Monday, December 31, 2012

Cranberry Cornbread

I generally don't take samples in grocery stores. I can't remember the exact news program, but it was one of those scare tactic types that tell you how many germs are found on sample tongs, leaving them as clean as a toilet in a gas station. However, when I was at Whole Foods a few months ago and saw the baker cutting samples and putting them out first thing in the morning, my breakfast-less stomach grumbled and I had to give the blueberry cornbread a try. My life hasn't been the same since.
Seriously, if you haven't tried WF cornbread, RUN to the nearest store and try it! They have a few varieties, and they're all phenomenal  The blueberry is my favorite, but it's not blueberry season so I went with cranberry. While I'd call Whole Foods' a cornbread-cake, not a bread, this is somewhere in the middle. It's not quite as sweet or tender, but I think that's due to much less sugar and oil. We'll be enjoying this with some black eye peas and greens tomorrow for the New Year. Happy 2013 to everyone!

Cranberry Cornbread
inspired by Whole Foods, Veggie by Season original

2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour, separated
1 c. cornmeal (I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Corn Meal - it's very fine)
2 c. fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350*
Line a pan with parchment (I used a springform pan, any will do) and coat with nonstick spray.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and oil. 
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1 c. flour and cornmeal.
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, gently whisk until dry ingredients are almost incorporated.
Toss cranberries with 1/4 c. flour, add to batter.
Using a spatula, gently fold in cranberries, then spoon batter into pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden and puffed in the center.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack to room temperature, serve.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lemon Raspberry Thumbprints

How has it been a whole year since I strapped a little baby on my chest and baked cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve with her? I had hoped it would be the beginning of a small tradition, and luckily we're now 2 for 2! It's so fun to begin traditions and keep them going. My husband and I were married December 1, 2007, and just celebrated our 5th anniversary. We've kept up the tradition of buying each other an ornament for our tree every year, and now we've even added picking one out for Violet! I was a little worried about the tree this year with a toddler in full force (she's got the nickname Hurricane Violet), but so far it's still standing!

I found this children's apron for her at World Market, it's a little big, but over the years she'll grow into it nicely! She did get a little distracted during the making of the cookies, but she happily ate the final product.

The final cookies we made this year were these raspberry lemon thumbprints. I've made many variations of thumbprints, and was looking for something new. I already had some raspberry jam on hand, and thought a fun way to make them pop would be lemon based cookie. On a whim, I decided to google the result and see what I could find (google is always the answer.) Sure enough, Emeril had a recipe that looked like a winner - and these were!

Raspberry Lemon Thumbprints
slightly adapted from Emeril Lagasse  

1/2 c. raspberry jam (seedless)
2 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour (I added an extra 1/4 c.)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter (1 c.) at room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla, beat until incorporated. Scrape down sides.
Add flour, baking powder and salt, mix until flour is absorbed and dough pulls from sides.
Scrape down and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350*
Line a cookie sheet with parchment. 
Scoop tablespoons full of dough into palms, roll into a ball, place on cookie sheet about 3" apart.
Press down center.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until golden brown and puffed.
Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack.
Re-press center if necessary, then add 1/2 tsp. of jam to each center. 
Cool to room temperature, allow jam to set. 
Store in a cookie jar.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Colors Salad

In my CSA share last week was a green with red speckles all over it, and I thought to myself, how fitting to get a Christmas color lettuce this week! It inspired me to create a salad full of red and green ingredients, and a little white 'snow' on top. I love eating fun, restaurant like salads at home, but never plan them out enough to make sure they have a variety of toppings. This salad would be a great first course for a dinner party this holiday season, or for any time of year!

Christmas Colors Salad
Veggie by Season original

1 head of lettuce, washed well and torn
2 small red beets, roasted, peeled and cut into wedges
1 granny smith apple, cored and sliced
1/2 c. pomegranate arils
1 avocado, diced
1/4 c. toasted nuts (pistachios would be great, but I had walnuts)
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese

1/4 c. pomegranate balsamic (or any aged balsamic)
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

Arrange lettuce in a salad bowl, top with apples, beets and avocado.
Sprinkle pomegranate arils, nuts and goat cheese on top.
Whisk together dressing ingredients, drizzle half of dressing over salad, serve the rest on the side.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oatmeal Scotchies

A few weeks ago, butterscotch baking chips were on sale so I picked up two bags. I didn't have any idea what to use them for, but knew it needed to be a cookie. I looked on the back of the bag and sure enough, the recipe for Oatmeal Scotchies. I've heard of these cookies before, but never realized 'scotchies' was short for butterscotch. My husband loves oatmeal based cookies, so I decided to give them a try.

