Monday, January 25, 2016

Chocolate Cookies with Spelt and Walnuts

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Won't your Valentine love these?

These cookies morph themselves many times.  Chocolate, white chocolate, peppermint, M&Ms, there is no wrong way to make them! They call for just one cup of flour, so I decided to use spelt this time around.  Shhhh, Mr. Preppy will be none the wiser.  I mean honestly, there is 5 oz of unsweetened chocolate, 2 cups of chips and a cup of walnuts.  No way he can tell there is spelt instead of wheat flour.  No way.  But just in case, I made them when he wasn't around.  When he tasted them he was suspicious, and asked if there was oatmeal?  Ha!  No, no oatmeal.

They are scrummy with ice cream!

These cookies are decadent, no way around it.  But they whip up in a food processor, lickety split, and make just about 2 dozen, so they are perfect for an almost empty house.  Lastly, I freeze the finished cookie, this way I don't nibble on them all day, because they are that good.  We were at supper club this weekend, and dessert was a simple cookie and ice cream.  I realized how much I enjoy this, and decided that's how I would photograph (and eat) these cookies.  I wasn't disappointed.

Chocolate Cookies with Spelt and Walnuts

4 Oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
1 Oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
1 1/3 Cup Sugar
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, room temp
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 Cup Spelt Flour
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Cup Toasted Walnuts
1 Bag Bittersweet Chocolate Chips (roughly 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.

In a food processor, process the chocolate and sugar until they are fine crumbs.  Add the butter, eggs and vanilla and pulse in until incorporated.  Scrape down sides if necessary.  Add flour and salt and pulse in until there is no dry ingredients showing.  Add walnuts and chocolate chips and process until incorporated.

Drop by rounded teaspoons on a parchment covered baking sheet (or Silpat covered).  Dough will be very sticky.  Bake for about 8 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through the time.  Cookies should look dry on top although they will be fairly soft.  They firm as they cool, so do not overbake!  Cool on pan, and then transfer to rack.  Will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container, or 2 months frozen.  If frozen, they thaw enough in the time to make a cup of tea!  Call me, I'll have one with you!  So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Baby It's Cold Outside Iowa Steak Soup

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This soup is rich and satisfying. 

When I declare it cold in the South, believe me.  The high today is barely 30, and the sky is as clear and blue as a July day.  That of course means no snow, and a freezing cold night on tap! So I knew soup was on the menu today, and I came across an old recipe from Midwest Living when I was purging my recipe file.  I remember quite clearly when I made it, a cold snowy day in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The recipe is dated February 1988, so obviously it needs a little updating.

First of all it tells you to bring your carrot, onion and celery AND 1 cup of water to a boil.  We all know that flavor is much better when veggies are sauteed and get a little color.  It also calls for beef granules, and I have never really been a fan of bouillon cubes, broth granules etc.  There are some great stocks and broths on the market, so I am going that route and doctoring it up a tad.

I love these purple carrots!  Such vibrant color!

Parsley Root, it is delicious browned with the onions and carrots!

The thickening agent in the original soup is 12 T of butter and a cup of flour made into a roux.  Yikes.  I am a big fan of butter, and not afraid of flour, but that is a lot of both! For soup! And lastly, it calls for frozen vegetables.  I have no issue with this.  I love a bag of mixed veg dumped into any soup, so that stays.  It also calls for Kitchen Bouquet.  Which has been around since 1873, and is made by the Clorox Company.  So although its longevity is impressive, I don't associate the parent company with good food, although their bleach is great.  I opted for some beef demi glace.  Richness without funky aftertaste. Although I am going up the ante on the few fresh items, and toss in an extra as well, here is my Iowa Soup that bears little to zero resemblance to its second cousin twice removed!  I also like it with pumpernickel croutons.  Basically, grill some buttered pumpernickel and enjoy!

Iowa Winter Beef and Vegetable Soup

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Yellow onion, diced
6 medium carrots, diced
6 stalks celery, diced
1 bunch parsley root, diced
1 1/2 pounds beef (stew meat basically)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon flour
salt and pepper
32 ounces beef broth
1 12 ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 can diced, roasted tomatoes
2 Tablespoons demi glace
1/3 cup flour
6 T butter
2 cups broth (I only had chicken at this point)
Pumpernickel Croutons

This is a great tool, makes chopping a breeze, and it's all uniform!
In a large dutch oven, saute the onion, celery, carrot and parsley root in olive oil until soft.  Remove from pan and add the other 2 Tablespoons olive oil and cook the beef with salt and pepper and garlic.  When the meat is browned, I shook about 1 T flour over the meat and stirred, thickening the oil and fond on the bottom.  Remove the meat, and in the hot pan, deglaze with the beef broth scraping up the bits that cooked to the bottom and add everything back in, as well as the tomatoes and the frozen vegetables and demi glace. At this point, it's a nice soup.

