Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Snickerdoodle Blondies

I originally wanted to make snickerdoodle cookies, alas, I didn't have any cream of tartar on hand.  Then I thought snickerdoodle muffins.  You need cream of tartar for that too?  Dangit.  Snickerdoodle blondes?  You don't need cream of tartar?  YES!  Victory!

I made these a few weeks ago, I brought three-fourths on them into the Bivouac, but I gave the other fourth to Jake in a little baggie when we were meeting for a drink at Ashley's after I got off work.  They never made it back to his house.  He had one at Ashley's before he left, gave one to a friend he saw there… and then every minute on the walk back to his house he ate another one.  Needless to say, I think these were a hit.  They also weren't hard to make and my house smelled wonderful while they were baking.  The texture of them is somewhat like a really thick sugar cookie and somewhat like a brownie - trust me, it's good!

On a side, personal, note: Today was my last day of classes at the University of Michigan!  I am (almost) officially a college graduate!

Snickerdoodle Blondies
Adapted from Dozen Flours - makes 30 bars

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be somewhat cookiebatter-ish). I used my wet hands to spread the batter into the pan. Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.
  4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool slightly. While still warm, cut into bars with a sharp knife.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vegetarian Chili

Has anyone out there lived in Michigan?  Yes?  No?  Either way, you should know that the weather in Michigan is NEVER constant.  For example, on Thursday it was 80 degrees out and I took a nap in the grass.  Today it's freezing, I'm wearing a down jacket and we had to turn the heat back on.  And that's a pretty sane example of Michigan weather.  I've had it be warm and sunny, rain and snow all in the same day - frequently within a few hours.

Earlier this week it was really cold and I wanted something warm… but easy.  Cut to the crackpot - a lazy chef's mecca.  Literally all you have to do is throw all the ingredients in a crockpot, turn it on and walk away.  In that time I wasn't cooking, I wrote two full-length papers TWO weeks before they were due.

Vegetarian Chili
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (28 ounce) can chopped tomatoes in puree
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder, or to taste
  • A few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

  1. In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cook for about 3 hours on High.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream

Last Monday it was Cory's (pardon me, I need to roll my r's for his name…Corrrrrrrrrrry's) birthday and if made me a cake for my birthday so of course he would get a cake back!  Sunday while watching Life Kate, thankfully, reminded me of Cory's birthday.  I immediately sprung over to the kitchen and began whipping up a small batch of cupcakes.  I have a "stand-by" vanilla cake recipe, but I wanted to try something new… and I didn't want to have to figure out how much I would have to reduce my cake recipe to make 12 cupcakes.  I decided to try out the fabulous Joy the Baker's recipe - and it was already formatted for 12 cupcakes!  Lucky me!

But I didn't want to use any old buttercream recipe.  Lately I have really gotten into experimenting with different buttercream flavors - in particular ones with fresh fruit.  After quizzing Cory on what kinds of fruit he likes, we landed on strawberry.  I might like to note that at this point I don't think Cory knew he was getting cupcakes.  I must say… this is probably one of my favorite buttercream's I have EVER made.  It tasted light and the sweetness came mainly from the strawberries. (note: I made mine a lot thinner because I wanted it to look like a "drippy" glaze, but it'll easily thicken up with more powdered sugar)

The next day Kate and Zenka brought the cupcakes up to North Campus and the text I received a few hours later confirmed my suspicion - Cory LOVED the cupcakes!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes 12 cupcakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • a scant 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  
  2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a handheld beater and beat on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and everything is combined.  Gradually pour in half of the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.  
  3. Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated.  Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side or the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Continue mixing until the batter is smooth.  Just a few minutes.  Do not overmix.
  4. Spoon the batter into paper lined muffin tins, dividing between the 12 cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.  

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream
  • 1 cup of strawberries, washed and cut into fourths
  • 5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (more of less depending on the thickness you desire)
  1. Beat butter with a hand mixer until fluffy, set aside.
  2. Puree strawberries in a food processor, beat into butter until well combined.
  3. Beat in powered sugar ¼ of a cup at a time.  When desired consistency is reached, begin frosting cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fudgey Brownies

I have a very sad story.  Last Tuesday my hard drive died; as in it froze, burnt out, stopped working and ceased to exist.  Then because the last time I used Time Machine to back-up my computer was March 16th, I lost two weeks worth of data, including 5 recipes worth of photos.  Needless to say I was stressed.  But in the time between my hard drive dying, getting a new one on, re-installing OS X and restoring my hard drive I decided I need to bake.

If you have been reading my blog, you would know that I love Mollie Katzen's "The New Moosewood Cookbook."  Her entrees are some of my favorite I have ever made, but I haven't made too many of her desserts.  I usually prefer to develop my own.  But these brownies, oh, they are amazing.  I think the last time I made them was two years ago when I was living out in New Mexico working at Philmont and I felt it was time to make them again.  These brownies are incredibly fluffy, while still being dense and fudgey, and the crumb has a wonderful texture.  To enhance them even further I added some chocolate chips and ground cinnamon (it adds an incredible depth to chocolate).

Moosewood's Fudgey Brownies
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 5 oz of baking chocolate
  • 1 ¾ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate chips
  1. Let soften 2 sticks of butter (don't melt it)
  2. Melt the 5 oz. baking chocolate with a doubler boiler. Let cool.
  3. Cream the butter with 1 3/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar and 5 eggs until light and fluffy. Add 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Beat in the melted, cooled chocolate.  Stir in flour, 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 ½ cups of semisweet chocolate until just combined.
  4. Spread into a buttered 9x13" baking pan. Bake 20-30 minutes (mine took more like 40 minutes, but once again, I have a student housing oven) at 350 degrees.
  5. Cut immediately after removing from the oven and wait about 10 minutes until serving.

