08 December 2010

salty chocolate cookies

You need to make these cookies

Warning: Once you share them at a social event, you will be expected to make them pretty much every time. Seriously, once I made a double batch (~80 cookies) and they were gone. I was impressed.  I'd probably make them for an upcoming holiday potluck, but I'll all out of brown sugar from making hot buttered rum. Poor me. ;)

Salty Chocolate Cookies (of deliciousness)
tweaked from post on Brown Eyed Baker

1 1/4 c. flour
1/6 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/6 c. dark cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking soda
11 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature (very important! don't rush it!!)
2/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
kosher salt for sprinkling

1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
3. With the mixer off, add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on and off low speed (pulse) for a second or two about 5 times so that the flour mixture gets incorporated. Then mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, just until the flour disappears into the dough (the dough will look crumbly).
4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in two. Shape each half into a 9-inch log (oh yes, you know what this looks like). Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Sometimes I make the batter logs before bedtime and bake 'em over breakfast the next day. The dough can be refrigerated up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you don’t need to defrost before baking – just slice the logs into cookies and baking the cookies 1 minute longer. Brilliance!)
5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½-inch thick (really, I use a ruler!). Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them. Sprinkle a small amount of extra salt on top of each round.
7. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 8-10 minutes – they won’t look done, and won’t be firm, but that’s how they should be. I take them out once they are puffy; don't wait too long or you get some very sad looking burnt wafers.
8. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

29 November 2010

pancakes: I cannot live without them

Oh, the holidays. This past week took me to the East Coast for some serious family time. It encompassed too many major events -- the holiday itself, a death in the family, a birth in the family, travelling, my folks, my in-laws... too much to take in over a week. Of course, the blogging suffered (I even brought along stuff to post! Really!). I needed every moment with my family I could manage. 

But now we're back home in our cozy-wozy apartment, with our yowly cat and our cuddly doggie (somebody decided it would be fun to roll in poop during doggie daycare while we were away -- just don't breathe in while cudding!). And I went to work, as normal. And finally, I can relax. How do I relax? Aha! Talk about food to you people! Yes! So this trip did involve some cooking (read: therapy), including apple butter crumb cake, soup (duh!), and of course, pancakes. You see, pancakes are an important tradition in our house. My husband and I make them every single weekend. In fact, a friend of mine recently told me that we sound like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, spending our weekend mornings leisurely making pancakes, clipping coupons, and watching Hulu and/or Netflix. The tradition goes back to our Bisquik-based batters in college, and has certainly progressed since then. We used the standard in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, other delicious iterations, then settled on an orange-blueberry cornmeal recipe for a good long while, incorporated a few good tricks from Baking Illustrated and have now honed these versions into our own standard. It seemed fitting them we made pancakes for dinner at my sister's house over the holiday -- it is pretty much the way I say "I love you" with food. I could write you a ten-page essay on pancakes, easily.

So I encourage you to make pancakes for dinner, not just for breakfast. Plus you know you are sooo over the pumpkin/cranberry/cinnamon-y recipes that everyone else is posting these days :). It's baking for mealtime!

Our pancakes!
recipe by tofusurprise

1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. wheat flour
3 T. cornmeal
1/4 c. oats
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1 T. sugar
2 T. butter, melted
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. buttermilk (we use milk soured with lemon juice)
1/4 c. milk (to thin as needed)
1 mushy, ripe banana, quartered then diced
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 200 F (lowest setting) with a cookie sheet inside. This is to keep all the pancakes warm so you can all eat them at once.
2. Combine flours, sugar, cornmeal, oats, salt, powder, and soda in a medium mixing bowl.
3. In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix up buttermilk. While it sits, melt the butter and turn on the griddle over medium heat. 
4. Add the egg and vanilla to the milk and mix. Add the butter and mix well.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. With a rubber scraper, mix the batter about halfway (looks chunky, visible flour-y blobs) and then add the banana and chocolate chips.
6. Mix until just combined. If it looks too thick, thin with up to 1/4 c. milk. It should be thick enough to suspend the chocolate chips.
7. Time to calibrate the griddle! Take a tablespoon of batter and place it in the middle of the griddle (tee hee!). Wait one minute. Flip the mini-pancake and evaluate the golden-ness of the pancake. Cook opposite side ~45 seconds, and then either eat it (gotta make sure it tastes okay, right?) or stick it in the oven on the cookie sheet.
8. Once the griddle temperature is right, use a 1/4 c. measuring cup and pour out four pancakes onto the griddle. They should cook for ~1:45 to 2:30, until the bubbles on the edges of the pancakes pop and don't fill back in.
9. Flip the pancakes, cook the other sides for ~1:30, and put them in the oven. 
10. Give a quick stir to the batter and make sure it is homogeneous -- it tends to stratify, and you want to make sure each batch is just as good!
11. Repeat until done! Time for pancakes! Don't forget to turn off the griddle and the oven!
12. Serving suggestions: My husband says they are so good he prefers them plain (weird, I know). I like some protein in the morning, so I usually put plain greek yogurt on top if I have it, then maple syrup. Otherwise, I like standard yogurt, peanut butter, or mascarpone on top, usually with roasted cashews and/or almonds as well.


