Saturday, March 31, 2007

Oatmeal Cookies with craisins & toffee

The Chestnut Street Bakery makes a fabulous oatmeal cookie with cranberry, toffee & chocolate chips in it. Ever since having one after lunch the other day I've been thinking about making my own version. A lazy Saturday provided me with the perfect opportunity so I studied different recipes from Joy of Cooking, Alton Brown and Quaker Oats and came up with this batch. We couldn't find toffee bits at our Safeway though we know Hersey's makes them so we bought some Wether's Originals & smashed them into bits.
oatmeal cookies with craisins & toffee
This gave us pieces of all different size & made for some nice big bites of toffee in the cookies.

Also most recipes said we needed to use regular slow cooking rolled oats but Quaker Oats said their Quick Cook Oats work fine for cookies. We used the quick cook because we have them around for breakfasts & they worked perfectly. We didn't use chocolate chips because we both felt they weren't necessary in this cookie but you could add a 1/2 cup to the recipe.

oatmeal cookies with craisins & toffee

Oatmeal Cookies with craisins & toffee

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup toffee bits
1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg together, set aside. In a small bowl beat the eggs & vanilla together. In a mixture using the paddle attachment beat the butter to just bring it together. Add the sugar and cream until light & fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla & mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix until everything is combined. With a spoon stir in the oats, toffee and craisins. Line cookie sheets with either parchment paper or a silicone mat. Scoop out the dough in heaping teaspoons and place in cookies sheets abut 2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly. Bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the cookies sheet. Bake for 6 more minutes. Cookies should be golden brown & slightly firm to the touch. Allow the cookies to cool for about 4 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a cooling rack, this gives time for the melted toffee to set.

makes 5 - 5 1/2 dozen cookies

I think these cookies are best once they are cooled & the toffee has re-harden.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Proverb

eating teaches drinking
Slow Club window 3/30/07

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Favorite things - Take & Bake Bread

I'm currently addicted to Grace Baking's Take & Bake Pugliese.
CIMG3630.JPG
I love good crusty breads with soup or pasta but it goes stale so fast that if I do my shopping on Sunday its not good for dinner later in the week. The Take & Bake on the other hand I just throw in the freezer & pull it out the night I want to cook it. I bake it still frozen & it still comes out perfect after only 12 minutes. Plus the 8oz loaf it a perfect size for 2 or 3 people.

I've noticed something weird though lately, whenever I go to buy it on Sunday afternoon I am always getting the last loaf on the shelf. This has happened at Marina Super, Calmart and Safeways. Its happened so often that I can't help but notice, what could explain this strange phenomenon?

I wonder if you can par bake your own homemade bread to freeze and finish at a different time? I googled par bake bread & didn't really see anything on it, might be time to hit some of the cookbooks to see what they say. Since Matt is growing quite a sour dough starter right now we might have to do some experiments.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Braised Pork Steak

This is an entry for the Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen's Braising Week Contest. The recipe that we had planned make was Braised and Roasted Pork Shanks with Prosciutto and Porcini Mushrooms from the January 2007 Bon Appetit, but we discovered that the butcher at Laurel Heights is closed on Sundays. The butcher at Cal-Mart could special order the Pork Shanks, but that wouldn't be much help for dinner tonight. He suggested pork shoulder was a good substitution for the shanks, seeing as how we were planning to braise.

The following recipe is slightly adapted from the recipe in the magazine. We have kept the amount of vegetables the same while reducing the amount of meat in the recipe. We added slightly more prosciutto, and replaced the broth in the braising liquid with more white wine. Since the pork steak doesn't have skin that needs crisping up, we also skipped the roasting at the end.

Braised Pork Steak: Ingredients

Braised Pork Steak
3 Servings

Ingredients
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 ¼ pounds pork shoulder steak
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped leek
1 rib chopped celery
¼ pounds proscuitto, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Braised Pork Steak: Browning the Meat

Place porcini mushrooms in small bowl. Pour 1 cup boiling water over and let stand until mushrooms soften, at least 30 minutes. Drain and chop mushrooms; reserve soaking liquid.

