Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Birdie and Banana


Today in P.E. class I somehow ended up in the last court. Not intentionally, it just happened to be where I went to practice serving with my partner, and then when the teacher created games, defined the boundaries, and the direction of rotation for winners/losers, the very last court was the one I was in. It's suffice to say, I never left the court because there wasn't any further to recede. And one of my friends once again tried to get me to try out for Badminton. She asks every year, and this time was the first time she'd asked that I'd actually touched a racket. I can serve, I just can't do anything else.

Well, as far as badminton is concerned. But today was only my second day, and there's definitely room for improvement. Just like these muffins. Unlike badminton though, I'm not a newbie at making muffins.

We had a bunch of bananas turning brown on the breakfast table. They weren't quite overripe yet, but I've been wanting to make muffins, so they were the perfect excuse. I didn't have enough bananas in the freezer for these muffins. I also noticed shredded coconut in the fridge a few weeks ago when I was cleaning it, so I searched through my binder for the coco nana muffin recipe I'd tried a few summers ago. My notes seemed positive, they just suggested some more coconut extract. Yet I didn't listen to my notes.

The muffins are texturally perfect. Unlike the last batch of apple-oat muffins I made that were gooey and slightly underbaked and chunky, these were smooth and spongy (in that good way) with a nice chewy-crisp exterior. Maybe it's just because I like my muffins chunky with strong flavors, but the understated banana flavor and hidden coconut undertones just didn't impress me. Maybe next time I will throw in chocolate chips or raisins like I did the first time (I actually split up the batter the first time I made it into plain, chocolate chip, and raisin and then didn't record which I liked best).

Coco Nana Muffins
makes 12 muffins
adapted from The Complete Muffin Cookbook by Gloria Ambrosia
I know these weren't absolutely amazing, but the texture was. I feel bad having made these so late in the day and planning on freezing them because I'm scared they aren't studded with fruit, nuts, or oats and will turn to rubber when I reheat them. But if you have dried fruit or chocolate around, I suggest tossing some in. Be careful not to overmix.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup light brown sugar, but I only had 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flaked coconut, divided

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 large, I used 5 small)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 large egg
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line a muffin tin.

Sift the flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut, stir in remainder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas and remaining ingredients.

Pour the bananas mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir just until mixed.

Fill each muffin cup almost to the top with batter. Top each muffin with a large pinch of reserved coconut. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Let cool slightly in tin. Remove from tin before completely cool to prevent bottoms from getting soggy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Straight From The Bag


I remember having homemade coconut macaroons at my best friend's house when I was seven or eight. We were in the kitchen with her mom and I remember saying that I didn't like coconut, but as I dipped the super sweet slightly cooled coconut macaroons into the melted chocolate and placing them on a plate to cool, something changed. I bit into one, and decided I liked the sugar-loaded and semisweet chocolate covered cookie.

I remember that not too long after that when I went to the store with my mom we bought a bag of sweetened shredded coconut and the ingredients listed on the back of the bag to make macaroons. Unlike the usual order of things in the kitchen with Anna teaching me to make pierogi and having me fold the filling into the little pockets as I ran around the house after my homework, I taught her how to make macaroons as per the recipe on the back. Ours weren't dipped into melted chocolate, but ever since then, I haven't passed up a recipe or cookie just because it contained coconut. By fifth grade, Almond Joys replaced 3 Musketeers as my favorite candy on Halloween.

I don't think I've made macaroons since then, though I know I've used coconut a few times since then in baked goods and savory dishes. Just not cookies.

