Archive for May, 2008

NM Chocolate Chip Cookies

 Difficulty: Easy

This recipe came from a family friend’s cook book. It is close to the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe and it is quite delish. Classic chocolate chip cookie with the addition of nuts and oatmeal flour, this makes a wonderfully chewy cookie that is just crisp on the outside and moist in the middle. The dough comes together in a snap.

*To make the oatmeal flour measure out 2 1/2 cups oatmeal and process in food processor of blender until fine, this will make 2 cups oat flour.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups oat flour*
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup nuts, chopped

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oat flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add to sugar mixture until combined, stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Bake for 10 minutes until just golden brown, let cool on sheet for 5 minutes to set then transfer to wire rack. Store in air tight container of freeze.


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Southwestern Egg Rolls

Difficulty: Easy

I have had leftover egg roll wrappers from the Luau Salad that needed some attention. I thought making some sort of egg roll would be yummy but didn’t have the things I needed to make a traditional Asian egg roll. How yummy would Tex-Mex be? (Cue Bonanza! music) Southwestern it was. These are sooo good, filling and the combination of flavors is just right. They can be as spicy as you like, in experimenting with the recipe our s were spicy enough to clean the nasal passages, so next time I am cutting back on the jalapeño! The recipe reflects this change, so they have a bit of bite and heat buy should be friendly to the tenderest palate. Chicken, black beans, corn, onions, peppers & bright cilantro & lime round out this powerhouse, wrapped in a crispy egg roll wrapper, perfect for dipping into cool sour cream and guac. As an appetizer or main dish this hits the spot!

1/2 bell pepper, chopped fine
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 TBS jarred jalapeños, chopped fine (more or less according to taste)
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup black beans
1 large chicken breast
Salt & Pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3 TBS fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped fine
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup cheddar or monterey jack cheese, grated
Vegetable oil

Directions: Season chicken breast generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 TBS oil in large skillet, cook chicken until just done, 6-8 minutes. Set aside. In same pan, heat 1 TBS oil and add bell pepper, onion, and jalapeño, season with salt and cook until veggies are softened and starting to brown, 5-8 minutes. Add garlic then corn and beans, stirring to combine and heat through. Chop chicken breast into small cubes and add to pan with cumin and chili powder. Remove from heat, add fresh herbs and juice of lime.

Transfer filling to bowl and clean out skillet with paper towel. Heat 1/2″ vegetable oil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, add 2 TBS filling to egg roll wrapper, top with 2 TBS cheese and roll tightly. Place in oil and cook until golden brown on all sides. Let drain on paper towel lined plate and repeat until all filling is gone. Serve hot with sour cream, guacamole and lime wedges.

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Difficulty: Easy

While perusing fellow blogger’s food sites, I came across a nice looking recipe from Picky Palate. (Thanks for the inspiration Jenny!) The problem that presented itself to me as I was gathering the goods to make the dish tonight was that I was missing several ingredients. No matter, I thought to myself, I will just substitute and make adjustments where needed. I ended up straying a bit from the recipe and creating my own version, both in veggies used and the sauce. It was a lovely meal, hearty with fresh veggies, toothsome pasta, salty bits of bacon and Parmesan all coated with a lovely cream sauce. I feel okay about the cream sauce, there is only 1/2 cup in the entire dish, plus the veggies are a nice bonus to ease my guilt. Everyone should eat their veggies with a little cream and bacon!

1 pound dry ziti pasta
8 slices good quality bacon
1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced thin
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 zucchini, quartered then diced
6 oz sugar snap peas
S & P

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk (whatever version you have)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Directions: Bring pot of water to boil, add 1 tsp salt to water and cook ziti noodles until al dente, about 6 minutes. They should still have some bite to them and will continue to cook in the sauce. Drain and set aside in the pot.

Meanwhile, cook bacon unitl brown and crisp, drain on paper towels and reserve about 3 TBS bacon grease, leaving 2 TBS in skillet and set remaining 1 TBS aside. Discard remaining grease. Add onion, carrot, and zucchini to hot skillet and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add sugar snap peas and toss, cook 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat and add to noodles.

Add remaining 1 TBS bacon grease to now empty skillet, heat and add minced garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add flour, stir to combine and cook 1-2 minutes, until flour is light brown. Add milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until thickened, 1-2 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, stir. Pour over noodles and veggies, toss to combine. Taste pasta, adjust seasonings as needed. Chop bacon, dish up pasta, sprinkle tops with bacon and additional Parmesan cheese.

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Difficulty: Easy

Very easy cookie recipe. This recipe is adapted from The Dessert Bible by Christopher Kimball. These cookies are thick and moist in the middle without being greasy. They also have a strong peanut flavor, which most cookies are lacking, thanks to a cup of ground roasted peanuts. I made half the batch with chocolate chunks for the classic combo. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts
Chocolate chips or chunks as desired

Directions: Whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in small bowl, set aside. Process remaining 1 cup flour with peanuts in food processor until ground, about fifteen 1-second pulses, then stir into flour mixture.

Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. It should look like this:

Add peanut butter and continue to beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla, scrape bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 2 batches. Cover dough and refrigerate until stiff, about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 2-inch balls. Barely press each dough with fork to make a criss cross pattern, try to flatten the cookies as little as possible. I did not flatten the chocolate chip ones. Bake until the cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges and the bottoms are golden brown, 10-13 minutes. Cool until set, about 4 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in air tight container.

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Luau Salad

Difficulty: Easy but a bit of prep work cutting veggies

I had this salad for the first time last month at Cheesecake Factory. Love at first bite! It has the perfect combination of textures. An abundance of crunchy, fresh veggies, crisp egg roll wrappers, sweet mango and the dressing tie it all together. I came home determined to recreate this amazing salad. I found a working copycat recipe online and tweaked the dressing. Phil was mighty impressed with this beauty as I presented his dinner to him. Needless to say we are both excited for lunch tomorrow!

