Friday, February 21, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies.  I have tried many different recipes and I always come back to my tried and true Nestle Toll House Recipe.  Perhaps its just comfort, or maybe after baking so many cookies I know what my preference is, all I know is that I love these!  This recipe can be used with shortening which does yield a fluffier cookie, however, butter provides a richer flavor and a nice balance between a crisp edge with a soft center.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Adapted from Nestle Toll House)
1 cup butter at room temperature
3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2-3 cups flour (I always check after 2 1/2 cups to see how sticky the dough is)
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with a non stick baking sheet, my favorite brand is Silpat. Cream butter and both sugars together.  Add eggs one at a time, beating in between.  Add vanilla, salt, and baking soda.  Mix together.  Add flour one cup at a time mixing well until dough is not sticking to fingers.  With a spoon stir in chocolate chips.  Drop cookie dough by the spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Christmas Dinner

Our Christmas Dinner in Chicago this year was one of the best meals I've made-- yes, it was that good! Prime Rib, Roasted Pumpkin Soup, Cider-glazed bacon green beans, twice-baked potatoes, grandma's rolls and a berry punch.

Our Christmas spread, complete with baby H toes peeking from his bumbo seat :)

Prime Rib
Remove from refrigerator a few hours before serving, let warm to room temperature. Season with kosher salt and black pepper, and any other herbs you desire (I used a Santa Maria Blend). Brown in pan over the stove to seal in the flavor and brown the meat. Pre-heat oven to 375 and cook for approximately 30 minutes (for 2 lbs); checking on it frequently with a meat thermometer to desired temperature (Medium=120 degrees).

Roasted Pumpkin Soup 
1 large pie pumpkin, about 3 lb., peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
2 Tbs. unsalted butter 
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced 
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
4 Tbs. chicken stock concentrate mixed with 6 cups water 
2 fresh thyme sprigs 
1 bay leaf 
1 cup heavy cream 
2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 

Preheat an oven to 450°F.
In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, carrots, the 2 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are browned and tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside. In the same pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, thyme sprigs and bay leaf, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Working in batches, puree the apple-stock mixture with the roasted vegetables in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls or cocottes. Garnish with the parsley

Cider-Glazed Bacon Green Beans 
Olive oil
8 ounces bacon or pancetta, finely diced
1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 lbs Green Beans
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning 
¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped 

Cider Glaze (recipe below) 
Blanch green beans. Place a medium-size non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; once hot, add in the diced bacon and allow it to crisp up until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes; using a slotted spoon, remove the crisped bacon from the pan and place onto a paper towel-lined bowl/plate to drain, and set aside; reserve about 2- 2 ½ tablespoons of the bacon drippings, and discard the rest; next, lightly clean out the pan you crisped the bacon in, and add back into it the reserved bacon drippings, and turn the heat on the medium-high; once hot, add in the sliced red onion, and allow it to caramelize until golden-brown for about 15-20 minutes; remove from pan and set aside. Next, toss the green beans with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the sea salt, cracked pepper and Italian seasoning in pan until warm. Toss in the bacon, onions and chopped toasted walnuts (if too hot, use a metal spoon to toss), and lightly drizzle the Cider Glaze over the Brussels sprouts, starting with about half of it, and using all, if desired.

Cider Glaze ingredients:
½ cup apple cider vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Into a small, heavy-bottom sauce pan, add the ½ cup apple cider vinegar, the ½ cup sugar and 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and whisk together; place the sauce pan over medium heat, and once the mixture begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, or until thicken up and syrupy; turn the heat off, and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar; allow to cool slightly and drizzle over the Brussels sprouts while still warm; or to make ahead, completely cool the glaze and keep it in a small dish covered with plastic wrap in the fridge until ready to use, at which point you can gently re-heat it stove top. 

Twice Baked Potatoes 
Russett Potatoes 
1 tbs Butter per potato 
1/4 cup Sour Cream per potato 
1/8 cup Milk per potato 
3 green onions, chopped 
1/2 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese per potato 
Salt and Pepper to taste 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes, poke holes with a fork in each one. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour. While potatoes are baking, shred cheese, chop green onions, prepare milk, sour cream and butter (I eyeball the amounts for each, and adjust to taste).  Check on potatoes, remove from oven when you can easily slip a fork through. Cut into each potato with a knife in an oval shape and hollow out the middle of the potato, placing the inner parts of the potato in a mixing bowl. Add butter, sour cream and milk, mix well. When consistency is how you want it, add cheese, chives, and any other mixing you desire. Salt and pepper to taste.  Spoon mixture into each potato, top with cheddar cheese and place back in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Berry Punch 
1 liter Sprite 
1 can Berry Blend Concentrate 
Mix together 

Grandma's Rolls (separate Recipe to be added) 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Olive Oil and Sea Salt Popcorn

My most favorite snack was introduced to me by my neighbor, Miss Courtney. The flavors are simple and clean and I personally think it is far superior to anything store bought. All you need is an air popper, your favorite popcorn kernels (I prefer white popcorn kernels), olive oil, and some fine sea salt.

Popcorn Kernels
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil (my favorite is Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil found at Trader Joes
Fine Sea Salt to taste

Air pop the kernels per the manufacturer instructions on the air popper. Once popped, drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil toss to coat and add sea salt to taste. I typically start by adding some salt into my hand, sprinkle some on, and add more if needed.