Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tips: Preventing Flat Cookies

Here is the scenario:
You are craving a batch of cookies.
You pull out a recipe and start putting things together -- everything is going well and the batter looks great. They go in the oven and puff up and suddenly begin to spread out. Before you know it you have a sheet full of cookies as flat as pancakes. Like these:

Now, they still taste ok, but the texture is off. Sometimes they are too crunchy. And it can be frustrating. What went wrong?

Here are some strategies to help prevent this from happening:

1. When you cream your butter, be careful not to heat it too much. It should be pliable, but not weepy.

2. Chill your dough, and keep the batter in the fridge between batches. Some people even freeze their chocolate chips to help keep the cookie in better shape.

3. Mound your dough higher when putting it on your baking sheet

4. You could be over-mixing. It adds air, which causes them to puff up and deflate (like a souffle). It also causes the butter to melt more. So go easy on it.

5. Check the expiration date on your baking powder and baking soda. Also, baking soda can tend to make cookies flat, so try reducing that a little.

6. Use medium or large eggs (not extra large). Too much egg will flatten a cookie. If you are only making 1/2 a batch of cookies and there is an uneven number of eggs, use the egg yolk instead of a whole egg.

7. Try swapping 1/2 of the butter for shortening or crisco. Cookies using all butter will flatten out a bit more.

Baking is a science, with many factors to think about. Good Luck!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cowboy Cookies

These are the Texas Governor's mansion cookies. The first time I made them, I accidentally omitted the oatmeal... and they were good, but flattened in the oven and turned out pretty crunchy. The second time I did everything right and viola! Beautiful, and with such great flavors. They were good warm, but even better the next day.

makes about 3 dozen large cookies

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cinnamon
tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
3 cups chopped chocolate
2 cups sweetened flake coconut
2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 (176 C). In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until smooth and creamy. Then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat in vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate, oats, pecans and coconut
Drop abou 1/4 cup of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned (mine were done at 12 minutes!) Rotate the sheet halfway through for even baking.
Remove cookies to a rack to cool. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mujaddara (Middle Eastern Pilaf)

adapted from Avocado Bravado

In an effort to diversify my cooking repertoire, I took a baby step with this Middle Eastern rice pilaf and was pleasantly surprised. Served with a side of greens, it was a great easy dinner that was healthy and easy on the wallet. The caramelized onions are cooked slowly to give a sweet and spicy kick to the rice and lentils.

Serves 2-3

4 onions, sliced
3/4 cup lentils
3/4 cup rice
olive oil
1/2 Tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin

Heat oil and a dash of salt in a large non-stick skillet on medium low heat. Add onions, sugar and spices and stir every few minutes for half of an hour. At this point, the onions should be softening and turning a nice golden brown. Turn up the heat and cook the onions for an additional 15 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Once done, set aside.

In the meantime, prepare the lentils and rice according to their package directions. (You can cook them together if you want, just add the lentils a little after the rice so they don't become too soft)

Mix together lentils, rice, most of the onions, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, garnished with remaining onions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paradise Tomato Pineapple Dip

from Paradise Bakery

I tried this dip at Paradise Bakery in Salt Lake and it was a flavor explosion. So I looked it up when I got home and whipped some up. It was simple and the unusual flavors really pop together. Be sure to pair it with a high quality baguette and bring it to your next party.

2-3 skinny baguettes, sliced

11 oz sundried tomatoes
3 cups canned pineapple
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
3 oz garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp soy sauce
6 oz olive oil

Place all ingredients except the olive oil and bread in a food processor. Process until slightly chunky. Slowly add in the olive oil and stir until combined. Refrigerate until used.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Borscht (Beetroot Stew)

from Mandi

No offense to the Slavic language, but I think the word Borscht sounds pretty awful. So when my friend Mandi recommended this recipe, I was a bit nervous to try it out. In the end I was pleasantly surprised! I loved how in spite of how simple the ingredients were the taste was really rich and delicious. I used beef in my soup, but I think it would be great vegetarian as well.

8-10 beets, chopped into smallish pieces
2-3 carrots, chopped into larger pieces
3-4 potatoes, chopped into larger pieces
1/2 lb of ground beef or pork (meat chunks would also be good)
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced cabbage
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
4-6 cups of stock or water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp rosemary
Sour cream

Saute meat with onion and garlic and spices. Once cooked through, drain grease and add in beets and saute for several minutes. Then add carrot and potato pieces, saute for several minutes and throw the whole mixture into a large soup pot. Add cabbage, bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grapefruit Cupcakes

Adapted from Crepes of Wrath

The first thing I noticed about these cupcakes is that they were beautiful. Really, the icing is a nice soft pink and the cake a cheerful golden color and they were so nice. Luckily they also taste great. The cake has a little fruity tang that is complemented by the icing.