Last week, I reminded myself a bit of the elementary school kid taking charge in the kitchen, armed with a key ingredient whose label contained a coveted recipe. Only this time, that ingredient just happened to be in the kitchen and wasn't sought out to make the recipe listed on its label.
I had a bag of spelt flour sitting on the counter since I made some super-simple peanut butter chocolate chip cookies in November, and I'm sure it is on it way to rancidity. But the recipe side of the bag has been facing me, with a Spelt Chocolate Chip cookie recipe, so last Sunday, after dinner, I whipped up a batch of the cookies, mostly following the recipe. I had an open bag of white chocolate chunks (I've been getting lazy about chopping my own chocolate), so I strayed a bit from the recipe on the bag. But my mom loved them. Granma dubbed them "so-so", and someone in my math class who makes addictive chocolate chip cookies asked if they had a lot of vanilla. I guess a teaspoon could be considered a bit.

Then, last night, I was going to whip a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies for my aunt and uncle since my aunt after telling her how I'd been keeping cookie dough balls in our freezer, so we can have fresh-baked cookies in twenty minutes after baking off a batch in her oven Friday night. But instead I finally tried the oatmeal cranberry white chocolate chunk cookie recipe on the back of the Craisins bag. (Those things are too sweet. After having another brand for a while, they taste almost like pure sugar.) I was happy with the results, though the yield it listed was wrong. I think they mean tablespoonfulls, not teaspoons for the size of the cookies.

Though I'll admit, I do have some trouble following the recipes as written.

Spelt Chocolate Chip and Nut Cookies
adapted from recipe on back of Arrowhead Mills Spelt Flour bag
makes two to three dozen cookies, depending on size (I use a 2-tsp. scoop)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 3/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts (or use all pine nuts, I would definitely at least use some pine nuts)

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two baking sheets (either grease or line with parchment or silpat).

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Drop on prepared baking sheet by teaspoonfuls and bake for 10-12 minutes or until done.

Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from recipe on bag of Craisins
makes about 2 dozen small cookies

1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 egg
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) sweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets or grease.

In a large bowl beat together butter, sugar, and orange zest until fluffy. Beat in egg.

In a small bowl, mix together oats, flour, and baking soda. Stir into butter mixture until combined. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate.

Spoon teasponfuls of batter onto prepared sheets. Bake 8-12 minutes or until golden.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Like Granola in Cookie Form


I'm too tired to write a story right now. I know that's terrible. But these cookies are too tasty and addictive not to post. Before Granma went home, I made another batch to send home with her.

Pumpkin Seed and Oat Crispies
Makes about 20 cookies.

1 large egg
scant 1/3 cup of brown sugar (yes, I realize that's a weird imprecise measurement, I suppose I could write heaping 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 375F.

Whisk together egg, sugar, oil, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in oats and pumpkin seeds.

Spoon by tablespoonful onto a greased or lined baking sheet. Flatten with a spatula. Bake for 8-15 minutes or until edges are browned and tops are beginning to brown. Let cool completely on pan. Cookies are fragile and break easily.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Finals Time = Muffin Time


I'm not sure why I bake during finals. I really should be studing, but I suppose the alternatives to studying are: watching TV, taking walks (the windchill is in the teens), or baking. Well, there are other alternatives, but I don't really want to clean my room, or do anything with a long commitment. Muffins seem like a good choice. You're in and out withing an hour, and the clean-up is relatively easy. If I ever get around to it that is, since I decided to take that walk while the muffins were in the oven this morning. Actually I tried to do a single push-up, and was unsuccessful at that task.

Like my ode to bananas a few months ago, I just can't seem to stay out of the kitchen, or the oven I suppose, when there is studying to be done. And considering that I'm an hour away from my deadly history final, I should probably type faster and get going. It is in the teens outside. Like me.

But I think these were tasty enough. I was worried they'd be a bit too sweet when I was mixing the batter, and I think they are, even though I used a scant 1/2 cup of brown sugar. I just have to play around and see what happens with 1/3 cup of sugar and see if that makes them to dry.

