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White Chocolate Chip Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Everyone loves a good chocolate chip cookie, but these sweet and spicy treats are a ginger lover’s dream.  Easy to make and even easier to eat, these have quickly become a new fall favorite at our house.
*EDIT: After posting this I entered a local cookie recipe contest and I won!!

Award-Winning White Chocolate Chip Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • dash of salt
  • 1 stick of very soft salted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup mild molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • scant 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine 7 dry ingredients in small bowl.  In medium bowl or mixer bowl, add butter, brown sugar, molasses, and vanilla.  Beat until thoroughly combined.  Beat in egg.  Add in dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Beat in white chips and candied ginger.

While these can be baked right away, I do like to pop the dough into the refrigerator for about an hour before baking to keep the dough from spreading.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes.  The edges will start to darken  Let them cool for a minute or two on the pan before removing.

This dough freezes very well too, so you can keep some around for cookies on demand.  Enjoy!

 

For the love of crostini

Who doesn’t love a good spread of crostini?  From the classic bruschetta to the more unexpected, I thought I would share some of my latest creations in the kitchen.

Starting with a canvas of toasted bread brushed with olive oil, these simple party bites can be created from a variety of ingredients you may have on hand anyway.  If you have a baguette on and need to entertain in a pinch, you can surely throw together a some crostino!

Basic Bruschetta
Rub bread with garlic clove.
Top with chopped tomatoes,
sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil,
and of course basil!

 


Steak with Blue Cheese Butter
Warm steak (great for leftovers)
topped with a little blue cheese
butter combo.

 

Truffled Brussels Sprouts
Thinly sliced brussels sprouts
quickly sauteed with crushed garlic,
dash of salt, and a generous grind of pepper.
Drizzle with truffle oil and top with shaved parmesan.

 


Roasted Grapes & Feta
Toss grapes with olive oil, salt, pepper,
and fresh thyme.  Roast for 40 minutes
at 400 degrees.  Press feta onto bread and
top with hot sliced grapes. Garnish with toasted walnuts.

 

I hope these ideas inspire you!
For my subscribers…I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’ve decided to do more postings like this with ideas rather than specific recipes.  What can I say?  I’m more of an idea person in the kitchen than one who likes to strictly follow a recipe, so that format will work out better for  me.

Duck, Duck, Tacos.

Looking to change up your taco meat selection?  Try duck!  Everyone else is doing it. Ok, well maybe not everyone, but it seems like duck tacos and nachos have become more common on restaurant menus and it was about time I tried this at home.  While this is really a simple recipe, it does require 2 hours of braising in the oven.  The weight of my meat was 1.1 pounds and generously served 2 people for dinner.

My Beer Braised Duck (for tacos, nachos, burritos, and more!)

  • 2 duck leg quarters (*skin removed)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo (do not rinse)
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro (do not need to chop or remove from stem)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bottle of Mexican lager
  • juice from one lime

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Heat a medium-sized, oven-safe saucepan with tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil to pan.  Generously season duck with salt and pepper.  Sear meat for about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and cook onions until slightly browned.  Add in carrot, chipotle pepper, garlic, cilantro, and salt.  Let cook for about 2 minutes while stirring.  Add duck back into pan and pour beer over duck.  The duck does not need to be completely submerged, but it should be about 3/4 covered or you may want to use a smaller pan.

Transfer pan to oven and cook for one hour.  Flip legs and return to oven for another hour. Remove from oven and transfer duck to a cutting board.  Using a fork, shred meat.

Strain the braising liquid, pressing on the solids to release flavors.  Return strained liquid to saucepan and add the juice of one lime. Add meat back to pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  The meat will absorb flavor from the liquid.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with your favorite Mexican specialty!

*Note on the duck skin.  You may want to render fat from the skin for future use.  The technique I use is to chop the skin into pieces and put in a small pan with about 2 inches of water.  I cook this over medium-low heat while doing the braise, adding more water as it evaporates & pressing down on the skin on occasion.  Once it is clear all fat has been rendered and the water has evaporated, I strain the fat and keep this in the freezer.  Duck fat is great for roasted potatoes!

Green Beans…on the grill!

