Month: April 2014

The Famous ‘Break-up Cookie’

breakup cookieThis is for people who need a very specific kind of cookie. A remarkable, delectable, culinary masterpiece. This is for people who want to make buckets of cookies and not be stuck with brick-like, petrified rocks in a week or two. This cookie will stay chewy! It is salty and sweet and buttery: the triad of great, classic flavors that are being overwhelmed by all of these new-fangled fancy cookie look-alikes!

Getting (almost) back to basics, I went in search of the one cookie to rule them all!

First, a couple caveats:
Don’t be put off by the cream cheese, it’s what helps them keep their chewiness over time.
Don’t make them if you’re on a diet! 😀

The Break-up Cookie Revamped

2 1/4 cups of AP flour
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar (I used dark brown and it also worked just fine)
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips

break up cookiePreheat the oven to 375°F. I lined my pan with parchment paper, but it is totally not necessary, so if you don’t have any- no worries!

You can do everything else with just two bowls for minimal cleanup. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, white sugar, and brown sugar. Melt the butter in a microwave-proof container that can hold at least 2 cups. After it is melted, let it cool a bit and add in the cream cheese, vanilla extract, and eggs. Be careful to keep stirring or whisking it to prevent the eggs from cooking!

breakup cookieAdd the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula or spoon. It takes a bit for it to all come together, so don’t worry if your dough seems very dry at first. The flour will soak up all the butter and it will look almost wet when it is ready for the chocolate chips! Mix in the chocolate chips.

breakup cookieOnce everything is all mixed up, spoon about a tbs per cookie onto a cookie sheet. This dough doesn’t spread out very much while cooking, so if you want traditional looking, flat cookies, I recommend actually forming them that way before baking them.

breakup cookiedBake them for about ten minutes, and sprinkle them with a little kosher salt right as they come out of the oven. The Breakup Cookie strives to be both salty and sweet, but if you are all about the sweetness, you can certainly forget about the extra salt!

breakup cookieThis recipe makes just under 3 dozen cookies so there will be plenty to go around!

breakup cookieEnjoy!

breakup cookie

 

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Focaccia

focacciaFocaccia is an absolutely delicious, Italian bread. It bakes in with a lot of olive oil, so the crust is very very crispy and the inside is soft. I top mine with garlic and kosher salt, and it basically replaces chips for a week or two. It’s a snack for me, but you can easily cut it in half and use it as sandwich bread. This is also an awesome and absorbent bread to have with sauces or soups. It keeps fairly well, but as with any homemade bread, it will start getting tough after about a week and within a week and a half it usually goes bad. Fortunately, it is so delicious that it is never a problem to finish the pan off before it goes bad!

After you make this and let it cool, it definitely needs to be stored in an airtight bag or container so that it doesn’t go stale! This recipe is super easy and not very time consuming. As always, it doesn’t require any special equipment.

Focaccia Bread

1 3/4 cups of warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp if you use a jar like me)
1 tbs sugar
5 cups of AP flour (and a little more for kneading)
1 tbs kosher salt
1 cup olive oil

focacciaCombine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl and let rest in a warm place for 15 minutes. I usually cover the bowl with a cloth or paper towel soaked in hot water so that it stays warm. You want the yeast to get bubbly and start emitting that delicious bready smell!

focacciaAdd in the flour, salt, and half of the olive oil (1/2 cup). Mix everything together with a rubber spatula until it comes together. Then knead it for about 5 minutes. The dough might be very sticky and a little extra flour can be used to bring it all together and keep from making a huge mess. Once the dough has come together, coat the bowl and the dough in a little olive oil. Let the dough rest for at least one hour to rise. I usually cover it with a warm cloth here as well.

focacciaIn a jelly roll pan (or any 9×13 one inch deep pan) pour in the entire remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil. Yes, all of it. I promise it is what makes this bread amazing. Spread the dough out into the pan. Flip the dough over so that the other side is also covered in the olive oil. Using the pads of your fingers and your palms, push the dough out to fill up the pan, using your fingers to make deep holes in the dough. This makes that dimpled texture that is so typical of focaccia bread.

focacciaLet the dough rest for another hour at least, to rise again. Then preheat the oven to 425°F. Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little more olive oil and some kosher salt or sea salt. Then place it in the oven for 20 minutes. While it is cooking, mince or chop one or two large cloves of garlic (or whatever other herb topping you want for your bread). After 20 minutes, cover the bread with your topping(s), and let it cook for 5 more minutes. The bread should be crisp and golden, even dark in a few spots.

focacciaEnjoy!