Nutritious Muffins
from side of Bob's Red Mill Oat Bran Cereal bag
makes about 9 muffins with a #12 scoop

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar (they should be fine with 1/3 cup, but I'm not sure)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt
1/3 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used full-fat, but I'm sure low-fat will be fine too since that's what I normally use)
1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
2 Tbsp. oil (I used canola, but normally I'd use walnut, I'm just out-and so is the store)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup carrot, shredded (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup dates, chopped (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (about 2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400F and grease muffin pan.
Whisk together the flour, oat bran, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. (Reserve about 1 tablespoon of mixture to toss with carrots, dates, and walnuts.) In a smaller bowl, whisk together the banana, yogurt, egg, oil, and extract.
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in carrot, dates, and walnuts.
Divide among prepared muffin cups.
Bake for about 18 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hairspray and Popcorn


As unappetizing as that may sound, my parents and I (well, okay, just me) watched Hairspray Saturday night. My friend lent me the movie, and I wasn't planning on watching it until after finals, but I figured Saturday night relaxing was just as good a way to spend it as any.

Of course, because this is my family, we started watching the movie at 8:30 and we usually are in bed before ten, so my parents both fell asleep before the movie was even halfway through. I, though, can't seem to fall asleep during movies unless I'm extremely exhausted or sick, so I saw it all.

But if I was only watching a movie (which I did end up liking), then why am I bothering to even write about it?

Oh yeah, because of what happened the few hours before the movie. And part of the reason why instead of watching it at seven like I had hoped for, we watched it later.

I decided I'd finally make Heidi's spiced caramel corn. The one that said "hey, try me!" when I was flipping through the pages of Super Natural Cooking, even though I've never been a big fan of caramel anything. Something strange has been happening. Of course, I'd returned the book to the library weeks ago (maybe months now) and didn't have the recipe. So the internet came to rescue. Or at least Amazon letting me peek inside the book so I could read the recipe, not that David Lebovitz didn't have a perfectly respectable copy of it. I just wanted to read the recipe next to the mouthwatering picture. Though had Amazon not let me peek in the book, I'm sure I would have followed his.

That was the easy part. Then came the popping the popcorn. This is not my first time popping popcorn, and it really isn't all that hard. I just somehow managed to burn the teaspoon of oil to the bottom of the pan because I couldn't remember if I'd used oil last time or not, and if I had, I know it hadn't been much. Dad said not to bother, but I didn't heed his warning. And at the same time I was burning the oil to the pan, I burnt the nuts I was toasting in the oven that Dad was preheating for his lamb chops. Oops.

At that point, with a burnt smell overtaking the kitchen and replacing what should have been pleasant smells emanating from Dad making dinner, I announced that we were not having popcorn with the movie.

Somehow, without being harsh, Dad managed to motivate me. He wasn't upset about the pot and was sure after a soak it would be fine, and told me, "At least you tried to make it. That's more than most people your age would do." I had to make it. I just had to. But without ruining anything else or burning down the house. I did still have enough nuts left, and I hadn't used up any of the popcorn yet.

So I tried again. Except the nuts went into their own oven, not the one that now contained the lamb, and at 350F so I could keep a closer watch on them. Or maybe it was 325. And I set the time for three minutes intervals until they were ready.

Then it was time for dinner. But after dinner I yanked Alton Brown's book off the bookshelf, flipped through it for the microwave popcorn instructions I knew it contained and rummaged through the kitchen for a paper lunch bag. Thank goodness for 12th birthday parties. I found the stapler, and a couple minutes later I had popped corn! No burnt stuff and very few unpopped kernels. It was like magic. Or you know, science.

So then the recipe went without a hitch. Though Mom and Dad keep asking me if there's ginger in it, and while it tasted like it, I swear there isn't.

Spiced Caramel Corn
from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

I didn't follow her instructions for popping popcorn because of the incident with the pan mentioned above. Somehow I've made popcorn on the stove before, and it was almost as simple as in the microwave. But this didn't require waiting to get the pot clean. To make popcorn in the microwave, take a clean standard-size brown paper lunch bag. Put about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of kernels inside the bag. Fold the top of the bag 1/2" over twice to close and place two staples about 3 inches apart on the folds. Place in the microwave (as long as it has a turntable) making sure the staples will not touch the walls. Press microwave button or microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until there are five seconds between pops.

