were delayed with certain traditions. We did put our tree up during the second week of December, but there was something else missing: The traditional cookie baking festival.

Every year, my family always bakes dozens of cookies to take to gatherings and for those who visited with us. It was a big deal, as my Mom would usually devote a Saturday for cookie baking. We would bake Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Meringue Cookies, and the Cutout Sugar Cookies. It was so much fun, since we each got to hone a special recipe. My particular task was to help with the Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter Blossoms (which were my favorite).

I intend to do the same with our family, except I want to move it to the last day of Christmas to extend the celebration. This will only help bring many memories in the future.

Well, in the spirit of Christmas, I baked two dozen of my super duper chocolate chip cookies. You may ask what makes my recipe “super duper,” and I am happy to share this with you. Besides chocolate chips, I add Heath Bar bits to help boost the flavor. You can also add Peanut Butter chips as well, but the key is to keep things simple. They turned out great, as my husband and his friend went back for more. From my kitchen to yours…here’s the recipe for the best cookies on this side of the Potomac River:

(Adapted from the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe)

2 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks of butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 12 oz. package of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet or Callebaut Chocolate Chunks, but I used Nestle…since they were on sale).
1/2 of a 12 oz. package of Heath Bar Bits (You can use more or less, if you are using Peanut Butter Chips)
**Note: You could add chopped nuts (Walnuts or Pecans). However, I opted out due to nut allergies.

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Step 2: Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a stand mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and heath bar bits. Using a cookie scoop (or ice cream spoon for big cookies), drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Step 3: Bake for 9-11 minutes (I baked mine for 10 minutes) or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Step 4: Grab a cookie and a glass of milk. Then, you should totally rave about how super duper they are…and of course, share the cookies with loved ones. They are sure to bring a smile to your face.

Really super duper!

Really super duper!

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A Charming Birthday Dinner

Yesterday, my husband celebrated his birthday.  While he had a crummy day at work, I made certain that he had an nice evening with a great dinner, along with his favorite movie, The Big Lebowski, playing in the background.   I started planning his birthday dinner when we got back from our honeymoon.  He wanted a dish with meat and a birthday cake.   Check for both of these.

I settled on a menu of pork chops and cornbread stuffing.  His birthday cake was going to be a Key Lime Pound Cake with a Key Lime Glaze.   Of course, I thought it would be a menu that I could accomplish during an afternoon away from the office.  However, after dealing with the DMV for most of the afternoon, I was left wondering whether this would be too time intensive.   I decided to woman-up, because I knew he would be surprised by the effort and love.

The cornbread stuffing is a recipe that is so simple.   In a saute pan, I melted 2 tablespoons butter with four cloves of garlic over medium heat.  After the butter was melted, I threw in one onion that french cut, and one red bell pepper that was roughly diced.   After the onion began to caramelize and the pepper softened, I placed cubes of cornbread in the pan with a cup of chicken broth and  1/4 cup of apple cider for an added level of sweetness.  (Note:  I fudged and bought a large cornbread square from our local Whole Foods Market.)  The stuffing was seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, and sage.  It was delicious and paired well with the pork chop.

Next, I proceeded to season the pork chops with a mixture of salt, pepper, tarragon, garlic powder, sage, and thyme.   Creating a rub, I patted the pork chops with the seasoning mixture.  After heating a cast iron skillet with some oil, I seared the pork chops on high to give them a good crust, then I reduced the heat to allow them time to finish cooking.   The pork chop was juicy and moist…success!

The star of the dinner was dessert.   Of course, this took a while to bake.   Pound cakes have always been the least favorite of desserts, and it was probably because they come across as being dry and crumbly, not very moist.  When I came across this recipe in Southern Living, I knew it was going to be a winner. My husband is a huge fan of Key Lime pie, so I knew he would love this Key Lime Pound Cake. It was time intensive, but the cake was moist and better than pound cakes of the past. I did make some slight revisions to the recipe by adding an additional teaspoon of lime zest. The flavor profile was unbelievable, and this is something I will make again in the future.

Best pound cake ever!

Best pound cake ever!

So tell me, what’s your favorite birthday dinner? Also, what’s your favorite birthday cake? Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband!

The Newly Engaged Bliss

This is definitely something that I need to share with my readers, and I am sorry it has finally taken me two weeks (wait…two months) to update the blog.

As many know, I have been busy dealing with some issues.  Toward the end of April, my fiance’s father died.  It was rough dealing with such a loss.  On top of that, my work and half marathon training schedule kept me away from the kitchen.  There has been little time to update this site, let alone my other website.

However, on the morning of June 24th, things changed for the better.  While the proposal details will remain quiet, my boyfriend (now fiance) asked me to be his wife.  Of course, I said yes and now, there is a December wedding in our future.  Wedding planning may keep me away from posting, but I wanted to let you in on the exciting news.

