Friday, January 29, 2010

if only in our dreams: s'more cookies

A friend and I have been playing a game lately. Ok, by game I mean day-dreaming, and by friend I mean a certain kind of Angel (wink!). The game is inspired by a recent string of unfortunate relationships and is called "let's-talk-about-how-great-our-future-husbands-are." Oh, you know this game? Then you know that this post might not be for the easily offended or women's rights activists - but you can be sure that even they have thought the same things at some point, even if only in their dreams. With that said, I give you our "ideal man" - discovered in a lighthearted conversation after the aforementioned Angel's most recent heartbreak.

Cautionary note: This conversation was mostly in jest, and not all statements reflect the true feelings of myself (M) and my friend (F). But a girl can dream. Also, if you bump into this boat-shoe-wearing, black-Amex-carrying, thoughtful dog-lover, please let me know. Immediately.

M: Someone tell our someday husbands to hurry the eff up before we smack them
F: Seriously. My friends boyfriends and husbands buy them gifts and take them to dinner
F: And pay for the WHOLE meal
F: Not "meet you there and split the bill." What was I THINKING?
M: I'm sure our future husbands will like to pay for us. After all, it's joint-checking
F: Yes! Lets see... what else do they do
F: They buy flowers for birthdays and anniversaries
F: I will cry the next time a man buys me flowers I will be so happy
M: Hmmm... they wear suits that are tailored
M: And walk on the street side of the sidewalk
M: And get into cabs first so that we don't have to slide over in a skirt
F: And they like a nice fancy dinner out
F: They wear great cologne
M: They work out and care about being healthy
F: They also don't care if we gain a few lbs because they think we're beautiful
M: Even in the morning
M: They play us guitar
F: They have great families who we love and who love us
M: Yes! Their Mom loves us!
F: They also like dogs, a lot
M: They love dogs
F: They love our dogs
M: And they like taking trips
F: And they are spontaneous
F: BUT they do make plans in advance, because our time is precious
M: They buy us soy milk even though they like regular milk
M: And come cheer us at races in the park
F: Yes! Even if it's early in the morning
F: And they are nice to our friends
M: And our friends love them
M: Because they also don't put up with our BS - they are smart and have strong opinions
F: But are always willing to hear ours
M: Because they are democrats and they like a healthy debate
F: They are handy and outdoorsey
M: And can fix or repair anything like cars and broken toilets
F: Yes, they are very manly, but they don't burp and they have great table manners
M: And they own a pair of boat shoes, and maybe a boat to go with them
M: And they wear glasses sometimes, because they're hot
F: In an intellectual way. Yes - exactly!
F: Hmmm.. we might need twin brothers
M: I like our husbands
F: Me too
M: They sound dreamy

If you're still reading and don't think we're complete snobs (we're not, I swear), you'll probably agree that our future husbands sound like great guys. Can't wait to meet them some day.

In the meantime, I found a recipe that seemed a bit more achievable than finding Mr. Right. Since you know I love S'mores, this recipe got me excited enough to stay up late on Thursday night to bake.

I was skeptical after eating the first one out of the oven - it didn't really taste like a S'more and I started thinking the recipe's claim that whole wheat flour added a graham cracker flavor was false. They were good, but not S'more-good. So I stuffed them in a big zip lock and packed them with my fleece and merino wool base layers for this weekends trip upstate.

After a long drive from Manhattan to Gardiner NY, we broke into the cookies while watching "Up" on DVD (umm, no one told me it was sad!) and whoa. Total graham crackery goodness! I guess these cookies just needed a day for the flavors to come together (that, or eating tablespoons of cookie dough while baking them altered my palate on Thursday). Half of the bag was gone in no time and the yellowhouse guys gave them two enthusiastic thumbs up. Plus, with 100% whole wheat flour they can't be that bad for you, right?

Oh, I forgot to add something to my husband wish list: he loves my baked goods.

