Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Proudest Baking Moment - Brownies

My first baking experiment was when I was in high school. I tried to make brownies out of a box, and I mixed up the water and oil amounts.

Then, the tears came.

Fortunately, my mother came to the rescue. She dried my tears, and ran to the store to get another mix. The brownies were good the second time around, but that experience taught me to always check the quantities!

These brownies are a first for me. I have never even contemplated making brownies from scratch before. I'm not sure why it never even crossed my mind, because brownies are one of my favorite desserts. In a word, these are heavenly! I adapted this recipe from Beth Lipton's You Made That Dessert?

I omitted the espresso powder (none in the house), but I opted to add a half cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Heavenly. Did I mention that already?

This might be my proudest moment of baking. My mother should be so proud!

Fudge Brownies
Makes 24

4 Oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
4 Oz. Semisweet Chocolate
2 Sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (I did not use)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups chopped walnuts (optional - I did not use)
** 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I added this to the batter.)

Preheat oven to 375 F

Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil, overlapping the sides. Mist with cooking spray.

Chop both chocolates, then combine with butter in a saucepan at lowest setting. Cook, stirring constantly with a flexible spatula. Once the chocolate is smooth and melted, remove from heat and pour into large bowl. Cool for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In a small cup, dissolve espresso powder into the vanilla extract. Stir into chocolate mixture (I only added the vanilla to the chocolate).

Wisk the eggs and sugar together, then beat them into the chocolate mixture until well combined.

Add the flour mixture, and stir until all components are incorporated. Mix in nuts (if using).

Pour mixture into baking pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Let brownies cool on wire rack.

Use the foil overhang to lift brownies onto cutting board to slice and serve.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Kitchen Sink Asian Chicken Pasta

Okay, so this is how I really cook. I look at a recipe. Make sure I have most of the key elements, and then I 'wing it' for the final dish. Perhaps this is why baking has been such a challenge for me. But it's just so much more fun to do it this way! I call this Kitchen Sink Pasta only because I use whatever vegetables are in my refridgerator at the end of the week. Anything that needs to be cut up and cooked goes in!

Kitchen Sink Asian Chicken Pasta
adapted from Nigella Express


2 big spoonfuls of peanut butter
1-2 glugs low-sodium soy sauce
1-2 glugs sesame oil
1-2 glugs olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 glugs lime juice

snow peas
red bell pepper
red onion
2 green onions (white and green parts)
tbsp cilantro

1-2 cups cooked chicken

1/2 lb pasta (I used whole wheat spaghetti)

Mix all the sauce ingredients together and pop in the microwave for 30-second increments until it is 'saucy.'

Put noodles in salted, boiling water and cook as directed on package.

Meanwhile, cut all vegetables, with exception of the cilantro, and put in a heated skillet with a little olive oil. I like my vegetables slightly cooked - just about 5 minutes or so.

Drain noodles, and put in large bowl. Add sauce, then veggies, then cooked chicken. Stir altogether, add cilantro, and enjoy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies - Dream, Dream, Dream

I have always wanted to own my own bake shop. Nothing but coffee, muffins, cookies, coffee cakes, and cupcakes.

And books. Lots of them.

In order to fulfill my bakery-slash-bookstore dream, I'm going to cook a few bakery items each week to at least know I would at least have the repertoire for this venture. Keep in mind, I'm a TERRIBLE baker. So this experiment will go well, I'm sure.

Nothing is going to be fancy. That's a guarantee. But the idea of the house (and in my mind, the bookstore) smelling like vanilla and cinnamon makes me happy. Really happy.

Here is a cookie recipe I LOVE. The more I practice my baking, I'm hopeful I can improve. This cookie is one of the best I've ever done. I love the chewiness, along with the sweetness. It's a great combination, and to top it husband AND my son love these. I'll be making these again.

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light, Annual Recipes 2009
Makes 2 Dozen

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup almond toffee bits (I crushed two SKOR candy bars - no toffee bits in my house!)
Cooking spray

* Preheat oven to 350 degrees
* Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt in medium sized bowl
* In a larger bowl, combine sugar and butter. Mix on medium speed until well blended; add vanilla and egg. Beat well.
* Add flour mixture and beat until all is combined.
* Add toffee bits (I also added a few semi-sweet chocolate chips)
* Coat baking sheets with cooking spray and drop cookie dough in tablespoon balls on sheet roughly 2 inches apart.
* Push cookies down with fingers to even amounts.
* Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, rotating cooking sheet in oven halfway through.
* Cool on pan for at least one minute; transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Baked Chicken Parmesan


The answer is no.

I'm not Italian (I'm sure if you are, you are laughing at the notion someone might think I am.). I realize there are a lot of pasta dishes on this site (so far!), but the thing is...not too long ago I was a coupon clipper.

And by coupon clipper, I mean COUPON CLIPPER. I sort of went nuts. I was literally getting a 'high' by saving $.30 on a can of tomatoes. My addiction started slowly, but it increasingly got worse. Soon, I would come home with three boxes of floss, six deodorants, and four tubs of Country Crock margarine. We might not be able to pay our electric bill, but we'd have shampoo!

Generally speaking, being addicted to couponing is not a bad thing. However, the madness had to stop once I realized half my pantry was pasta. rotini, fettuccine, spaghetti, penne...the list goes on. I am not kidding when I say half a shelf was devoted to my free-or-almost-free pasta.

I have an overflow of toothpaste, too. However, I think this recipe tastes better.

Baked Chicken Parmesan - serves 2
adapted from Evil Shenanigans

2 Chicken Breasts, boneless & skinless
salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg white
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
2 Cups tomato sauce (I used this recipe, sans meat)
4 ounces uncooked pasta (Use whatever you like. I had LOTS of spaghetti, so that's what we used)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray cooking spray on foil.