Braised Pork Steak: Sauteeing the Vegetables

Preheat oven to 325°F. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large wide pot over medium-high heat. Add pork and sauté until brown on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer pork to rimmed baking sheet.

Braised Pork Steak: Adding Liquid

Spoon off and discard all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, carrots, leek, celery, and prosciutto. Cover and cook until vegetables are soft and beginning to color, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Mix in garlic and chopped porcini. Add wine and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add reserved mushroom soaking liquid, leaving any sediment in bowl. Mix in sage and rosemary.

Braised Pork Steak: Assembling for the Oven

Return pork and any accumulated juices to pot, arranging in single layer.

Braised Pork Steak: Out of the Oven

Bring pork mixture to boil, cover pot, and place in oven. Braise pork until very tender, turning over every 30 minutes, about 1 hour 30 minutes.

Braised Pork Steak: Served Up

Break the meat into chunks, discarding the bone. Serve atop mashed potatoes.

Braised Pork Steak: Being Enjoyed

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just in time for Easter

Ever wonder what to do with those Peeps from your Easter basket? Well, Tricia from Cheeky Attitude shared her recipe for Peeps S'mores with us.


Warning! Peeps were harmed in this photo, originally uploaded by Tricia@cheeky attitude.

Peeps S'more (makes 1 s'more)

One graham cracker broken in half
Peep
Square of dark chocolate

Put one half of graham cracker on a plate or napkin top with Peep. Put in microwave and set timer to about 40 seconds. Start. WATCH as Peep starts to puff up. STOP the microwave before it gets too big (about 20 seconds or so) Slap square of chocolate on to peep very quickly. Top with 2nd half of graham cracker. The heat of the peep melts the chocolate just enough and the Peep's sugar coating adds an extra crunch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Civilized Living

Slow Club window 3/20/07
Dione Lucas - the first female graduate of Le Cordon Bleu
Slow Club window 3/20/07

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Grilled Steak Salad

grilled steak & asparagus salad
Another weeknight stand by. Just quickly grill up a steak slice it thinly & add to your favorite salad fixings. We had some leftover asparagus from last night's pasta so we grilled it up as well.
grilled asparagus
Just a little olive oil, salt & pepper, what a treat.

But the thing that really makes this salad for me is Matt's homemade dressing. It takes just a few minutes to make & is so much better than anything we buy at the store.
Matt's homemade dressing
Matt's Dressing

(serves 2)

1 Tbsp Shallot or Garlic minced
2 Tbsp Olive or Walnut oil
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper.

Put all the ingredients in a jar with a lid & shake.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Shrimp Tacos

So much better than I ever expected!
#63 - Shrimp Tacos

Ingredients

Shrimp

¾ lb. uncooked peeled shrimp
olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
Cayenne to taste
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ lime
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over med-high heat. Mix the paprika, cumin and cayenne together. Coat the shrimp withe the spice mixture. Add the garlic and shrimp to the saute pan. Squeeze lime over shrimp. Add Grand Marnier (careful it might flame). Cook until shrimp is pink.

Serve with tortillas, sour cream, lettuce and pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo

1 red onion chopped
2 tomatoes chopped & seeded
1/4 cup chopped cilanto
juice of one lime
kosher salt
pepper

Mix every thing together and let sit for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

CIMG2884.JPG

Roasted Vegetables

Over the years roasted vegetables has been one of those meals I fall back on time and time again. When I was single it was often a meal I would whip up for myself on nights in with just a quick trip to the store for a few veggies. Now that Matt and I are married roasted vegetables are a regular in our menu rotation in a couple different forms. The roasting and balsamic vinegar make all the vegetables so sweet. Chose your favorite mix of fresh vegetables based on what you can find at the grocery store or farmers market that week. (see below for some notes on vegetables to add)

Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous (serves 2)

1 green zucchini
6 fingerling potatoes
1 carrot
1 small red onion
4 brussel sprouts
4 roma tomatoes
olive oil
2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
sea salt
1 cup instant couscous.