18 November 2010

tofu & broccoli curry

I guess I owe you all a recipe involving tofu, given this blog's title. I'm pretty stuck on the baked goods and soup recipes this time of year, but really I swear sometimes I cook things that have to be eaten with a fork. As it turns out, most of those forkable foods are curries. This one is pretty simple and sometimes I can even have the curry finished up before the rice is done. It turns out the hardest thing about curries is having the spices on hand. Peruse a few recipes, and you'll have the basics memorized: curry powder, turmeric (I am known at my workplace for my yellow lunches), cumin, coriander.

Tofu & Broccoli Curry
(adapted from Curried Cauliflower in The Complete Book of Indian Cooking)
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. flour
1/2 c. water
1 tsp. chili powder
1 T. ground coriander
1 t. cumin
1 t. ground mustard
1 t. turmeric
salt, to taste
2 stalks of broccoli, cut up to desired size (fun fact: peel the stalk and then cube it -- tastes good/no waste!!)
block of extra-firm tofu
14 oz. can of coconut milk
3 T. lemon juice
1 T. lime juice
plain yogurt (garnish)

1. Mix the flour with a little water to make a paste. Add the chili, coriander, cumin, mustard, turmeric, and salt. Add the remaining water and keep mixing to blend the ingredients well. (note: add cayenne if you want it to be spicier)
2. Heat the oil (we use a wok), add the spice paste and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. If the sauce has become too thick, add a little hot water.
3. Add the broccoli, tofu, and coconut milk. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook until the broccoli is done enough for you (al dente?). Add the lemon and lime juice, mix well and serve over white basmati rice, with a blob of yogurt on top.

Outtake: notice how jealous my cat is that I am taking pictures of the food for you.

11 November 2010

Must. Use. Peanut. Butter.

Coupon clipping, while well-intentioned, can sometimes incite some problems. And by problems, I mean, things taking over my pantry. I thought we didn't have any peanut butter (smooth, that is, for me, baking, cooking, and the dog), so I got two jars, saved some pocket change with a coupon. Turns out, I'd thought the exact same thing about ten days before that. Plus the already opened jar, there were five jars of peanut butter in my pantry. It isn't like people come over to judge me on the status of my pantry, but I feel compelled to whittle down my stock as fast as possible just in case someone decides to point and yell at me about saving up for the next Y2K or something.

So, peanut butter everything! I needed a recipe that required a large quantity of peanut butter (none of this 1/3 cup or less business). Ask, and ye shall receive! The next morning or so, this beautiful concoction was sitting in my Google Reader homepage. I followed the recipe as written and they came out just right.

07 November 2010

rigatoni with mascarpone & almonds

I have a guilty pleasure, and its name is mascarpone cheese. Okay, and lattes made with sweetened condensed milk, fine. Basically, whenever my husband is working in the lab and I'm out at the grocery store, I buy it (and illicitly grab a fancy coffee too from time to time). I never really know what I'm really going to do with it, but I want it. As it turns out, it is quite tasty on pancakes or on toasted crusty bread with honey. But I always have vague recollections of recipes that call for it, and for some reason I think that sounds fancy and good.

When the huzz is off at the lab, I also tend to get more gourmet-y than usual while making dinner. This way, he doesn't have to put up with any spectacular kitchen fails and I can go nuts with new recipes. One of these last times I had a) bought mascarpone (natch), and b) my friend from work had brought in a ton of beautiful, curly parsley for the taking so as to not waste it all in the first frost of the year, and had just so happened to grab a bunch. I found this recipe by the good people of Cook's Illustrated and it was a done deal.

