Monday, August 18, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

One can never have too many chocolate chip cookie recipes in their arsenal. I whipped these up last month when my mom and I needed cookies. We were packing for our trip to California/I made her watch The Bachelorette (don't judge), therefore we had to have cookies. A true southern woman, my mom always has pecans on hand, so we of course needed a recipe that included them. I also wanted to experiment a little bit by adding a bit of cornstarch to the recipe. I remember seeing the addition of cornstarch in chocolate chip cookies on Apple a Day (making a mental note now to try her recipe), so I thought I'd add them here too. Since cornstarch is so light, perhaps that's what lifted them, or gave them a more delicate crunch on the outside. Regardless, these cookies were awesome. I'm embarrassed to say, we totally hovered the entire recipe by the next morning on one of our flights. Hey, at least we own it! Soft, chewy, crunchy, nutty…these cookies were amazing! Enjoy! 

P.S. we had a little too much fun with my mom's Mickie and Minnie salt and pepper shakers….or we were just excited about the possibility of going to Disneyland?



Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies

Notes: we like a lot of vanilla in our chocolate chip cookies, so I changed the original amount from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. If that sounds like too much, just stick with the teaspoon.

Ingredients

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla (see note above)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Directions

Cream butter and sugars together until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch in a separate bowl and gradually stir into butter/sugar mixture.

Once combined, stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

Spoon dough onto ungreased cookie sheet (or one lined with a Silpat or parchment paper) in 1 tablespoon amounts.

Bake in a 375F oven for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Makes about 4 dozen cookies (For the record, I think I halved the recipe? I don't think we could've eaten 4 dozen cookies…or could we?).

Recipe source: adapted from Southern Bites

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Zucchini Fritters with Cool Lemon Yogurt Sauce


I've professed my love for fritters both here and here, yet I just don't think to cook them that often. It's a shame really, because I adore them, not to mention they're incredible quick to make, versatile, and filling! I really should make a mental note to make them more regularly. Will you help me remember? Thanks :)

These bad boys contain a few of my favorite things (ha! in the process of watching the Sound of Music for the first time...I couldn't help myself…it's currently intermission). Zucchini and arugula make my heart go pitter pat in the summer, I just love them both so much! Arugula and garlic weren't in the original recipe, but I thought a little extra green couldn't hurt, and who doesn't love garlic? I was right! The arugula added a bit of green peppery-ness that was wonderful and fresh, and paired with the cool lemon yogurt sauce? Heaven. Serve these with a small salad (or baked sweet potato like we did), along with some of fresh fruit, and you have one lovely summer lunch.


Zucchini Fritters

Notes: 
-when prepping the zucchini, squeeze as much water as possible out. You'll be surprised by how much water comes out of those suckers! It's crazy. 
-the original recipe for the yogurt sauce made a TON of sauce. We're not saucy people (heh), so I just used it as a guide and made significantly less, and just tasted as I went. Even still, I ended up with too much. I'll include the measurements below for proportions. Something to keep in mind!
-I used olive oil, but may try coconut oil next time, as it was a bit smokey. It wasn't a big deal, but I may experiment next time with and alternative.

Ingredients 

Fritters
1 pound (about 2 medium zucchini
1 teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 scallions, split lengthwise and sliced thin
1/4 cup arugula, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive or another oil of you choice, for frying

Lemon Yogurt Sauce (see note above)
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt (can use Greek or regular, or sour cream)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinches of salt
1 small minced or crushed clove of garlic

Directions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Have a baking sheet ready.

Trim ends off zucchini and grate them either on the large holes of a box grater or, if you have one, using the shredding blade of a food processor. 

In a large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Wring out the zucchini in one of the following ways: press against the holes of a mesh strainer with a wooden spoon to extract the water, or wrap it up in a clean dish towel and wring the water out that way (I went with the latter).  This will save the fritters from  sogginess. 

Return deflated zucchini shreds to bowl. Taste if you think it could benefit from more salt (most went down the drain), add a little bit more if needed. Stir in scallions, arugula, garlic, egg and some freshly ground black pepper. In a tiny dish, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the batter.

In a large heavy skillet (cast iron always wins), heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Drop small bunches of the zucchini mixture onto the skillet only a few at a time so they don't become crowded and lightly nudge them flatter with the back of your spatula. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3-4 minutes. If you find this is happening too quickly, reduce heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2-3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat the process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. 

For the topping, stir together the yogurt, lemon juice, zest, salt, and garlic, and adjust the flavors to your taste. Dollop on each fritter before serving.

Do ahead: These fritters keep well, either chilled in the fridge for a better part of a week and or frozen in a well-sealed package for months. When you're ready to use them, simply spread them out on a tray in a 325 degree oven until they're hot and crisp again.

Recipe Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Quick and Easy Sandwich Bread

I'm starting the process of cleaning out my apartment by getting rid things I don't want to move with me to DC (!!!). I started by filling an entire box up with old magazines…Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Better Homes and Gardens etc. I was just getting ready to get rid of a Cooks Illustrated Magazine (which I didn't order…some mild drama with they're company! Grrr...), when I saw a recipe I must have missed before. It was an easy sandwich bread recipe that promised minimal kneading, no shaping, and could be ready in less than two hours. I was sold, and got to baking right away!

