Thursday, March 28, 2013

Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

These shortbread cookies were quite amazing.  Full of coffee and chocolate flavor, soft and crumbly with a sandy texture.  They were definitely buttery and  one cookie was perfect for satisfying my sweet tooth.  In my first attempt at this recipe, I somehow mixed up my measuring cups and accidentally used only half of the flour required.  Imagine my horror as I watched through the oven door to see my shortbread melt into a flat pool of dough!  The messed up batch was overly buttery but still tasted so good that my husband refused to let me throw them away.  Instead, he stashed them out of my reach and polished them off within the following week.  I would make this recipe again, but before I do I'd like to explore some other shortbread varieties out there.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Toffee Cookies

What a mouthful of ingredients!  This recipe is reminiscent of one of my favorite cookies, a Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Toffee Cookie, that I have yet to share on the blog.  I used my favorite Ghiradelli chocolate chips, though chocolate chunks from Trader Joe's Pound Plus Dark Chocolate would work well too.  This is hands-down a chewy cookie, made so from the oatmeal and toasted coconut.  It was almost difficult to distinguish the chewiness of the oatmeal from the coconut, but there is definitely a subtle coconut flavor.  The best textural component comes from the toffee bits that melt while baking, forming slightly crisp bottoms and edges.  Remember to let these cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before you transfer them to a cooling rack, otherwise the toffee bits may still stick to the baking sheet.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Coconut Toffee Cookies
Makes 2 dozen (3" diameter cookies)     

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal (or quick oats)
1/2 cup toffee bits
1 cup chocolate chips (dark works best in my opinion)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread shredded coconut in a thin layer.  Toast coconut in the oven for 5-7 minutes, stirring halfway through.  When coconut is lightly browned, remove from oven and set aside to cool.  Keep lined cookie sheet to use for baking the cookies.  
  2. Raise oven temperature and preheat oven to 375F.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. 
  3. In a large bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to cream together the butter and brown sugar until mixture is light and smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.  Add egg and vanilla and continue mixing until smooth.  Add flour mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.  Add oatmeal, toasted coconut, and toffee bits and stir. The batter will be very thick at this point.  By hand, fold in the chocolate chips. 
  4. Drop 1 1/2 tablespoons (medium OXO cookie scoop) of dough onto a lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart from each other.  
  5. Bake for 9-11 minutes until edges are firm and cookies are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cookies rest on baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Healthy Oatmeal Pancakes

I had some leftover cinnamon-sugar from making snickerdoodles the other day.  I considered different ways to use it up - breakfast bars, dutch baby, more snickerdoodles - and somehow ended up making pancakes!  With an apple cinnamon topping.  This pancake recipe was great, not only because it contained oatmeal to make it healthier, but also because I only had 1/4 cup of flour left and that's all I needed!  The original recipe calls for quick-cooking oats which I did not have.  Instead, I used old fashioned oats and roughly ground them with a mortar and pestle.  A quick pulse in a food processor would work too, just enough to break down the oats but not so much that all you're left with is fine powder.  The various oat bits, big and small, add a nice textural component to the final pancakes.  The pancakes are 3" in diameter and slightly crispy when fresh from the pan.  Leftovers can be frozen or kept in the fridge for a couple days and reheated in the toaster oven.

Oatmeal Pancakes
Makes about 12 pancakes, 3" in diameter
Slightly adapted from CookingLight

1/4 cup (1.2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup oats (quick oaks, or roughly ground old fashioned oats)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or slightly less than 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg

  1. Combine all dry ingredients together in a large bowl and stir with a whisk.
  2. Combine buttermilk and egg in a smaller bowl and mix until well combined.  Add to flour mixture and add the melted butter.  Stir all ingredients together until everything is barely moist and incorporated.  Batter will be lumpy from the oatmeal.  Be careful not to over mix the batter.
  3. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Lightly coat pan with a small drizzle of cooking oil or spray.  Spoon about 2 1/2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake onto the pan, creating pancakes with about a 3" diameter.  Flip pancakes when bubbles appear on the tops and the edges look cooked and dry.  Cook until the bottom of pancakes are lightly browned.  Serve immediately with your choice of toppings.

I don't have an exact recipe for the apple cinnamon topping.  I started with 1/2 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture, 1 chopped apple, and 1/4 cup water.  Cook everything together in a saucepan over medium heat until sauce thickens slightly and apples are soft.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Beer Braised Corned Beef Dinner

Beer braised corned beef with cabbage, carrots, and red potatoes.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oven Roasted Kale Chips

I've been on a vegetable roasting kick for the past year.  Aside from these delicious roasted brussels sprouts, my other staple is roasted kale.  These crisp up very nicely and amazingly do take on the satisfying crunch of real chips.  Don't be overly ambitious like me in piling kale leaves onto your cookie sheet - it's important to bake these in 1-2 layers so that they cook evenly and all take on the same texture.