Anyone else overloaded with green beans this year?  We get some variety of beans in our CSA each week and kudos to them for growing a variety of different species.  The problem, my husband is not a big fan.  He will eat them, but finds them boring…so a simple steam or blanch will not cut it on our dinner plates.

I got out my special pan for the grill and threw on some beans lightly seasoned and coated in olive oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each side.  They were a bit charred, which I prefer, but you could of course cook them just until tender.

Beyond the grilling, I still needed to work on enhancing the flavor.  In addition to salt and pepper before grilling, I grated on some lemon zest and parmesan cheese.  From there, a light drizzle of aged balsamic was the perfect sweet contrast to the zest of the lemon and the grilled flavor of the beans.

Green beans were never something I considered for the grill, but I will definitely be adding them to my list of favorite grilled veggies.

Cheers!

When life gives you beets, make brownies.

In my CSA this week, we received a few small beets.  I don’t hate beets, but they are not my favorite either. Having such a small quantity also meant that I was going to need to use them to accompany something else.  Then…I had a vague memory of hearing about putting beets in red velvet cake.  I pulled out my trusted brownie recipe and started jotting down the required modifications. The result?  Moist and fudgy treats that are not only addictive, but are also a conversation piece.  The brownies I normally make are thinner in the same sized pan…and use another 2 tablespoons of butter.  So, while these are in no way health food, they are slightly less guilt inducing and are just as rich and delicious.

You’ll need enough cooked beets to make 1/3 cup of puree.  I just peeled and boiled mine and gave them a quick run through the Magic Bullet, which has recently became one of my favorite cooking tools.

Block Rockin’ Beet Brownies

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup beet puree
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line an 8″ x 8″ square pan with foil (or parchment paper) leaving the edges high so you can literally pull the brownies out of the pan.  I used parchment as you will see, but I think I prefer foil for cleaner, crispier edges. Place a glass bowl over a pan of lightly boiling water.  Combine butter, sugars, and cocoa powder in the bowl.  Press the butter to the bottom of the bowl and let this sit for 2-3 minutes.  Then, start to regularly stir until butter has completely melted and is combined with the sugars and cocoa.  Reduce the heat slightly and continue to stir this frequently for another 2 minutes to allow more of the sugars to dissolve. Remove this mixture from the heat and set aside for about 3-4 minutes to allow it to cool down slightly.  In the meantime combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Return to the chocolate mixture and stir in vanilla.  Then, beat in eggs (one at a time) and stir in beet puree.  Slowly add in flour mixture until combined, then continue to quickly beat this by hand for a full minute.

Pour this into your pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  The top and edges will be set, but a toothpick inserted into the brownies should still emerge with some batter.  However, if you look closely at the batter, it will not look like thin, raw batter.  It will be thick. Making sure not to over bake these is the key to getting a fudgy moist brownie.

Impatient as usual, I did not wait to remove my brownies from the pan.  I do, however, recommend letting these cool down before pulling them out and cutting them up.

 

Bonus Idea: I discovered that the sauteed beet greens were delicious with some sauteed bacon and red onion, then topped with feta.

Corn…it’s not just for dinner.

Sweet Corn & Berry Ice Cream

You will have to forgive me. I rushed through making this recipe without the blog in mind,  but after tasting the results, I knew I had to share. I recently came across a different recipe for a sweet corn ice cream and had been toying with using it for a dessert to pair with some berries in my fridge. Then, like fate, I came upon this recipe from artisanal ice cream whiz Jeni Britton Bauer for a sweet corn ice cream with a black raspberry swirl and I didn’t look back. This recipe uses cornstarch as a thickener in lieu of the more commonly used egg, which really helps keep the corn flavor pure as eggs would change the flavor of the ice cream.

And for those that may think putting corn in your ice cream seems odd–that’s just nonsense!  Just take a minute to think about cornbread with jam or honey, cornmeal pancakes, corn Chex, that buttery, delicious corn cake that accompanied your entree at the late Chi-Chis…you get my drift??

So here is my adapted version of the recipe.  Enjoy!