Whole Wheat S'more Cookies
Bon Appetit

The only caveat I have to this recipe is that I highly recommend taking Bon App's advice to leave an open bag of marshmallows overnight so that they become stale. It will make them much easier to bake as the stale marshmallows will hold their shape. I was impatient and used fresh marshmallows and I had some pretty big melting issues.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (I didn't have any, so used 1/2 cup water and they came out just fine)
1 tbsp. dark molasses
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (I had semi-sweet)
1 cup mini marshmallows
3/4 cup coursely chopped walnuts (left these out as well)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, molasses, and vanilla extract in medium bowl; whisk in butter. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients, stirring until dough is evenly moistened. Stir in chocolate chips, marshmallows and nuts.

Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, dry to touch, but still slightly soft, about 15 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool (cookies will firm up).

Tip: If you're out of buttermilk and have regular milk on hand (I didn't), use 1/2 cup milk soured with 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

crazy eyes: chocolate cherry cookies

Sometimes my dog gets crazy eyes. Her googley almond-shaped Cockapoo eyes get a wild hair in them and I know there's trouble coming. Trouble in the way of barking, and apartment lap-running, and refrigerator door scratching, and rubber tire chewing, and water dish spilling. She runs around, I holler "you're wiiiiiiild!" in my best Frances "Baby" Houseman voice, and for a couple minutes we're both twirling on the carpet and skidding across the wood floor and life is good.

see here she looks all sweet. don't be deceived. photo by ben carlson.

But then I stop twirling and her eyes move a notch up the crazy meter and I know there's only one thing to do: retreat to my closet-kitchen and focus on some perfectly salty-sweet cookies for the next hour while crazypants uses up her energy.

Tonight I just wanted a little chocolate. I turned the "Lost" marathon on TV to drown out the crazy black dog and found a simple cookie recipe that sounded about right. It's still January and despite a few moments of weakness, I've been pretty true to the cliche weight loss resolution I made on New Years Eve. So to justify breaking out the KitchenAid standing mixer (Ok... who really ever needs to justify that), I added a little extra oatmeal for heart health.

It turned out 25 perfectly bite sized cookies - I ate two - and then went to bed with the perfect amount of sugar in my belly. And I don't even feel that guilty about it! Ok, maybe I do. But just a leeeetel.

Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup dried cherries (I only left these out because I didn't have any but they would be delicious!)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, coursely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine flours, oats, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a standing mixer fitted with a beater attachment until soft and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and beat at medium speed until well blended. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray (I always use parchment paper instead).

Bake at 350 F for 12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

P.S. Cooking Light promises these are under 100 calories each! I'll take it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

blessed: soft pretzels

Even though I'm 5'11'' I didn't play basketball or volleyball in high school. Instead, I was a competitive horseback rider and spent most of my free time at the stable with the other dedicated barn brats. The rest of it was spent sipping frappuccino's at Starbucks and having nekkid hot tub parties (we were so risque!) with my group of co-ed high school buddies.

Occasionally, my two worlds would collide at a birthday party and it was always overwhelming to introduce the two groups of friends who had nothing in common other than me. Somewhere in the past 10 years that overwhelming feeling morphed to pure delight, and last night at least 5 of my worlds collided in a heap of laughs, smiles, new friends, old friends, and great wine. Since I celebrated my birthday last month at home, I invited friends in the city to join me last night for belated merrymaking. I just have to say this: I have the very best, most amazing friends a girl could ask for, and it was such a joy to watch them all laugh and play together in one room. Also, the very fact that 25 of them showed up made me feel more loved than I have in a while. Thanks, friends!

I chose Ardesia in Hell's Kitchen for the first few rounds - mostly because I'd been there once before and the soft pretzel I had with my Malbec was amazing. A few pretzels were ordered last night but I was too busy flitting about the room visiting to sink my teeth into one, and after several glasses of wine last night (read: bottles), pretzel-making was about as ambitious as I got today.

