dark chocolate chip cookies

darkchocolate

Are you a dark chocolate fan like me?  I mean, do you crave chocolate?  I adore anything chocolate.  Bring on the chocolate layer cake, chocolate ice cream and chocolate mousse.  Can you see a pattern here?  I was sick of the Thanksgiving fare of pies and more pies so I decided to bake one of my favorite cookie recipes.  

This is not a recipe for the vanilla loving person, this is for the chocoholic.  This cookie is sinful, dark and gooey.  My mouth is watering just saying those words, so I’m going to get myself a glass of milk and chow down. 

Oh, and this cookie is family, kid and friend approved.  I made these for Zoe’s class party one year, and they were the hit of the party.  I get requests all the time to make these along with my chocolate chip cookies.  You can’t go wrong with either of these cookies.

Black Forest Cookies:

Makes about 22 cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped – I used Ghirardelli semisweet 60% cacao bars
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 package semisweet chocolate chips or chunks – I used Ghirardelli bittersweet 60% cacao chips
Preheat your oven/ovens to 350 degrees.  Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Chop up and measure out your dark chocolate.  I love using these Ghirardelli bars because they are each 4oz (8oz total) so I do not have to measure anything. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a larger bowl, whisk together your granulated and dark brown sugar; set aside.

Placed chopped chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Stir chocolate and butter until melted and smooth. 

Remove from heat and pour chocolate into the bowl containing the sugars. 

Whisk together the sugars and chocolate and then whisk in your 2 eggs until smooth.
 Whisk in dry ingredients until just combined (do not over mix).Fold in your chocolate chips.  I used a spatula to fold in the chips here at the batter was thick.
Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of dough, and refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
Drop mounds of dough onto your prepared baking sheets.  I used my ice-cream scooper here to measure out the cookie balls.  I ended up with about 8 for 2 baking sheets and 6 for the other sheet.  Make sure you set the cookies apart to give each cookie room to grow when baking.
Pop the cookies in the oven and bake just until edges are firm (but not darkening), 11 to 13 minutes.  
Note:  I always bake one sheet at a time in the oven.   
Cool cookies on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
These cookies are extremely rich, so don’t forget your milk!

Tangerine bundt cake with citrus glaze

tangerine

I saw this cake on the most recent cover of Everyday Food Magazine and said to myself, “I just have to make that.”  I was looking for a breakfast cake for Thanksgiving morning and this one fit the bill perfectly because it looked so refreshing and it gave me an excuse to use my bundt pan again. This bundt cake was a bit labor intensive as you have to zest and squeeze about 8 tangerines.  It was well worth it in the end, as we all enjoyed an extra large slice of this on Thanksgiving morning.

Note:  It’s best to make this cake a day ahead so that the glaze can set overnight.  Just cover and store the glazed cake at room temperature. 

Tangerine bundt cake with citrus glaze:

Recipe from Everyday Food Magazine

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated tangerine zest (from 6 tangerines)
  • 1/2 cup tangerine juice (from about 6 tangerines)
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek or low-fat plain yogurt –  I used Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Citrus glaze:

  • 1  1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons tangerine juice (from 2 tangerines)

OK, so I did not have any orange liquor lying around the house, nor did I want a whole bottle of it (yuck), so I went to my local BevMo and asked if they had any travel size bottles of Grand Marnier.  I was in luck as they had tons of these travel sized bottles hidden in back.  Isn’t it just the cutest thing, so tiny against the tangerines?   

As you all know, I like to prep my ingredients ahead of time, so lets do that.  Zest your 6 tangerines, then cut them in half and squeeze the juice out over a glass measuring cup until you get 1/2 cup full of juice.  
I just love all this vibrant orange color!

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a bundt cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, using a standing or hand-held electric mixer, beat your room temperature butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  

Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Your cake mixture will get creamy fast just by adding the eggs.
Beat in tangerine zest, tangerine juice and liqueur.  
Your mixture will look a bit curdled at this point.  Appetizing, right?
With mixer on low, add the flour mixture and yogurt in three additions. You will add in a bit of the flour then the yogurt and then the flour again and so on. 
Beat to combine and then beat in the vanilla.  Your mixture will thicken up and look like this.

