Saturday, February 27, 2010

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm always on a hunt for great chocolate chip cookie recipe. My husband who does not have much of a sweet tooth, loves good Chocolate Chip Cookie. Since there is only a handful of sweet treats he enjoys, I always want to find a better way to make his favorites. Here is another recipe that got a raved reviews. We like crispy exterior and chewy interior, if you are after crispy cookie, this might not be a good recipe for you. I loved, loved, loved this one and I'm not even a chocolate Chip Cookie aficionado. The recipe comes from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Before you get started, here are some tips, that might be helpful: Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.

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

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.


Slow Braised Honey and Cider Caramelized Pork Belly

So many recipes to try, so little time to do it in... Life had just made a turn to crazy in the past few weeks and even though I was doing well with cooking and taking picture of my creations, posting has proven to be a challenge. I'm going to try and make up for a lost time and post some of the dishes I've made recently, starting with Slow Braised Honey and Cider Caramelized Pork Belly. So, pork belly is not necessarily on my diet plan these days, but I saw this recipe and couldn't resist. It's fairly hands off as the most of the time spent is braising in the oven. When selecting pork belly make sure there is as lean as you can possibly find it as the sauce will absorb most of the fat. If you feel that there is too much fat, refrigerate it overnight and remove the solidified fat from the top. The recipe calls for beer cider, not cider vinegar, so be sure that you use the right ingredient. I was able to find beer cider in liquor store fairly easily. The honey makes the sauce sweet on its own, but paired up with mashed potatoes balances the flavors very nicely.

Slow Braised Honey and Cider Caramelized Pork Belly


* 3.5 lb (Organic) pork belly, with rind removed but the fat on
* 2 large white onions, peeled, halved and sliced
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Braising Liquor:

* 1 qt Beer cider
* 5 oz Clear honey
* 1 Beef stock cube
* 1 Star anise
* 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 4 Sprigs fresh thyme
* Sea salt


1. In a frying pan, dry-fry the onions until caramelized.

2. Heat an ovenproof cast-iron pan. Season the pork belly and dry-fry on both sides, fat side first, until golden brown, ensuring that all sides of the meat are sealed. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest for 3-5 minutes. (Most of the fat should have been released during this stage.)

3. Preheat the oven to 350°c.

4. Lay the onions on the pork fat residue in the ovenproof pan and cover with the pork belly.

5. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the braising liquor. Pour over the pork belly and cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours.

6. Occasionally remove from the oven and baste the pork with the reducing sauce, this will help to build up a lustrous glaze when finished.

7. Remove from the oven, lift the meat out of the pan to rest for 10 minutes and set aside. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon.

8. Carefully reduce the remaining liquor to the consistency of a sauce.

9. Serve with olive oil mashed potatoes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chinese New Year-Dan Dan Noodle Soup & Gift

Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is commonly called "Lunar New Year", because it is based on the lunisolar Chinese calendar. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called Lantern Festival.

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.

This year is specially important in our house because is the year of the TIGER. My husband was born the year of the Tiger. Tiger year is traditionally associated with massive changes and social upheaval. Therefore, 2010 is very likely to be a volatile one both on the world scene, as well as on a personal level. The horoscopes say (for those of you who believe in that sort of thing) that those compatible with the Tiger — the Dragon (ME) and the Horse in particular — may also find 2010's erratic circumstances inspiring them to ever bolder action, and ultimate success. With that I hope you have a GREAT TIGER YEAR!!!

I almost forgot...For a few months now I've been wanting to get new self scraping paddle attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer and couple of days ago my LOVELY HUSBAND surprised me with one. I was so excited I had to tell my friend about it...She listen and said that I act as if he's given me diamonds...LOL Is there anything better than a man who listens to his wife's needs and wants??? I'll take him over diamonds any day!!!

Dan-Dan Noodle Soup

* 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted
* 4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, plus more for serving
* 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* Kosher salt
* 2 half-sour dill pickles
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
* 4 scallions, finely chopped
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock
* 8 ounces ground pork
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 to 4 teaspoons Chinese chili oil, plus more for serving
* 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
* 9 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles
* 1 medium head bok choy, sliced crosswise


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Pulse the sesame seeds in a mini food processor with 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt until powdery; set aside.

Prepare the stir-fry: Quarter, seed and finely dice the pickles and put in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the garlic, ginger, scallions, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Mix 1 tablespoon soy sauce and the broth in a third bowl. Mix the pork with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt in another bowl. Place the four bowls by the stove.

Place a large skillet over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, then the pork, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked but not dry, 4 minutes. Transfer the meat to a bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet; stir-fry the pickles for 1 minute. Add the garlic mixture and fry 30 seconds. Add the broth and boil until reduced by half, 4 minutes. Divide the broth among bowls and drizzle with the chili oil and vinegar.