 

Tomato Pie

tomato pie

Tomato pie, or tomato tart, can be served as an entrée or as an appetizer. This is a great recipe that has Southern, Italian, and French influences. The concept of tomato pie is a favorite in the Deep South, but it’s main flavors (basil and garlic) are traditional Italian combinations. This particular recipe also uses a very basic, homemade French pastry dough for the crust, pâte brisée.

tomato pie

This is a great summer dish, it is fairly light and fresh tasting but the dough and cheese helps to make it more filling if you want it to be a full meal. We grow our own basil, and it helps to make the dish much cheaper, but even with the cost of purchasing basil it is surprisingly inexpensive for the amount of good food you’re getting out of it, and you will use a ton of the basil so there won’t be much left over from those giant packages they make you buy at the store (which always ends up going to waste just sitting in the refrigerator)!

tomato pie

If you don’t want to put in the extra effort, you can also use a frozen dough. (I like Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells, and they work so so well for little individually portioned appetizers!)* If you’re make the appetizers version, cut the filling ingredients of this recipe in half, and you’ll be good to go!

This dish doesn’t freeze very well, but it can stay refrigerated for about a week and if you’re doling out entrée portions, it will feed about 6 people.

*Note: If you would like to make individual, appetizer portions or if you simply aren’t interested in making your own dough, I suggest using Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Shells. See the bottom of this post for details and pictures!

Tomato Pie

For the pâte brisée:
12 tbs salted butter
2 tbs olive oil
6 tbs water
2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 slightly rounded cups of flour

tomato pie

For the filling:
2lbs grape tomatoes
3 heaping tbs chopped, fresh basil
4 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of mozzarella or other Italian cheese mix
splash of olive oil
kosher salt and pepper to taste

tomato pie

Preheat the oven to 405°F (yes, 405°, I know that sounds weirdly specific but it will cook the dough perfectly so that it doesn’t brown too much but still gets that melt-in-your-mouth quality).  In a 9×13 cake pan place the butter (chopped by the tbs), olive oil, water, sugar, and salt. After the oven has preheated, place the pan on a middle rack and cook for about 15 minutes (until the butter is totally melted and a little brown on the edges).

tomato pie

While the butter is melting in the oven, chop the tomatoes and the basil and mix them up in a large bowl. Mince the garlic and mix that in as well. Make sure that you keep watch over the butter in the oven, because it takes people all different kinds of time to chop things and you don’t want to brown the butter too much!

tomato pie

 

Carefully remove the butter from the oven and add in the two cups of flour. The butter will be very hot and sputter a bit, so be careful not to burn yourself! Using a spoon or rubber spatula, fold in the flour with the butter mixture. It might take some time for the flour to soak in the butter, but be patient with it!

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With your hands, flatten out the dough into the pan. I know it doesn’t look like enough to cover this pan, but it spreads really well! Use the pads of your fingers to press the dough into the side. You want the pan to be covered completely, and on the bottom it should be fairly thin, but not so thin that you can see through to the dark pan. Then, take a fork and prick through the crust to allow it to vent while cooking.

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Place the pan in the oven, with no filling for ten minutes. While it is cooking, add the cheese and olive oil in with the tomato mixture. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Tomatoes are so delicious with salt, so don’t be too afraid to add tons of salt (you are making six servings of pie). Here, the ratio of the ingredients is really up to you. Test taste it along the way to make sure it has the balance of flavors that you like! The important thing is that, once you’re done, it has a fairly thick consistency. You don’t want anything too soupy or even too liquidy because the dough will get very soggy and won’t hold up when you try to serve it.