Mac n' Cheese Bake

 Just look at that cheese oozing out

I doubt you've ever had a anything as decadent as this.  I made this last Tuesday for our house's weekly viewing/hosting of LOST.  I have been making this for two years, or ever since I bought Amy Sedaris's "I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence."  While I originally bought this book for the comedy, I ended up using it for the recipes.  The Greek recipes in here are authentic and absolutely wonderful.  But this is my favorite recipe - there are so many different kinds of cheese and so much richness.  When I made this I forgot to buy some yellow cheddar cheese so I had to use some Asiago cheese... but I'm not complaining!

Amy Sedaris’a Macaroni and Cheese
  • 1 box of elbow macaroni
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup grated smoked Gouda
  • 1 cup grated white Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups grated mild yellow Cheddar cheese (I used sharp)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 thin pats of butter
  1. Boil macaroni in salted water to al dente. While you are waiting for it to boil, melt together  butter, cheeses, cream, milk and salt and pepper.
  2. Drain macaroni and put back into the pot. When cheese mixture is melted and smooth, pour over macaroni and mix well. Add to a 2-quart casserole dish.
  3. For topping, mix together Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt and pepper, and sprinkle on top of the macaroni and cheese. Top with pats of butter.
  4. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. One should be forewarned: this is a very rich dish. Not appropriate for diners with heart problems, the elderly, or breast-feeding mothers.

Gnocchi with Spinach Basil Pesto, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, and Asparagus

I think my cell phone on the side really completes the dish

The first time I had gnocchi was in Rome last summer.  It was the lightest and most heavenly thing I had ever eaten.  Every bite tasted like a cloud, I was hooked and immediately jumped to the Internet to find out how to make it.  Everything I read made gnocchi seem like the hardest thing in the world to make.  Sadly, it was put on my cooking back burner... until now.

Last Wednesday Jake came over for dinner and I knew I wanted to make something new, good and impressive.  Gnocchi was the first thing that came to mind.  I feverishly started researching how to make it; different techniques, recommend sauces and how many attempts it took people to get it right.  Apparently you need a ricer, an Italian grandmother and years of experience to get it right.  And even then you might not get it right on the first try.  I can honestly say I was afraid that I would mess it up and serve Jake dense potato balls.

But once again Deb at Smitten Kitchen saved the day.  Apparently you don't NEED a ricer, you can easily use a the large grater side of your box grater, you just have to make sure the potatoes gratings don't clump together.  And even though I'm Irish and have an infinite love for potatoes, you don't need an Italian grandmother to get it right (meaning my grandmothers do just fine!).  Yes, that's right, I SUCCESSFULLY made gnocchi on my first try!  I was (and partially still am) on a culinary high.  And I'm pretty sure Jake liked it too (but you'll have to ask him to make sure).  I also gave some to my roommate, Zenka, and she didn't seem to complain one bit... In fact, I think she gobbled it down.

If you have any questions about making them, I did enough research and bookmarked enough sites that I  can share tips or answer questions.  But I really recommend you try to make this because it is incredibly rewarding when you do!

PS - I adapted this recipe from SO many sites, but I used Smitten Kitchen's technique tips the most.

  • 4 good sized Russet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. After cleaning the potatoes, cut a ⅛ inch deep all around the potato (it will make peeling them a lot easier later).  
  2. Place in boiling water for about 30 minutes, or until a paring knife can easily be inserted into the fattest past of the potato.
  3. When potatoes are done, remove and peel right away, the skins should slip right off with minimal assistance of a knife (and unless you have super hands, you'll want to use a kitchen towel or hot mitt to hold to potatoes).
  4. Then grate the potatoes on the largest holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg and the salt to the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the flour to the potatoes a little at a time, using only as much as you need so that the dough will not stick to your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, bring the dough together with your fingertips.  At this point my dough was still kind of sticky - you really want to avoid using too much flour (it will end up being very dense), err on the side of caution.
  6. Dump the dough and any remaining floury bits onto a slightly floured surface. Knead the dough as you would bread dough. Press down and away with the heel of your hand, fold the dough over, make a quarter turn, and repeat the process. Knead for about three or four minutes.
  7. Form the dough into a ball and then divide it into 6 smaller balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces.
  8. Sadly, I am not yet talented enough to add the traditional gnocchi ridges with a fork, but if you can: create the ridges, press each piece of dough against the tines of a fork. With your finger, gently roll the pressed dough back off the fork. Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured or parchment-lined dish. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, drop them into a freezer bag. This ensures that you won’t have one enormous gnocchi mass when you are ready to cook them.
  9. To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling and well-salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove,  and set aside.  If you are using a sauce, add to a saute pan with the (heated) sauce and cook for another minute or two.
Spinach-Basil Pesto

  1. In a food processor combine a hand-full of basil leaves, about a cup of fresh spinach, ¼ cup of pine nuts, ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, ¼ cup grated asiago cheese, 3 cloves of minced garlic, some freshly ground black pepper, and a few pinches of kosher salt.  All of these ingredients can be more or less to taste.
  2. After this has been pureed, continue running the food processor and drizzle in olive oil until the pesto has reached your desired consistency.
  3. This can then be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for a few days, but for the gnocchi you will want to heat it in a sauté pan, adding the gnocchi for the last one or two minutes.
Slow (Oven) Roasted Tomatoes

  1. Preheat over to 250 degrees.
  2. Cut Roma tomatoes in half and place in a small casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and top with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Cook in oven for about two hours or until nice and soft.


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