Sunday, August 30, 2009

perfect 10

After escaping the city for a day (see previous post) it always charms by welcoming you back in surprising ways. For me the surprise came in the form of a near-perfect Sunday after two horrible days of weekend weather. I woke up late after an eventful sleep (read: gloriously over-served the night before) to blue skies, powder puff clouds and a cool breeze that made my evening walk in Central Park with the pup a real 10. There's something that happens to New Yorkers on days like this -- pride. We love to hate this town, but my pride in the city swelled to overflowing tonight while walking Izzy around the Great Lawn in Central Park, with baseball games on each diamond and the sparkling city behind the treetops.

I came home, found a cookie recipe that sounded like dinner and gathered my ingredients... only to find I was out of white sugar. I don't know anyone in the city who knows their neighbors a la Friends to borrow a cup of sugar (I sure don't), so our replacement is the neighborhood deli. Mine happens to carry nothing but Goya products, a nod to its clientele, but the owners are real gems. When I ran out of aluminum foil to finish my Rum Raisin Apple Pie, they tore a sheet off for me. And tonight, when I went in search of sugar, they opened the enormous bucket behind the counter and shoveled two cups into a plastic bag. I gave him $1 and a smile and fell in love with the city a little more.

This is a great recipe, made rich with the spices and pecans. I ground mine fine in a food processor to add some texture to the dough and I don't think I'll ever hand-chop nuts again. Bake them just to 10 minutes for a perfectly chewy cookie.

Oatmeal, Chocolate and Pecan Cookies

1 stick butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground clove
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2 cups chopped pecans
2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest (I left this out)
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla, and beat until well mixed, about 3 minutes. Stir in eggs, one at a time. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in a separate bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter with the mixer on low speed. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the second half. Stir in the oats, pecans, orange zest and chocolate chips. Drop the dough, by rounded tablespoon, onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on a rack. Store at room temperature in a cookie jar or other airtight container.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


New York City swallows you once in a while and all but forces you off its 22.7 square miles in search of fresh air and SPACE. Though I've had a busy summer traveling to multiple weddings, I haven't spent that much time off of the island for real vacation time. Izzy and I take off on Friday for 5 days in the Redneck Riviera (yay! destination blogging to come!) but with a summer Friday this weekend, it seemed silly to waste the long weekend.

So, my chocolate fix followed me to Bridgehampton for a stay-in-NY-cation with my BFF Rachael. While hurricane Danny threatened with dark skies and rip tides, we pointed our blazing yellow Mini Coop to the three vineyards in the Hamptons. Sipping wine turned out to be an easy (and lovely) alternative to a beach day, and after 3 tasting sessions we stopped at a farmers market on the way home for fresh corn. I grabbed 4 ears (with thoughts of this swirling in my head) and couldn't resist a bag of their homemade chocolate crinkle cookies for the trip back to the city.

There was no name on the bag, just a list of ingredients -- and after chowing 3 of them as we made our way west on Long Island, I was convinced to re-create them at home.

I searched the internets for a recipe without butter, and found one that matched my ingredient list on The result matched EXACTLY -- and actually look better than the originals, if I do say so! -- so this is a keeper recipe. They're soft, rich, brownie-like cookies and the pretty crinkle tops will make them great gifts, (which is why they get lumped in the "Christmas cookie" category) so don't leave the recipe on the shelf until December -- bust them out whenever you need to share a tasty treat.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger)
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup confectioners sugar

In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours (I chilled overnight).

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into one inch balls. Coat each ball in confectioners' sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

less (can be) more

Once in a while you just need chocolate. I'll amend that -- once in a while, a girl just needs chocolate. I'm not sure we'll ever know what it is about chocolate that calls women of all ages across the room to the cupboard, down the street to the deli, or even to a nearby Starbucks to get their fix. For me, the hankering often starts its familiar pull around 3pm, and it's all I can do to stop myself from walking into my boss's office and stealing from her bottomless jar of bite-size candy bars. Don't get me wrong, half the time I DO sneak down and stealthily (if no one sees me, it never happened...) pick a snack that is usually safe in my belly before I'm back at my desk.

Sometimes the chocolate need rears its ugly head after work, usually resulting in a Skinny Cow ice cream bar if my conscience is weighing on me. If it's not, look out. The motto at my previous job was "go big or go home" and I like to think I've applied that mentality to several aspects of my life -- serious chocolate cravings included. Tonight I found my conscious hiding behind two sticks of butter, so what was I to do... but whip together a batch of perfect brownies.