I've been intimidated by yeast-breads for a while, so easy pretzels seemed like a good way to start. These were really fun to make, though kind of time consuming, and tasted great. Next time I'll make them a little sweeter and brush them with cinnamon sugar to get that Auntie Anne's sweet perfection. In the meantime, I ate three of these for dinner with a dollop of Grey Poupon and then set out into the night to make some pretzel deliveries to friends.

It must just be a weekend for friends because Izzy and I ran into a dear one as we were walking home from our pretzel deliveries. She's just started a fun blog project so be sure to check it out and follow her adventures.

Soft Pretzels
SmittenKitchen's Martha Stewart adaptation

2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. sugar
1 packet dry active yeast
5 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. canola oil (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
course salt

Pour warm water and 1 tbsp. sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook an stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour; knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, until smooth.

Pour oil into a large bowl, swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

Heat oven to 450 F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (I used parchment paper). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces and wrap in plastic.

Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet. Let pretzels rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda and remaining 2 tbsp. sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

Beat egg with 1 tbsp. water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 13 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

come on down!

Many thanks to all who entered my first giveaway! And welcome new followers! It was so fun to hear all about your favorite things and I can't wait for the next contest. I wish I could give you all gifts but there was only one winner and it is...

Commenter #12! Come on down!

You've won:
A gift box of 4 assorted Levain Bakery cookies
A 12-oz bag of beans from Joe the Art of Coffee
A couple samples of Bond No. 9 fragrances
Ghirardelli's "Twilight Delight" 72% cacao dark chocolate

Anna's answer to the thing she can't live without right now was "Lately I can't get enough Twilight. I may or may not be reading them for the second time (in a month) in my defense I joined the party a little late!"

Well, Random Number Generator, it all seems a little too perfect seeing as Anna will win some delicious "Twilight Delight" dark chocolate (as dark as James' cold dead heart!) as part of her prize. ALSO ODD that I used the same Random Number Generator as Camilla of Champagne Bubbles and HER recent winner was also number 12! AND Anna just won a giveaway on another blog! Suspect? Perhaps. But congrats, anyway!!

And don't worry, there will be many more giveaways to come. Too much fun stuff out there! Hope you're all having a great week - look out for some new posts this weekend!

Anna, please email me your mailing address so I can send your prize on its way!

Oh, and thanks to a certain dark-haired Lithuanian someone who educated me about Twitter. You know who you are.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

OH EMM GEE: indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes

It's so weird how taste buds change, isn't it? You expect your taste in everything else to change even though sometimes that's shocking too. When I was little I went through a phase where I'd only wear clothes if they were purple. In high school M.U.D.D. jeans and Abercrombie mini-sweaters were all the rage, and in college I thought I'd never trade my Rainbow flip flops for Louboutin stiletto's (ok... so that hasn't happened yet but a girl can dream).

But certain foods have a funny way of suddenly tasting amazing and making you wonder where they've been your whole life - and what they've been doing outside your belly.

Which brings me to cauliflower. I know you're saying ewwwwww cauulifloowwerr! It's to vegetables what merlot is to wine (post-Sideways) - completely under appreciated until you taste some that makes you wonder why you've shelved it for so long.

This, dear readers, is that recipe. I first found it on SmittenKitchen and was intrigued to give Indian spices a try - and since then I'm a woman obsessed. With cauliflower.

It's crazy easy and involves only a handful of ingredients (cauliflower, onion, and potatoes) but the flavor is big. HUGE, even. I've made it several times and I'm always amazed at how this sad little veggie that never gets much love can taste so freaking amazing. This go around I swapped in yams for the yukons and I don't think I'll go back to the original version - the sweetness of the yams matched the spices perfectly and even though it's a simple vegetarian dish I could eat a giant bowl for dinner... and lunch tomorrow... and dinner tomorrow night.

If you're like I was and nervous to venture into the realm of Tumeric and Coriander and Cumin - get to it! This is a great gateway dish and I promise you won't be disappointed. And if you are, invite me over to finish your portion.

