09 December 2011

ginger cookies with chocolate and apricot

Today's post is brought to you in part by the wonder bloggers/organizer extraordinaires Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of the little kitchen. These two came up with a genius idea: The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! What this means is that in the past week or so over 600 bloggers were elbow-deep in flour making cookies for fellow bloggers. In total, over 22,000 were to be delivered. For me, it was a total success: I sent out a dozen of these here ginger cookies to three other bloggers I don't even know, and in return I got a dozen cookies each from three different bloggers. It was an exciting week to get home from work and check the mail. :) I mean, do you know how much I like cookies? I didn't realize what a cookie monster I was until I made the tag cloud for my blog (check out the right sidebar! --->) and realized the two biggest entries by far were soup (duh!) and cookies! More about this brilliant swap later in the post...

Now for the super bizarro story of how I got these cookies made on time. I dropped my husband off at the airport as he headed off to a conference (*cough cough* *nerd summit*), then picked up a few things at the store on the way home. I settled in to get the cookies made. Christmas lights were on, festive music in the air, fuzzy slippers on, oven preheating... I totally had my evening on schedule. I started throwing the dry ingredients together, and then I hit a serious road block: I needed ginger. Not just fresh ginger, but also dried ginger. Craaaaaaap. 

So here's the thing: it had snowed recently. I hate driving in the snow. I didn't want to go back to the store -- I needed to get a run in before dark, and I sure didn't want to be late for my first appearance at an event with the Minnesota Food Bloggers -- the very first Big Veggie Night! Conveniently, the two closest grocery stores to me are two lovely coops that sell bulk spices. I turned off the oven, tossed on some running clothes, grabbed some laundry quarters, and was out the door before my dog even realized what was happening.

Just add flour, sugar, ginger, more ginger, butter, love, and SWEAT.
I ran to the coop (the one I had not just been to an hour or so ago -- for variety's sake of course), and grabbed the three tablespoons of ginger that I needed. I went up to the register. The lovely cashier totally realized what was going on, and clearly was curious about my intentions, but I had my game face on and I didn't feel like being chatty. Our conversation went something like this:

Cashier: "What do we have here?" (shakes the bag like a dirty tissue)
Me: "Ginger." (with rosy cheeks, in black spandex running ninja gear, slush melting off of running shoes)
Cashier: "And what are you going to make with your ginger?" (big smile)
Me: "Cookies." (places handful of quarters on the counter)

There were some dimes and pennies left behind in this transaction, but hey, I got the cookies in the mail the next morning, I got to go for a run (with extra purpose!),  and I made it to dinner on time.

A word on yield for this recipe: My dearly beloved cookbook told me one batch would make 48 half-tablespoon sized cookies. I wanted the cookies to be a good size, so that meant I'd get 24 one tablespoon sized cookies from a batch.  I needed to make at least 36, so I doubled the batch. Well... I somehow ended up making 82 standard sized cookies. Whups. New math? 

ginger cookies with chocolate and apricot
Every so slightly tweaked from Heidi Swanson's cookbook (obviously!), Super Natural Every Day

for one batch/48 small cookies

1/2 c. turbinado sugar
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 c. spelt flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 T. ground ginger
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 c. butter, cut into 1 T. pats
1/4 c. blackstrap molasses
2/3 c. granulated sugar
2 T. grated fresh ginger
1 large egg, well beaten
1 c. dried apricots, cut into bitty cubes (pea sized?)

Put the turbinado sugar in a small bowl. Chop the chocolate into 1/8 inch pieces. Don't worry if they aren't uniform; it's exciting when you find a big chunk in a cookie! In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, and salt.

Heat the butter in a saucepan until it is just barely melted. Stir in the molasses, fine-grain sugar, and fresh ginger. The mixture should be warm, but not hot. Whisk in the egg. Pour this mixture over the flour and add the apricots. Stir until barely combined. Stir in the chocolate. Chill for at least 30 minutes (over dinner, perhaps?)

Preheat the oven to 350 F with racks in the top an bottom third of the oven. Line two making sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop out the dough in tablespoons. Tear that ball in half and roll each piece into a ball. Roll each ball in the dish with the turbinado sugar and place on the cookie sheet. Bake the cookies, two sheets at a time, for 7 to 10 minutes. They'll smell done, but also be puffy and the bottoms will be darkened. Don't worry that the cookies are still a bit mushy, they'll set as they cool. Let them cool a bit on the pan to firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Now for a big thank you to the swappers who sent me their cookies -- you really helped me get into the holiday spirit! I look forward to reading your posts, because I am going to need these recipes! I promise to keep the good karma wheel going.

Top: Chocolate Cherry Nuggets from Backstage Balance
Bottom Left: Puerto Rican Shortbread Cookies from La Casa De Sweets
Bottom Right: Buckeye Cookies from Lace, Etc.

06 December 2011

butternut squash and chickpea stew with israeli couscous

SHOO FLY PIE: It's real!

Well jeez, there's a lot to recap here. Let me begin with a belated Thanksgiving-themed aside. I mean, giving thanks should not be a seasonal gesture. But this post does involve squash, cinnamon, and cranberries, so it probably has a hint of seasonality to it anyways.

I went back home for the entire week of Thanksgiving, and I think the best way to summarize the trip is to be thankful for a large number of people, places, and opportunities. I am thankful for quality time with family. For getting to have a little chat with my great grandfather. For running a 5k with my sister. For the memories and stories shared while browsing my great grandmother's jewelry. For old friends, especially when hanging out is just like it used to be. For random care packages full of apple butter from lovely people. For cooking with old pals and teasing a corgi. For the beauty of the Valley and Ridge. For the continued growth of my favorite hometown market. For the store that employs grandmas to bake their shoo fly pies just right. For my three year old nephew, who distracted everyone from my weirdo veggie sausage at the Thanksgiving dinner table with his bowl of cereal with a side of hot dog. :)

And on a less vacation-y note: I am thankful for my husband, who loves and encourages me 110%. I am thankful for my cat's continued antics and my dog's ability to melt my heart at least a hundred times a day. I am also thankful for my job, where my co-workers make it fun every day, even though we work in a sunless dungeon. And thanks to you, for reading my blog! 

Now I will talk to you about some soup, because we all know I love soup. Well, I guess it is more of a stew... woo variety? :)

This recipe was first made possible by the thoughtful nature of my sister in law. Backstory: there was a totally amazing cold salad served at my wedding with israeli couscous and grapes in it. Since she's a whiz in the kitchen, my darling relative went home and recreated it. Once she sent me the recipe, I was all about making it. There was one problem: I could not find the giant couscous anywhere! Cue the care package full of couscous. My hero! I believe it is now available at one of the more upscale grocers in the area, under the name of pearl couscous. So go make some tasty stew full of seasonal goodness. If you can't find the cute couscous, I recommend orzo or ditalini (a favorite pasta in our kitchen -- it's so cute!). We also make this with dried cranberries, but I'll bet dried cherries are super amazing too.  I think when I grow up we'll be sure to serve this at our Thanksgiving dinners. :)