Monday, January 23, 2012

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Sorry for the long delay in posting. We've spent the past two weeks being incredibly sick and then recovering. Poor baby boy was throwing up for a week straight. Now the house is back in order, the mountains upon mountains of laundry are under control, and I am back with delicious cookies for you.

I've been chomping at the bit waiting to try out this particular recipe for weeks. Sometimes when I wait so long to try a recipe I am disappointed with the results because I've gotten my hopes up so high. Not so with these cookies. They are undeniably wonderful.

I love a good oatmeal cookie, but hate raisins. Deal with it. But these chunky wonders (filled with butterscotch chips, toffee bits and flaked coconut) fulfill my need for a hearty oatmeal cookie, sans raisin nastiness. It is well with my soul. And the hubs didn't mind them one bit.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups old fashioned oats
¾ cup shredded coconut
½ cup butterscotch chips
¼ cup toffee bits

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Stir to blend, and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars and beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  With a spatula, fold in the oats, coconut, butterscotch chips and toffee bits until evenly combined.

Drop scoops of dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just set and light golden, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool on the pans about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Banana Bread Bundt Cake

Is it cake? Is it banana bread? Do you honestly care?

I'd say this lands somewhere in the middle, but I'm going to call it banana bread so I feel less guilty about eating it for breakfast. It leans towards bread and is more cake-like in its shape. Are you convinced? I am.

I've been looking for a good banana bread recipe for a while. For something that has so many recipes out there, it's surprisingly hard to find a good one. They are either way too dense and often undercooked in the middle (or burnt on the outside if you want it fully cooked), or they are dry and crumbly and just all around gross.

This recipe from Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) pulled through for me where many others have failed. It is moist but not undercooked, dense but not too dense. The crust is browned and crisp and wonderful. I will search for the perfect banana bread no more. It is here, and it is marvelous.

Banana Bread Bundt Cake
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cup, plus 2 Tbs. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (about 3 medium) mashed ripe bananas
4 cups, plus 2 Tbs. flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cup whole milk yogurt or sour cream

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour bundt pan.

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Add mashed bananas and beat until combined.

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients and yogurt alternately to the mixing bowl, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat well until combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Invert on a cooling rack and allow cake to cool slightly before slicing and serving with softened butter.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mushroom Gnocchi

I have a serious thing for mushrooms. I love stuffed mushrooms and mushrooms in salad and mushroom wine sauce over chicken and mushrooms risottos and grilled portabellas. I am yet to meet a mushroom that I do not love.

But until recently, cremini mushrooms had not entered my life. Now that they have, there is no going back. Who knew a mushroom could be so deliciously meaty? Who knew there was a mushroom out there more savory than a portabella? Well, now I know.

I can't get over how good this dish is. Seriously, people, this will change your life. Browning the gnocchi in butter after boiling them is a heaven-sent way to add flavor and complexity to your regular, bland store-bought gnocchi. The thick, creamy sauce with savory thyme is to die for. The mushrooms, I think you know how I feel about them.

This dish is so satisfying that it makes me think I could become a vegetarian again and eat mushrooms all day every day and never miss meat.

But then I remember how delicious bacon is. 

Mushroom Gnocchi
adapted from Cooks Illustrated Cooking for Two 2009

serves 2

1 1/2 cups (1/2 lb.) vacuum packed gnocchi
2 Tbs. butter
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs. white wine
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper
1 Tbs. minced fresh parsley

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbs. salt and the gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi float to the surface and are just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain the gnocchi.

In a 10 inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbs. butter over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to a plate, set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tbs. butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallot, cover, and cook until the creminis have released their liquid, about 4 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook until the creminis are well browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, thyme and flour, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth, cream and wine and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly and reduced to about 1 cup, 12 to 15 minutes. Fold in the browned gnocchi and peas and cook until heated through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley and serve.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls

I'm not a huge fan of cinnamon rolls, but these babies changed my mind. It's not that I didn't like cinnamon rolls, I just didn't like store bought ones, and I am most certainly not the type of person who wakes up at 5 a.m. to make them fresh (I am not a morning person, not even a little bit). I had tried making overnight cinnamon rolls before, and they were okay but nothing fantastic. Nothing blog worthy.

Then along came my Cooks Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipes cookbook, which grabbed me by the collar of my bathrobe, shook me and said "behold, the answer to your problems is here." Well, figuratively of course.

Not only are these make-ahead cinnamon rolls that taste fresh as fresh can be, but they cook STRAIGHT FROM THE FREEZER! Yes, from the freezer. You heard me right my friends. So you can make these whenever you find yourself with the time to wait around for dough to rise, and then cook them whenever you wake up and decide you'd like some delicious fresh pastry for breakfast.

Trust me, you want to make these.