I chose not to put the recipe up because she never replied to my e-mail. or if she did it got lust in the glut of e-mails I've been receiving from colleges. But David Lebowitz has a copy of the recipe up, and there's a link above. I used a mix of pistachios, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts - I think that's the only difference.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Roasted in Honey


I think there was a point in my life when the only way I liked my carrots were honey-glazed. Now, I run in the opposite direction. Honey-glazed carrots, be it coins or the "baby" carrots in the bags, are just so sweet and mushy and not at all pleasant. At least not to me. I prefer my carrots raw, or, if they must be cooked, hidden in a stew, soup, or pureed.*

So I am a tad bit surprised that flipping through Cooking Light when I ducked into Borders one day last month that I was attracted to this recipe considering it had both honey and carrots, and the name of the recipe didn't even hide it. But the full page picture and the shallot, glistening and caramelized made me reconsider honey and vegetables together.

So when I was invited to a New Year's Eve potluck, I knew what I had to make. It kind of helped that the top of the page said "office potluck" because the article was a collection of recipes to fit different occasions in December. It didn't matter to me that New Year's Eve was chocolate souffles, and my goal when I bought the issue halfway through the month was to try those recipes if time allowed (and I really was going to make the panini, but it didn't use anything we already had in the house.) But I digress. I made the roasted vegetables for the party, and I was happy. I liked them better than the oatmeal cookies I made right after them. Not that those cookies weren't good.

I brought home the leftovers, and served them along with a mega-raspberry scone made by almost following Heidi's recipe and some eggs cooked over sauteed spinach. Even though they were the only thing not fresh that morning, my aunt and parents liked the reheated vegetables. Not even the freshly baked crumbly scone overshadowed the somewhat-mushy mess that they'd become.

I'd take that as a sign. So last night, with a different combination of vegetables (I had two rutabaga in the fridge I'd worried about putting in the first time I made them because they smelled so sweet) based on what looked good at the store, I made it again, spread it over a layer of whole-wheat shells, and topped it with some grated pecorino toscano cheese. It then waited in the warm oven an hour for my parents to get home while I listened to books on CD (that sounds so wrong to me). And either we were ravished, or it was tasty enough that we ate up every last bit of it. Well, at least the vegetables - there was some pasta left at the bottom of the dish when the table was cleared.

*That was one of the first recipes I made. I followed it the very first time, and improvised the latter times. I made it for a friend once who was so disturbed by the carrots being pureed,as amazed as I was by the immersion blender, that she barely touched her carrots. At least she liked the chicken, one of the first, and I think it might be the only, chicken recipe in my repertoire. I was just starting to enter the kitchen and move beyond tortellini in an aglio-olio made with burnt onions from my impatience at a time when chopping garlic was daunting and it came minced in a little green jar. It was a staple in our house on the nights mom cooked. Now we always have cloves of garlic. Mom wanted it for her birthday... I probably should have made it for her. But I think she liked the squid. I think I'd forgotten most of that. I kind of want to make those carrots again now.

Honey Roasted Root Vegetables
adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 8 as a side-dish

6-7 cups chopped assorted root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and rutabaga), about 4-5 lbs or 10 medium-sized vegetables
4 shallots, quartered (halved if small)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup light-colored honey (I've used orange and orange blossom, they suggest tupelo)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450F.

Combine and toss all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide among two rimmed baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray (though that doesn't seem to make a big difference-I left a dark one unsprayed and it was fine.)

Place baking sheets in oven. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring and switching position of sheets halfway through.

If making the recipe below, roast in a 475F oven and remove after about 20 to 25 minutes, once browned.