Pour the batter into your bundt pan, smooth the top, and firmly tap the pan on a flat surface to remove any air bubbles and to help smooth the batter as well.
 Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50-60 minutes.  My cake was done in 50 minutes.  
Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.  Invert cake onto a cake plate or platter and let cool completely.  
Once your cake is completely cooled, you can move onto making the glaze.  
Whisk together confectioner’s sugar and tangerine juice until smooth.  
Note: My sauce was a bit thick so I added a bit more juice till it got thinner.  The glaze will look yellow at this point, but as it sets on the cake it will turn white.
 
As you can see from my professional glaze job, this was my first time ever glazing a bundt cake so I was not sure what to do.  I thought about researching how to glaze a bundt cake on the Internet, but it was late and the night before Thanksgiving so I decided to wing it.   I just took the glaze and poured it around the top of the cake and let it drizzle down the sides.  I ended up with a lot of drizzle on the bottom that I scooped up with a spoon and added to the top.   If you want to get fancy and make your cake look beautiful, I would recommend this method:
 
Take your glaze and pour into a ziploc bag.  Twist bag (so it looks like a like a pastry bag) so that the glaze can settle into one corner of the bag.  Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle the glaze over the cake.  Make sure you get a lot of glaze on the top of the cake.  The glaze does soak in so you want to use all your glaze. 
 
If you want to delve into your cake that day, then let cake sit for one hour to let the glaze set.  If your eating it the next day, then cover the glazed cake and store at room temperature. 
This is the perfect cake to serve up at breakfast or brunch or to have with your afternoon tea.  It was a hit with my whole family and friends!

Happy Sunday!

cranberry orange sauce

cranberry orange sauce
cranberry orange sauce
Thanksgiving is almost here and everyone needs a cranberry sauce to compliment their Turkey dinner, right?  This cranberry sauce is so simple to make and tastes 100 times better than the canned stuff.  I remember devouring the canned stuff as a kid each Thanksgiving.  I would peel open the can and dump out that big glop of gelled cranberry sauce onto the serving dish and call it a day.  Easy peasy right?  Well, yes, it was easy, but not so tasty, so move over canned sauce and say hello to the fresh stuff.  

This recipe has been passed down from John’s mom, aka, mama mama.  She got the nickname from Zoe when she was 2 years old, and it has stuck ever since.  We all refer to her now as mama mama and she loves it!  This sauce also makes a great hostess gift. We like to put the cranberry sauce into little glass jars, tie them with a cute bow and give them away throughout the holiday season.
cranberry orange sauce

cranberry orange sauce:

recipe handed down from mama mama

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed cloves - if you can’t find crushed cloves, just crush them with the back of a spoon or in a coffee grinder
  • 1 orange cut into small chunks
  • zest of one orange
Rinse your cranberries, zest and cut up your orange and measure out your ingredients. 
Combine all the ingredients into small sauce pan.  
Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until most of the cranberry skins pop.
I wish it was more complicated, but it’s not.  Serve this up to your guests at Thanksgiving and they will be very thankful.
cranberry orange sauce
Remember, this sauce makes great hostess gifts.  Just put the cranberry sauce into little glass jars, tie them with a cute bow, and give them away throughout the holiday season.

Popovers with fresh thyme and gruyere cheese

popovers

Here is great addition to the basic popover recipe that I posted last month.  I am giving full credit to my friend, Amanda Baker (aka theBaker mama), for her twist on the traditional popover.  She decided to add fresh thyme and gruyere cheese to her popovers one day and texted me a photo.  My mouth was watering just looking at the photo, so I knew I was going to have to make them soon.   John was making some orange glazed ham and sautéed spinach with shallots for dinner so we decided these popovers would be the perfect compliment to the meal.   Needless to say, they were delicious!

Note:  Popovers are best when served warm.
 
Popovers with fresh thyme and gruyere cheese:
  • 2 eggs @ room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and butter a popover pan.  Note: You will want to heavily butter your pan even if it’s a non-stick popover pan otherwise the popovers will stick and be hard to get out.
In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, butter, flour and salt.  I use a whisk here and mix until the ingredients are just blended and only tiny lumps of flour are visible, about 1 minute.  
Add your gruyere cheese and thyme and combine.
Once the cheese and thyme are combined, pour the mixture into your popover pan.  Fill popover cups about halfway with batter (make sure you pour an even amount into each cup).
Bake popovers at 425 until they begin to brown and rise, about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven.  Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until popovers are brown and crisp, about 20-25 minutes more.  Please just keep an eye on your popovers and gage your own cooking times.  I usually gage 45 minutes or so to cook my popovers from start to finish.  We like them to be brown and crisp not doughy and yellow.
 