I reduced mine since it simmered all was lunch and dinner!

But I had to admit.  I missed that creamy texture from the roux.  So I made a roux using half the amounts in the original recipe. In a small saucepan melt the butter and whisk in the flour.  Slowly add 2 cups broth and whisk until smooth.  Add to the soup, and voila.  Richness and a little better mouth feel.  I like the croutons alongside, crumble them in, whatever you like.  But that dark bread matches perfectly!  So, what are you waiting for?  Spring won't get here until, next week!  Get in there and cook!

Don't forget the pumpernickel bread!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Chicken Braised in Milk

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Just going into the oven after browning on stovetop.

We know my life is pretty much flour, butter and sugar, but man cannot live on cookies alone.  I am always looking for ideas for cookies and baking, and ideas for dinner.  Two of the cookie conventions I have attended (yes, called Cookie Con) have been in Salt Lake City.  No trip to SLC for a cookier would be complete without a trip to Orson Gygi.  This place rocks.  Lots of cookie and confection materials, but also an awesome kitchen and teaching area.  The first time I went I chatted up a gentleman (an owner?) and we talked at length and I told him this was my dream store and wanted to teach there.  None of the pretensions of Williams Sonoma (yes, part of what I loved about working there), but almost a warehouse feeling, with great high end merchandise.  Anyway, I subscribe to their blog and love to see what's up there, and this chicken recipe came across.  I knew I had to cook this.

I have seen this milk cooking technique before, but only for pork.  When I saw chicken, I was intrigued.  I love a whole chicken.  Love it.  It is my go to on the grill with a beer can (you know where).  Crispy on the outside and juicy inside.  The Orson Gygi recipe was a great place for me to start, but of course I never have exactly what they call for on hand and I never really follow directions.  The original milk chicken recipe from Gygi Blog can be found here.  I skipped the cinnamon, used an assortment of herbs, my lemon was tough and there was no way I could peel the zest off, so I sliced it and tossed the whole thing in.  I also took the skins off the garlic as I hate those papery things and I don't have whole milk, so I mixed skim and heavy cream. So yes, sort of but not really like their recipe! Intuitive cooking.  Also, it's not really braised since the lid is off during cooking, but you hate to say poached because it sounds awful. It's not really roasted because it is virtually swimming in milk, so maybe stewed.  But can you say stewed and not think of stewed prunes?  Honest, the first thing in my head.  I digress.  Let's cook.

One more thing.  I wrote this blog while that chicken cooked in the oven.  It was heavenly, the aroma was really amazing.  And then...just after the first half hour when I basted the chicken, it looked like this.  Gorgeous.

A little bubbling around the edges after 30 minutes.

So I headed back to my laptop and within about 20 minutes (so 50 minutes total at this point) the darn thing began to spill over and the smell went from appetizing to smoldering fire.  I mean this was not a good thing, as you can see here.

Mr. Preppy asks, "Why don't we have a smoke detector?"  Um, because of times like these!

I had to stop the process, and thankfully my chicken was cooked through at this point, and it did taste delicious! Honest.  But in the future, I will set that dutch oven in a foil tray and save myself a lot of smoke and aggravation!  I have a larger dutch oven, but I think I would have to find a little meatier chicken to fill it up.

Chicken Braised In Milk

1 whole chicken
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 Tablespoons butter
1 lemon sliced
1 package fresh poultry herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme)
8 cloves garlic, skins removed and cloves smashed with the back of a knife
2 cups milk (I used skim and leftover heavy cream mixed)

It's a nice fit.

I skinned them and smooshed them
These herbs were leftover from a holiday!

Clean out the cool parts from inside the chicken (cook them for the dog), rinse the bird and pat dry.  Salt and pepper generously.  In a dutch oven (not too big) melt the butter and olive oil and brown the bird all over.  

filling it up to bake

Remove from the heat and pull out the chicken to drain the fat into a jar and set aside. Put the bird back in the pot with all the other stuff and bake at 375 for 1 1/2 hours uncovered. Baste with the fat every half hour. How easy is that? What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

Why it got so dark on top halfway through is beyond me.  It was delicious, but my oven was a mess!