Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oatmeal Coconut Crispies

If you know me very well at all, you know that given the choice, I will almost always choose savory over sweet.  Unless I have these cookies anywhere in the near vicinity, that is.  I discovered this recipe a couple months before my youngest daughter, Claire, was born.  I do tend to have a major sweet tooth when I'm pregnant so I thought maybe these were so appealing for that reason.  Not true.  Not at all.  I made them last week and ate 8 in one day.  You HAVE to try these.  I know what you're thinking.  No chocolate?  After you eat these you are going to wonder why you even bother to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. 

One other thing, the name of this recipe speaks some truth.  These are crispy cookies.  In the world of cookies, there are 2 kinds--crispy and chewy.  I happen to be such a crispy cookie person so these especially float my boat.  They are even a little chewy on the inside for you chewy cookie people.

You will need the following ingredients for this recipe:

Those are pecans hiding over there in the left hand corner...

This is the only recipe I've seen that calls for you to whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and then stir in the vanilla.  I don't see how this could possibly change the outcome of the cookies, but I don't dare not try it.  If these cookies didn't come out exactly the way I love them I'd have to throw them out.  Or give them to my Stroller Strides friends as I always do.  And then make more for myself.

This is my secret ingredient:  coconut!

Pecans are my most favorite nut!

Instead of using these as drop cookies, divide the dough in half and form in the shape of a log on 2 sheets of wax paper.  I usually make one batch right away, and the other in 2 days when I've polished off all from the first batch. 

The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple days and in the freezer for a long time.  I always freeze it because I never actually think I am going to be baking them again in 2 days.  But I always do.  And for some reason I always wrap up both of them even though I am baking one of them right away.  I'm a little weird like that.  And I'm obviously not very green.  Oops!

Then you just slice the dough with a knife and place on the baking sheet. 

And in exactly 12 minutes you will have the most perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, delicious cookie!  And in less than 12 hours, you will have none left. 

Oatmeal Coconut Crispies
Adapted from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs(I like mine extra large and room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350.

In a lare mixing bowl, cream butter with both sugars until well combined.

In a separate bowl, bear eggs together.  Add vanilla and stir.  Add to the sugar/butter mixture and mix well.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Mix carefully into the egg/butter mixture until well combined.  Now add the oats, pecans, and coconut and mix well to combine.

Divide the dough in half and place each half of the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper.  Roll the dough into a log and then wrap tightly in the waxed paper.  Now you can either chill or freeze one half of the dough and slice the other half into cookie rounds. 

Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for exactly 12 minutes if you like a crispy cookie, 10 if you like them chewy.  I also turn the baking sheet around at exactly 6 minutes to ensure even cooking.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

While Fall has certainly come and gone...the autumnal squash has not!  January and February bring a lot of gray skies here in Northern California and I crave a big bowl of soup most days.  This year I think I found a "keeper" in this recipe.  It is delicious, sweet and savory,  and very healthy!  It also doubles as great babyfood and combines a few different veggies...and a fruit!

This recipe is very simple, provided you have an extra hour and a very sharp knife to hack through a butternut squash!  Or, you can do as I did this time, and pick up an already peeled and cubed squash at Costco.  I know Trader Joe's also carries it this way, but not in as large of a quantity. 

These are all of the ingredients you will need for this recipe:

I used 2lbs of already cubed squash and therefore added a little bit more of each ingredient, but will write the recipe as if I were using one whole butternut squash.

I roasted the squash this time, for depth of flavor.  I really liked what it did for the soup.  However, it is still delicious if you skip this step.  I roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes, or until it looked like this:

Then I chopped up some veggies for even more depth of flavor.  I really think this is what makes this soup better than most of the butternut squash soups I've had.

This trio of veggies is often referred to as the "Holy Trinity" or "Mirepoix".

Your kitchen is starting to smell very yummy...

Here's another thing that makes this soup standout:  an apple!  You'll want to use a tart one, if possible, but I have used fuji when it was all I had on hand and with no ill-effect.  You want to shoot for a 3:1 ratio of butternut squash to apple.

Bring it all to a simmer with some chicken broth or stock, blend with an immersion blender, and...

TADA!  You have delicious, creamy soup with absolutely no cream!!  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a dash of both cinnamon and nutmeg.  Key word:  dash.  Do not put too much or it will definitely over power the flavors of the soup.