This is the best recipe I've found for instant -- and truly satisfying -- chocolate gratification. It comes together in moments and is out of the oven before you can thaw the ice cream enough to scoop. It's the perfect medium between fudgy and cakey and yields just the right amount so you won't be indulging all week long.

So go ahead, get your fix. Just remember to get up in the morning to run it off :)

Best Cocoa Brownies

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup pecan pieces

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.*

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

*Like other reviewers of this recipe, I microwaved the sugar and butter, then mixed in the salt and cocoa powder before adding the vanilla and eggs.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

foodies, look away!

Every good chef has a signature dish that they can whip together to impress guests with... even though there's a secret ingredient they'd never admit to. Homemade pizza is mine. I can put it together in under 15 minutes and the toppings run the gamut. When it's just for me, it's a "trash" pizza, using whatever veggies in my fridge are ripe and ready. For guests, It's Deb's Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions -- my favorite. What impresses more than fancy toppings is the thin and crispy homemade pizza dough. It always comes out perfectly, and friends always seem surprised to find a homemade dough in place of Pillsbury.

Well... now get really close to the computer.... the dough is my secret. I grew up with homemade pizza dough and took my Mom's secret with me. Even though "real" homemade dough is easy, sometimes you just don't want to think about yeast at the end of a work day. So my secret? A household name from my Midwestern upbringing: Bisquick.

I know, you're thinking, "but Bisquick is for pancakes!" Well, the magic ingredient can be used in a variety of dishes, and not just for breakfast. I have no idea what's in it and I don't even want to know. Betty Crocker lists 567 Bisquick recipes, ranging from sugar cookies, to churros, to meatball pie. Surprised? I guarantee you can find the yellow box in 90% of households from Idaho to Pennsylvania. It might be America's most versatile creation.

And, my pizza dough is really Bisquick in it's most pure form. The rub is it makes the lightest, crispiest dough for any pizza.

Tonight with just Izzy and I in the kitchen, my "trash" pizza dinner was made of a few leftover mushrooms, the second half of a buffalo mozzarella roll, a 2 week old Union Square farmer's market tomato, and pepperoni. The best part? Just like pizza from the corner dive, it tastes even better cold the next day. Yummm.

Beth's Weeknight Pizza Recipe

1/3 cup very hot water
1 1/2 cup Bisquick
3 tbsp. flour
1/4 cup pizza quick, or your favorite ragu
Buffalo mozzarella, sliced thinly
Mushrooms, sliced
Tomato, chopped
Pinch of oregano
1 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 F. Flour a cookie sheet with a 1-inch rim.

Mix the hot water and Bisquick with a spoon until it comes together. Discard spoon and knead by hand, 1 minute until it reaches dough consistency. Turn out onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press dough into corners. Spread pizza quick onto dough, leaving a 1-inch border on each side. Top with mushrooms, tomato, pepperoni, and mozzarella. Sprinkle pizza with oregano and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 425 F until cheese bubbles and crust is crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, August 24, 2009

everyone loves an irish girl

Here's a question for you all: Why, oh WHY is buttermilk only sold in half gallons? I'm convinced that no one can use a whole half gallon before it sours, unless you're in the midst of some sort of buttermilk biscuit marathon (ummm... if you have one, please invite me! YUM).

After buying buttermilk for the bacon-apricot cornbread, the remains of the half gallon stared at me each time I opened the refrigerator, shouting, "Malnourished children in Africa would want me! Don't let me go to waste!" I knew I had to find something to do with it, and something quick enough to fit into the 2 hours after my evening tennis lesson.

I don't know a whole lot about my heritage but I do know that when I was a kid we took a family pilgrimage to Scotland, Ireland and England and that there was lots of time spent in old cemeteries, some plaid purchased, and a monster searched for in the Loch Ness. I was old enough to remember the chill of the country but young enough to only remember eating two things: UK McDonalds cheeseburgers ("OMG! It tastes the same as it does at home...!!!")... and Irish soda bread. I got the bug for the traditional quick bread then and it's been a secret indulgence ever since.

For some unfair reason, most US grocery stores/bakeries don't carry soda bread unless it's St. Patrick's Day, and when they do they include these horrifying seeds that I can't figure out. What is a caraway seed anyway? Traditional soda bread recipes don't even mention caraway!

Well, they also don't include chocolate... but like any good baker, I baked "for my audience" tonight (me) and substituted chocolate for the raisins and cinnamon for the caraway to make a warming sweet treat. While not quiiiite true to my Irish heritage, it was the perfect way to end a tired day with a little love in my tummy.