Sweet Corn & Berry Ice Cream
(Adapted from “Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home: More than 100 Addictively Good Artisan Recipes” by Jeni Britton Bauer )

  • 1 ear of corn (cut off kernels and scrape the stalk to gather excess juice into reserved corn)  
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons of softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • Berry Sauce (recipe below)

In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of milk until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until very smooth.

Into a large saucepan, add cream, sugar, corn with juice, and corn syrup.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat for 4 minutes. (The recipe calls for medium-high heat, but on my burners I was at a boil over risk at that heat.)

Strain the mixture through a sieve into another bowl, pressing down onto the corn to maximize the corn flavor.  Add mixture back to the saucepan and whisk in cornstarch mixture. Bring back to a boil over medium to medium-high heat until mixture begins to thicken; about 1 to 2 minutes.  (Recipe said 1 minute…I let mine go for 2.)

Slowly pour the mixture into the cream cheese whisking constantly to make sure cream cheese is thoroughly incorporated into the creamy mixture.

If you’re experienced in ice cream making, you’ve probably guessed that it’s time to let the mixture cool down before processing.  I would normally just throw this in the refrigerator overnight, but Jeni shared this smart technique for quick cooling.  After letting this cool for a few minutes, pour it into a heavy-duty gallon sized freezer bag.  Submerge the bag into an ice bath and let it sit for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally.  Voila, your ice cream is ready to process in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

In the meantime, make the lush berry syrup.

Berry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh berries (I used half blueberries and half black raspberries)
  • 1 cup sugar
In a medium saucepan, combine above ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir frequently and grab your candy thermometer. You’re looking for 220 degrees which took me about 7 minutes.  The temperature is critical to achieve the proper consistently for freezing.  Strain the mixture and allow to cool.  I used my ice bath from the ice cream base to quickly cool this down while my ice cream was churning.
To assemble this delicious treat, layer the ice cream and berries, but do not stir. Cover with parchment and freeze until firm.

This makes one quart. The berry syrup is pretty sweet (and so delicious), so I do think you could get by with increasing the quantity of ice cream a bit with the same amount of syrup.

Let me know if you try this.  I don’t think it will disappoint!  I served this with lemon ginger shortbread and the flavors melded seamlessly.

And…if you’ve gotten this far and you don’t have an ice cream maker,  maybe now is the time.  It may seem like a novelty appliance, but ice cream is one of the best things to make in advance when entertaining.  You’ll impress your guests without having to worry about making dessert the day of your event. It can be a little time consuming, but it’s also pretty forgiving and you can ease the process by making the base one night and then throwing it into the maker on the next night.

One Hip Hen

While delicious, the Cornish Hen’s reputation has gotten a bit stodgy. Its small size makes the birds supposedly perfect for a single serving, but it’s more than we’d personally eat if accompanied by side dishes. What makes this recipe hip is not only does it involve preparing the cornish hen as I’ve never done before, it involved my first experience with sumac. The verdict? Wonderful. Moist and flavorful, this will likely be my go to grilled poultry recipe. The recipe as originally written was for 5 hens, but I’ve reduced it down to work for 2. This recipe does involve brining the birds, so you’ll need to plan to start this 6 to 24 hours before grilling.

Grilled Cornish Game Hen with Lemon and Sumac (Adapted from Bon Appetit 8/08)

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, divided in half
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Cornish Hens split with backbone removed 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 4 thin slices of lemon 

Make Brine: In a large bowl, combine salt, water and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Stir until combined. Place hens in container so they snugly fit or in a ziploc bag. Pour the brine over the hens and place in refrigerator for 6 to 24 hours. (I let mine soak for 8 hours.)

Prepare your grill for medium-high heat.

In small bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, remaining lemon juice, and sumac. Stir. (The recipe states to let this sit for about 15 minutes so it thickens, which I did, but I do not know that it is really necessary.)

Remove birds from refrigerator and pat dry. Loosen the skin on the hens at the breast and season meat with pepper. Pour mixture over hens and massage into the meat, making sure to get the mixture under the skin. Place a slice of lemon under the breast skin.

Start the hens skin side up. Cover and grill for about 8 minutes. Flip them and continue cooking over an open grill for another 6 minutes or so. Continue grilling while occasionally flipping pieces for about another 10 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.