Preheat oven to 400. Cut zucchini, potatoes and carrot into bite size pieces, about 1 inch. Peel red onion and cut into wedges. Peel the first layer of leaves from the brussel sprouts and slice them in half. Quarter and seed the tomatoes. Put all the vegetables into a roasting pan. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to cover all the vegetables. Add balsamic vinegar and sea salt stirring to coat.
vegetables to roast
Put uncovered into the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender stirring occasionally.
roasted vegetables
Cook cous cous according to the directions on the package. Serve the vegetables over the couscous.
roasted vegetables over cous cous

Roasted Vegetables & Spinach Salad (the summer version of above)

Goat cheese adds a tang that compliments the sweetness of the roasted vegetables & melts from the heat to coat the salad.

the same vegetables as above but substitute roma tomatoes with cherry tomatoes.
2 garlic cloves
Spinach
Goat Cheese

Prepare the vegetables as above except do not add the cherry tomatoes to the vegetables to be roasted. Peel and slice the garlic in half and add to vegetable mixture. Roast the vegetables and garlic as above. Serve the roasted vegetables on a bed of fresh spinach with the fresh cherry tomatoes. Crumble goat cheese over everything.

(Beets are fabulous in this but will dye the rest of your vegetables red. Green beans and asparagus are also good but shouldn't be added until the last 1/2 hour of roasting. If you can get heirloom tomatoes in the summer they are perfect in the salad.)

Friday, March 9, 2007

Who can resist a cupcake?

Especially one as good as those from Kara's Cupcakes?
how can you resist?
This sign showed up on the corner of Chestnut and Scott St. in the Marina announcing the opening of a new place to tempt me every time I run an errand down the block. The inside of this bakery storefront is as pink as their takeout boxes but neat and simple leaving the cupcakes to be the focal point. They make all the cupcakes daily using local ingredients all highlighted on a map in the store. Regular cupcakes come is ten flavors from Buttery Buttermilk Vanilla to Raspberry Dazzle to Kara's Karrot and cost $3.00 each. On my first visit I had the Buttery Buttermilk Vanilla cupcake with a creamy Madagascar bourbon vanilla buttercream & ate it before Matt could pick out his & pay for them, it was that good. I am not a huge cake fan but these are moist and not too sweet. Also I'm one of those odd people who prefer less icing but the icing here was so creamy and delicious and didn't overpower the cake.

The also have 4 flavors of filled cupcakes, Passion Fruit, Meyer Lemony Lemon, Banana Caramel and Fleur Del Sel for $3.25. Last night Matt brought home the Fleur Del Sel (I think I've mentioned the current obsession with chocolate and sea salt).
kara's cupcakes
These are chocolate cake with a creamy caramel filling topped with chocolate ganache and sprinkled with fleur del sel, fabulous! I think my only criticism is they could have had a little more caramel in them.

Kara's has already become very popular in the neighborhood & I often see people walking around with their little pink boxes. If you want to try a particular flavor I would suggest getting their early in the day especially on the weekend. The first Saturday we stopped by it was about 4 in the afternoon & choices were limited (the girl before me got the last Raspberry Dazzle much to my dismay). Next time we'll stop in early enough to try the Passion Fruit.

#67 - Good things....