Make-Ahead Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Cooks Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipes

For the Basic Sweet Dough:
3/4 cup buttermilk, warm (about 100 degrees)
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt

For the Cinnamon Roll Filling:
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted (plus more for the pan)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
Pinch of salt

For the Icing:
1 1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbs. buttermilk or whole milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

For the dough, whisk together the buttermilk, butter and eggs together in a large liquid measuring cup; set aside. Mix 4 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixture on low speed, gradually add the buttermilk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute.

Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (after five minutes, if the dough is sticky, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, 1 Tbs. at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 1 minute. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, butter a 13 by 9 inch baking dish; set aside. Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a small bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle. Brush dough with butter then sprinkle the dough with filling, leaving a 3/4 inch border along the top edge.

Roll the dough into a long, tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Roll the cylinder so it is seam side down. Gently stretch the cylinder until it is 18 inches in length, with an even diameter. Pat the ends of the cylinder to even them. Slice the dough into 12 evenly sized rolls using a serrated knife. Arrange the rolls, cut side down, in the prepared baking dish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size and are touching each other, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

For the icing, whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk together in a large bowl until thick and smooth. Add confectioners' sugar 1/2 cup at a time and whisk until smooth, about 30 seconds for each addition.

To bake rolls, preheat oven to 350. Unwrap the dish and cover with foil. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake, uncovered until rolls are puffed and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Flip the rolls out onto a wire rack and drizzle with icing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

While Indian food may not be the most beautiful food in the world, it's way up there on the delicious scale. If my digestive system would allow it, I would eat Indian food every day. Maybe it's just in my blood (I'm a quarter Indian despite my incredibly pale complexion), but I'm guessing it's just that good and has nothing to do with genetics.

I never dreamed of trying Indian food in my own kitchen until I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated for this delicious Chicken Tikka Masala. It looked relatively simple, had no bazaar ingredients and used boneless skinless chicken breasts, which I constantly have on hand.

I have since made this dish many times, and I swear it gets better every time. I don't know whether it's me becoming a better cook, or if it's my love for Indian food growing exponentially. I assume it's the latter.

It may dirty a few dishes, but it is so worth it.

I couldn't stop this dish from creeping back onto my menu each month if I tried.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Cooks Illustrated Best-Ever Recipes

For the Chicken Tikka:

1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp.ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

For the Masala Sauce:

3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced*
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. garam masala
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

For the chicken, combine the cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with the mixture, pressing gently so it adheres. Place chicken on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30-60 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, garlic and ginger; set aside.

For the sauce, heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, chile, tomato paste and garam masala, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in heavy cream and return to a simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While the sauce simmers, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the broiler. Dip chicken in the yogurt mixture until thickly coated. Place on a broiler pan or a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Discard remaining yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until the thickest part registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and the exterior is slightly charred in spots, 10-18 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through cooking.

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1 inch chunks and stir into sauce along with the cilantro. Season with salt to taste and serve over basmati rice.

*You can also use a small jalapeno pepper in place of the serrano chile. If you like a spicier dish, add some of the seeds to kick up the heat.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ham and Cheese Stromboli

When the holidays come to our house we are always left with an abundance of leftovers. In retrospect, we probably did not need a prime rib roast, honey baked ham and turkey to feed twelve people. But, I don't mind. Especially since it means leftover meals and minimal grocery shopping for the next week.

Enter this delicious Stromboli recipe from my new Cook's Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipes cookbook I received for Christmas (which I am all kinds of excited about, expect to see many freezer ready meals to come). It's quick and easy to make, and it serves the purpose of using up my leftover ham.

You can make this recipe with any number of meat and cheese filling combinations. Mozzarella and Pepperoni or Turkey and Swiss are a couple other good ones. Use your imagination. Get a little crazy. It's just a delicious rolled up sandwich so the sky is the limit.

Ham and Cheese Stromboli
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Best Make-Ahead Recipes

serves 4

For the Pizza Dough*:
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tsp. coarse salt
3/4 cup warm water
1 Tbs. olive oil

For the Stromboli:
8 oz. thinly sliced deli ham
3 oz. thinly sliced (or grated) cheddar
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tsp. sesame seeds
Kosher salt (opt.)

For the dough, mix together the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the machine running on medium add the olive oil, then water and mix until dough form a ball (about one minute). Let the dough rest for two minutes, then process for an additional 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 5 minutes, adding additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Gently punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently reshape into a ball and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

Roll dough into a 12 inch by 10 inch rectangle. Arrange ham, then cheese over the dough within 1 inch of the edges. Brush the edges with water and roll into a tight cylinder, pressing the edges to seal. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap and refridgerate for up to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400. Place stromboli on lightly greased baking sheet, brush with eggwash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and kosher salt (if using). Cover loosely with greased foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer stromboli to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and cut into 2 inch slices.

*You can use pre-made pizza dough for this recipe.

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