When you pull them out they should look like this:  Note:  These popovers will not rise as high as the traditional popovers due to the gruyere cheese.

Popovers are best served when they are just out of the oven, so try and time them with your meal.  

These were amazing and the thyme and gruyere cheese added such an intense flavor to the traditional popover.   

Cranberry Orange Bread

cranberry orange bread
cranberry orange breadThis is my favorite bread to make and give during the Holidays.  Cranberries and oranges always remind me of the Holidays, and when I bake up this bread my house smells like Christmas.  Cranberries and oranges are the perfect combination.  The citrus from the orange compliments the tartness of the cranberries, making each bite the perfect balance of sweet and tart. This bread is moist, full of flavor and a total crowd pleaser.  I love having this bread with a cup of tea as an afternoon snack, or with a slab of butter and some coffee in the morning.
cranberry orange bread

cranberry orange bread:

recipe from Joy of baking
  • 1 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest 
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 3/4 cup orange juice – you can use regular old orange juice or freshly squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional – 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts – I did not use nuts as my kids are not big fans

ingredients for cranberry orange breadPre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5 x 3inch loaf pan.  
Zest up your orange and rinse and coarsely chop up your cranberries.
coarsely chopped cranberries
In a small bowl, beat your egg.  Add in the 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon orange zest and the 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and whisk to combine.
orange juice, egg, orange zest and vanilla_
In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  Cut the 4 tablespoons of cold butter into small pieces, and blend it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. 
 The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
butter mixed into the flour
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined. 
Then fold in the chopped cranberries (and nuts if you’re using them).  
cranberry orange bread batter
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
cranberry orange bread batter in the pan
Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.  
baked cranberry orange bread
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely before slicing.   I was surprised at how easily my bread came out of the pan.
baked cranberry orange bread on cooling rack
Slice it up and slather on some butter or just enjoy it plain.  It’s the perfect compliment to a cup of joe or tea.  The tartness of the cranberries combined with the sweetness of the citrus is amazing and it just melts in your mouth.  
cranberry orange bread
Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 3/4 cup orange juice - you can use regular old orange juice or freshly squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional - 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts - I did not use nuts as my kids are not big fans

Instructions

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 5 x 3inch loaf pan.

Zest up your orange and rinse and coarsely chop up your cranberries.

In a small bowl, beat your egg. Add in the 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon orange zest and the 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Cut the 4 tablespoons of cold butter into small pieces, and blend it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.

Then fold in the chopped cranberries (and nuts if you're using them).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Then remove the bread from the pan and let cool completely before slicing. I was surprised at how easily my bread came out of the pan.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/cranberry-orange-bread/

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Sea Salt

chocolatebark
Here’s a dessert that you don’t have to feel guilty about eating. It’s dark chocolate bark, and it’s as amazing as it looks, but yet so simple to whip up.  You can mix up a batch in literally 5 minutes before chilling it in the fridge.  You may even have all the ingredients at home, I did.  
 
Pair this up with a nice glass of red wine and you have the perfect after dinner dessert.  Wrap or box some up, and you have the perfect Holiday hostess gift. 
 

Dark Chocolate Bark with Pistachios and Sea Salt:

Recipe from Whole Living Magazine

  • Vegetable or olive oil cooking spray
  • 9oz dark chocolate (70 percent cacao), melted
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Lightly coat at 8-inch pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving a small overhang.  Chop up your pistachios.
Melt your chocolate over a double boiler.
Pour melted chocolate into your prepared pan and smooth with a spatula into an even layer.  Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and coarse sea salt.  
Chill in refrigerator until completely set, about 30 minutes.  Pull cooled chocolate out of the refrigerator and peel off parchment paper.  
Rest on plate or cutting board and cut it up into pieces or just break it apart into random pieces.

There are so many different combinations of toppings you can try.  I am going to try almonds and coconut next.  I am also thinking of adding some chopped peppermint for the Holidays.  