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway
Adapted from Bon Appetit

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking power
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
2 1/2 cups raisins (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and will add dried cherries next time)
3 tbsp. caraway seeds (I omitted and added 2 tsp. cinnamon in its place)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter heavy ovenproof 10-12 inch diameter skillet (I used two 8-inch cake pans). Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until course crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dough; using wooden spoon, stir just until well incorporated (dough will be very sticky).

Transfer dough to prepared skillet; smooth top, mounding slightly in center. Using small sharp knife dipped in four, cut 1-inch-deep X in top center of dough. Bake until bread is cooked through and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 min. Cool bread in skillet 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Can be made 1 day ahead - wrap tightly in foil, store at room temperature.

by request: Le Pigeon's bacon-apricot cornbread

I'm always more than happy to oblige treat requests, so when a good friend asked for a Bacon-Apricot cornbread, I grabbed some yellow cornmeal at the grocery and jumped onto the James Beard Foundation website for some recipe guidance.

They call it a "breakfast-inspired" dessert (it's meant to be served with maple ice cream -- YUM!), but I could have eaten this sweet and savory cornbread at any point in the day. It would be delightful with chicken-apple sausage in the morning, or as a side to pork chops for dinner. My mouth is watering already.

To avoid a dry result, follow the direction on how to cook the bacon, and make sure to add the bacon drippings into the batter. To stay on the lighter side, I skipped this step but my cornbread would have been tastier with the extra fat (and though the reviews were good, those who'd dined at Le Pigeon in the past noted that my version was slightly less "bacon-y" than the original). We drizzled with maple syrup and served with a side of my new absolute favorite ice cream: Haagen-Dazs Fleur De Sel Caramel (mind-blowing).

P.S. I updated the comments section, so it should work now for everyone! And special thanks to Emily W. for capturing a shot of the finished product at the party!

Bacon-Apricot Cornbread
Le Pigeon, Portland OR

2 tbsp. butter
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup diced bacon
1 1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
3 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. molasses

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with one tablespoon of the butter. Coat with 2 tbsp. flour and set aside.

Heat remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until bacon is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Combine the remaining 1 cup of flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add buttermilk, milk, and eggs. Stir until just combined.

Combine apricots, honey, molasses, and cooked bacon with about a tbsp. of the bacon drippings and stir to combine. Add to cornmeal mixture and pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Note: It took me almost 45 minutes in the oven for my toothpick to come out clean.

Friday, August 21, 2009

sweet like candy

As we count down the last few weeks of summer, NYC has really turned on the heat to burn the days into our memory. After reviewing my most recent sweet creations I realized there's no way I'd let the summer end without conquering my baking nemesis: pate brisee. Whether it's warm fingers or a general pie crust curse that have kept me from mastering what is arguably the simplest and most basic recipe in baking, I'll never know. But, convinced that an excellent pastry dough is the biggest thing keeping me from my bakery destiny (not the investors or professional pastry certificate...), I turned the AC on high and got to it.

For a friend's birthday BBQ I chose a classic apple pie recipe and set out to mimic a favorite childhood memory. A right-of-teenage-passage in Wexford, Pennsylvania is "do time" working the cash register at one of the local farmer's markets. My time was spent at a lovely family-run farm where my Mom now works once a week in exchange for plants and various treasures from the garden center. Employees get discounts on the pies left at the end of the day, and my absolute favorite was their Apple Walnut. Seems simple enough, right? But the double-crust pie was a real treat with homegrown Macoun and Mutsu apples and a perfectly flakey crust.

I added a couple handful's of chopped walnuts to this recipe and an apple more than it called for to pile the fruit high. It might not be a half-priced special at the farmer's market, but I think it turned out well enough to consider my curse broken.

Rum Raisin Apple Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

3 tbsp. dark rum
1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest (I left it out)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
6 medium apples, ranging from sweet to tart (I used 7; 3 Granny's, 2 Figi's, 2 Gala's)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Pastry dough for a double-crust pie
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp. milk
1 tbsp. sanding sugar

Bring rum with raisins to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let stand, covered, 1 hour.

Put oven rack in middle position with a large heavy baking sheet on rack and preheat oven to 425 F.

Rub together brown sugar, flour, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt with your fingers in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Peel and core apples, then cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges and add to sugar mixture, tossing gently to coat. Add raisins with any liquid and walnuts, and toss until combined.

Roll out larger piece of dough into a 13-inch round (keep remaining piece chilled) on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate and trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top crust.

Roll out smaller piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round.

Spoon filling evenly into shell, then dot top with butter. Brush pastry overhang with some milk, then cover pie with pastry round. Trim pastry flush with edge of pie plate using kitchen shears, then press edges together and crimp decoratively.