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After the first ten minutes of cooking the shell are up, take it out of the oven and spread the filling into it.

tomato pie

tomato pie

 

Then, cook for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling completely warmed. We like to serve huge portions of this because people end up eating way more than they expect, and it’s delicious with milk!

tomato pie

Enjoy!

 

tomato pie

 

P.S. If you want to make neat individual portions, us this dough as a starter.

Tomato Pie

This makes six portions, and only requires about  1/4 of the filling that the previous recipe calls for. Simply preheat the oven all the way to 425°F and place the pastry shells face up on a baking sheet.

Tomato Pie

Next, bake them for 15-18 minutes.

Tomato Pie

Using a knife, delicately cut out the tops and fill the shells with your tomato filling!

Tomato Pie

Place the tops back on, and put them in the oven for another minute or two or until the cheese seems melted.

Tomato Pie

Dinner guests love this kind of stuff and it is so so easy!

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

Old Fashioned

old fashionedIt’s Monday, and Mondays are so in need of a nice cocktail. It’s the start of the week, and everyone is dragging. While it may seem like an odd choice, an Old Fashioned is actually a great cocktail to finish off a long day back to work. The Old Fashioned gets a bad rep because traditionally it’s made with a heaping dose of bitters- which are, well, sort of bitter, and we all know whiskey isn’t the most inviting of liquors. This recipe makes what I consider to be a lighter, crisper, and more refreshing Old Fashioned. It is perfect for sipping slowly during the 5 o’clock news, and it won’t ruin your appetite for dinner. It’s like a nighttime mimosa! Also, it is really basic and I have found that it is a great way to use some of those small oranges that the store makes you buy in giant quantities!

old fashioned

Old Fashioned
Makes one 2-shot drink

1/2 tbs sugar
2 splashes of bitters
1 tbs water
juice from 2 clementines/mandarins (any smallish, juicy orange works!)
2 shots of mild whiskey (our favorites are Woodford Reserve and Crown Royal Reserve)
2 ice cubes

old fashionedPut the sugar in a glass and add bitters. You really do want to avoid adding too much because this is the ingredient that can overwhelm the drink and the freshness of the orange juice.

old fashioned

Cut the oranges and strain the juices into a pitcher or a separate glass. This is simply to avoid having a drink that is too pulpy. The mandarin oranges that I use here rarely have seeds, but just in case there are a few, the straining will keep them from getting in your drink!

old fashionedAdd in a spoonful of water and the whiskey. Stir it up and top it off with a few ice cubes and some of the rind from the oranges.

Enjoy!

 

Homemade Chex Mix

THIS is what is yummy!

First off, Happy Easter everyone!

Secondly, for those of you who have never had homemade chex mix before, what you are about to cook and eat is NOT this:

Not yummy chex mix!

Fresh chex mix is an addicting, mouth-watering, crunchy snack and you will never go back to those store-bought brands!

Important Note: Traditionally, homemade chex mix recipes call for Worcestershire sauce, which has anchovies in it. If you have no problem with fish in your diet, I recommend Lea & Perrins. However, I have marked this recipe vegetarian because I use a substitute (Wan Ja Shan) which is vegan. You can purchase it very easily at any Whole Foods if you need to adapt for a veggie diet.

Homemade Chex Mix

1 stick of salted butter
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce (or vegetarian alternative)
1 tbs. Lawry’s seasoned salt
8 cups of chex (I usually do 3 of wheat, 3 of rice, and 2 of corn)
1 cup peanuts
1 cup pretzels

Preheat the oven to 250°. Place stick of butter in a pan (9×13, 1inch deep works or a jelly roll pan). Let the butter melt fully in the preheating oven, but be sure that it doesn’t brown.

ingredients

After the butter is melted, mix in the Lawry’s and Worcestershire sauce thoroughly. Then pour in the 8 cups of chex. With a spatula, mix them around in the butter ‘sauce’ until they are coated well. Then, put it in the oven for 12 minutes.