AND DON'T FORGET! Tomorrow's the last day to enter my giveaway! So hop on over here for your chance to win some of my favorite sweets :)

Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes

1 head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used a big yam)
5 tbsp. vegetable oil (I used 4 tbsp. olive oil)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
3/4 tsp. salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped (I used a red onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp. minced fresh jalapeno, including seeds
2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger (I used powder)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. tumeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1/2 cup water

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475 F.

Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tbsp. oil (I only needed 2 tbsp.), cumin seeds, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger in remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8-10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, tumeric, cayenne and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

justification: caramel corn

In NYC (and probably most big cities), there is always a renting vs. owning discussion when it comes to apartments. Paying rent can feel just like throwing away thousands of dollars each month, with no return or "investment." The fact is that most New Yorkers (myself included) can't even think about buying an apartment -- the average price of a 1 bedroom in NYC is $750,000 according to the Corcoran Group real estate brokerage firm. In this town where numbers like $1.5 million and upwards are commonly thrown out in apartment real estate conversations, $750,000 almost seems reasonable. But when you compare it to the "real world" outside Manhattan's 22 square miles, you can buy a 4 BR, 3.5 Bath home (in my hometown Wexford, PA) for $450,000 less than that 1-bedroom apartment in the city.

But we tell ourselves you can't compare apples to oranges. After all, it's New York City we're talking about. So we rent little corners of the city and never think about the $18k/year again.

And without worries like home ownership, we stay a little younger and a little more reckless. Visiting friends tell me that NYC has its own sense of morality - and you see the resulting excessive behavior in its inhabitants. We drink a little more amazing wine at the Gramercy Tavern because a cab is around the corner and we don't have to drive home. We spend a little more on Marc Jacobs bags because everyone has credit card debt so it's OK if we do, too. We live in tiny apartments because they're in the middle of the West Village and it's all about location. And for the 5-10 years we live between the Hudson and the East River we justify our excess because we're determined to live our best life while we're here. It's also why those friends love to come visit :)

But even though out-of-town friends might balk at the way we live, the perks are sometimes worth it. Like this weekend. When my apartment fell apart around me in the form of a leaky ceiling, jammed doorknob and faulty toilet. And though the mess took some time out of my 3-day weekend, instead of calling a handyman, locksmith, and plumber, I just called my landlords. I think I'll stick to renting for now.

After the apartment debaucle the only way to dissipate the bleach smell was to fill the air with something sweet. A friend of mine is having a Golden Globes party tonight so I put together Molly's caramel corn from Orangette to treat the girls to a red carpet-themed sweet.

And don't forget to enter my VERY FIRST giveaway! Deadline is Wednesday for entry so leave a comment to this post to win some sweet things.

Caramel Corn with Cashews
Adapted from Molly (and DamGoodSweet, by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel)

1 package plain microwave popcorn, popped (or about 10 cups)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4-cup light corn syrup
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted cashews, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pop the popcorn according to the package instructions. Coat a large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl, taking care to pick out and discard any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt and 2 tbsp. water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 250F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can. Stir in the cashews, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a cooking rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn and serve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

love! and (my first) giveaway

Wow! I've gotten so much Twitter love since I joined a couple months ago (and met some great people, too!) that I decided to give something back when I reached 100 followers. You might say that 100 is nothing compared to @RuthReichl's 24,263 followers or @SweetTartelette's 3,015 followers or the NYC @Waffletruck's 4,779 followers - but it's a start! And it's been really fun getting new readers who leave wonderful, insightful comments on my blog. Keep 'em coming! Every time I get a comment it's like opening a present on Christmas morning :)

So, on to the giveaway. I've had a couple weeks since I first tweeted the 100-follower challenge to come up with the prize. I looked at what other food bloggers give away: cookbooks, favorite kitchen utensils, baking pans they swear by, cooking classes taught by the blogger, and bottles of rare but delicious honey. But what seemed to be missing from many giveaways was the object we're all here for: food! So instead of giving away my new favorite baking book, or hosting a cooking class in my bite-sized apartment, or sending you a bottle of Cholula (better than honey - it's great on everything!), I'm giving away something sweet that I've mentioned in several previous posts.