Honey-Roasted Vegetable Pasta
serves 4 as a main
I'm not sure this even counts a recipe... but anyways

Honey Roasted Vegetables (see recipe above)
1/2 lb whole-wheat pasta, such as shells or penne
1 cup (about 2 ounces) grated pungent cheese, such as Pecorino Toscano (the smell of which reminds my dad of garegorut, which is this black stuff that started off its life as milk)

Cook pasta according to package instructions until its soft, but still has some bite.

Arrange in the bottom of a deep 9x13 backing dish. Sprinkle with about 1/3 cup of cheese. Top with vegetables and sprinkle with remaining cheese. And serve.

Or, it seems like it keeps warm well, so it could also be a great potluck dish.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Cake Kind-Of-Sort-Of Like Old


When mom was a kid (like, say, my age?), Granma (her mom) would make her a Schwarzwalden kuchen for her birthday. So, when I asked mom what kind of cake she would like for her birthday, that was the reply.
It took me almost a week to remember the word, but I still had no idea what it was. Mom kept saying "schwarzwalden kuchen" over and over and that it was a six layers topped with whipped cream and cherries. At least I had an idea.

When I saw Granma for Christmas, I asked her about it. "Oh, a Black Forest Cake." Why couldn't Mom have just said that? Not that it helped much. I've never seen or had one. Granma explained it to me and walked me through it.

I didn't take notes, and I wasn't about to run out and get a box of chocolate cake mix (again-oh never mind, I never wrote about the first time). So I found a recipe for chocolate cake, looked at some pictures of black forest cakes, and thawed out some almost cherry jam my aunt and dad made over the summer from the freezer.
I had two hiccups while making it: one was that when I did inventory, I failed to check oil and had to use every last drop of mixture and almost resorted to the extra-virgin olive oil; the other was that I overfilled the pan in an attempt to only use three. I needed to use four. I also made far too much cake. Splitting the recipe in half and using three cake pans would have worked better because my freezer has two cake layers in it.

But all that really mattered in the end, was that Mom liked it. And I don't think she was just trying to not hurt my feelings.

Possibly a Schwarzwalden kuchen (Black Forest Cake)

For cake layers (adapted from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
11⁄2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
21⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
11⁄2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
11⁄4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
11⁄2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3⁄4 teaspoon vanilla


1 1/2 lbs pie cherries (or in my case, sour cherries cooked with sugar), drained (about 3 cups)
2 cups whipped cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon kirsch (optional-I can't legally buy it, but I did consider whipping it into the cream at the end)

Cake pans (either two 10" or three to four 8")
Parchment or wax paper
Butter to grease pans (I save butter wrappers from softened butter for times like these)
Pastry bag fitted with number 21 star tip

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper. (original called for two 10” round pans, I made it in 4 8” pans)

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (For 8” pans about 45 minutes.)

Cool layers 30 minutes in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

To assemble cake:
Whip cream in a stand mixer at medium-high about 1 minute. Sift in powdered sugar and whip for an additional ten seconds. Continue in ten second intervals until the whipped cream has stiff peaks.

If layers are thick, cut each one in half with a serrated knife. Otherwise, leave them as they are, unless the tops are domed, in which case level off.

On a cake plate, place one layer top up and spread with about 1/2 cup of whipped cream. Scatter 1/2 cup of cherries over the top. Place another cake layer and repeat. Repeat with third layer. (If you want to make a really tall cake, use all layers if following recipe as written and whip 4 cups whipped cream with 2/3 cup sugar and use more cherries too).

Reserving 1 cup of whipped cream, cover sides of cake evenly with whipped cream. Wipe clean any messes on the cake plate. Spoon reserved whipped cream into a pastry bag or a sandwich bag with a corner cut off and pipe around bottom and top edge of cake.

Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Chocoholic Chili


I'm not sure what attracted me to this recipe. I'm not a big fan of chili, it's just so... I guess ugly is the only word I can think of, but it's also one of those things that you can only eat every once in a while, and its best hidden with oodles of chopped onion and cheddar cheese on top. It's reserved for days when "the men" are watching football games at my uncle's house and he has his chili prepared and all the fixings in little bowls, with a side of cornbread.

This chili, while still similar to a traditional non-Texas style one, is different. I realize that sentence makes no sense. It wasn't supposed to be a vegetarian chili, but I figured the turkey wouldn't be missed. It originally called for two cans of pinto beans, but I figured I'd give it a flavor and texture boost, and since it is winter break and I have the time, by using dried beans. It also seemed more like mole-coated beans, but that is probably because I let it simmer uncovered too long while I tried to figure out what was wrong with my cornbread (which was perfectly fine, I'd just underestimated the bake time.)

The chili was filling and warming. And just fine the way it turned out. I might even make it again sometime, though I'm sure by Thursday I'll hate it because I have a feeling it'll be my lunch for the next couple of days, though maybe I'll find a way to get through it faster (invite people over to join me, perhaps).

**There isn't a picture because my camera was out of battery and we were hungry. And then when I ate the leftovers today (Wednesday) I also failed to take pictures of it because I was rushing and it didn't look very attractive because it was a mess, though it did look pretty cool over the cornbread on a plate instead of in a bowl. Also, the picture is what the weather looks like... except it was overcast yesterday. Perfect for chili.

Chipotle-Chocolate Chili
adapted from Cooking Light December 2007
serves 8

Recipe notes: When I went to get the link from Cooking Light, I noticed hte reviews on the original recipe. Many people don't like the murky chocolatey taste, and it is pretty strong and covers a lot of the spice. I'm sure it would be just as tasty, if not more so, with the cocoa powder omitted or the chocolate cut back to an ounce or so.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups diced onion (about 1 large)
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooked pinto beans
19 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce, minced
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
about 1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream to dollop on top
chopped green onions, to garnish (optional)

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic to pan; saute 8 minutes or until tender. Stir sugar, chile powder, cocoa, cumin, black pepper, salt, beans, tomatoes, broth, and chipotle chiles into the pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in chocolate.

Divide chili among warmed bowls. Top with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and onions, if using, and serve with some nice warm cornbread!

Unsatisfied Cravings for a New Year


I find it hard to believe I never updated once in December. It was a busy month, but I was also busy in the kitchen. I made cookies and cakes; candy and... well, maybe that's all. I can't quite remember what else.

Today though, the last day of the year (well, I suppose now that was yesterday) I finally was back in my kitchen after a week away and I made something that wasn't a baked good or answer to a sweet tooth's craving.

But that isn't what this is about. It'll come later because I forgot to take pictures.

I also made oatmeal raisin cookies. I've been wanting oatmeal raisin cookies for weeks, but my usual go to recipe makes 18 oversized cookies, and I spread them into a thin layer. It just doesn't make enough to share. Since I got a small scoop for Christmas, I wanted to make drop cookies so I could use it and have consistent cookies. So I used my new silpats, cookie scoop, amazing spatula (firm, yet flexible, flat yet curved) and cooling racks. And a recipe from a new cookbook.

My parents and their friends raved over the cookies, and they are good. They just weren't as oatmeal-y as I was hoping for. Next time I crave super duper oatmealness I'll just have to turn to the other recipe.

It's getting too close to morning. Fortunately, I still sort of feel like I'm on pacific time, where the new year is at this moment just starting.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking
makes 2 to 4 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups (235 g) whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (220 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (120 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (375 g) raisins

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 to 4 baking sheets with Silpat or parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into a medium bowl.

Either with a mixer or a wooden spoon, beat together butter and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture and oats and stir until incorporated. Mix in raisins.

Drop level or heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets spacing the cookies 2 to 3 inches apart (depending on size). Bake one sheet at a time, or switch halfway through baking, until browned, about 12 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets five minutes and then transfer to rack to cool completely.