After this first round in the oven, take the pan out and add the nuts. Stir them in well with the chex. Cook for another 12 minutes.

Next, add in the pretzels and stir well again. Cook for another 12 minutes. Then stir everything one last time and cook for 12 minutes again.

Usually, I cannot wait to eat it so it goes right out of the oven and into the snack bowl! However, if greasiness bothers you, the mix can be drained on a line of paper towels for ten minutes or so and then stored in a sealed container! This recipe makes ~8-9 cups of chex mix, but in my experience it can be finished off by two or three people in a single afternoon!

Enjoy!

chex mix

 

 

The Best (and Easiest!) Pita Bread

pita bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible, though this recipe is VERY dumbed down. I love making my own bread, it just has this fresh flavor and smell that can’t be beat by anything store-bought. However, I am not an expert cook and oftentimes I don’t have any of the fancy gadgets that are always called for in other recipes (ummm, dough hook, please I don’t even have a kitchen aid in this tiny apartment). But pita bread has been made for centuries, long before the invention of the dough hook. Contrary to popular belief, these gadgets are NOT necessary to make delicious food, especially bread! I also hope that with this recipe, I have pared down the time commitment as much as possible. In today’s world, very few of us are in the kitchen all day working on dinner for that evening, and the notion that bread needs all day to rise keeps many people from attempting to make it on their own.

Pita Bread
Adapted from The Bread Bible

3 cups white flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast (can be bought in little packets at the grocery store, but I usually just buy a jar and keep it in the refrigerator)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

pita bread

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together. The dough can be very sticky, so as always, keep the bag of flour on hand to keep from too much of a mess.

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Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrape the dough onto it (to be honest, I usually just continue kneading in the bowl to avoid the extra mess). Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. It is normal for the dough to continue getting stickier the more you agitate it, so it will need to rest in the bowl. I usually coat it in a little bit of olive oil at this point, to help with the stickiness. Let it rest for 15-30 minutes.

pita bread

Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary.

Now, the dough must rise. Because you have already coated the dough in olive oil, you need to do nothing else at this point except cover the container with a lid, plastic wrap, or (my preferred method) a dish towel soaked in hot water. Let the dough rise for at least an hour and a half (to double in bulk). Though, at this point you can refrigerate or bag and freeze the dough for later use.

Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk, if you need more flour for your hands here, try to use as little as possible.

Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat (cast-iron is amazing here, if you have a well-seasoned pan). Lightly grease the surface and cook the pitas one at a time (I use olive oil and sometimes salted butter when I want them to have a little more flavor on their own). Cook for about 20 seconds, then turn the dough and continue cooking for 1 minute or until big bubbles appear. If the dough begins to brown, lower the heat. The entire cooking process for each pita should be about 3 minutes.

Enjoy!

Shakshuka: Tunisian Tomato Stew

 

shakshuka

Adapted from the amazing, Smitten Kitchen, this recipe is one of the staples of my diet these days. It is hearty, vegetarian, and features poached eggs in tomato sauce. Growing up, I never once ate spaghetti without a boiled egg in tomato sauce. As my Granddaddy always says, “these boiled eggs are a Sicilian tradition.” Believe me, they’re the best thing that ever happened to pasta. But we’ll save that recipe for later!

shakshuka

As for shakshuka, I’ve read that the dish is traditionally Tunisian, but it’s eaten in many parts of the world now. It’s best with fresh pita bread. This recipe can be easily frozen and saved for later, which makes it great to have in the wintertime. I like my food pretty spicy, so if you don’t love some heat on your palate, just decrease the jalapeño count!

shakshuka

Shakshuka

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 Servings (though I recommend doubling up and freezing as much as you can!)

1/4 cup olive oil
5 jalapeños, seeded and minced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika (this is a great place to break out the nice Hungarian variety)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained (I recommend San Marzano)
Kosher salt, to taste
4-6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Warm pitas, for serving

shakshuka

Heat oil in a large skillet or saucier (make sure you have a lid for this pan!) over medium-high heat. Add jalapeños and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes.

Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

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Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 7 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk.

Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

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Enjoy!