Wow, if you have a sweet tooth, you are going to love this cookie! It's a simple oatmeal cookie, but the butterscotch chips take it over the top in sweetness. They don't look like anything out of the ordinary, but these chewy, caramel flavored cookies are a crowd pleaser.

Oatmeal Scotchies

1 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 c. old fashioned oats
1 2/3 c. butterscotch chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Scrape down sides, add the vanilla and eggs, one at at time, beating on low until incorporated.
Scrape down the sides.
Add baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, beat until combined.
Add flour and oats, beat for 30 seconds, or until combined.
Add butterscotch chips, mix until just incorporated, about 10 seconds, do not over-mix dough.
Place in the refrigerator and chill for 1 hour to overnight.
Preheat oven to 375*
Line a cookie sheet with parchment, scoop heaping tablespoons full of dough onto parchment about 3" apart.
Bake for 18 minutes, until lightly browned and set.
Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Store in a cookie jar or airtight container. 

Yield 30-36 cookies

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gold Rush Tempeh Sandwiches

Sunday mornings with a baby tend to be pretty hectic, and we often find ourselves sitting in church with grumbling stomachs because we forgot to eat breakfast. One Sunday I was a bit more dramatic than normal, and we stopped at the first place I saw, Hurricane Grill and Wings. I had a veggie burger that was average, and JJ got fish tacos that came with a side of their "Gold Rush Sauce". The sauce was delicious, and we sat there and tried to decipher it. I finally did some googling when I got home and discovered it's basically a combination of honey mustard and buffalo sauce - duh!

Buffalo tofu, tempeh, chick pea patties, and many other variations are always on our weekly menu, so this week I decided to make the Gold Rush Sauce instead. Tempeh is my favorite product to use in place of meat, it's easy to marinade, slice, grill, and pile on a sandwich. The sauce was perfect with the tempeh, I can't wait to try it with some other combinations!

Gold Rush Tempeh Sandwiches
adapted from Hurricane Grill and Wings sauce

1 package of plain tempeh
1/4 c. buffalo wing sauce
1-2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. coarse ground mustard
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
Sandwich bread
Romaine lettuce
Ranch or Blue Cheese dressing

Slice the tempeh into 1/4" pieces.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together wing sauce, honey and mustards. Taste and adjust ratios as desired.
Carefully place tempeh into maridnate, covering all sides.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Heat a grill pan or skillet over medium heat, spray with non-stick spray.
Place tempeh strips in a single layer, cook 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Toast bread, layer with lettuce and tomato.
Add tempeh slices to sandwiches, top with ranch or blue cheese and more sauce (use leftover marinade, it's not contaminated! But discard leftover sauce).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Peppermint Mocha Kiss Cookies

I really try not to cook like I bake, but it just happens. I know baking is science and you need to measure ingredients down to the ounce, but I've found that I have much more success with baking when I pay attention to things like humidity, temperature, and ingredients. About 99% of the time when I bake cookies, I add 1/2 c. or more flour to the recipe as written to keep my cookies from falling flat. I guess it's personal opinion, but I like fluffy, chewy, yet not buttery/greasy, cookies.

When I wrote this recipe, I tried to note the exact amount of each ingredient, but when I added the flour last, it was a bit more, then a bit more, to keep the dough soft and tender, but stiff enough to not fall flat around the kiss. Basically, you want to add 3.5 c. of flour, then if your dough is still stuck to the sides of the mixing bowl, add more flour as it's absorbed, until the dough can be pinched up in your fingers without leaving sticky bits behind. I know, not scientific like some bakers I know (and they're probably rolling their eyes at me!), but it works for me, and these cookies were SO good.

To make these with a stronger coffee/mocha flavor, go with the instant espresso, if you want mild coffee flavor, add the instant coffee, and for just chocolate peppermint, leave them both out. I prefer a strong coffee flavor, but made an additional batch without that was just as good.