Yup. One lucky winner will receive a gift box of 4 assorted Levain Bakery cookies from the UWS bake shop. Don't worry friends, these aren't just 4 everyday cookies. They're 6-ounces each and the New York Times has called them "possibly the largest, most divine chocolate chip cookies in Manhattan." I literally can't walk by the quaint little bake shop without indulging and I have no idea how my friend Emily lives on the block and isn't 400 lbs. I guess it's that little thing called self-control that has no place in my head when it comes to cookies. Num.

In addition to the cookies, the winner will receive some more of my favorite sweet things:
A 12-oz bag of beans from Joe the Art of Coffee
A couple samples of Bond No. 9 fragrances
Ghirardelli's "Twilight Delight" 72% cacao dark chocolate (because even if it doesn't say it's associated with the movie, it is - and it's almost as delicious as Edward Cullen)

All you have to do is comment to this post and tell me what your favorite-can't-live-without thing is right now. That's it! I want to hear about your favorite kickboxing class or your favorite Essie nail polish color or your favorite skinny jeans that make your butt look just right for date night. Just leave a comment by next Wednesday January 20, 2010.

Good Luck!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

eat food. not too much. mostly plants: apricot bars

One of my New Year's resolutions was to take advantage of New York City. Not in the "go home the next morning with your mascara still on" way, but in the "NYC has so much to offer you better enjoy it while you're here" kind of way. So in honor of the resolution, I heard about a book reading/signing last week and got some friends on board for a trip to the Tribeca Barnes & Noble.

It wasn't tough to wrangle the crew - the author was activist, journalist, professor and all around environmentalist Michael Pollan. You've seen his thick-as-bricks books (The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food) and have probably heard whispers of his "everything you eat is made of corn" theory, but if you're like me there's rarely time between work, walking the dog, going to the gym, and watching high school musical TV-shows on Fox to dig into 400-page books... unless they include sparkly 100+ year-old vampires, of course.

Pollan's new book, Food Rules, was the topic of discussion at B&N this week and the timing was perfect for everyone's quintessential New Year's resolution: to lose weight and be healthier. Though his previous books might intimidate, Food Rules is just 112 pages with eating guidelines that everyone can follow. Some of my favorites from his jam-packed discussion last week:

"Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food"
"Avoid food products that have more than 5 ingredients"
"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't"
"Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk"
"Eat when you're hungry, not when you're bored"

It was a good conversation and I felt like I left with amplified common-sense food advice to live by (or at least try to). Of course, the beer and chicken wings my friends and I had after the reading didn't quite fall in line with his message, but his rule #64 is "Break the rules once in a while." :)

I'm counting on the fact that he wouldn't dissuade baking if you're bored (as long as you don't eat the whole thing yourself) since that's often my reason for pulling out the standing mixer. I was about to pick up some sweets from my favorite neighborhood bakery for a dinner party this week but had the time and the ingredients to try these apricot bars that I'd ear-marked in Bon Appetit. And boy, they were good.

I'm usually suspect of sweets without chocolate, but these shortbread cookie bars were kinda epic. They aren't the prettiest but don't let that fool you - they're delicious and a dusting of sifted powdered sugar on top made them perfectly presentable. Next time you have a craving for a fruity non-pie sweet, here's your recipe. I'll definitely be making them again!

Joanne's Apricot Bars
Bon Appetit

Shortbread layer:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Apricot layer:
2/3 cup packed dried apricot halves, coursely chopped
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

For shortbread layer
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish with nonstick spray. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter, using on/off turns, process until course meal forms. Press crumbs firmly onto bottom of dish. Bake until center is golden, about 25 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Prepare apricot layer
Place apricots in small saucepan, add enough water to cover. Boil until soft, about 4 minutes; drain and set aside.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat eggs in large bowl. Add brown sugar and vanilla; beat until thick. Stir in flour mixture, then nuts and apricots. Spread over shortbread. (I added a thin layer of apricot preserves between the shortbread and apricot mixture - added a tangyness to the bars that I loved)

Bake cookie until puffed dark brown and toothpick inserted into topping comes out with small moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Cool in dish.