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

green bean and shallot ravioli

green bean and shallot ravioliI saw this recipe in the November issue of Whole Living Magazine and I knew I had to make it.  I mean I was literally salivating over this recipe and 5 others.  These recipes were shown as Thanksgiving side dishes for vegans and vegetarians.  I thought to myself as I was staring longingly at the photos, when did I start getting excited over vegetable dishes?  Who is this girl?  I use to get excited over a juicy burger, fries or any sort of sweet, (well, I still get excited over sweets) but vegetables?  This is all recent and very strange for me.  I’m honestly considering becoming a vegetarian.  I would prefer a beautiful homemade (not those frozen things) veggie burger to a beef or turkey burger any day. I’m more excited to eat the veggies that I am going to prepare for Thanksgiving than the actual turkey.  My taste buds are definitely changing, maybe its California and that fact that the produce here is so unbelievably fresh and delicious.One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s another easy pantry pasta.  All I had to purchase was the green beans, as I had some shallots, almonds and ravioli at home and I grabbed a fresh lemon from our lemon tree.  I’m finding that if you keep a well stocked pantry, all you need to do is run out for the fresh vegetables. Onions, shallots, nuts, squashes and pastas keep for some time, so stock your pantry with them and you will always have them on hand when your inspired to create a yummy last minute recipe. If green beans aren’t in season, no worries, you can substitute broccoli rabe instead.DSC_0018Eli and Zoe rated this dish a 10+++.  John and I literally devoured it, so it ranked high with us as well. This is definitely a recipe that is going to be made again and again in our house. Moms, this is an easy throw together pasta for those busy weeknights.green bean and shallot ravioli

 green bean and shallot ravioli:

  • 1 large bunch of green beans, trimmed - We like our veggies, so I grab a hefty bunch. If green beans aren’t in season, feel free to substitute broccoli rabe/baby broccoli
  • 1 bag (22oz) of frozen ravioli - I get the Whole Foods ravioli as it’s just $2.99 a bag, what a steal!
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted – I just throw in a big old handful and call it a day.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
First toast up the sliced almonds. To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.
toasting almondsNext wash up and trim those green beans. Aren’t they just beautiful?  They’re so vibrant and green.  I tell you, mother nature makes the most beautiful food.Peel and slice your shallots into thin slices, set aside.  Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.Throw the beans into the salted and boiling water, (you’re basically blanching them) and cook the beans until just tender 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your green beans). I always cook my beans for exactly 3 minutes and they are perfect!   If you’re using broccoli rabe, then you will only want to cook it for 1 minute.  

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable.  There is only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.Transfer the beans with either a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking of the beans.Drain the beans, dry them off, and then set them aside.  

  Add the ravioli to the cooking water, (the same water that you used for the green beans) and cook according to package directions.  Drain and set aside. 

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the green beans, ravioli and almonds to your pan and toss to coat. I like to turn the heat down to low and cook the ravioli for a minute or two so that it browns up a bit. Turn off the heat, take your lemon half, and squeeze the juice over the pasta.  Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and add some fresh shredded parmesan.  Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.  

green bean and shallot ravioliThis is a wonderful one-bowl meal your whole family will enjoy! 

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

Rating: 51

Green Bean and Shallot Ravioli

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch of green beans, trimmed - We like our veggies, so I grab a hefty bunch. If green beans aren't in season, feel free to substitute broccoli rabe.
  • 1 bag (22oz) of frozen ravioli - I get the Whole Foods ravioli as it's just $2.99 a bag.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted - I just throw in a big old handful and call it a day.
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Instructions

First toast up the sliced almonds. To toast them, just put some sliced raw almonds in a dry skillet set over medium heat, and swirl them around in the pan for a few minutes until they become golden brown in color. Reserve them to the side.

Next wash up and trim those green beans.

Peel and slice your shallots into thin slices, set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.Throw the beans into the salted and boiling water, (you're basically blanching them) and cook the beans until just tender 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of your green beans). I always cook my beans for exactly 3 minutes and they are perfect! If you're using broccoli rabe, then you will only want to cook it for 1 minute.

Note: Timing can vary depending on the size of your vegetable. There's only one sure way to tell if your vegetable is done: put it in you mouth and eat it.

Transfer the beans with either a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to a bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking of the beans. Drain the beans, dry them off, and then set them aside.

Add the ravioli to the cooking water, (the same water that you used for the green beans) and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until golden and crispy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the green beans, ravioli and almonds to your pan and toss to coat. I like to turn the heat down to low and cook the ravioli for a minute or two so that it browns up a bit.

Turn off the heat,take your lemon half, and squeeze the juice over the pasta.

