Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: About 36 Cookies

This is my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe, it's the only one I ever use. I'll make them with chopped pecans and dark chocolate chips for me, or leave out the nuts and use milk-chocolate chips when making them for The Kid. The baking soda and hot water thing sounds weird, I know, but it gives the finished cookies this almost shiny outer shell with crispy edges and a chewy center. I'm Queen of the barely cooked cookie and these are perfect. They will keep for a couple of days in a sealed container (anything with real butter starts to taste odd to me by about day 3) or months in the freezer. I actually prefer them straight out of the freezer.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips (your choice)
1 cup chopped nuts (your choice or not at all)

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease two cookie sheets.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla. Dissolve the baking soda in hot water (out of the tap is fine), add to the batter along with salt.

Add the flour, one cup at a time. When the flour is fully incorporated, add the chocolate chips and the nuts.

Use a No. 40 disher (about 1.5 Tbs) to scoop the dough out onto your baking sheets. Leave about 2 inches between each one. Bake for 11-12 minutes in preheated oven, or until the edges are light brown. If you're cooking two sheets at once, rotate them halfway through and give them an extra minute of cooking time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chicken and Rice Soup

Yield: 6-8 Full Adult Bellies

This is one of the reasons I look forward to fall and winter each year. It's stupid-easy to make and goes together fast enough to have it on a weeknight. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that the ingredients are all standard items. This also makes terrific leftovers the next day. Assuming you have any, that is.

3 Tbs olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5-6 carrots
5-6 ribs celery
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 packages Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice (not quick-cooking or Ready Rice)
6 cups chicken stock*
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt and pepper chicken breasts, add to the waiting oil and brown on each side. Allow them to cook fully through.

While the chicken is doing it's thing, chop the veggies. Dice the onion, slice the carrots and celery. Mince the garlic.

Transfer the cooked chicken, which is a lovely golden brown and just a little crispy around the edges by now, to a cutting board to cool off a bit. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic to the pot you just took the chicken out of. Salt lightly. Add the bay leaves and pepper.

Strip the leaves from the thyme by holding the stem at the top and dragging your fingers against the direction of growth. Do the same thing to the rosemary and mince them together (or just mince the rosemary and leave the thyme leaves whole), add herbs to the pot. Saute veggies until the onions are translucent and the carrots are just beginning to soften around the edges.

Chop or shred the chicken breasts and return to the pot. Open the rice boxes, remove the seasoning packets and set aside. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Add the contents of both seasoning packets, stir.

Add chicken stock to the pot. Add the water a couple of cups at at time until the rice and veggies are well covered. Stir. Cook over medium-high heat until the rice is done, adding additional water or stock to the pot as needed. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. As soon as the rice is fully cooked, you're ready to eat.

*Homemade stock is always best but if it's not available get the good, all-natural stuff in the paper carton. Make sure to choose a low-sodium variety because the seasoning packet that comes with the rice is loaded with sodium. You can always add additional salt if you think it's needed but it's damned hard to take it out.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ginger Molasses Pumpkin Bread

Yield: 2-8" loaves

2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree*
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbs melted butter
1/4 cup veggie oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup butter milk
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs turbinado sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter and flour two 8" loaf pans (what I used) or one 9" loaf pan (what I don't own).

In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and nutmeg.

In a second bowl whisk together the egg, pumpkin, brown sugar, butter, veggie oil, molasses, and buttermilk until well combined. Stir in fresh ginger and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined, be careful not to over mix. Pour batter into prepared pan(s).

Combine the turbinado sugar with the last tsp of cinnamon and sprinkle over to top of the batter.

Bake 30 minutes (two 8" pans), or 55 minutes in one 9" pan, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

*Ok folks, go ahead and take the time to make your own pumpkin puree. It's absolutely worth it. You will never want the junk from the can again, I don't care how much you paid for the organic stuff at Whole Foods. Alton Brown does it here, the hardest thing about the whole process is scraping the seeds and strings out before you roast. Try to make someone who will be on the eating end of this project do the work. It's called delegating.