Rigatoni with Mascarpone & Almonds
(adapted from "Fettucine with Mascarpone and Walnuts", in The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles)

1 c. roasted almonds
1 lb. rigatoni
2 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 lb. mascarpone cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
medium bag of spinach
2 T. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
ground black pepper

1. Bring 4 qt. of water to a boil in a large pot for cooking the pasta.
2. Grind up the nuts in a food processor (I suggest the Magic Bullet for these little jobs) to whatever sized bits you prefer. I had a range from nearly almond butter dust up to halves.
3. Wilt the spinach and set it aside.
4. Add 1 T. salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until al dente. Reserave 1/2 c. of the cooking water; drain the pasta and put it back in the cooking pot. Mix in the butter, mascarpone, Parmesan, almonds, spinach, parsley, salt, and peppet to taste.
5. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to keep the mixture moist (the mascarpone will melt and disappear).

***And also, if you are not familiar with America's Test Kitchen, get off of my silly little blog and get on over to the Cook's Illustrated website. It's cooking for scientists! Or rather, it is cooking... with the scientific method! I love it! I like that they provide little essays on why their recipe works the best with their variables and results, it is so wonderful and nerdy. I recently saw that they are publishing a Soups & Stews cookbook, and I am pretty close to going back on my no-more-new-cookbooks! policy. Now if they just come out with a veggie-friendly cookbook (not likely), I would be way more likely to never ever buy a cookbook again.

03 November 2010

muffins: always a good idea

You know what's almost as good as soup?? MUFFINS. Well, actually, if we're going for the anything-other-than-mealtime category, muffins always win for me. Okay fine, they encroach the breakfast category too. They are better than cakes, cookies, bars, probably even ice cream if you ask me. The thing is, I sometimes forget how easy it is to throw a batch together (they do call them quick breads for a reason!). I made these on a whim one chilly night, and was pretty stoked to pack one up in the morning as my afternoon snack at work. They taste a lot like bran muffins, which is great, because I looove bran muffins. I think next time I'll throw in some frozen corn too, just to vary the texture a bit.

Also, check out how freaking photogenic these puppies are, even with my severely lacking photography skills:

Corn & Molasses Muffins
(a wee bit tweaked, from The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest, by Mollie Katzen)

butter or Pam (if muffin pan is non-stick)
1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. yellow corn meal
1 1/2 c. milk (I used whole)
1 egg
5 T. melted no-salt butter
4 T. blackstrap molasses
3 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
dash cloves

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, if need be.
2. Combine flour, soda, powder, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the corn meal, and make a well in the center.
3. In a separate container, beat together the remaining ingredients. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir just enough to combine thoroughly.
4. Fill the muffin cups just up to the edge of the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan right away, and cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before eating.

31 October 2010

Fall fever: Apple Butter Crumb Cake/tastes like home

Well jeez, it would seem that everywhere I look, left and right, people are all over the autumnal spice flavors. It must be in the air. I've been craving perfect apple butter. At the standard chain grocery, I could only find name-brand HFCS-laced crap. Luckily I snagged some Knudsen's apple butter at the co-op, and it was pretty good.

I've been kind of homesick recently. There are plenty of times where I just wish for a second I could look out my window and see the gorgeous rolling green hills of Pennsylvania's Valley and Ridge. My mom has been going through a lot, and I just want to be there for her, to hug her. And you ask, how does this relate to your apple butter craving? Well, apple butter is one of those quintessential Pennsylvania Dutch foods, and I was born and raised in good old south-central PA. Given I am a vegetarian, I only feel nostalgic for the sweet items, like whoopie pies, shoo-fly pie, fastnachts, and pretzels. Delicious.

When I make the pilgrimage back to PA Dutch country, there are a few places I always want to visit. When I think of fall, I think of apples. When I think of apples, I immediately think of Brown's Orchards. Seriously, they have real apple cider, yummy hot and cold, and also as a slushie!! Amazing!! They had a barrel of smaller apples by the door so kids that came with their parents could have a free apple for visiting the store. Cute and nutritious, no? I lamented my need for apple butter, and my sister answered my call: She shipped me not one, but TWO jars of apple butter from Brown's! Oh, the delight to have it in my custody, and to share a bit of my childhood with my husband. It will tide me over until my next visit with the fam.

So I needed to use the goods, to display their flavor. I grew up having it on toast, as my great-grandmother showed me, but there had to be another way. I recalled this wonderful crumble I'd found. It is tasty, and you can throw it together very quickly. My substitution: apple butter instead of jam, and it is perfect. The author wrote that she found there was too much crumble topping so she froze it, but really people, when can you have too much crumble topping?? As the picky-eater child that I was, I always took the piece of crisp with more crisp than fresh fruit. So by all means, if you prefer less, maybe halve the crumble recipe, but me and the huzz both agree the full recipe yields maximum deliciousness. I found myself wanting to add more spices to the crumble, but don't! You want the dominant flavor to be the apple butter, right? Trust me, you do.