Serve up the pasta into individual bowls and add some fresh shredded parmesan. Make sure to scrape all those goodies off the bottom of the pan.

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/green-bean-and-shallot-ravioli/

Penne a la Vodka

penne a la vodka
penne a la vodka

OK, we turned back the clocks yesterday and we had our first California rain on Saturday.  In my book that means it’s officially fall and time to start breaking out our favorite comfort foods. Here’s a pasta staple at our house, Penne a la Vodka!  This dish is a classic in my book and it’s SO delicious. The best part about this recipe is that I usually have everything on hand to make it, which makes it an easy dinner fill in.  Make sure you serve this up with some warm crusty bread to soak up all that yummy sauce.  This pasta tastes even better the next day as the penne soaks up all the sauce overnight.  

Penne a la Vodka:

serves 4-6
recipe from from Rachel Ray

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 16-ounces (1 box) pasta, such as penne rigate or any curly type of pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh basil, shredded or torn 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients, measure out your vodka, chicken stock and heavy cream. Mince the garlic cloves and the shallot.

DSC_0003-3

 Add the oil, butter, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat. 

DSC_0007-2

Gently sauté the garlic and shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes, (or until they start feeling soft) to develop the shallot’s sweetness.

DSC_0012-2Add your 3/4 cup vodka to the pan.

DSC_0014-2

Reduce the vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes or longer.  Note: The first time I made this sauce I went by the time estimate and did not really check to make sure the vodka was reduced.  Well, you can guess, my sauce tasted like vodka and I had to throw it away.  So please make sure you reduce it by half.  

TIP:  To make sure the vodka is reduced by half other than looking at it, just smell it and if you smell vodka, then it needs to be reduced a bit more. You want to smell the shallots, garlic and butter, not the vodka.

DSC_0029-2Once the vodka is reduced, add in the 1 cup chicken stock and the can of tomatoes.  Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to thicken it up a bit.

DSC_0034-2

While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in the salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it).  Drain pasta and then return pasta to pot.  

 After the sauce simmers and the pasta is finished cooking, stir the 1/2 cup cream. 

DSC_0041-2Let the sauce return to a boil and then immediately remove it from heat.  It’s not the prettiest looking sauce, but it tastes great!

DSC_0044-2-2

Add your sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. 

DSC_0049-2Serve up a heaping amount of pasta into each bowl.  Add your fresh basil and Parmesan and enjoy! 

DSC_0060-2-2I hope this pasta becomes a staple in your house!

Penne a la Vodka

Rating: 51

Serving Size: serves 4-6

Penne a la Vodka

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 16-ounces (1 box) pasta, such as penne rigate or any curly type of pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • fresh basil, shredded or torn

Instructions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Prep all your ingredients, measure out your vodka, chicken stock and heavy cream. Mince the garlic cloves and the shallot.

Add the oil, butter, garlic, and shallots to a medium-sized skillet set over medium heat.

Gently sauté the garlic and shallots for about 3 to 5 minutes, (or until they start feeling soft) to develop the shallot's sweetness.

Add your 3/4 cup vodka to the pan.

Reduce the vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes or longer. Note: The first time I made this sauce I went by the time estimate and did not really check to make sure the vodka was reduced. Well, you can guess, my sauce tasted like vodka and I had to throw it away. So please make sure you reduce it by half.

TIP: To make sure the vodka is reduced by half other than looking at it, just smell it and if you smell vodka, then it needs to be reduced a bit more. You want to smell the shallots, garlic and butter, not the vodka.

Once the vodka is reduced, add in the 1 cup chicken stock and the can of tomatoes.

Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes to thicken it up a bit.

While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta in the salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). Drain pasta and then return pasta to pot.

After the sauce simmers and the pasta is finished cooking, stir the 1/2 cup cream.

Let the sauce return to a boil and then immediately remove it from heat.

Add your sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.

Serve up a heaping amount of pasta into each bowl.

Add your fresh basil and Parmesan and enjoy!

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/penne-a-la-vodka/

warm butternut squash and chickpea salad

butternutsquash

Here is an amazing comfort food that is actually good for you. It’s a great vegetarian dish that you can serve up as a side dish or as a main entree, as its very satisfying and filling.  I love butternut squash and I am always searching for new recipes that call for it.  I found this particular recipe last spring at the Smitten Kitchen.  I made it up one night when I was sick of food and wanted a vegetarian option for dinner.  My kids are not big fans of butternut squash or this salad, so it’s really just something that I make for John and I.  I love making it for lunch on a cool weekend because it’s so warm and satisfying, almost like a good soup.