Roast 2 sugar (or pie) pumpkins at once and you'll end up with about 4 cups of puree. Your mileage will vary of course, based on the size of your pumpkins. I freeze the puree in 1 cup portions. Sugar pumpkins start appearing in mid-to late October in Kansas City so I usually roast 4 of them to make sure I have enough pumpkin puree in the freezer to make pies for Turkey Day and Xmas.

One last note, when I made this I found the bread to be perfectly moist and just the right amount of spicy, but lacking a bit in the sweetness department. Next time I'm upping the sugar to 3/4 cup.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hot Tomato Jam

Yield: 11 4 ounce jars.

4 lbs ripe tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp balsamic
6 tsp (or more to taste) Sriracha or other chili sauce
1 tsp salt
several grinds fresh black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow X into the bottom of each tomato and drop them, a few at a time, into the boiling water for 10-15 seconds each. Move the tomatoes into a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking. This process will loosen their skins. Peel the cooled tomatoes, core and chop.

Dump out the (formerly) boiling water, rinse the pot and return it to the stove. Add the chopped tomatoes, onion, honey, balsamic, Sriracha, salt and pepper and stir. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer until reduced by half, about 2 hours.

In the meantime, fill your pressure canner with water and sterilize your jars. Pour jam into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings. Process using a pressure canner at 10 lbs psi for 15 minutes (at 860 feet above sea level).

This is fantastic on grilled cheese, biscuits, and savory scones. Right out of the jar works well too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie - A Users Guide

Yield: Two 9x13 pans

I have a recipe that I downloaded from for Chicken Pot Pie. I don't remember which one I have, the search returns 74 unique recipes. It doesn't really matter, I've changed it so much that the original recipe is just a starting point. This is how I make it, and this will make two 9x13 pans of the stuff. That's what I need to feed the crowd that shows up to eat it if I let them know what's in the oven. 

Olive Oil
Chicken Breasts - 2 pounds, boneless/skinless cut into cubes or small pieces*
Frozen Peas, I can't remember if it's a 14 or 16 ounce package, just the normal size
Frozen Sliced Carrots, same size package as the peas
Celery, about 1 cup thinly sliced or chopped
Potatoes, 4-5 small yellow, skin on, wash them good and dice them up small
Onion, diced
Garlic, at least 3 cloves
Thyme, 3 or 4 sprigs fresh
Rosemary, 1 or 2 sprigs fresh
Frozen Puff Pastry, two packages for a total of 4 sheets, thawed
Butter, or close facsimile thereof, one stick
Flour, about 1/3 cup
Can Chicken Stock, 4 of them (homemade is even better and you'll need 6-8 cups of that)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and spray the bottoms of your pans with cooking spray.

Open up the puff pastry sheets and carefully unfold them so they are flat. Lay one sheet in the bottom of each 9x13 pan and stick them in the oven for about 12 minutes. Just until they puff up and are golden. Watch them closely, they can go from zero to charcoal pretty quick at that temperature. When they are done, pull the pans out of the oven and set them aside for now.

Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a very large skillet over med heat. Once it's hot, get your chicken into the pan to saute. While that's going, chop your potatoes, celery, onion and garlic. When the chicken is cooked, add potatoes,  celery, onion and garlic to the pan and continue to cook until the onions are translucent. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn, it will get bitter.

Strip the leaves off of your herbs (hold onto the top of the stem and loosely pull down the stem towards the base, most of the leaves will come right off). The time can go directly into the pan, mince the rosemary first. Give it a good stir.

Dump in the carrots and peas, stir after each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. Everything doesn't have to be cooked through but make sure the chicken is done.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until golden, then add about a third of a cup of flour to make a roux. Cook the roux until it's starting to turn brown in color and smells a little nutty. Slowly add your chicken stock to the roux and continue to cook, while stirring with a whisk to break up any lumps, until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Divide your chicken and veggie mixture evenly between the two 9x13 pans, just pour it right over the pastry base that you already cooked. Top this with the sauce, try to pour it evenly over the top of the chicken mixture.

You should have two unbaked pastry sheets left, lay one gently on top of each dish, don't pinch anything closed or the pastry won't puff. Put the pans into the oven and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes. You will probably need to rotate these halfway through so they cook evenly. When it's done the pastry will be golden brown and the insides will be bubbling, better line the bottom of the oven with foil so you don't end up with a mess.