26 October 2010

Quinoa... casserole? bake? gratin?

Who loves quinoa? I do!! I love it so much I tried to grow it in my garden. Probably could have harvested it, but I let my garden go, umm, free range shall we say?, so I couldn't bear to be seen in my garden for fear of neighbors tsk-tsking. That's what I get for having it in the front yard; everyone can see my neglect.

I digress (not unusual). So yes, quinoa, one of the few grain-like food that is a complete protein, which is mighty convenient for my vegetarian self. So it isn't actually a grain, but a seed, just like real-deal wild rice.

I can't remember the first thing I made with quinoa; it may even be this dish. My husband and I probably just keeping making it to revive our argument over how to classify it in terms of warm-savory-food-baked-in-a-dish. Anyways, I got this recipe from Recipes for Health from the New York Times. The recently revamped it and called for squash instead of spinach (tricksy!). I personally like it with spinach, red pepper, and apple. I also prefer a few other additions other than sage from the spice rack: parsley, thyme, and some red pepper flakes. Gruyere is awesome, but I am cheap and I go for gruyere-like cheese, such as comte.

Next stop: quinoa in a sweet dish instead of a savory one. Any suggestions?

21 October 2010

More soup!: Jalapeno Corn Chowder

The following recipe is one of those oldies-but-goodies I mentioned. It is quite the crowd pleaser. Perhaps the biggest compliment was last Christmas when I made this for my mom at home and she downed three bowls because it was so good. I was so hell-bent on making it that I brought along my immersion blender in my checked luggage. Hey, if it is December, I can't go very many days without it!

There are many variations that you can try with this. The recipe is pretty low on spices, so you can ramp it up however you'd like. A little chipotle in adobo sauce is quite good now and then, or plain with bay leaf and S&P, or oodles of cilantro and Sriracha sauce. You could make it vegan or gluten-free, and it'd still be awesome. I'm notoriously bad at leaving things mildly spiced. When I made it for my mom, I held back as her palate is much more delicate than mine. She knows me too well -- she refused to buy red pepper flakes for me for fear I'd burn her tongue with them!

The cookbook for this is one of my favorites. None of the recipes have disappointed me. Well, the Chilled Avocado Soup totally sucked, but that was my fault on insisting when our avocados were totally unripe. Ew.

Here you go!

Corn Chowder
(adapted from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. coarsely chopped onion
1 carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (red is best, but green is fine too)
1 jalapeno, diced (I keep the seeds in)
1 celery stalk, diced (leaves too!)
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 c. vegetarian stock
2 c. frozen corn
2 yukon gold potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
1 c. milk
S&P to taste
shredded cheddar for garnish
red pepper flakes for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the vegetable stock, corn, and potato. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the milk and blend soup to desired consistency.
4. Garnish with shredded cheddar.

To class up your soup experience, serve it with some freshly made crusty bread, and some vino. Last time we had it with this crazy Dry Pinot Noir Rose (I know, what?!), which was tasty and quite unique in color.

20 October 2010

Pumpkin Posole

It is now fall; therefore, I will posting a lot about soup. Let me explain: I LOVE SOUP. As soon as there was a chill in the air and I could stand to cook warm things again (begone, smoothies for dinner!), I was on it.

This one is a new experiment. We have some time-tested faves, but more on those later. I once had the pleasure to try some much more authentic posole that a friend made, and have since wanted to try it myself. While hunting for a good-looking recipe, I came across one on the internet that was just too unique to pass up. I made a few substitutions to make it vegetarian-friendly, but the concept did not disappoint. I'm not sure it can really be called a posole, but more likely a-stew-that-includes-hominy-so-there.

Here's the recipe, with my additions and substitutions:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14 oz. can of black beans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup carrot (cut up into ~1/4 inch disks)
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 can of chopped green chiles (by all means, if you have real roasted ones, now is the time to use them!!)
  • 1 14 oz. can of pumpkin
  • 1 3/4 cups low-salt veggie broth
  • 1 14 oz. can hominy
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (the toothpaste tube kind)
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (the toothpaste tube kind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Heat oil in large saucepan at medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, cook until crisp-tender (~4 minutes).
3. Add carrot, celery, bell pepper, cook until crisp-tender, another ~4 minutes.
4. Stir in pumpkin, black beans, green chiles, broth, hominy, yogurt, cilantro, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and nutmeg.
5. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until flavors are blended. (I like to gauge done-ness by the texture of the carrots)