Then, and this is something I learned from my mom, garnish with sour cream and chives.  She always did this when serving this type of soup, or any creamy soup for that matter.  It is especially delicious in tomato soup and cream of broccoli soup.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 TBSP butter
1 butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and cubed
3 cups of chicken broth or stock
kosher salt and peper
cinnamon and nutmeg
sour cream and chives, for garnish

Place cubed squash on a baking sheet, toss with a little EVOO, and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed dutch oven or pot, add celery, onions, and carrot and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add apples, squash, and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Puree with an immersion  blender. 

Season to taste with salt and pepper and a dash of both cinnamon and nutmeg.  Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and chives.


Monday, January 18, 2010

My Favorite Steak!

This is my favorite way to eat a steak...perfectly pan-fried and topped with blue cheese butter!  I do love a great grilled steak, but my poor husband just can't perfect the grilled steak like my Dad and therefore I just take matters into my own hands.  It keeps us both happy as I get the exact done-ness I am looking for and he doesn't get compared to my Dad.  Sorry, honey, someday you'll get it right...

I used to be so intimidated by a steak.  Not sure why exactly, but probably had something to do with the fact that I don't like my meat even the slightest bit over done.  I am a medium rare girl all the way.  Even a little more on the rare side than the medium.  Turns out it is super simple, though, and you hardly need any ingredients at all for the steak itself!  If you are a purist, this is all you'll need:

The worcestershire is my secret ingredient!

But if you are like me, and LOVE blue cheese and butter(who doesn't love butter?), you'll also need these:

Since the steak takes hardly any time to cook and should have your full attention so you don't overcook, I like to make the blue cheese butter first!

No need to measure the blue cheese, use whatever amount looks good to you! 

Throw in some chives.  Not completely necessary, but I love chives and they look pretty!

Form butter into a log on a sheet of wax paper:

Then roll up the wax paper around it and refrigerate until ready to use!  I only used about a third of this for the steak I made.  You can store the rest in your fridge for probably about 2 weeks.  It is GREAT on burgers!

Now, onto the steak!

I used a rib-eye for this, but a New York steak would also work perfectly!  Put 2-3 drops of worcestershire sauce on one side of the steak, brush it on evenly, and then generously salt and pepper.  Repeat for the other side.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

I forgot to take pictures while the steak was actually cooking, but here are a couple shots of the finished product.

This is a lot of blue cheese butter for one steak, but we were splitting it and did I mention that I LOVE blue cheese??

Ready to eat...and boy did I!  I couldn't even wait a minute longer to take a picture once the blue cheese butter had melted and oozed all over the steak!  But trust me, it did, and it was so, so, so good!!

Oh, and ladies, if your man loves a good steak and potatoes meal I think this one is Valentine's Day worthy!  I served it with buttermilk mashed potatoes and I will post the roasted asparagus with parmesan recipe another time. 


Rib Eye Steak with Blue Cheese Butter

For the steak:
1-2 rib eye steaks, about a pound each and 1-1/2 inches thick.
2 TBSP butter
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and pepper

For the Blue Cheese Butter:
1 stick butter, softened
about 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles(less or more to taste)
fresh chives, a couple tablespoons, chopped

To make the butter, mix all ingredients with a large butter knife or spoon.  Form into a log on a sheet of wax paper and then roll up.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the steak:

Brush 2-3 drops of worcestershire sauce on one side of the steak and then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Repeat for other side.
Melt about 2 TBSP of butter in an already hot sauce-pan or cast iron skillet.  Make sure the heat is turned up half way between medium and high.  Once the butter has completely melted, place steak in the middle of the pan and let cook for about 3 1/2-4 minutes per side for medium rare.  Try to only flip once.  If your steak is thinner or thicker, adjust time accordingly.  Once both sides have boon cooked, place on a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 4-5 minutes.  You can put the blue cheese butter on at this time, depending on how melt-y you like it!  If sharing the steak like we did, just slice the steak once it has rested, top with blue cheese butter, and serve!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coconut Cupcakes

Just when you thought I might be one of those really health conscious people...

The picture below should pretty much say it all:

That's right, six sticks of butter.  And lets not forget the pound of cream cheese.  Or 5 eggs, er...6.  I realized after I took the pic that it should only have been 5.  Please forgive me.

I have been on a cupcake quest these days, it seems.  A quest to find the very best cupcake.  Problem is, both of the recipes I've tried thus far(including this one) have been nothing short of amazing.  And I am trying another(chocolate!) later this week.  I think I may be the only woman that has baked 3 batches of cupcakes in the first 2 weeks of a brand new year.  Turns out, I may not be trying to lose the last couple pounds of baby weight after all...

