Monday, December 31, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

We love a good chocolate chip cookie and these definitely hit the spot the other day.  These cookies are chuck full of chocolate chips and I wouldn't think twice about adding a cup of chopped walnuts the next time I make a big batch of them.  They hold up well to dunking as well, so say the kids (wink, wink)!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 T vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a couple of baking sheet with parchment paper.  Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until blended.
Beat in the vanilla and eggs until light and creamy.  Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.  Stir the chocolate chips into the mixture using a wooden spoon.  Drop the cookie dough a tablespoon at a time (I use a small ice cream scoop) onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.  Use two pans and make sure each pan cools between batches or do what I do and use a third sheetpan and just transfer the parchment paper to reduce waste.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mario Cupcakes

My son turned 7 earlier this month and he requested Mario cupcakes so I tried my best to deliver.  I used marshmallow fondant because it is so easy to work with.  One word of caution, wear rubber gloves when kneading the red food gel into the frosting otherwise you will be walking around with red hands for three days.  I am speaking from experience.
Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes
(best served room temperature)

1 box devil's food cake mix
1 (4 oz) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cake mix, pudding mix and chocolate chips.  Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.  Add egg mixture to dry mixture and mix on medium until blended.  Pour into cupcake liners and bake 20-24 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.

I frosted cupcakes with canned frosting before adding the fondant decorations.

Marshmallow Fondant
adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

16 oz. bag small plain marshmallows
2 Tbsp water
vegetable shortening
1 tsp vanilla
2 lb. confectioner's sugar, reserve 1 cup
pinch of salt

Grease a microwave safe bowl, a spoon, the dough hook, and the bowl of your stand mixer with vegetable shortening or spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Dump the marshmallows into the bowl and microwave for 60 seconds.  Stir marshmallows with the greased soon.  If all of the marshmallows have not melted, microwave for 30 more seconds.  Stir in the flavoring.  Places confectioner's sugar and salt in the stand mixer, reserving 1 cup, and make a well in the center.  Pour marshmallow mix in and turn the mixer on the lowest setting.  When it sounds strained, increase the speed up one setting.  Turn off the mixer once the sugar has been incorporated.  If the fondant is sticky, add the reserved confectioner's sugar 1/4 cup at a time.  Transfer the fondant onto plastic wrap.  Rub a bit of shortening onto the outside of the ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
Roll out on a greased surface or parchment paper to the desired thickness.  If fondant is sticky then sprinkle powdered sugar on the counter, fondant, and rolling pin.
To color the fondant break off desired amount and add gel food coloring and knead ball with your hands until color is disbursed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Martha Knows Pancakes

The kids love pancakes and I alternate between two recipes...I don't know why...but my son loves these and I like the others.   If I mention pancakes he'll always ask "Are you going to make the good ones?" and these are the ones he's referring too.  Funny how everyone has a preference.  Don't get me wrong, these taste light and fluffy and are a breeze to make.  I do like them...I like them even better the second day toasted in the toaster and then smeared with peanut butter and jelly to be exact.

Buttermilk Pancakes
adapted from
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 t salt
3 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs - beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Heat the griddle on medium heat.  Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the eggs, buttermilk, and butter to dry ingredients.  Whisk to combine, do not over mix, lumps are fine.  Oil griddle, or melt a small pat of butter and then brush it around the griddle with a pastry brush to coat.  Pour pancake batter onto griddle with a 1/2 cup measuring cup (or eyeball it like I do) and cook until bubbles appear and edges are dry, 2-2/12 minutes and then flip.  Cook 1 additional minute.

If you like crisp edges use more oil or butter between each batch so there is enough to slightly fry the pancakes.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Malfouf - Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage

Malfouf is a Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage Roll that is stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, and spices and then cooked with lots of lemon and garlic.  It is another family favorite in our house and the kids gobble it up and ask for seconds which justifies the amount of time it takes to make this dish.  Set aside an afternoon and give this a try, just promise me that you'll serve it with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon on top, it makes all the difference in the world!

1 large head of cabbage
1 pound minced beef or lamb (this version was made with minced venison and was equally as tasty, and much leaner than a traditional filling.  You can also used ground beef in a pinch.)
1 cup rice, washed and drained of water
3 lemons, juiced (More lemons for serving)
2 heads garlic, sliced thinly
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt

Fill a large pot 2/3 of the way with water and bring to a low boil.  Cut the core out of the cabbage and place entire head of cabbage in boiling water.  Boil for about 5 minutes and then carefully remove each leaf as it loosens.  I often use a fork and a pair of tongs to gently peel each leaf off and place it on a sheet pan to cool.  Do not try to force the leaves apart or they will tear, simply leave them to boil for another minute or two and then try again.

While cabbage is cooling, mix meat, rice, spices, and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl.  Set aside.  Take the cooled cabbage leaves and cut the thickest part of the stem out.   I use kitchen shears and cut a V shape removing the tough vein out of each leaf.  Use the three largest, most outer leaves and line the bottom of a heavy dutch oven with them(I often throw in the smallest pieces as well).

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture on the edge of a cabbage leaf( start with the darkest leaves).   Roll each leaf, folding the edges over, around the meat and line the rolls carefully in the dutch oven or large pot.  Continue until you run out of meat or cabbage.  You should end up with 3-4 layers of rolls.

Next heat olive oil in a sauté pan and fry garlic until golden and then dump on top of cabbage rolls.  Mix 3 1/2 cups of water with lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Pour over garlic and cabbage.

Carefully rotate pot around to saturate all of the rolls and then bring up to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for 1 1/2 hours until rice is fully cooked and no longer crunchy.  Also, check occasionally to make sure there is still enough liquid left, do not let it get dry and feel free to add a little water if necessary.  Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Rice with Turmeric and Noodles

This Middle Eastern Rice is the perfect side dish for stewed meats, pot roast, roast chicken, or topped with bits of cooked meat, nuts, and spices like in this recipe.  If you already have the oven on for the main dish then this is the perfect side dish since you can cook the rice right alongside of it.  This is another terrific use for a dutch oven since we start cooking it on the stovetop and then move it to the oven to finish.

Rice with Turmeric and Noodles
1 T clarified butter*
1/2 cup thin egg noodles
3 cups chicken stock or 3 cups water with a packet of chicken bouillon mixed in
1 1/2 cups rice
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
Melt the clarified butter over medium heat and add the egg noodles.  Cook until noodles turn golden brown, stirring constantly. Add the rice and stir to coat.  Add all remaining ingredients and bring up to a boil.  Cover and move to a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  (I've found it works really well no matter the oven temp...I've done it anywhere from 325-375 with good results.)  I've also found that letting it rest for 10-20 minutes, covered makes a perfectly delicious pot of rice.

*Clarified butter can be found in the Middle Eastern isle of your grocery store and it is often labeled as ghee.

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