Lightly brush top of pie with some of remaining milk and sprinkle all over with sanding sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a small sharp knife.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes (I skipped this step and went straight to baking at 375 F). Reduce oven temperature to 375 F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes more. Cool pie on a rack to warm or room temperature.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I haven't yet read The Omnivore's Dilemma, but I know enough about the book to know that Pollan brings to light a most disturbing fact that the bulk of America's diet is made up of one thing: corn. One journalist says, "We eat so much corn that, biologically speaking, most Americans are corn on two legs."

Terrifying as it sounds, I never gave much thought to the corn phenomenon until this month. It's been a strange summer for farmers -- a damaging drought in the south and an abundance of rain in the north -- but sweet corn has just popped up at the farmer's markets and I've been helping the corn diet statistic by eating my fair share.

Corn on the cob is my favorite way to eat it (and with some lime, cumin and cotija cheese it's never better) but like Pvt. Benjamin Buford 'Bubba' Blue felt about shrimp, I think there are just as many other fabulous ways to enjoy corn: corn pudding, corn muffins, corn chowder, corn fritters, corn souffle, and tonight... there was corn custard.

Though it was a departure from fresh-from-the-cob-corn (the farmer's market was closed by the time this recipe was added to our dinner plans), it was really tasty and found its place as the perfect compliment to the best homemade burger I've had in a long time. Since the recipe calls for canned creamed corn, this corn-tastic side can make it's way onto your plate all year long :)

Chile-Corn Custard Squares
Bon Appetit

3 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 large egg
2/3 cup Mexican blend cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canned creamed corn
2 tbsp. jalapeno, seeded and minced

Heat 1 1/2 tbsp. oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray 8x8 metal baking pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in small bowl. Whisk egg, 1/3 cup cheese, sour cream, creamed corn, and remaining 2 tbsp. oil in large bowl. Add flour mixture; stir to blend. Stir in jalapeno and onions. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake until puffed and tester inserted comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into 1-inch squares and serve with sour cream or salsa garnish.

steeler country

There is nothing like coming home. For me, late summer is fresh cut grass and riding mowers, dew in the early morning, deer in the yard, car windows rolled down, my Mom grilling on the back patio and the clink of ice cubes in my Dad's iced tea glass. Being so far away and in the throws of big city summer (hot asphalt, steamy subways, a billion more tourists than usual, and 6am runs to beat the heat) takes its toll, and I never realize how much I miss it all until I come home -- in the case of this weekend, for a college friend's wedding.

I had one day at home before driving out to Ohio to see my friend Dave say his vows at our college chapel on Saturday, and I spent it like any other one-day home: shopping at the mall with my Mom, lunching at my favorite Mexican food joint, and spending the evening around my parents kitchen table. Unable to resist the lure of my Mom's ENORMOUS kitchen (compared to my city "kitchen-closet" it's the biggest kitchen on the planet) I decided to use up all of her farm market peaches for the most summery dessert I could think of: peach crisp.

My friend Ben and I grabbed a pint of Caramel Swirl ice cream to a-la-mode the crisp and O.M.G. It was gone in a flash and, embarassed that none of us could pull ourselves from the dessert coma to leave the table, we spent the next hour telling stories and laughing off some of the calories. Couldn't ask for a better summer night.

This is fantastic and all the credit goes to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. I loved the texture of the crisp with the addition of the yogurt -- more like an amazing warm oatmeal -- and the cut-back on the butter was welcome (and reason enough to layer on the ice cream)! Don't miss this one before all those South Jersey peaches are gone -- it comes together in minutes and is a healthier twist to a summer classic.

P.S. My Steelers won their preseason opener on Thursday... it's gonna be a great fall :)

Plum and Peach Crisp

1 lb ripe peaches, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb ripe plums, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
big pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I wonder what Greek yogurt would do here)

Preheat the oven to 400F degrees.

Place chopped fruit into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle over the fruit, tossing gently to cover. Transfer fruit to an 8-inch square baking dish.

Combine the oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Stir in the butter, and then the yogurt and mix until everything comes together in a dough-like texture. Spread the crumble evenly over the plum and peach mixture.

Place the baking dish in the oven, middle rack, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or ntil the topping is golden. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

cookie saturday

A few weeks ago, after a couple months of consistently drinking lots of wine and eating at some seriously amazing restaurants, I did a 5-day cleanse to get back on track. No, it wasn't Gweneth's Goop cleanse. I did an all-natural juice cleanse that has become New York City's go-to (if you live outside of Manhattan, don't worry! They deliver!). I had a great week drinking my juices, sleeping better than I ever had, and watching my skin turn from summer dull to bright and glowing (I highly recommend it).

