Monthly Archives: November 2010

The BIG News

Hi. I’m here. And I have news.

Maybe you’ve noticed a decrease in post quantity as of late. Maybe you’ve noticed fewer tweets, fewer Facebook posts, and a general absence from the interwebs on my part. Oh, and I fully admit to totally falling off the Blog Comment Wagon. I may or may not have busted my face I’ve fallen so hard. As I was gathering my teeth from the side of the road, the Blog Comment Wagon kept right on movin’ and left me behind.

I’m sorry. If you could see me now, you’d see a toothless head hung in shame. I have an excuse.

Notice I didn’t say GOOD excuse because, really, there’s no such thing. But I do hope to catch up soon.

Now. The news. Yes. It is the most newsworthy piece of information to cross the wire in my world in a long, long time. It’s BIG. It’s HUGE. It’s EPIC.

Before we go any further, allow me to share what the news is NOT.

I am NOT, repeat, NOT pregnant. Okay? That’s NOT the news. No babies!*

*Yet.

The news is….drum roll please….

We’re moving! WOO!

I know, big deal, right? You’re rolling your eyes thinking THAT’S the news?! Yawn.

Hear me out. We’re not just moving across town or to a new house nearby…we’re moving BACK HOME! After six years here in Iowa, we have the opportunity to return to Illinois. Eric got a new job (same company, just a different location) and we snatched it up. Had to. Although we’re not returning to my suburban Chicago stomping grounds or  to his rural Southern Illinois homestead, we’re going to be a heck of a lot closer to both. A LOT closer.

And we are thrilled. HOME. I’m giddy just thinking about it. We are biggest bunch of homebodies you’ve ever met. We just feel like we belong there. Being closer to our families is so important to us. I can’t believe it’s finally happening.

So. There ya have it. The reason for my absence. I haven’t been cooking much because I’ve been tip-toeing around our house trying not the touch anything in case we need to vacate for a last minute showing. My usual weekend baking activities have been interrupted by house hunting and trips to explore our new area. We don’t know when for sure we’ll move permanently to our new home (turns out the holidays aren’t a great time to try to sell a house. Gee, I can’t imagine why that would be! 😉 ), but it should be sooner rather than later.

We’re new to this whole house selling thing. It’s kinda hard. I have to make my bed and put the cap back on the toothpaste tube when I’m done. This is tough stuff, I tell ya! I decided to do the only thing I could think of to get people excited about buying our home.

Bake cookies.

I have STUFFED my freezer full cookie dough. It’s embarrassing. But also brilliant. See, every time there’s a showing, I pop a couple dough balls in the oven before we leave. Not only does it fill the house with the most enticing aroma of butter, sugar and chocolate, it also provides a sweet treat for our lookers to remember us by. How could you NOT want to buy a house that comes with cookies?*

*Cookies are non-transferable. Once the baker (ahem, me) leaves the premises the cookie responsibilities fall solely on the buyer. Sorry, no refunds.

Especially these cookies. Friends, we have a new contender in the race for Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever. This prestigious title, previously held by Alton Brown’s Chewy in this house, now goes to the Cooks Illustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Don’t get me wrong, both are good, but the CI version eeks out Alton in the texture arena. Where Alton’s are softer, CI’s are truly chewy. The edges are perfectly crisp while inside keeps a great bite. I also think the CI version has a greater depth of flavor, a bit caramely with hints of vanilla and salt and the perfect chocolate compliment. I don’t think the flavor of the cookie part is as strong in The Chewy. Warm from the oven or from the cookie jar a couple days later, these really are the perfect chocolate chip cookies.

Make ’em. They may sell your house one day.

THICK AND CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (Recipe Source: Cooks Illustrated, January 1996)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 
1/8

 cups
 
all‐purpose
 flour
 (about
 10 
1/2 
ounces)
  • 1/2

 teaspoon 
table 
salt
  • 1/2

 teaspoon
 baking 
soda
  • 12

    tablespoons
 unsalted
 butter
 (1 
1/2
 sticks),
 melted
 and
 cooled 
slightly
  • 1

    cup 
brown
 sugar
 (light 
or 
dark),
 7
ounces
  • 1/2

 cup 
granulated 
sugar 
(3 
1/2
ounces)
  • 1

    large
 egg
  • 1

    large
 egg
 yolk
  • 2

    teaspoons 
vanilla
 extract
  • 1
‐
2

 cups
 chocolate
 chips
 or
 chunks 
(semi 
or
 bittersweet)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to  upper – and lower middle positions. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Mix in egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in chips.
  3. To shape the cookies: form scant 1/4 cup dough into a smooth ball. (I made mine a bit smaller than that, just a personal preference). Holding the ball in the fingertips of both hands, gently pull the ball into two equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and jam the dough back together at the base, leaving the jagged edges exposed on top. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheets.
  4. Bake, rotating the cookie sheets positions half way through baking, for 15 to 18 minutes (start checking after 13 minutes), until the edges start to harden but the middles are still soft and puffy. Cool completely on cookie sheets. Makes about 3 dozen.

ENJOY!

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash and Sausage Lasagna
Two Years Ago: Texas Chili – My favorite chili recipe and the only one I make! LOVE.

 

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Filed under chocolate, cookies

In defense of November

Um, hey, Christmas? Yeah, I know your busy and all but…November called. He kinda wants his month back. You know, if it’s not too much trouble. K? Thanks.