Also, I have a new recipe to share as well.  This one is a marinade for yellowfin tuna, which I found on special at the grocery store.  The marinade includes:

  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Chinese Five Spice Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cilantro

Talk about a totally awesome treat for your tastebuds.  I marinated the tuna fillets for 15 minutes on both sides (total of 30 minutes).  In the meantime, I heated the sesame oil in a skillet.  Then I added the tuna fillets and seared them.  It was nice and raw in the center and warm on the outside.

I also made quinoa to serve alongside.  While I made quinoa once before, I was surprised at the taste this time around.  I used two cups of chicken broth, in place of the water.  I also added Penzey’s Spices Smoky 4S, along with onion.  Before it was time to remove, I added some diced red and yellow bell peppers.  It was totally worth it and now, I have the energy to get back to reception venue searching.

There’s something about…

Imagetraveling that makes you want to be at home, being surrounded by family holding vigil for a loved one, and something about baking that soothes/heals the soul.

Last week, I traveled to Texas to be with a loved one, who had a medical crisis, and I was reminded of the strength of family.  Whether or not, you are from a tight knit family, it is always amazing to see how family cares for each other in times of need and how prayer can make a difference.

While I did not do any baking in Texas, I made up for it in my apartment kitchen last Saturday.  I whipped up a batch of Graham Cupcakes and Key Lime Buttercream.  Perhaps, it was the warm weather that inspired me to make these delicacies or the fact that my boyfriend and I were visiting with my Dad, who loves key lime pie.

The cupcakes were easy to make, and the buttercream was awesome.  You can find the recipe over at Ming Makes Cupcakes.

In the meantime, enjoy these cupcakes with your loved ones and bring a smile to their face.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Everything fell out of line this week.  My boyfriend is out of town, and since he comes over for dinner during the week, I was left to my own defenses.  Since I had class every night after work, I fixed a pot of chicken tortilla soup that I could heat up once I got back home.  The Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food.   Although the recipe was vegetarian, I added cooked, shredded chicken to the recipe for protein.  I also omitted the chili powder for Penzey’s Spices Arizona Dreaming Blend and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce for heat.  It was super easy.

Chicken Tortilla Soup (Adapted from Everyday Food)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 T. Olive Oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. Arizona Dreaming seasoning

1 tsp. cumin

1 tbsp. Chipotle Tabasco Sauce

1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice

2-15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can. reduced sodium chicken broth

1 pkg. frozen corn kernels

Coarse salt and ground black pepper

1 C. Crushed tortilla chips, plus more for serving

1 tbsp. lime juice, plus lime wedges  for serving

Avocado slices for serving

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium.  Cook garlic, Arizona Dreaming, chipotle tabasco and cumin until fragrant.  It will only take a minute, then add the tomatoes with sauce, beans, broth, corn, and 1 C. water.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Add tortilla chips, and cook until softened.  Remove from heat, and add lime juice, season with salt and pepper.  Serve with crushed chips, sharp cheddar cheese, avocado slices, and lime wedges.

This should serve 4 people.

Bulgogi Made Easy

I have been trying to eat healthier lately.  In fact, one of my Lenten goals was to focus on being healthier, in terms of my mind, body, and spirit.  However, there are times when you crave comfort foods to soothe your soul during difficult situations.   Last Sunday, I was scouring through my Google reader and came across a great recipe for a healthier version of Bulgogi.  Bulgogi is a food that I would often eat during my college years with friends, and I was excited to see a healthier remake of the recipe on Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen!   This turned out to be great, and while Gretchen made it more healthier by serving with brown rice, I opted for Portuguese rolls instead.  I also served the Bulgogi sandwiches with Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

I also added diced red bell peppers to the saute pan with the onion that the recipe required.  After they were softened, I added the marinated beef.  The marinade for the shaved beef consisted of:  Tamari Sauce, Sesame Oil, Sugar, Minced Garlic, a pinch of ground ginger, and some freshly ground black pepper.

The dish was a success, and my boyfriend asked me to make it again for him.

Suggested Drink Pairings:

Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Dortmunder Gold

Shiner Bock

Rappahannock Cellars (Va.) Noblesse Rouge

Chrysalis (Va.) Vineyards Rubiana

Cinnamon Rolls Made Easy

Last weekend, I was craving something sweet to serve for a Saturday brunch that was easy to make and wouldn’t make a mess of the kitchen.  I decided to try a recipe for cinnamon rolls that did not require yeast.   At first, I was pretty skeptical about not using yeast, and I was worried that without yeast, it would compromise the quality of the rolls.  However, these cinnamon rolls were perfect and my guests raved about them.

Cinnamon Rolls (Adapted from Recipe Girl)

Filling:

4 tbsp. softened unsaltened butter

1 C. Light Brown Sugar (you can use dark brown sugar, per the original recipe’s instructions)

3 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice (original recipe calls for cinnamon, but I used what was available)

Dough

2 C. All-Purpose Flour  (make sure you have some more for rolling)

2 tbsp. sugar (the granulated stuff…no Sugar in the Raw, just rely on the Domino or whatever’s available)

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. unsalted softened butter (room temperature)

3/4 C. Milk

1 egg, beaten

Glaze

1 C. Powdered Sugar

2 tbsp. milk (or more depending on the consistency)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray your muffin tin with nonstick spray.