6 cups mixed greens
3 chicken breasts, seasoned & grilled; sliced into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, blanched, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 cucumber, sliced into 1/2″ pieces, peel if you like
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, sliced into 1-inch thin strips
3 green onions, chopped
1 fresh mango, peeled and diced

1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup plum sauce or sweet & sour (found in Asian aisle)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (also in Asian aisle)

Vegetable Oil
8 egg roll wraps, fried crisp
4 TBS sweet and sour sauce or plum sauce
4 ounces macadamia nuts, toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Directions: Place the lettuce mix, chicken, bell peppers, green beans, cucumber slices, red onion, carrots, green onion and mango into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the balsamic vinaigrette (your favorite choice), seasoned rice vinegar, plum sauce or sweet & sour sauce, and sesame oil. Drizzle the dressing into the bowl with the salad ingredients, and gently toss together.

Heat 1″ vegetable oil in large skillet over medium high heat, fry egg roll wraps until crisp and golden brown, 1-2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining wraps. Brush a little sweet and sour sauce onto each crispy egg roll wrapper. Build the salad in each serving bowl with alternating layers of salad mixture, a crispy glazed egg roll wrapper, more salad mixture, another crispy glazed egg roll wrapper and then the remaining salad mixture. Sprinkle the macadamia nuts and sesame seeds all over each salad.

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Mediterranean Pork Chops

Difficulty: Easy!

This was Sunday dinner thanks to Cooks Country magazine, just a few variations made. It was fast, easy and very tasty, Phil loved the olives in mix. Bright flavors with fresh ingredients that will appeal to all levels. I didn’t have fresh oregano and used fresh thyme instead, you can certainly use dried, just remember that dried is much stronger than fresh so use 1 tsp for every 1 tablespoon if substituting. The feta adds a nice salty kick to the otherwise plain couscous, not a fan? Then omit and go with your own personal taste.

Serves 4

4 boneless rib pork chops or center-cut, about 1 inch thick
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup pitted black olives, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 box couscous

Directions: Pat pork chops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook chops until well browned on both sides but still pink in center, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer chops to plate and cover with foil.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and heat until just smoking. Add zucchini and salt to taste and cook, stirring, until spotty brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broth and oregano and bring to simmer, using wooden spoon to scrape bottom of pan. Push zucchini to sides of pan, return chops and any accumulated juices to pan, and cook until pork is cooked through and sauce is slightly thickened, about 7 minutes. Meanwhile, cook couscous according to pacckage directions. When done fluff with fork and set aside.

Transfer chops to serving platter or individual plates. Add tomatoes and olives to skillet and toss to warm through, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and spoon vegetable mixture over chops, add couscous to plates and sprinkle feta on top. Serve.

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Cherry Chocolate Chip Cake

Difficulty: Moderate

In April we celebrate 2 birthdays on the Gunnell side, my mother-in-law Susan and our son Camden, who would have been 2 this year. I saw this cake in Cook’s Country and have been wanting to make it forever! So, birthdays are the perfect excuse, right? Slight variations have been made from the original recipe. This is time consuming; baking the cake from scratch, making a buttercream filling and a whipped cream frosting, dipping the cherries, etc. But the end result is a delight. Light white cake studded with red cherries and mini chocolate chips, sweet buttercream holding the layers together topped with a light whipped cream and of course chocolate covered cherries! If you aren’t keen on making the cake from scratch, I am sure a box white cake would suffice, but just go and make the real deal, you won’t be sorry. After the cake cools, if you aren’t assembling and serving right away, wrap the cakes in plastic and place in the fridge, this solidifies the cake somewhat and makes it easier to layer. Store leftovers in the fridge.

White Cake
1 cup milk
6 large egg whites
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 3/4 cups sugar

1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling
2 cups mini chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries with stems , drained and wiped dry
Red food coloring
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
The buttercream frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated; if refrigerated, however, it must stand at room temperature to soften before use. If using a hand-held mixer, increase mixing times significantly (at least 50 percent). Makes about 2 cups.

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter , softened
2 1/2 cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
1/8 tablespoons table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Whipped Cream Frosting
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 TBS sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Red food coloring

For the whipped cream frosting:In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and beaters in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

For the buttercream frosting: In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Beat 5 drops red food coloring into buttercream; add more coloring as desired.

For the cherries: Melt remaining 1 1/2 cups chips and shortening in bowl. Holding stems, partially dip maraschino cherries into chocolate and place on parchment-lined plate. Refrigerate until hardened, at least 10 minutes.

Directions: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, cover the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment (If you don’t have 3 cake pans, use two 9-inch rounds instead). Mix milk, egg whites, and vanilla together in 2-cup measuring cup. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Continue beating, gradually adding the sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add 1/3 each of flour mixture and milk mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour and milk mixtures in two separate batches, beating between additions to fully incorporate. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir by hand to finish.

Drain and rinse cherry pie filling under running water. Press cherries between several layers of paper towels until very dry. Chop cherries fine. Gently fold cherries and 1/2 cup chips into cake batter. Divide batter among pans. Bake on middle rack in 350-degree oven until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

To assemble: Spread 1 cup buttercream on bottom cake layer. Repeat with 1 cup more buttercream and second cake layer. Top with final cake layer and frost top and sides with pink whipped cream frosting. If using two 9-inch layers, cut each layer in half and divide the buttercream evenly among the 4 layers. Decorate with whipped cream and cherries. Refrigerate until serving or serve immediately.

Pink sophistication for Susan and playful crayon candles in memory of Camden.

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