On day 5, inspired by my newly "cleansed" body and preparing to eat solid foods again, I spent hours scouring the Internet for "healthy" foods that I could incorporate into my new diet. When you stop eating for 5 days, some people get a little nutty - f0r me, the nuttiness manifested itself in a shopping trip to my local natural foods store to stock up on necessities: manna bread, nori, almond butter, and apple cider vinegar, to name a few.

Two days into eating solids, I was back to my old habits (read: eating normal food) and had a pantry full of random ingredients in need of using. The manna bread made a great morning treat and I used the nori for some lettuce wraps with an apple cider vinegar vinaigrette, which left me with a $12 (unbelievable) jar of almond butter.

We had a break from the summer humidity today so I found a recipe I didn't mind heating up my studio apartment for. I guess the irony is that I decided to make unhealthy cookies with my last "healthy" ingredient :)

These are super yummy and I loved the rich combination of the almond butter and walnuts. They're a great alternative to regular chocolate chip cookies so make sure you have some unsuspecting friends to unload them on... they're way too easy to pop into your mouth straight out of the oven!

Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chips
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup creamy natural almond butter (make sure to stir the oil into the butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 package semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter, almond butter, and both sugars in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Soften dough slightly at room temperature before shaping.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 level tablespoon for each cookie, roll dough between palms of hands into 1-inch balls. Arrange 1 inch apart on prepared sheets.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets on racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

summer lovin'

This past weekend was one of my favorites this summer. New York has been spitting all over us lately, and in between showers on Friday and Sunday, we got a really nice Saturday that was filled with brunch and friends and best of all, SUN. After spending a delightful afternoon indulging in retail therapy (read: buying lululemon running gear that is way too expensive but soooo awesome), I stopped by the UWS farmers market near the Natural History Museum and picked up some giant zucchini that were just begging to be folded into a quick bread.

I rarely just google recipes. My go-to's are old favorites: SmittenKitchen, 101Cookbooks, The Amateur Gourmet... but I came across a recipe using chocolate in the batter that I just couldn't pass up (since, as we all know, everything is better with chocolate... especially the batter -- yes, you eat it, too, you can't fool me).

The bread came out perfectly moist and feels like a light chocolate cake in your mouth. It might be the best thing I've made in a while (and it makes two loaves, so make room in your crowded freezer). Next time you get some fresh Zucc's, forget sauteing and squash casseroleing. This quickbread screams SUMMER! and won't be around for long, so make sure you cut an extra large slice.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Adapted from AllRecipes

2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (I used Sunflower oil)
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loag pa
ns. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean. When loaves are cool, turn loaves onto wire rack.

P.S. Forgive the horrible photo quality. I'm working on tempting some photog friends with a weekly baked-good delivery for their services!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

let the baking begin

A few years ago, my baking repertoire was limited to making chocolate chip cookies for my Dad every time I came home from college. They are his favorite thing in the world and became our common ground as we'd both munch on cookies late at night while leaning on my Mom's kitchen counter.

I moved to New York 5 years ago and never felt much need to cook or bake. Why bother messing my galley kitchen in my first apartment while I had a Subway right down the street? Or when I had the first UES Pinkberry near my second apartment. Or when Planet Sushi was across the street from my third apartment. It wasn't until my fourth place, which had a kitchen large enough to eat in and two hungry roommates to experiment on, that I started baking more. And when I moved into my own place this Spring with my fluffy puppy as a roommate, the baking took on a life of its own.

It became my way of simplifying and slowing down life when it became a little too much for this New York City girl to handle. Tough deadline at work? I'd whip up a batch of cookies. Worried about paying my rent? I'd throw together a banana bread. Relationship troubles? Out came a 3-layer chocolate cake. I started with cookies and brownies, treating my co-workers at the beauty/fashion magazine where I worked at least twice a week with treats. But soon the cookies and brownies became cakes and pies, quickbreads and cupcakes, and I became "the baker" in the office. I would put my red tupperware on top of my shelf at the beginning of the day and watch co-workers stop by all day long to get a treat. I loved the smiles and laughter that came with the opening "whoooosh" of the tupperware lid, and couldn't wait to hear how new recipes fared with my testing pool.

In the past year I've realized that standing in my kitchen watching the whirl of my KitchenAid standing mixer is one of the places where I'm the happiest, and I'm convinced that I'll have a bakery of my own one day with white clapboard walls and baskets filled with goodies. Until then, this blog is my test of new recipes -- I welcome all comments and suggestions! I hope to hear from you!

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