I found my sumac at Williams Sonoma.  I think you’ll find it is worth the small investment ($6-ish).  I was skeptical when purchasing it that I may not get much use out of it, but I do plan to use this trifecta of lemon, garlic, and sumac as a grilled poultry staple.  I am looking forward to trying this with regular chicken!

(The original recipe has this being served with a date relish, but I didn’t have all the ingredients required to make it as directed.  I am sure it would be delicious with it, but I don’t think a relish is really a necessity.)

Whole Grain Pancakes with Fresh “Marmalade” Syrup

Pancakes…yum!  I had been looking for a great whole grain pancake recipe and decided to work up my own…and I’m glad that I did.  The cakes have a nice texture which is often my hangup with the whole grain variety.  The secret?  Run the dry ingredients through a food processor.  I should have thought of this sooner!  I threw together a simple orange syrup to give these a little something extra.

Whole Grain Pancakes (serves 2 as main dish)

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal 
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup milk 
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten

In food processor, combine all dry ingredients.  Process for one minute.  In separate bowl, whisk together milk, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined.  Add in melted butter, then gently stir in egg.  Add dry ingredients into wet until just combined.  This will make a thicker pancake, so add more milk if you prefer those of the thin variety.

As far as cooking the pancakes, I have the most success cooking these patiently over a medium-low heat, gently flipping them when the edges are set.  I find smaller pancakes are easier to work with, so I use a 1/4 c. measuring cup.  I also used cooking spray today, but of course they would be extra delicious when using butter to grease the pan.


Orange Marmalade Syrup

  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 navel orange, pureed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup

Place all ingredients in small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about ten minutes.  Sauce should thicken and become golden in color.

America’s Favorite Muffin

It’s Sunday morning and with fresh blueberries on hand, I was faced with the question of blueberry muffins or blueberry pancakes. I decided on blueberry muffins, pulling out my own recipe that produces a moist, not too sweet muffin with a deliciously toasty top. It also makes a perfect half dozen, which is all I need if I’m not entertaining.

My Blueberry Muffins

  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons melted salted butter
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
    Topping
  • 3 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold salted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare 6 muffin tins by greasing or by lining with paper cups.

Whisk together sour cream, milk, eggs, and vanilla until smooth in bowl. Whisk in melted butter. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Fold into the wet ingredients and then gently add in blueberries. Distribute among 6 muffin cups.
For topping, place oatmeal, flour, and sugar in a small food processor. Process until oatmeal is well ground. Pulse in butter until crumbly texture is achieved. Cover muffins with topping and lightly press down so topping is well adhered to muffin batter.

Ingredient Note: I use reduced fat sour cream and skim milk for this, but of course the full fat versions would result in a richer end product.  I also use buttermilk in place of these two items if I have it on hand.

Apparently, sales statistics show that the blueberry muffin is America’s favorite. What’s your favorite muffin?

Chayote Squash…what do you do with this thing?

While checking out at the grocery, the cashier said “what’s this called again?”  I responded, “chayote squash.”  Then she said, “What do you do with these things?”  I told her I like to make a raw salad with it to serve with spicy foods, but that I know it’s often cooked as well.  I still haven’t tried any cooked preparations, but I really like this dish as one of those “something different” and healthy sides that really cuts the heat alongside a spicy main.  Raw, the cool and crunchy texture of this squash is somewhat similar to jicama with a very mild flavor.


Chayote Citrus Salad

  • half medium red onion: thinly sliced
  • one chayote squash: peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • one naval orange: peeled and segmented
  • one tablespoon (packed) chopped cilantro
  • juice from one lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • two teaspoons rice vinegar
  • one generous teaspoon honey
  • one tablespoon olive oil
Rinse red onion and pat dry.  Place into bowl.  Top with sliced squash, orange, and cilantro.  In a separate dish, combine lime, salt, vinegar, honey, and olive oil.  Pour dressing over salad ingredients.  Season additionally with salt and pepper as needed.  Let sit for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop, tossing occasionally.  Serve and enjoy.  As mentioned, I like to keep this mildly flavored as an accompaniment for something spicy, but it might be fun to add something with a little kick to the salad.