Ok, here are the ingredients you will need in addition to the squash.

Warm butternut squash and chickpea salad:


for salad:

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds) 
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt
  • one 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped 

for tahini dressing:

 

  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

 

 

Preheat the oven to 425°F.


Next, I’m going to demonstrate how to cut and peel a squash.  
If you already know how, then you can skip down past these photos.   
Cut off both ends of your squash.
Peel your squash from the top down until you see the bright orange color.
Once your squash is peeled, cut the squash in half.
 Cut the squash again into these large chunks.
Scoop out the all the seeds and that middle gooey stuff.  I use my melon ball scooper for this as it is quick and easy.
I always save and rinse my seeds so that I can roast them later.  Roasted squash seeds make a great snack.
Now you just need to cut up your squash into even sized chunks.
In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, olive oil and a few pinches of salt.  Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated.  Roast them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 20-25 minutes, or until soft.  Remove from the oven and let cool.
While your squash is cooking, chop up your onion and cilantro and rinse & drain your can of chickpeas.
While the squash is cooling, you can make up the tahini dressing.  In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice.  
Note: You will want to use fresh lemons here for your lemon juice.  It typically takes 2 lemons to get a 1/4 cup of juice.
Add the tahini, and whisk to blend.  Add the water and olive oil and whisk well.  If you want a thinner sauce, you can add a bit more water.
To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro in a mixing bowl. Add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully.  
Note: If I am serving this up for guests, then I will add the sauce (add it slowly to taste, don’t use the whole bowl of sauce) to the whole bowl.  If I’m just serving myself a small bowl for  lunch or dinner, then I will just add a spoonful to my dish, and reserve the rest of the sauce in the refrigerator.

This is my third day of eating this for lunch and I am one happy camper :)  Today was cool and misty so I paired it with some warm tea.  Perfect fall dish!

the best chocolate chip cookies

The best chocolate chip cookies
The best chocolate chip cookies
These are the best chocolate chip cookies folks, seriously, you do not need to look any further. This recipe came from Cooks Illustrated so you know it has been tried, tested and approved. These cookies have also been tried, tested and approved in my house as well as many of my friend’s houses, and they are always declared by all as the “best chocolate chip cookie.” I bake these up all the time for bake sales, classroom birthday parties, but I mostly bake them for pure pleasure because they are just so darn good.  These cookies have crunchy edges, chewy centers and there are chips in every bite. They’re the perfect afternoon craving throw together at the last minute cookie because you don’t have to plan ahead and bring any of the ingredients to room temperature first. Just grab everything out of the pantry and fridge, mix it together, drop some cookies on a baking sheet and bake away. There’s no need to write more, you just have to trust me and make some up.
the best chocolate chip cookies

the best chocolate chip cookies:

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 21-24 cookies using a 1 3/4″ ice cream scooper

  • 1  3/4 cups all purpose flour – I use King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar adds more flavor) – Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry.  I like and use the brand, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Dark Brown Sugar, as well as the Whole Food’s organic brown sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg – The recipe doesn’t call for the eggs to be at room temp, but if I know I’m making them up ahead of time, I will take them out a bit beforehand.
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 bag (10-ounces) of chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% cacao) – I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.

 I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so when I have to add them they are ready to go.

Adjust rack (or racks if you have 2 ovens) to middle position and preheat oven/ovens to 375 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crack your egg over a small bowl using an egg separator or your hand to separate the egg yolk.  Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.  Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, the 3/4 cup brown sugar and the teaspoon salt together in small bowl and set aside.  Divide up the butter, put 10 tablespoons into a 10-inch skillet.

 Note:  Avoid using a non-stick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gage when the butter is browned. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into a large heatproof bowl.

