June 28, 2012

Pin It S'more Cookies

Week 26

Can you believe it’s been almost 3 weeks since I’ve made cookies? I know, me either.

I wanted to make a birthday treat for Jenna and something to bring up to Tahoe this weekend, and figured cookies were the most easily transportable. I’ve been trying to veer away from baking things stuffed inside other things, (because they can be a little intense) but I couldn’t help myself with this one. 

It’s summer and I’ve got s’mores on the brain. I found these cinnamon bun marshmallows at the store the other day and intended to use them for these cookies, but totally forgot.  I’ve got another batch to make so I may use them then. I’ll let you know how it goes, I’m guessing they'll be delicious.
I’ve also been trying to prefect the chocolate chip cookie.  After I made the brown butter oatmeal chunk cookies, I thought I’d made the best cookies ever, which I still stand by.  However, I found that not everyone liked the oatmeal chocolate chip combo as much as I did, so I’m trying to extract the best parts of that recipe and inject them into a classic chocolate chip cookie.  I decided the best parts were the browned butter (nutty, rich and delicious) and the cinnamon (a little extra oomph in the flavor department).

For this recipe, I tried taking those two components and putting them into a classic chocolate chip cookie. I also found dark chocolate chips to use.  I love dark chocolate and the chips are actually a little bigger (aka better) than the semi-sweet ones.

For the s'more part of the recipe I decided to tone it down a little.  A full size s’more inside a cookie seemed a little overkill, not to mention  the cookie would have to be huge!  I decided to make mini s’mores instead.
Mini s'mores I made as my mini dessert last week.
For my mini s’mores in this recipe, I used mini cinnamon graham crackers, mini marshmallows and Ghirardelli chocolate drops, all of which I already had in my pantry (who knows why).  The Ghirardelli drops were a little hard to work with (mostly to photograph) so I’d probably recommend using pieces of a Hershey bar instead.

So here is what you'll need for your cookies:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup browned butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
12oz bag of dark chocolate chips
Mini graham crackers
Mini marshmallows
Hersey bars

Brown Butter: Heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisking constantly, cook butter until bubbly and until small brown bits appear on the bottom of the pan – about 5-6 minutes. Watch closely and immediately remove the butter from the heat, whisking for an additional 30 seconds or so. Set aside and let cool completely.  It does not need to solidify at all, but it should not be warm to the touch.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl and set aside.
Cream butter and sugars.
Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add vanilla.
Gradually add in flour mixture to the wet mixture.
Gently stir in chocolate chips.

I chilled my dough for a bit (~1-2 hours) to make sure my cookies didn’t spread out too much while baking.  I’ve found that the key to having a mounded, thick cookie it to use chilled dough. I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up with a flat cookie with a lump of s’more in the middle. However, you want to be careful not to chill your dough too much or it will make it hard to wrap it around your mini s’more.
To make my s'more cookies, I broke off two small clumps of dough (~2 Tbs each) and formed them into little patties. I made the bottom patty into the little bowl shape and assembled the mini s’more onto the bottom dough patty.  I then put on the top dough ball and formed the whole thing into a round ball.
Bottom dough, graham, mallows, and chocolate.
Topped with another graham and top dough.
Rolled into a neat little ball.
I baked my cookies for 10-12 minutes at 375.  I baked my first batch in my muffin top pan to further ensure that my cookies would not spread out too much and become flat.  I made a few on a regular baking sheet as well and they turned out nicely too.
Baked s'more cookies.
Warm and gooey.

sampled one to make sure it was good and I think they turned out really well. I still have another batch to make and will try out the cinnamon bun marshmallows. I will also make a few as just pure chocolate chip cookies to test out the dough by itself.  I could taste the extra cinnamon in the s'more cookie I sampled and it was delicious! I think I'm getting closer to the perfect chocolate chip cookie!

June 22, 2012

Pin It Sweet and Spicy Glazed Chicken Tacos

Inspired by the How Sweet It Is Tostada recipe 

Week 25

I’m just going to do a mini post on this one.  I didn’t take too many photos, (was hungrier than I was blog focused) but it was a good recipe so I will still share.

What I used:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Although Tom thought thighs would be better)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 large flour tortillas
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup cooked sweet corn
1/2 cup black beans
1 avocado, cut into cubes
Trader Joe's papaya mango salsa

Cut chicken into cubes and toss with salt and pepper. Heat pan on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add chicken and cook until golden on all sides, about 10-12 minutes. In a bowl, mix together vinegar, honey, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Remove chicken from the skillet and place on a plate, keeping the heat on. Add sauce to the skillet, whisking well. Let it cook and bubble for 5-6 minutes, whisking occasionally, until it slightly thickens and reduces by just a bit. Add the chicken back in the skillet and toss.