Peppermint Mocha Kiss Cookies
Veggie by Season original

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. cocoa powder
3 1/2-4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
Optional: 1 tsp. instant espresso powder or 1 tsp. instant coffee
1 package of peppermint kisses

Yield: About 40 cookies

Preheat oven to 350*
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add egg and vanilla, mix until incorporated, scrape down sides of the mixer.
Add espresso, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder, mix until incorporated.
Add 3 1/2 c. of flour to mixer, beat until absorbed, if dough is still sticking to sides of the mixer and wet, add up to another 1/2 c. of flour.
Pinch off walnut sized pieces of dough and roll into a ball, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet 3" apart.
Bake for 12 minutes, until puffed and set.
Remove and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Using your thumb, or the bottom of a wooden spoon (or anything to substitute), press indentations into cookies, then place a kiss in the center.
Cool cookies until kisses have re-set (they will melt a bit), you can refrigerate cookies to re-harden kisses, or just leave out until they firm up on their own, which takes a few hours. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chewy Banana Cookies with Dark Chocolate Drizzle

For the past few years that I've spent Christmas away from family, I typically make my mother's Banana Spritz Cookies. They remind me of my family, of my childhood when mom would let me pour the multicolored sprinkles on the green tree shaped cookies, but my cookie press didn't survive prior years bake-a-thons, so I had to pass on my beloved spritz cookies.

Violet has been so hot and cold with bananas lately, some days she'll eat two, and some days she'll immediately throw them to the dogs. This week has been an anti-banana week, so on Friday night I had a bowl of browning bananas to use. I thought back to reading a recipe in the morning on Kelly's blog, The Pink Apron. I was intrigued by her cookies, and decided I had to have some kind of banana cookie for Christmas! I didn't have nuts or dried bananas on hand, so I modified the recipe a bit. I also used molasses in place of the glucose.

These cookies are absolutely delicious, I never thought a chewy banana cookie could exist, but these most definitely are. The cream of tartar adds to that as well as the crinkle top and crisp edges. And you can't ever go wrong when you pair chocolate and banana!

Chewy Banana Cookies with Dark Chocolate Drizzle
adaped from The Pink Apron

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 large egg
1/2 c. mashed ripe banana 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 3/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. melted semisweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Scrape down sides, turn mixer on low, add egg, vanilla and banana. 
Beat for another 2 minutes, until fluffy.
Turn mixer off, add cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, mix on low until incorporated.
Turn mixer off, add flour, turn on lox and mix until the dough comes together, about 20-30 seconds.
Place mixing bowl into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or place dough into a tupperware with a sealed lid and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350*
Portion dough into heaping tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets about 3" apart.
Place in the oven, bake for 18 minutes.
Remove and cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Continue until all cookies are baked.
Drizzle cooled cookies with melted chocolate, and cool until chocolate sets. 
Transfer to a cookie jar or airtight container for storage.

Yield 30-36 cookies

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

Each Christmas, I spend months thinking about what cookies I'm going to bake. I scour my favorite recipe banks for interesting yet mass-appealing cookies. Often times I'll find a recipe and know I have to include it in my packages based on certain tastes: JJ loves oatmeal and molasses, Kris loves chocolate, Dad loves shortbread, Grandma loves jam, etc. As for me, I love spice! I had nine recipes on my list, and only one was a chocolate cookie, so it seemed a second was necessary (yes, necessary, ask 7-months pregnant Kris). I was a little selfish and thought of how I could make a spicy chocolate cookie. I browsed a bit and finally it hit me, Mexican Hot Chocolate! Sure enough, the cooking channel website had the exact recipe I was looking for.

Because I knew children (and my mom) would be eating these, I left out the cayenne and added half the amount of chili powder the recipe calls for. I also added an additional 1/2 c. flour as I felt the dough was a bit too wet. These cookies were on the more labor intensive side, they start out like a brownie with melting unsweetened chocolate and butter, then incorporating it into the batter. However, they were more than worth it! And the very next day after receiving her cookie package, my husband's boss asked for the recipe! If that's not the sign of a great cookie, what is?

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

1 stick (4 oz.) butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325*
Over a double boiler, melt together butter and unsweetened chocolate, once completely melted, remove from heat and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract and eggs on low speed until combined.
Add chocolate/butter mixture and beat until combined. 
Stop mixer, add cocoa powder, cinnamon, chili powder, salt, baking soda and cayenne.
Beat until just incorporated, stop mixer.
Add flour, beat until all flour is absorbed, about 15 seconds, then add chocolate chips and beat until distributed, about 10 seconds. 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, scoop dough in heaping tablespoons full onto cookie sheet about 2" apart. 
Bake in the center rack, one sheet at a time, for 14 minutes.
Cookies should be puffy and soft, but set. 
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Yield 2 dozen cookies