To make these cupcakes you will need all of the ingredients shown above(minus one egg) and it is also quite helpful to have a cute, monkey pj wearing, banana eating, 3 year old in the kitchen with you!

She really likes to help!

This is merely the butter and sugar.  You MUST let this cream together for the 5 minutes that this recipe states.  I believe it makes a world of difference in the texture of your finished cupcake.

Another must do.  Please sift the dry ingredients together.  Do not skip this step in an effort to save time.  We are making cupcakes from scratch, not trying to save time.

Before you scoop the batter into the muffin tins it should look something like this.  Not the most appetizing sight ever, but...

...Maddie sure thought it tasted good!  That's right, I let my daughter lick the beater that contained batter with raw eggs.  And guess what??  She was just fine.

So, of course after this you bake them, let them cool a bit, and then frost them.  Normally I'd take them out of the muffin pan to frost, but I was taking these somewhere the next morning so I just frosted them while still in the pan.  This is my most favorite way to frost a cupcake.  It looks like soft serve to me.  Looks so light and airy that you just can't wait to eat it.  This effect is so totally simple to achieve.  All you need is a gallon size ziploc bag with one of the corners cut off of it.  You do also need to make sure that the frosting is the right consistency.  It should be already if you let the cream cheese and butter sit out for at least 4 hours before making the frosting.  I even leave mine out overnight sometimes.

How perfect is this one?!?  With the little curly-q at the top and everything!  Perfection!!

I just love cupcakes!

But let's not forget that these are, in fact, coconut cupcakes.

The coconut cupcake, in all her glory.  Let's see that close-up one more time...

One word:  YUM!

Coconut Cupcakes
very slightly adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

3/4 pound(3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 pound(3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry.  Mix until just combined.  Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners.  Fill each liner to the top with batter.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth. 

Frost the cupcakes and then sprinkle with the additional 7 ounces of coconut.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cashew Chicken and Honey Roasted Carrots

Cashew Chicken and Honey Roasted Carrots

We love stir-fry's in our house!  I think it is a great way to dress up the regular ol' chicken breast and besides, it is the ONLY way I won't get a whiney "Chiiiicken....again....??" out of my husband when he asks what is for dinner.  They are also a great way to use up vegetables in your fridge.  I often make this with zucchini and sometimes even a green or red pepper.  Today, I only used the green onions in which the recipe calls for.  Such is the reason I had to give these honey roasted carrots a try.  The plate was screaming for a bright colored vegetable!

This is another easy and healthy meal.  The cashews in the chicken make the fat factor go up a little, but we all know it is a good fat!  

Here are all the ingredients you'll need for the Cashew Chicken:

What you can't see in this photo is the pacifier that I discovered sitting on the cutting board next to the *raw* chicken.  I blamed it on the 3 year old.  And lets just pretend I threw it away immediately thereafter.

Cashews toasting...

Chicken, Onions, and Garlic...such a yummy smell!

Almost done!  Uggh...the lighting on this photo is horrible.  I understand it is better to photograph food during the day, with natural light, flash turned off.  This must be why.

All plated up and ready to eat!

I'm loving this close-up!  Honey, just think, it would look even better with that fancy shmancy camera....

Ok, now here's the recipe:

Cashew Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart EVERYDAY FOOD Copyright 2007

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 TBSP cornstarch
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 TBSP canola oil
6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
8 green onions, each cut into 1-inch pieces
2 TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
3 TBSP hoisin sauce
3/4 cup toasted cashews(toast in a sucepan on low-med heat for about 8 -10 minutes)

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the cornstarch until the chicken is coated; season with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over med-high heat.  Cook the chicken, tossing often, until browned, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the garlic and green onions, cook for a couple minutes until onions are starting to get tender.  Add vinegar, cook until evaporated; about 30 seconds.

Add the hoisin sauce and 1/4 cup water; cook, tossing, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute.  Add in cashews and serve immediately over white or brown rice.

Honey Roasted Carrots

Before the roasting.  Again, serious lighting issues...

After.  Mmmm....these were so delicious.

Is it time to eat yet???

Honey Roasted Carrots
My recipe!

3 cups baby carrots(or whole carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces)
2 TBSP good olive oil
1 TBSP honey
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh parsley, minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place carrots in a medium bowl.  Add olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.  Don't be too shy with the salt.  Toss to coat and then place on a baking sheet.

Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until they are just beginning to caramelize.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

These are seriously good!  Enjoy!