I didn’t make tostadas (like in the original recipe) because I’m not a huge fan of corn tortillas, so I just made a soft taco/burrito type assembly, but you can really do whatever you want.  It was good, the chicken was a little dry but that was probably my bad.  I rarely cook chicken…mostly because I don’t really like it, but will still eat it whenever it is put in front of me J Confusing, I know. Anyway, this had a good flavor and was an easy, light summery dinner.

June 20, 2012

Pin It Southwest Chicken Salad Patty Melts

Taken from How Sweet It Is

Week 25

Food! I like food, but sometimes I'm lazy.  When I get lazy, I don't feel like cooking or even preparing something that most would qualify as a meal.  On occasion, I'm so unmotivated that I just eat random things until I figure I've eaten enough that I can call it dinner.  For example, last week I ate a rice cake with peanut butter, a fruit crusher and part of a salted caramel chocolate chip cookie bar and called it dinner.  My mom would be so disappointed. 

This fake meal thing is not so sustainable, plus it doesn't work when I have someone else to feed.  Since I knew Tom would be over for dinner this week, I bought the ingredients for this recipe when I was at TJ's on Sunday. 

Side note: I love living in San Francisco, but I forgot how big grocery stores (especially how wide the isles are) can be out in the burbs.  We stopped at the TJ's in Novato on Sunday and the width of the isles seemed silly big. Then I realized the ones in  SF are probably just ridiculously small.

Since I had everything I needed, I whipped this up for dinner last night.

Below is my version of this recipe. Slight changes from the original because: 
1. I don't love green peppers.
2. I don't like cumin.
3. Beans and corn are good. 
4. There wasn't quite enough sauciness for my liking.

1 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cooked and shredded
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup black beans
2/3 cup sweet corn
1 1/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
3-4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
Toasted bread slices

Heat a pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Throw in onions, peppers and 1/4 teaspoon salt, mixing to combine. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. In a large bowl, combine chicken, onions, peppers, black beans and corn, mixing well.

In a smaller bowl, combine greek yogurt, remaining salt, pepper, cumin, smoked paprika and cilantro, mixing well. Add yogurt to the chicken mixture, stirring well to coat and combine. You can either eat this as is (I put it on top of a bed of lettuce for lunch today) or you can make a patty melt. I put my bread and cheese in the broiler to melt and toast and added the chicken salad to it after it came out of the oven.  You can also add the chicken salad pre-oven if you want it warmed.

Apparently Tom and I have no idea how to use a broiler, or just got distracted, because we burned our first 4 attempts at toast with melty cheese. Fail.  We finally got it right and it was delicious. 

Creamy yogurt with spices and cilantro.
Chicken salad stuff pre-sauce. 

I ate an open faced version.
#1 of 2 that Tom ate for dinner.

This was a very good simple recipe.  My favorite parts: it had great flavor plus it was super rich and creamy without using any mayo! I will definitely make this again.

June 14, 2012

Pin It Banana Peanut Butter Refrigerator Oatmeal

Taken From The Yummy Life 

Week 24
This sounds a little weird, I know, but it is actually really good. Plus, you can create so many different combinations and flavors, the possibilities are endless!

You just start with the same base below and add whatever you want. 

Here are the ingredients and directions for the banana peanut butter fridge oatmeal.  I made a few changes/substitutions based on preference and what I had in my house.  I also used my pint jars (because they were easier to reach) but it really doesn't matter what size you use. My notes are in italics.

1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned oats
1/3 cup skim milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt (I used plain non-fat yogurt)
1-1/2 teaspoons dried chia seeds (skipped these)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey, optional
1/4 cup diced ripe banana, or enough to fill jar (approx. half of a small banana, I use a whole banana)
2 dashes of cinnamon

In a half pint (1 cup) jar, add oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, peanut butter, and honey. Put lid on jar and shake until well combined. Remove lid, add bananas and stir until mixed throughout. Return lid to jar and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. Eat chilled.
My ingredients
Oats, yogurt, peanut butter and honey.
Plus milk, pre-shake. 
Post-shake. Doesn't look like the most appetizing breakfast but it's tasty!
I also tried the oatmeal base with bananas, 1 tablespoon of strawberry jam and a teaspoon of honey, yum! 

For more combination ideas, click here.

This makes for a very hearty breakfast.  It kept me satisfied for way longer than a normal bowl of cereal (as you might expect) since it's multiple breakfast foods all rolled into one cute jar. Using peanut butter makes it a little calorie heavy but there are tons of combinations you can do that will be on the lighter side. 

Try it out! I bet you'll like it. 