Meanwhile, add the noodles and bok choy to the boiling water and cook until just tender, 2 minutes. Drain and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Season with salt, then divide among the bowls. Top with pork and sprinkle with sesame powder. Serve with more sesame and chili oil.

Daring Cooks Challenge:Hummus, Pita, Grilled Chicken, Falafel, Tzatziki etc.

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The challenge is to prepare a Mezze table including, but not limited to, homemade Pita bread and Hummus. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes served all at once. It can be served as appetizers before a meal, or as the meal. I loved this challenge and enjoyed trying new recipes. Hummus is one of my very favorite things.

Pita Bread
Somehow, I am missing a picture of a pita bread...that's strange!

Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
- 2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita)
- 1 tablespoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C). Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.


Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.
- 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
- 2 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- a big pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment)

Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Middle Eastern Grilled Chicken

For the marinade

* 1 cup plain yogurt
* 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
* 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

* 8 skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)

For the sauce

* 1/3 cup plain yogurt
* 1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
* 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, or to taste

* 1 small red onion, sliced thin
* 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 tomato, minced
* 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted lightly
* 6 whole-wheat pita loaves


1 cup Greek-style (2% or nonfat) yogurt*
1 cup 1/4-inch cubes English hothouse cucumber
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus additional for drizzling
2 tablespoons chopped shallots

Mix Greek-style yogurt, cucumber, dill, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, shallots, and 3/4 teaspoon crushed aniseed in small bowl; season tzatziki generously with salt and pepper. Chill.

My Favorite Falafel

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
Chopped tomato for garnish
Diced onion for garnish
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
Tahina sauce
Pita bread

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beef Cinnamon Noodles

Beef Cinnamon Noodles is something I've made for many years now. I found this recipe in Cooking Light in 2001 and loved it. I make this dish when I feel like I need something comforting. It is rich and flavorful and healthy at the same time. I serve mine with rice noodles, but you can use your favorite side dish to accompany it ( I thought that the thin noodles weren't as good as the wide but I did not have any other variety on hand) The meat is simmered in a soy sauce-based mixture for a long time until tender. Seasoned with ginger, garlic, and cinnamon for extra flavor. I know that cinnamon and beef combination is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind but it is FABULOUS! Give it a try and let me know what you thought.... I think you'll be impressed, with how little effort yields such a great result!

Beef Cinnamon Noodles

* 5 cups water
* 1 1/2 cups rice wine or sake
* 3/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
* 2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
* 8 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
* 6 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 cinnamon sticks
* 1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
* 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach, chopped
* 4 cups hot cooked wide lo mein noodles or vermicelli (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)


Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add half of the beef, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and beef. Return beef to pan; add water mixture, onions, garlic, cinnamon, and ginger. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours or until beef is tender. Discard ginger slices and cinnamon. Stir in spinach; cook 3 minutes or until wilted. Serve over noodles.

Curry Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is something I always have in a freezer for those night that I either don't feel like cooking or I don't have time to cook. It is generally the Marie Callenders variety, as it is one of my hubby's favorites. Last week, I had some leftover rotisserie chicken and decided to give chicken pot pie a try. I found the recipe of Alton Brown's for curry chicken pot pie... we love chicken pot pie and love curry, how bad can it be, right? I used some frozen mixed veggies as well as store bought pie crust and still the results were AMAZING! I've made 6 individual pot pies and was able to freeze some for the "emergency dinners" The original recipe called for puff pastry, but I did not have it on hand, so I decided to use pie crust. Needless to say, I'll not be buying frozen chicken pot pies again. The recipe was easy, quick and DELICIOUS! Must try!


* 4 cups frozen vegetable mix, peas, carrots
* 1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 1 cup chopped celery
* 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
* 1/2 cup milk
* 3 tablespoons flour
* 1 teaspoon curry powder
* 2 tablespoons dried parsley
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
* 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
* 1 package puff pastry ( I used pie dough)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss frozen vegetables with canola oil and spread evenly onto a sheet pan. Place into oven and cook until golden brown.

In a saute pan heat 1 tablespoon of butter and sweat the onion and celery. In another saucepan, heat the broth and milk. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the celery mix and cook out the water. Add the flour and curry and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the hot milk mixture and cook until thickened. Add the parsley, salt and pepper. Toss the browned vegetables and the chicken. Pour into a shallow baking pan, or a large terra cotta pot base, lined with foil, and top with 6 to 8 circles of puff pastry. I used individual remakins and cut the dough to fit them. Place into the oven and cook until puff pastry has browned and the mixture is hot and bubbly, about 25 minutes.