I can't tell you how many times I've tried to make my own sandwich bread. None of them were disasters, and all were eaten, though none were great. Usually the bread I bake is somewhat dense, even though it feels like I'm doing everything right! However, this recipe delivered. It made wonderful chicken sandwiches, and super crunchy toast. Plus, look at all those holes! So pretty. With the start of the school year coming up, give this recipe a go. It's so easy and quick, there's no excuse to not have fresh bread every week! :)

Quick and Easy Sandwich Bread

Notes: This is a very wet dough…do not be alarmed! That is why you should use a paddle attachment instead of a dough hook. A paddle lends itself to faster, more aggressive, kneading. I haven't tried making this by hand, so I don't know how it would turn out. Also, bread flour is a must. Since you're doing very little kneading, you need the extra gluten! Since the dough isn't shaped, you won't have that perfectly smooth top you find with shape loaves…a small sacrifice. 

Ingredients

2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water (120 degrees)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt (I may try without next time, as parts of the loaf had an eggy taste. It wasn't bad, but I'm curious how it would taste without it)

Directions

In bowl of a stand mixer, whisk bread flour, whole-wheat flour, and yeast together. Add 1 1/4 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and honey. Fit stand mixer with paddle and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes longer. Remove bowl and paddle from mixer. Scrape down bowl and paddle, leaving paddle in batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let batter rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve salt in remaining 2 tablespoons warm water. When batter has doubled, attach bowl and paddle to mixer. Add salt water mixture and mix on low speed until water is mostly incorporated, about 40 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping down paddle of necessary. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth surface with greased rubber spatula. Cover and leave in warm place until batter reaches 1/2 inch below edge of pan, 15-20 minutes. Uncover and let rise until center of batter is level with edge of pan, 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Gently brush top of risen loaf with egg mixture, if using. Bake until deep golden brown and loaf registers 208-210 degrees, 40-45 minutes. Using dish towels, carefully invert bread onto wire rack. Reinvert loaf and brush top and sides with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Let cool completely before slicing.

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated January/February 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stone Fruit Crisp



I've been holding out on you. I made this crisp weeks ago, and have yet to share it! Summer stone fruits are some of my favorite fruits. If I had to choose a favorite, I'd say it's a tie between cherries and nectarines (I prefer the smoother skin of a nectarine over a peach). I usually devour them fresh before I ever get a chance to bake or cook them (especially cherries), but I made it a point to give this recipe a try. I used cherries and peaches, as that's what I had on hand, but feel free to use any other stone fruits, like plums or nectarines! I altered the original recipe a bit by adding some buckwheat flour and reducing the almond flour, as I didn't have enough almonds. I love how dark and nutty buckwheat flour is, so it was a welcome addition.  Being that it's made with all natural ingredients and is somewhat low in sugar compared to your typical crisp, it makes for a great breakfast! Oh, and so does this one. Enjoy!


Stone Fruit Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 to 1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Topping
1/4 cup almond flour (almond meal)
1/4 cup buckwheat flour*
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons agave, real maple syrup, or honey (I used agave)
Pinch of salt, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375F, and lightly grease a small (4 cup-ish) casserole dish.

Combine the filling ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir until fully incorporated.

I used my food processor, as I was dealing with slivered almonds and whole oats to make my own flours. If you go this route, blend together almonds, buckwheat flour, 1/2 cup of oats, and cinnamon. Process until powdery (or close to it). Drizzle in agave and coconut oil, and remaining 1/2 cup of oats and pulse until combined into a dough. Add salt to taste.

If you don't have a food processor and are dealing with pre-blended products, stir together almond flour, buckwheat flour, oats, and cinnamon. Add the agave and coconut oil and mash with a fork until thoroughly combined into a dough. Add salt to taste.

Spoon fruit filling into a casserole dish and level out. Crumble the topping over top of the fruit in an even layer. Bake, uncovered, at 375F for around 30 minutes, checking on the topping after 20 minutes. If the topping starts to brown too soon, you can remove it from the oven and cover with tin foil for the rest of the time. The crisp is ready when the fruit is fork tender and the topping is golden.

Cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve on its own, or with greek yogurt, ice cream, or whipped cream.

*I used buckwheat flour, as I love the nutty flavor. If you don't have buckwheat flour, use an additional 1/4 cup of almond meal instead.

Recipe Source: adapted from Oh She Glows

Monday, July 7, 2014

Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos


I love fish, but don't think to make it very often! It's silly, considering how healthy and delicious it is, not to mention how quick it cooks. Fish is the perfect summertime fare. A couple weeks ago, I had a mini "day-cation" with my best friend in Sandusky, OH (yeah Cedar Point!). If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that we had the most AH-mazing fish tacos while we were there. They were seriously stellar. Once I got home, I found myself yearning for more, and that's when I remembered I had some frozen tilapia hanging out in the back of my freezer. These tacos did not disappoint! Honestly, the only thing I didn't like were the tortillas I bought. I don't have the desire to make them from scratch, and all the corn tortillas I buy at the store taste like cardboard (these were from Trader Joe's…ah well). I think I'll just go with flour tortillas next time. Problem solved!




Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos

Ingredients

1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt (or reduced-fat sour cream, or plain greek yogurt)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets
Cooking spray (or 1 tablespoon canola oil)
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas (I'm going with flour next time..can't seem to find decent corn tortillas!)
1/2 ripe peeled avocado, thinly sliced
Lime wedges, to garnish (optional)

Directions

Combine first four ingredients in a food processor, and process until smooth. Combine jalapeño sauce and onion in a small bowl.

Combine paprika and next six ingredients (through ground red pepper), and sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish. Spray a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to pan, and cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Divide fish, onion mixture, and avocado evenly among tortillas. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe source: adapted from Cooking Light, March 2011
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