June 10, 2012

Pin It Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Taken From Brown Eyed Baker

Week 23
My friend Matt’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to make a special treat in his honor.  He specifically requested that I bring sweets to his chili dinner (I think his exact words were “I DEMAND you bring bad ass cookies; you will not be let in without them”). He couldn’t stop raving about the snickerdoodles at Tom’s birthday (mind you, there weren’t any snickerdoodles at Tom’s birthday, and Matt had actually been obsessing about these since April), so I knew those would fit into his definition of “bad ass cookies.”   I made a batch of the snickerdoodles and used the caramel filled Dove chocolates as the stuffing this time, delicious!

So the snickerdoodles were made but I also wanted to make something else for the group (in case Matt wanted to hoard all the snickerdoodles for himself) so there would be dessert for everyone else.  I love chocolate and I love salted caramel so when I saw this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, I knew a batch was in my future.

These were amazing! They were gooey and chocolaty and sticky and decadent. The squares I cut were huge and these are super rich, so eating that much may be overkill. However, what ends up happening is that you cut a quarter of it off and eat it, thinking you are being good and that this is an appropriate serving. Then a few minutes later you eat another quarter, and within another 20 minutes the whole square is gone!  It may be more manageable to think you are only eating a piece of it, but in the end you’ve scarfed down the whole thing…which is totally acceptable in my book!

So you start out by making chocolate chip cookie dough.  I just followed the recipe on the Brown Eyed Baker Blog for ease:

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

After that, I made homemade Salted Caramel Sauce. If you are not into making your own caramel or just don’t have the time, you can also just melt down 10 ounces of caramel candy squares and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream (either in the microwave or in a double boiler).  Since I had some extra time this week I decided to make my own salted caramel sauce. You can check that out here. The caramel sauce recipe made about 1.5 pints (24 oz.) and I used about a pint (16 oz.) for this cookie bar recipe.

Once you’ve made your chocolate chip cookie dough, press half of it into a greased 9 x 9 pan. Then pour your caramel sauce over the cookie dough, attempting to leave an edge around the pan without any caramel sauce.  This was a bit of a challenge for me since caramel sauce is a liquid and really just does what it wants.  If you are really worried about it, you can build up an edge of cookie dough around the perimeter of your pan so the caramel sauce stays contained.  However, if you don’t do this, the “worst” that will happen is some caramel sauce will ooze up to the top while baking (not a bad thing). 
Bottom layer of cookie dough.
Adding on caramel sauce. I ended up just pouring the sauce straight from the mason jar but that picture wasn't as pretty.
Layer of sticky, salty caramel.
After you pour on the caramel sauce, sprinkle with fluer de sel (or other sea salt) and put the other half of the cookie dough on top.  The recipe suggests you crumble the cookie dough on top, then spread it around with a spatula to even it out.  I didn’t do this because I could not see how the caramel would not get all smeared around in the process. Instead, I made flat cookie dough patties and placed them on top of the caramel, attempting to cover as much of the caramel as I could.  There were just a few cracks, so I squishing the cookie dough around a bit until most of the caramel was covered.  Bonnie also had the idea of putting the pan in the fridge for a bit after pouring on the caramel.  That way the caramel would be more solidified when you are trying to manipulate the top layer of cookie dough.  Again the “worst” thing that can happen is you get some caramel leaking through the top. 
After attempting to cover the cracks in the top layer of cookie dough.
Close up of raw cookie, salty, sticky goodness.
sprinkled the top with additional sea salt and baked it for 30 minutes at 325. I let it cool at room temperature for a few hours before cutting (you can also let it cool on the counter then pop it in the fridge to set the caramel).
Baked. You can see the caramel crept up the edges of the pan and caramelized on top.
These were super good! I love gooey cookies so these were pretty much the epitome of dessert awesomeness for me. If you like crispy cookies I wouldn't recommend this recipe.  However, if you like crispy cookies then we don’t understand each other at all and I wish you luck.

Pin It Salted Caramel Sauce

Taken From Brown Eyed Baker

Week 23
Since I had some time and thought the idea of having extra salted caramel sauce around the house sounded genius, I decided to make homemade salted caramel sauce for my Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

I’ve made salted caramel a couple times in the past (for my Salted Caramel Cheesecake Pie) but I’ve never done the dry sugar method. I was a little nervous so I added some water to the 2 cups of sugar for my first batch.  I don’t recommend doing this.  I accidentally added way too much water and the caramel never came together as a sauce.  It was chunks of caramel floating in a water bath. If you are going to add some water, only add a tablespoon or two to moisten the sugar.

I started over and followed the Brown Eyed Baker instructions as they were.  My sugar started browning right away (before it even started to melt) which made me nervous that it was going to burn. I think this happened because my pan was already hot when I started (from my first batch).  Probably best to start with a cooled pan. In the end everything was ok, but it wasn’t as smooth as I wanted (since the sugar didn’t initially melt all the way).  To fix this, I continued to simmer the sauce until the sugar had melted and I had a smoother caramel.

