Friday, November 20, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

When it comes to what makes a good chocolate chip cookie, opinions usually favor one of two main camps: soft and chewy, or crisp and crunchy. My ideal cookie falls into the former category- thick and chewy in the center with lightly crisped edges... *drooling*... Anyways, as far as I'm concerned, these cookies have the corner on the texture market. I wish I could say I spent hours creating this recipe, tweaking it here and there until I finally reached my cookie nirvana, but alas, all credit must go to the incredible Deb over at SmittenKitchen. I used fewer chocolate chips by almost half, but feel free to use the amount given if you want uber-chocolatey cookies. Be sure to use a good quality chocolate, and for the love of all things chewy, please don't overbake these.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Deb at SmittenKitchen, who adapted it from here.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I only used 1 1/4 cups)

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, November 16, 2009

To Ease the Sniffles

Friends, the holiday season is in full swing, bringing with it friends, family, and unfortunately, all of their germs. It seems like everyone is falling prey to some random bug, but with so many obligations and various holiday gatherings, many people don't take the necessary time to rest and recuperate and end up exhausted, sick, and a wee bit cranky. If you know someone like this, please- do them a favor and stage a chicken soup intervention. Nothing gets people to slow down like a hot bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup, and we all know that it's the most comforting meal to those who are fighting off the sniffly sneezies. This particular recipe is for bare-bones, basic chicken noodle soup- no special ingredients, nothing spicy, just basic help-you-feel-better soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
1-2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (use dark meat if you prefer)
Chicken stock (preferably homemade)*
Salt and pepper to taste
Egg noodles**

1. In a large pot, cook the onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil until tender (about 5 minutes)

2. Add the chicken and cook for 1-2 minutes (don't cook through), then add desired amount of chicken stock to pot and bring to a boil.

3. Bring soup down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste..If eating immediately, add egg noodles and boil until noodles are cooked through. Serve with a toasty slice of bread.

*If you don't use homemade stock, you will probably have to season the store bought stuff with parsley, thyme, oregano, or whatever you would use in your homemade stock.

** If you are making the soup ahead of time, reheat just the amount you want to serve to a boil and add the egg noodles at that time. That way, your noodles don't get soggy while sitting in the refrigerated soup.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jumbo Cranberry Orange Muffins

Even though I am an unapologetic wuss when it comes to cold weather, I love this time of year, mostly because it means I can break out the cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks, and it means that I can stock my freezer to capacity with fresh cranberries. And, with these cranberries, I can make my favorite cranberry muffins, and I can even call them healthy because there's wheat flour in them (just ignore the stick of butter. Focus on the wheat and the cranberries). In all seriousness, though, these are delicious, satisfying, and they're great to have when company arrives. I like to keep a batch in the freezer for unexpected guests, or for mornings when I want a baked good but just don't have the gumption to bake.

Jumbo Cranberry Orange Muffins
(makes 12)

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (or graham flour, which I prefer)
finely chopped zest of 1/2 large orange (optional)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (or frozen, thawed, and drained cranberries)


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare muffin tins for baking.
2. In a medium bowl, blend together brown sugar and butter with a wooden spoon. Whisk in eggs, one at a time.
3. Stir in vanilla, milk, and orange juice.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients (except cranberries).
5. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
6. Stir in cranberries.
7. Divide batter evenly among muffin tins and bake for 17-20 minutes or until done. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.