I recommend cutting up the butter once its divided, so it melts easier.
DSC_0020
 Heat the 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to the heatproof bowl that holds the 4 tablespoons of butter.  Stir the butter together until completely melted.
DSC_0022Add the sugar and salt mixture plus the 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.
DSC_0025Add in the egg and the yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.  Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.
*Chocolate lovers addition! I wanted to share with you all an adaption that my little 8-year old friend Tatumn did!  Tatumn is a chocolate lover, so she decided to add 1/4 cup of melted chocolate chips to the batter at this point.  She just melted 1/4 semi-sweet chips (or you can use bittersweet chips) and added it to the batter, making an even more chocolately cookie!   I sampled a few of her cookies, and they were super yummy!  Thanks Tate, you’re truly a chef in the making!  
DSC_0028
Repeat process of resting and whisking 2-3 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny.  NOTE: This whisking and waiting time is an important step and really makes a difference with the texture of the cookies.
The brown sugar mixture will thicken and lighten up as you whisk it and let it rest.
Note:  Your batter may not look as thick as my batter in the below photo, but it should still thicken up.
DSC_0029Using rubber spatula or whisk, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips, (you can even be sneaky and add in a couple handfuls of M&M’s as my little friend Mattie likes to) giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.  At this point, I  put my batter into the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, as it can sometimes be too soft to handle.  A note about chocolate chips, my family prefers dark chocolate to milk chocolate, so we use these Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.  They are amazing, and they do say that dark chocolate is good for you, so that may help take some of the guilt away.  Try them in your next recipe that calls for chocolate chips. Divide dough into 8 portions per cookie sheet.  I use my handy dandy ice-cream scooper here.

The ice cream scooper I used is 1 3/4″.  If I use my 2″ scooper than I get 16 cookies per batch.  Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You will have 8 dough balls per sheet. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time (or both trays if you have a double oven) until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes.  You will want to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking (after 5 minutes).

In my oven the total cooking time is about 10 minutes.

Note:  They may look under baked in the center but don’t fret, they will brown and firm up once they are out of the oven.Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. We always have a cookie when they are still warm and the chocolate chips are gooey!  Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert or snack!

The best chocolate chip cookiesI just recently took this recipe and threw it all into a 12-inch cast iron skillet to make the best chocolate chip skillet cookie.  So, if you’re looking to make up a “big” cookie then give this skillet cookie a try.

the best chocolate chip skillet cookie

the best chocolate chip cookies

Rating: 51

Yield: makes 21-24 cookies

the best chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour - I use King Arthur's unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (dark brown sugar adds more flavor) - Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. I like and use the brand, Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Dark Brown Sugar, as well as the Whole Food's organic brown sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg - The recipe doesn't call for the eggs to be at room temp, but if I know I'm making them up ahead of time, I will take them out a bit beforehand.
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 bag (10-ounces) of chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% cacao) - I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips

Instructions

I like to prep all my ingredients ahead of time so when I have to add them they are ready to go.

Adjust rack (or racks if you have 2 ovens) to middle position and preheat oven/ovens to 375 degrees.

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crack your egg over a small bowl using an egg separator or your hand to separate the egg yolk. Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside.

Whisk 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, the 3/4 cup brown sugar and the teaspoon salt together in small bowl and set aside.

Divide up the butter, put 10 tablespoons into a 10-inch skillet.

Note: Avoid using a non-stick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gage when the butter is browned.

Put the remaining 4 tablespoons butter into a large heatproof bowl. I recommend cutting up the butter once its divided, so it melts easier.

Heat the 10 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to the heatproof bowl that holds the 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir the butter together until completely melted.

Add the sugar and salt mixture plus the 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.

Add in the egg and the yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds.

Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2-3 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. NOTE: This whisking and waiting time is an important step and really makes a difference with the texture of the cookies.

Note: The brown sugar mixture will lighten up and thicken as you whisk it and let it rest.

Using rubber spatula or whisk, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in the chocolate chips, giving dough a final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain. At this point, I put my batter into the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, as it can sometimes be too soft to handle.

Divide dough into 8 portions per cookie sheet. I use my handy dandy ice-cream scooper here.

The ice cream scooper I used is 1 3/4". If I use my 2" scooper than I get 16 cookies per batch. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You will have 8 dough balls per sheet.

Bake cookies 1 tray at a time (or both trays if you have a double oven) until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes. You will want to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking (after 5 minutes).

In my oven the total cooking time is about 10 minutes.

Note: They may look under baked in the center but don't fret, they will brown and firm up once they are out of the oven.

Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. We always have a cookie when they are still warm and the chocolate chips are gooey! Pair it up with a tall glass of milk and you have the perfect dessert or snack!

http://www.marinmamacooks.com/2011/11/the-best-chocolate-chip-cookies/