Salted Carmel Sauce (yields ~3 cups):

2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)

1. Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, stirring it as it begins to melt (I don’t recommend a whisk at this point because the sugar gets stuck when it's still in clump form). The sugar may begin to form clumps, but these will melt down as it continues to cook. Once all the sugar has melted, swirl the pan occasionally while you carefully wait for it to brown.

2. Make sure to watch your sugar closely as it can turn from a lovely caramel color to burnt very quickly, and then there is no saving it. Once the sugar has reached a deep amber color (~350 degrees if you have a candy thermometer) add the butter all at once. The caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Don't be afraid. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.

3. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will bubble. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.
Sugar melting and bubbling.
Sugar, butter and cream.
Making caramel is fairly simple as long as you feel comfortable with the process.  This recipe did work for me, but I think next time I will use the caramel recipe from Joy the Baker below. This caramel ends up a little thinner so keep that in mind when you are thinking about the end result you are looking for.

1/2 cup granulated sugar 
2 tablespoons water 
2 tablespoons light corn syrup 
1/3 cup heavy cream 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Add sugar, water, and corn syrup to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice.  Bring to a boil and allow to brown.  Once sugar has browned to a medium amber color, remove from heat and immediately add heavy cream and butter.  Mixture will boil and foam.  Stir well.  Add salt and stir well to incorporate.

June 4, 2012

Pin It Mexican Quinoa Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

Taken From Bake Your Day’s  guest post on The Realistic Nutritionist 

Week 23
 And I’m back!

After two fantastic back to back vacations I’m back to the grind. A mini recap for the past two weeks for me would go a little something like this:

Had an awesome sunshine ladies vacation with Bonnie and Kristen in Kauai!  I surfed, snorkeled and even got a couple dives in.  We ate tons of fish, had plenty of beach time and it felt great to be back in the tropics.
Bonnie and Kristen eating the best fish wraps ever at Kilauea Fish Market.
Me and Bonnie hanging at Molo'a Beach.
This past weekend I had another ladies sunshine vacation with my 5 sisters!  We headed up to Napa for the weekend for winetasting, dining, spa time and relaxing in the mineral pool. The weather was amazing (mid to high 80’s) and it was such a fun trip.
Wine tasting at Corison.
Dinner at Bottega.
Now that I'm back in the real world I had to actually go to the grocery store, as the only things in my refrigerator were some left over taro rolls and 3 eggs.

After all the rich foods and wine in Napa, I was looking for something on the lighter side to make for dinner.  I’ve been collecting all my recipe ideas on my Pintrest boards so I can easily browse through the photos to decide what I want to make next.  It’s an awesome way to organize any blog links or other recipe websites I come across.  Everything is neatly organized in one place, with a picture and the link in one convenient spot (so easy!).  Love Pintrest.

I found this recipe and decided it looked light and yummy. I left out quite a few ingredients, either because I don’t like them (i.e. cumin, parsley) or because I’m a spicy food wimp (i.e. jalapeno, red pepper flakes) or I didn’t want a huge surplus in my house right now (i.e. green onions, red wine vinegar). I used balsamic vinegar instead of red wine vinegar and it tasted great.

Here is what I ended up using:

For the salad:
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (15.5 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15.5 ounce) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp. paprika

For the avocado dressing:
1 avocado, pitted
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil

Directions (Taken From Bake your Day guest post):
For the salad, combine the quinoa and vegetable broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed and the germ of the quinoa is exposed. Remove from heat.

While the quinoa is cooking, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, green onions, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin and paprika in a large bowl.
Salad ingredients.
Prepare the dressing by combining all of the dressing ingredients (everything except the olive oil) in the bowl of a food processor (I put everything in a small bowl and used my immersion blender). Pulse to combine and then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the processor and then slowly stream the olive oil through the top opening, continuing to process until the dressing is combined.
Dressing ingredients, pre-blending.
Add the quinoa to the black bean/corn mixture and toss to combine. Pour the dressing over the mixture. Serve warm or chilled. Top with additional cilantro if desired.
Quinoa plus other salad stuffs.
Dressing mixed in and ready to eat!
This recipe was super easy, fresh and healthy (I’m pretty sure quinoa is good for you, right? Seems to be all the rage the past few years). 

So now I’m back on track and should be posting regularly J

Being back at work after vacation (especially two!) is always a bummer but I’ve got some great photos to remind me of the awesome times with friends and family.
Me and Kristen at Kilauea lighthouse.
Kristen and Bonnie on the north shore.
Me surfing in Hanalei.
Sister at the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma.
Sisters at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone.
Sisters at Cha Cha Cha in the Mission.