Cut cookie into strips, transfer to waxed paper. Sift powdered sugar over bars.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

warmth for the soul: turkey chili

If you live anywhere near the Northeast, you probably spent this weekend the same way I did: sleeping in as long as possible under your down duvet, choosing outfits based on the amount of fleece that can be layered underneath, and sipping multiple cups of hot tea to warm frozen fingers. We've reached a new low here in NYC (literally) and we city-dwellers have responded with ankle-length quilted coats, wool socks, gloves, neck warmers, earmuffs, scarves, hats and hoods cinched tight. There's really no way to beat it, so in the midst of hibernating, social outings for the weekend were limited to things indoors... with central heating.

I saw "Sherlock Holmes" on Friday along with the rest of the Upper West Side who apparently had the same idea of stealing away in commercial warmth. And I have to say, I actually really enjoyed the movie (and the heat of the jam-packed theater)! I think Robert Downey Jr.'s acting comeback has been pretty fab and maybe it's not a theater must-see, but it was totally entertaining. It also re-affirmed my girl-crush on Rachel McAdams and I want to steal her fuchsia dress from the movie and wear it around my apartment. And Jude Law has never been hard to look at ;)

Then last night's plans came together late in the day (I was so far under my duvet that I couldn't hear the phone ring) - but it ended up being the kind of night I want many more of in 2010. The "house party" seems to have been lost as I've gotten older, likely due to growing out of dorms and growing in to city apartments that don't have room to pack 'em in by the dozen. But last night one of my girlfriends suggested cooking "in" instead of braving the cold and going "out" to eat, and we wrangled a couple girls to get in on some chili-making and wine-drinking.

I've been cooking chili for the past few years and it's usually an all-day process with a slow simmer to let the flavors come together, not something you can whip together in an hour for dinner. But part of my chili education a few years ago lead me to a fun chili cookbook that features the best chili restaurant/diner recipes from each state. I've had good luck with every recipe I've tried from the book so when the girls requested a turkey chili, I found a recipe from Bakery Bar in Portland, OR that we decided to give a shot. We gathered ingredients and met at Julie's cozy apartment to cook it up (read: drink 3 bottles of wine and sing-a-long to the "Glee" soundtrack).

The chili was deeeelicious (I'm already planning a weekend chili-making session to stock my freezer with the spicy stuff) and cozying into Julie's poufy couch with a big glass of red wine and some of my best friends within arms-reach was the best way I could have spent my Saturday night. Just goes to show you don't need to spend $100 at one of NYC's finest restaurants to enjoy great food with close friends. And with this kind of chill in the air, I'd rather trek 20 blocks to Julie's apartment than wait for a West Village reservation in the freezing cold. Oh, and the best part? The meal + wine cost us $12/pp, and we each left with a "to go" container ready to re-heat. Couldn't have kicked off 2010 any better.

I wouldn't change a thing about this recipe - it was spicy (but I like spicy) so perhaps tone down the cayenne if you're sensitive to heat.

Bakery Bar Turkey Chili
Bakery Bar, Portland OR

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 cups chopped onions
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. thyme
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
Two 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes with juice, pureed in a food processor
1 bay leaf (we left this out)
Two 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained
One 12-oz. can tomato paste
1 cup water

In a heavy 8-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and brown. Add the ground turkey and cook until browned, stirring the meat frequently to break it up. Add the salt, thyme, cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cayenne, stirring well to combine, and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and juice, bay leaf, pinto beans, tomato paste, and water, stirring well to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer on low for 60-90 minutes (ours went for about 50 minutes, just watch for the consistency you like), stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf. Serve with sharp Cheddar cheese, chopped red or green onions and sour cream, if desired. Serves 10.
Creative Commons License
Baking Therapy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.