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/2" thick, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

In small bowl, whisk egg white until frothy.

In another bowl, add panko bread crumbs and Italian seasoning.

Dredge chicken in egg white first, shaking off any excess egg white. Then drop in panko bread crumb mixture. Turn to coat.

Put both chicken breasts on lined baking sheet and let sit for ten minutes. This helps the breadcrumbs set.

Bake for 20 minutes (or until internal temperature is 155 degrees). Remove chicken from oven and add sauce, then top with cheese. Continue to bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

Remove chicken from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

While chicken is baking, prepare pasta as directed. Toss pasta with sauce, then top with chicken.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Version One

One of my fondest memories growing up was when my mother made chocolate chip cookies. It wasn't so much the cookie part, though. It was the dough. She would make a batch of Nestle cookie dough (I mentally will always call them Nestle with a French accent, thanks to Phoebe on Friends.) in her mothers pale yellow Pyrex bowl. Then she and I would each get a spoon and dip to our hearts desire.

If I remember correctly, we'd take turns getting a spoonful while the other played Pac-Man on the Atari. I can't even recall if we ever even baked the cookies, because I vividly remember the dough being covered with Saran Wrap in the fridge.

This recipe is from The Best of America's Test Kitchen. It is fantastic! I even got as far as baking them, but only for photo's sake. I ate a lot of dough. Lots. Double-dipping is sooooo okay at our house.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from The Best of America's Test Kitchen, 2010

* Makes 16 Cookies *

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the butter , swirling in the pan constantly until the butter is a golden brown color and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from heat and transfer butter to a heatproof bowl. Stir in remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
5. Add both the sugars , salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter and whisk until incorporated. Add the egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no lumps, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture rest for 3 minutes. Repeat whisking for 30 seconds, resting for 3 minutes two times.
6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter, stirring until just combined. Add chocolate chips and nuts (if using), and give your mixture a final stir.
7. Roll dough into roughly 3-tablespoon balls. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart and bake 10-14 minutes*, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking time.
8. Transfer to a wire rack and cool before serving.

* When I baked these, it only took 8 minutes.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Coffee Cake Muffins - Oh... Emm... Gee...

Confession time. 

I once had a job as a donut fryer at I.G.A. Supermarket. 
The hours were from 4AM to 1PM.
I had to stand over a fryer until the store opened to the public at 7AM.
Then, I had the pleasure of helping customers.
After I'd been over the fryer for three hours.  After I'd been over the fryer for three hours.

I lasted one day. 

As it turns out, early mornings, frying food, and then trying to be presentable for the public was just not my gig.

These, however, are soooooo my gig.  I almost want to get up at 4 AM to make these babies just so I can relive the 'good ol' days' of my donut frying career.

Who am I kidding?  I'll just get up at 4 AM to eat these.  You will, too.  Promise.

Cinnamon-Sugar Crusted Coffee Cake Muffins
from Can You Stay for Dinner?

(Makes 12)

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

For the Cinnamon-Sugar topping:

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon together until blended.

In a large separate bowl, combine the oil, sugar and egg.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones.  Mix just enough to combine.

Coat your muffin pan liberally with cooking spray.  Divide mix into each cup evenly.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon in separate bowl.

Once the muffins are done, run a knife on the edges to pop them out of the muffin tray while they are still hot.  Let them cool for about five minutes, or just long enough to be able to hold them.

Then, the fun begins.

Dip them in butter, then go straight to the sugar/cinnamon mix and douse them in there.

Let cool and enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cajun Chicken - An Ode to New Iberia

In high school, I was a member of Drill Team.  For two summers, the team would go away to summer dance camp to learn new routines, get to know other teams in the area, and compete for dance awards.  Ugh.  Even now, I am starting to itch and feel a hive popping up.

Summertime heat.
High school girls.
Pom poms galore.
Bows for as far as the eye could see.

Good times, huh?

However, the proverbial silver lining was that I got to listen to what a real, live Cajuns sounded like.  Honestly, I don't believe I blinked while the girls from New Iberia, Louisiana talked.  I even remember their colors were black, yellow and white!  I think the majority of the girls at camp were sneaking up behind them to hear their accents.  Talk about jealous!  My own version of Redneck Speak sounded

The point is, that whenever I hear the word Cajun, I always remember those girls at camp.  And so, New Iberia, this one is for you.

Cajun Chicken

Cajun seasoning - Emeril's Essence (see below)
2 Skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed of fat
Cooking spray

Cajun seasoning - Emeril's Essence
2 1/2 Tablespoons Paprika
2 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme
Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  I put it all in a sealed container and shake it up really well (this counts for exercise for me). 

Take both chicken breasts and put between two sheets of wax paper, saran wrap or even in a Ziploc bag.  What you want to do is pound them until they are uniformly the same thickness.  I use a rolling pin and put the breasts between two sheets of wax paper.

Heat non-stick skillet to med-high and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Lots of it. 

Remove top sheet of wax paper on chicken, and sprinkle about one tablespoon of Essence on breasts.  Once skillet is hot, put chicken, season side down on skillet.  Then, sprinkle another tablespoon on top of breasts.

Cook on medium high for 4 minutes.  If the skillet gets a little dry, spray more cooking spray. 

After four minutes (or when bottom of chicken looks opaque), flip 'em, and turn the heat off of skillet. 

Cover (I just use aluminum foil) and let 'cook' for another 4-5 minutes.

Serve on your favorite noodles and sing, "Son of a Gun, We'll Have Some Fun, On the Bayou."