Makes about 12 large cupcakes

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
zest of 1-2 grapefruits
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup oil

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2-3 Tbsp grapefruit juice.

Preheat oven to 350 (176 C). Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, combine sugar and grapefruit zest and stir well, until the sugar takes on a nice light orange color. Then add eggs, vanilla and yogurt to the sugar/zest mixture. Beat well. Mix in the dry ingredients slowly, then fold in the vegetable oil. Line or grease muffin tins and fill each cup 3/4 full of batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when touched and are a lightly golden color.

While baking the cupcakes, create the icing by mixing together the sugar and grapefruit juice. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, drizzle the icing on top and enjoy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

7-Layer Dip

from my mom.

I love 7-layer dip! It is so tasty and easy to make. There are endless variations out there, some with ground beef or different types of beans (black, pinto or kidney) and cheeses. So feel free to add anything that could add to the mexican flavors. I'm sure you could make some healthier substitutions to make it a little lighter without sacrificing too much taste.

2 cups refried beans*
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup cheese, grated
1 jar black or Spanish olives, sliced
3-4 stalks of green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole or 1-2 avocados, diced
1 bunch of cilantro, minced
*I also sprinkle a little chili powder or add jalepeƱos on top for some spice
1 bag of tortilla chips

In a large casserole dish, lay down a thick slab of refried beans until covering the bottom evenly. Then add the sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes, olives, green onions and cheese. Garnish with cilantro and sprinkle chili powder on top. Serve with tortilla chips on the side.

*In Europe it is difficult to find refried beans. SO, you can make your own by heating up 2 cans red kidney beans with 1 Tbsp butter and 1/3 cup salsa, then puree.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sundried Tomato Tilapia

This is a great mixture of my favorite flavors

2 white fish filets
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1 tsp garlic powder
lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1/4 white wine
sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup Feta, crumbled

Preheat broiler. Mix together spices in a bowl. In a baking dish, melt butter and brush butter on fish and sprinkle on spices and arrange onion pieces all around. Broil for 7 minutes, flip fish and add more butter and wine. Sprinkle remaining spice mixture on the fish and broil 2-3 more minutes. Add tomato and cheese and broil for 2 more minutes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ben's Favorite Dark Chocolate Cake

adapted from Allrecipes

I am usually not a big cake person. If asked, I usually would much prefer brownies or a nice fruit pie. But this cake is an exception. It is my new go-to recipe for chocolate cake, so dark that it just might be sinful. It came out so moist and wonderful, and paired with the frosting it is absolutely divine.

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter (about 225 grams)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup butter
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven 350 degrees (175 C). Grease and flour 3 nine-inch round pans (I used 2 nine-inch pans and used the rest of the batter to make cupcakes).

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over cocoa and whisk until smooth. Let mixture cool. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a third, large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time and stir in vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture. Spread batter evenly between the pans, filling them about 3/4 full.

Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, mix butter until smooth and creamy. Then add sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add milk in slowly, mixing constantly until frosting is of desired consistency. Allow cake to cool thoroughly before frosting.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cannellini Bean Dip

adapted from Jenn Cuisine

I have been having a love affair with beans. They taste so good and are so good for you and are so filling! Unfortunately they don't take a very good picture. This bean dip was terrific and very hearty, I served it with toast and salad and it was great. The recipe calls for tuna, but I think it would be better without it. I also think it would be great with some cheese mixed in and maybe even heated up... so experimentation is recommended.

4 cups white cannellini beans, canned (drained and rinsed) or already cooked
1/2 lemon, juiced (about 2-3 Tbsp)
olive oil, as needed (I used a little more than 1/4 cup, taken from the sundried tomatoes)
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup canned tuna
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
salt and pepper to taste

Add beans and lemon juice to a food processor, and pulse until it is all smooth. If too thick, slowly pour in olive oil until it is the consistency of scoopable dip. Mix in tomatoes, tuna, herbs salt and pepper. Serve with pita bread or chopped vegetables.

Monday, March 1, 2010

White Bean and Lentil Stew

Adapted from Dana Treat

This was a great stew. It's vegan and healthy and so tasty. Pour it on top of brown rice and be prepared to feel good about your diet.

Olive oil
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
1 15-oz (about 425 grams) garbanzo or white beans, rinsed and drained
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into matchsticks
1 Tbsp dried parsley
10 oz (about 275 grams) spinach
1/2 head cabbage, finely chopped
Lemon wedges
salt and pepper (to taste)

Heat a large pot, add oil and saute the onions and garlic until soft. Add tomato paste and spices and keep stirring until fragrant (about 1 minute). Stir in broth, water and lentils and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cook for about 15 minutes (or once the lentils are almost tender).

Add garbanzo beans, carrots, cabbage and parsley. Cover and simmer until the carrots are very tender. Stir in spinach slowly and allow for it to wilt. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls of rice and garnish with parsley and lemon.