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

'wichcraft

Matt and I headed downtown this weekend for some shopping & the Chinese New Year Parade which also meant lunch at 'wichcraft.
wichcraft
We first heard about 'wichcraft on Top Chef when the contestants had to create a sandwich for the menu. The tie-in was obvious since Tom Colicchio, the head judge on Top Chef, started 'wichcraft. Since opening in the new Westfield Center downtown this has been our lunch choice when shopping and a great way to avoid the craziness that is the Westfield food court. I think Matt's favorite food is the sandwich so this place is his dream restaurant with its interesting combinations, these are not your corner deli sandwiches. The restaurant has a nice clean modern look brighten up with two walls of windows but doesn't look like a cafeteria.
wichcraft
The sandwiches we've tried so far have been great. We've both especially liked their grilled cheese sandwiches; Matt, the cheddar with smoked ham, pear and mustard on cranberry pecan bread and me, the gruyére and caramelized onions on rye. On another visit Matt had the roasted pork with red cabbage, jalapeños and mustard on a ciabatta which he said was great. This visit I had the chicken salad with walnuts, roasted tomatoes, pickled onions and frisée on multi-grain bread. It was one of the best chicken salads I've had in a long time, the thing that made it so special was the tang of the pickled onions. Matt had the goat cheese sandwich with avocado, celery, watercress and walnut pesto on multi-grain. He felt this sandwich was a little bland & left him wishing he'd ordered the grilled cheddar instead. He also got the potato soup with parsley oil which he raved about. The sandwiches are big so unless you are really hungry get just a whole sandwich or get the half sandwich and a cup of soup. Both also come with a bag of chips (mine expired on my birthday by the way, strange)
these expire on my birthday
Now I have to say the main reason I was excited to go to 'wichcraft was for the oatmeal cookie cream'wich, basically two thin oatmeal cookies with a cinnamon cream in the middle...oh heaven. Since I first had one I've been wanting to go back for more but when we got there there wasn't one in the case! I asked just in case they just weren't out only to be told that they didn't have them anymore and that they'd been replaced with a graham cookie version instead. Ok, ok I gave the graham version a chance (as well as the peanut butter & chocolate versions)
cream cookies
It was good I liked the cream cheese tanginess of the filling but it was not a cookie I would crave, it was just missing that something special the oatmeal cookie had. The peanut butter cream'wich was just way too peanut buttery and only for the biggest fan of the legume. The cookie itself is nice & light & slightly flaky but too much for our tastes with the peanut butter filling. The chocolate cookie is truly for the chocolate fan, a very intense flavor, this is Matt's new favorite if he can't get the oatmeal. Tom, Tom, please bring back my oatmeal cookies!

Sandwiches run from $5.50 to $9.00 & include the chips, soup is $4.00 for a cup & cream'wiches are $1.00

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Banana Pancakes

Matt & I have a deal, if one of us cooks the other does the dishes. Friday after work he cooked but I just didn't feel like doing dishes so I offered to cook whatever he wanted for breakfast Saturday morning. His request...banana pancakes (he had originally told me he wanted banana bread over the weekend but said he decided pancakes would be quicker.) Luckily we had these beauties around from this week's smoothies just ripe for mashing. They even could have been a little softer.
ripe for baking

Banana Pancakes

banana pancakes

2 ripe bananas
1 1/2 C Bisquick
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
nutmeg
1/4 tsp vanilla

With a fork mash bananas leaving some lumps. Add in Bisquick and egg stir until just blended. Add in milk, cinnamon, vanilla & a pinch a nutmeg. Stir until blended there will be lumps from the banana.

Makes 12 pancakes.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

A healthy bite

We are always on the look out for meals we like that are a little lighter & a little healthier. Loving to eat as much as we do can add up! Matt was browsing through channels the other day & stopped on Healthy Appetite with Ellie Kreiger on the Food Network. This is not a show he usually likes but the recipe for Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic and White Beans caught his attention because of our current love of white beans. He cooked it for me last night.roasted tomatoes & garlic
The tomatoes & garlic roast for 45 minutes
roasted garlic
then the garlic gets squeezed out of its paper & mashed
pasta & beans
The hot cooked pasta gets drained over the beans which heats the beans for the final dish.
penne pasta with roasted tomatoes & white beans
Everything gets mixed together with a little parmesean on top & a drizzle of olive oil. Yum! Ok, healthy was good.
penne pasta with roasted tomatoes & white beans
The recipe also called for fresh basil which would have given a lovely fresh flavor but Safeway only had bulk packages of basil this week which would have gone to wasate for us.

Friday, March 2, 2007

A dessert of leftovers

Berry filled shell
We had some puff pastry shells leftover from when I made chicken pot pie not too long ago so I decided to make a dessert out of them with whatever was in the house.

2 puff pastry shells
handful of frozen blueberries (from morning smoothies)
handful of frozen blackberries (from morning smoothies)
juice of 1 lemon (leftover from baking red snapper)
a little sugar
whipping cream (also leftover from chicken pot pie)

I heated the berries, sugar & lemon juice together until it thickened slightly. The whipping cream I whipped up. Then the berries get poured over the shells & topped with whipped cream. I think it looks like it took a lot more thought than it did.

We let the berries cook down a little too much so we added a little orange juice to thin it out. It added a nice flavor but overshadowed the lemon so next tiem I'd be more careful cooking the sauce.
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