Does anyone else feel a little sad for our old friend November? I mean, he’s kinda had his identity stolen. Somewhere along the long and winding road of recent history, November got all swallowed up by December and it’s big noise-maker Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday season. The shopping, giving, tree-trimming, baking, wrapping, and caroling is all and well and good. But I like those things…in DECEMBER! I don’t know who decided it was okay for Christmas to steal the thunder from November but I really think he deserves a second chance to stand on his own two feet.

Anybody remember Thanksgiving? Yeah, you know that holiday that’s supposed to come BEFORE Christmas. That’s only been happening in November since, well…forever and we’ve all but forgot about it in favor of Christmas. Think about all the great things Thanksgiving has to offer. Family. Food!! A time for remembrance, reflection and gratefulness. Your first full day off work since Labor Day and there’s TWO of them?! Hello. Awesome.

Here’s a recipe that’s pure November. Forget about December’s candy canes, sugar cookies and eggnog for a second and remember our good pal Pumpkin. Sure, sure pumpkin pie is the star of the Thanksgiving dessert table but this here’s a recipe for another November day. Like say the Saturday after Thanksgiving. You’ve probably already inhaled the last of the pie at 5:00 a.m. the morning before on your way out to hit up the Black Friday sales. These Pumpkin Cheesecake Crumble Squares are the perfect accompaniment to an after Thanksgiving gathering of friends or a family game night. They’re a snap to make and even easier to eat. With they’re creamy, dreamy, spicy pumpkin filling, tangy sour cream topping and crunchy oat crumble, you’ll be begging November to stick around.

As noted in the reviews of the original recipe, the crust/crumble portion of the recipe seems a bit off proportion-wise for a 9×9 inch pan. I made all of it and did end up with some leftover even after topping my squares. If you are a super math whiz, you may want to reduce the crust recipe by a fourth or so. I’m mentally incapable of doing that sort of thing (true story) so I’ll just go ahead and leave that up to you. 😉 Full recipe appears below.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE SQUARES (Recipe adapted from: Bon Appetit, October 2006 via Epicurious.com)

For the crust:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 cup pecan halves (about 4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
For the filling:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
For the topping:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS:
Prepare the crust:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
  2. Pulse first 4 ingredients in processor until coarse meal forms. Add pecans; pulse until nuts are chopped. Add oats; pulse until mixture is moistened but not clumping. Press about 3/4 of crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared square pan (do not clean processor). Transfer remaining crumbs to lined baking sheet. Bake crumbs on sheet until golden, stirring once, about 10 minutes. Cool crumbs. Bake crust until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven while preparing filling. Maintain oven temperature.
Prepare the filling:
  1. Blend all the filling ingredients in same processor until smooth. Spread filling over warm crust; bake until set, dry in center, and beginning to rise at edges, about 20 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Prepare topping:
  1. Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Spread evenly over hot filling. Bake until topping sets and bubbles at edges, about 5 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Sprinkle reserved crumbs over topping; gently press into topping. Cover; chill until cold and set, about 2 hours. Can be made up to 2 days before serving. Keep chilled. Cut into squares. Makes 16 servings.
ENJOY!
One Year Ago: Pumpkin-Apple Streusel Cake. Uh, want. In my face. Now.
Two Years Ago: I got nothin’. NaNo was consuming me.

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Filed under cheesecake, desserts, pumpkin

Busy.

Hey. Um, World? Yeah…can you just slow down for me? Like just a tiny bit? I’m getting dizzy. Oh boy. Get the sawdust out. This isn’t going to end well.

I’ve been busy. Can you tell? And while I’m busy at work (oh, man SO busy at work) busy at home (SOOOO busy at home), I should really take a lesson from myself and make things like this delicious fresh salad to get me through these packed to the brim days.

Let’s not talk about that three straight days of takeout pizza this past weekend. Don’t you judge me! 😉

I made this delightful fall-inspired salad for my Project Food Blog dinner party. We’re more than a month past this event and I’m STILL trying to get you the recipes from the party. That should be proof enough how busy I’ve been as of late. Sheesh! I’m dropping the ball here.

This salad is light, refreshing and flavorful. I’m a sucker for citrus flavors so I thought the dressing was the perfect compliment to the bold greens and sweet pears. The goat cheese adds a bit of richness and makes it taste and feel hearty. Love that creamy bite. I could easily make a meal out of this with some crusty sourdough bread on the side. YUM.

MIXED LETTUCE, PEAR AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD WITH CITRUS DRESSING (Recipe Source: Cooking Light via MyRecipes.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the dressing:

  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped shallots
  • 1  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • 1/4  cup  fresh orange juice
  • 4  teaspoons  fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 4  teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

  • 2  tablespoons  fresh orange juice
  • 2  firm ripe Bosc pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 6  cups  mixed baby lettuces
  • 1  head Boston or butter lettuce, torn (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the dressing: Combine shallots and mustard in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in 1/4 cup orange juice, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil, stirring constantly. Dressing can be made ahead. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Whisk well to combine before using.
  2. Make the salad: combine 2 tablespoons orange juice and pears, tossing to coat. Combine lettuces in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 1 cup lettuce mixture on each of 8 salad plates. Top each serving with about 1/4 cup pear and 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese. Serves 8.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Stella Cookies (Cinnamon Pecan Crescents. My favorite Christmas cookie)
Two Years Ago: I was NaNo-ing and therefore not cooking much. 🙂

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Filed under salads, sides, veggies