Prepare the filling:  Combine filling ingredients with a fork until a crumble like mixture is formed.  Set bowl aside.

Let’s work on the dough:  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  With clean hands (or that wonderful tool known as a pastry blender…man, I miss mine.  It got lost during a move), work the butter into the flour mixture.  Add the milk and egg, stir to combine.

Now comes the *fun* part:  Roll the dough out onto a floured surface into a large rectangle.  Sprinkle the filling over the surface of the dough (make sure it’s even).   I promised you the fun part, which is roll the dough into a roll.  Cut the rolls into 12 pieces.  Place the pieces into the muffin tin.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

While the rolls are baking, let’s go over the glaze.  It’s easy peasy to make this glaze.  In a small bowl, combine the sugar, milk, and vanilla.  Stir until the glaze turns into a frosting consistency.   After removing the rolls from the oven, move the rolls onto a plate, then drizzle the glaze over them.

Totally yummy and the kitchen…well, it was a bit messy!  Cleaning is the fun part of cooking, right?

Busy…and running out of options

Last week, I had an extremely busy week at work, and with yoga class after work, I did not have much time to spend in the kitchen.  When this happens, I am normally at a loss of inspiration until I decided to take a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and make baked chicken fingers.  I paired this with kale chips, and it was pretty remarkable by the healthiness of the meal.  In a pinch, try the Kale Chips I featured in an early post.

Baked Chicken Fingers

1 1/2 c. Panko Bread Crumbs

1 tbsp. Buttermilk Ranch Seasoning  (The one I used was from Penzey’s)

1 tsp. Smoked Paprika

1/2 tsp. Chipotle Tabasco Sauce

2 eggs

1/2 c. buttermilk

2 tbsp. grated parmesan reggiano cheese

Salt and Pepper for the chicken breasts

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into strips

In a medium bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, chipotle tabasco sauce together.  In a 8 x 8 baking dish, combine the panko, spices, and grated cheese.  Dip the chicken strips in the egg mixture, then take each strip and transfer to the panko mixture.  Make sure that the panko mixture coats the chicken strip.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until the chicken temperature reaches 180 degrees and when cut shows no pink.

Since this dinner was made for two people, it can be easily doubled for a family of four.

Maple Bourbon Pork Chops and Cheese Grits

One evening last week, I had a craving for something sweet and savory.   After looking in the refrigerator, I saw a package of boneless pork chops that looked ready for a cast iron skillet and some 1 on 1 time in the oven.  However, fear came across me.  How do I transform pork chops into something sensational for a weeknight?  Enter a recipe I found on How Sweet Eats that incorporated the sweet flavors of maple syrup and bourbon.  It was easy to prepare for the most part (that is until I saw the blue flame from the alcohol cooking off in the sauce…I honestly don’t know why I freaked out).  All in all, the pork chops were phenomenal.  They just demanded something decadent to join them.

Enter Cheese Grits.  Granted, I did not grow up in the south.   As a Marylander, I was not exposed to the delicacy of consuming grits.  In fact, my Mother hated them and refused to cook them.  However, I felt it was time to give Grits a chance.  While shopping at Trader Joe’s, I noticed they had a bag of quick cooking grits.  I bought a bag and transformed instant grits into a masterpiece.

Cheese Grits

Pkg. of Quick Cooking Grits

1/2 c. Shredded Quattro Formaggio Cheese

1 tsp. sage

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. rosemary

Follow the directions on the package of grits for the most part, with the exception of water.  You want to use chicken broth, in place of water.  Add the thyme, rosemary, and sage while cooking.  Once the grits are finished cooking, fold in cheese over low heat.  Serve warm.

From Drop Box

Beautiful Mornings…

I love when the birds are chirping,  the weather is warm (especially in March), and enjoying freshly baked blueberry lemon muffins with a cup of coffee.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

image

I must admit the wrappers are pretty sweet.  After all, you can’t beat monkeys and bananas.  The muffins are the star of the show, and there is no doubt you can tailor these to your dietary needs.

Introducing Blueberry Lemon Muffins (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line your muffin tins with cute liners (you could use the plain ones, but that is no fun…is it?).  Put those to the side.

In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a small bowl combine egg, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.  Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture.  Stir until moistened.

Now comes the fun part…fold in 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries (you can use fresh) and the zest of half a lemon. 

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filing two thirds full.  Note:  I love big muffins, so I always go three fourths full and bake a little longer.  Also, I use nine liners instead of twelve.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over muffin batter (I use Penzey’s Spices Cinnamon Sugar, because it rocks).  Bake in a 400° oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.  Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove from cups; serve warm.

Totally delicious…and it pairs well with black forest bacon.