If you don't plan to serve this immediately, I'd suggest letting them cool in a single layer on the cookie sheet before you place them in a container.  Otherwise, any residual heat will cause them to soften inside the container and lose their crunchy texture.  Good luck with that though, we snacked through half our batch before it even made it onto the dinner table. :)

Oven Roasted Kale Chips
Serves 2

1 bunch of curly green kale (another variety of kale should work too)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Remove the stems and cut off the tough center ribs of each kale stalk.  Cut leaves into bite-size pieces, roughly 2" in diameter.  
  3. Wash kale thoroughly and spin dry in a salad spinner.  Give it a few extra spins since it's crucial to get them as dry as possible or else the water droplets will steam your kale in the oven.   
  4. In a bowl, toss leaves with olive oil, salt, and paprika.  Spread leaves in a single layer onto a cookie sheet.  Use an additional cookie sheet if necessary.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until crispy.  Ten minutes into baking, check on the kale and use tongs to stir or gently turn the leaves over for even baking.  When kale is crispy, remove from the oven and serve immediately or leave the chips on the cookie sheet to cool. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yogurt Carbonara Pasta

Pasta carbonara is a simple, classic spaghetti dish with a creamy sauce.  Typical additions include bacon (or ham in my case) and green peas.  Hot pasta tossed in a mixture of cream, raw eggs, and shredded parmesan cheese make for a creamy, delightful sauce.  I don't usually have cream on hand, so I made this recipe using plain non-fat yogurt instead.  It came out surprisingly well, with a welcomed lightness and slight tang.  One day I will try the full cream version, but for now this healthier version of carbonara pasta will do just fine. :)

Yogurt Carbonara Pasta
Serves 4

1 lb spaghetti pasta
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt
3 eggs
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced cooked ham or other protein (optional)
1 cup thawed frozen peas (optional)

  1. Cook pasta as instructed.
  2. Prepare the sauce while pasta is cooking.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, raw eggs, parmesan cheese, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper.  
  3. Drain cooked pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Immediately place the hot pasta directly into the large mixing bowl containing the sauce.  Mix well since the heat from the pasta will cook the eggs.  If the mixture is too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
  4. Add diced cooked ham and peas and continue to toss to combine.  Serve immediately, topped with freshly ground black pepper to taste and additional parmesan cheese.

Note:  This dish is best served fresh the day it's made.  Reheating will change the texture of the sauce.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dutch Baby Pancake

One of our recent weekend breakfast/brunch treats has been to make a Dutch baby pancake, a German pancake or popover.  The ingredients are simple and usually on hand.  Prep is quick since everything is mixed up in the blender.  Plus, it's another great use for our cast iron skillet!  Our 10" skillet Dutch baby was enough to serve the two of us.  Dutch baby pancakes will puff up as they bake in the oven and usually fall by the time you serve them, so it's recommended that you eat these immediately when they are done.  You can top them with a dusting of powdered sugar, fresh fruit, Nutella, Trader Joe's Cookie Butter, or any other sweet combination you desire.  We threw some leftover apple pie on ours and served it with an egg scramble.  I loved the crispy pancake edges!

After trying a few different recipes, my favorite one still comes from Elise at Simply Recipes.  Get your Dutch baby pancake recipe here!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken @ Bouchon - Beverly Hills, CA

After hearing so many great things about Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken, I was ecstatic to learn that the Beverly Hills Bouchon occasional served a Fried Chicken dinner.  With much planning and anticipation, we finally made it out there one 3-day weekend to try it.  The Fried Chicken dinner to-go even came in a white cardboard bucket, reminiscent of another common fried chicken joint.  
At $36/person, each order contained three pieces of fried chicken, a NY cheddar biscuit and gravy, mac and cheese, and fresh corn salad.  We picked up our bucket and ate at the tables in the adjacent park.  
The chicken was truly one of the best fried chickens I've ever had.  The buttermilk coating was crisp and flaky.  Both white and dark meat pieces were incredibly moist and full of flavor from brining.  The biscuits were buttery and soft, complete with a slightly crisp exterior shell.  There were salty cheddar bits sprinkled throughout the biscuit.  
I really enjoyed the fried strips of thyme mixed into our bucket contents.  The mashed potato and corn salad sides were also delicious and we gobbled it up before I was able to get a picture.  I would definitely come back again to have this as a treat.  The restaurant was nice but I think I preferred our method of getting a to-go bucket and enjoying it outdoors in the park.  Don't forget to visit the Bouchon bakery for some macarons for dessert! 

The special Ad Hoc Fried Chicken dinner is only available on select Monday nights.  Check Bouchon's events webpage for upcoming dates.

235 N Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 271-9910