Once these are out of the oven let them sit for about 10 minutes if you can keep people out of it that long. It's not a big deal but it's a little easier to serve that way. I cut each pan into 12 servings.

The Kid always says I never get enough salt and pepper into this dish so he adds more at the table and then eats two helpings. Dig in!

*If you prefer you can poach the chicken in some water with a bay leaf or three, some garlic and an onion and then shred it. If you do it this way, add the meat to the veggies before your start loading the crust. I hope I didn't leave anything out but if you find a misteak or have a question, let me know and I'll fix it.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Yield: One 9x13 cake

This is my go-to chocolate cake, every time I make it we blow through it like locusts. It's that good. The recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa at It's really easy and doesn't call for anything special. The only change I make is that I leave the egg yolk out of the frosting and I'm generally too lazy to sift the powdered sugar.

For the Cake
Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder*
2 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Chocolate Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour the pan.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool completely before frosting.

For the Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tsp coffee

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

*I use Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder and Hershey's Special Dark chips. I just melt the chips in the microwave. This fills a 9x13 pan nicely, cook for 30 minutes. I have found that while this frosting recipe works well for the top of a 9x13 cake, if I were doing a layer cake or cupcakes I would make a double batch of it. Happy eating and good luck on the self control.

Oatmeal Pecan Scotchies

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

This was adapted from a recipe I found online years ago for Mrs. Fields Pecan Supremes. These are really good, whenever I make them people ask me for the recipe. My brother-in-law always asks me to make these for his birthday and I made them so many times one winter that by Christmas, I had the recipe memorized. And you should know that I am a big fan of the barely cooked cookie so this time and temperature will give you a soft, chewy center.

2 Cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 Cup Quick Cooking Oats
3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Packed
3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Stick of Butter
2 Large Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 Cup Butterscotch Chips*

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and quick oats. Mix well and set aside. In a large bowl blend sugars with an electric mixer at medium speed. Add the butter to the sugar and mix to form a grainy paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture. Once fully incorporated, add pecans and butterscotch chips. Blend at low speed until combined.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10 minutes and allow cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

*I hate to have stuff like this hanging out open in the freezer so I always just throw in the whole bag. And for what it's worth, I prefer the Hershey's brand.

Ginger Spiced Molasses Cookies

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

I'm pretty generous with my spices, I like these cookies to have big flavor. The spice measurements shown here are just a starting point, I'll typically use a heaping measure (rather than a leveled-off measure) These also make fantastic ice cream sandwich components, try them with homemade cinnamon or maple ice cream.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature*
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/3 cup finely diced candied ginger
granulated sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease your baking sheets.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves and salt. Mix well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and molasses, mix to combine.

Stir in dry ingredients and candied ginger. Refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Roll dough in 1 1/2" balls. Roll balled dough in granulated sugar and then place onto prepared baking sheets and flatten gently. Bake for 12 minutes in preheated oven, or until the center is set and top is crinkled. Cool on wire racks.

*As I'm sure you know 3/4 cup butter is 1 1/2 sticks. Well, I'm occasionally a moron and instead used 3/4 stick of butter, or 6 tablespoons. I actually have a long history of accidentally shorting the butter in this way and then deciding I prefer the results. I've only made this recipe once, with half the required butter, and the cookies came out beautifully. I can't decide if I even want to mess with doing it the right way.

Cheesy Corn Bake

Yield: One 9x13 pan, serves 10-12

One item that I make no less than three times each year between Thanksgiving and New Years is Cheesy Corn. I got a few requests for the recipe this year so I figure this is as good a place as any to leave it, that's what this place is for anyway. I started with a recipe for Smoke Stack Cheesy Corn Bake and adjusted it to suit my preferences, laziness and general distaste for open packages lying about in my freezer.

2 Tbsp butter or margarine
4 tsp flour
1 tsp minced garlic*
1/2 large onion, diced
3/4 cup milk
2 cups sharp American cheese, shredded
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, cut up
2 (16 ounce) packages frozen whole kernel corn
3 ounces diced ham*
1 small can diced green chilies

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Melt butter, add onions and garlic, cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and mix to make a roux. Cook this for a few more minutes, until the mixture smells nutty.

Add milk, cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Stir in cheeses, start with cream cheese and once it's almost melted add the American. Cook and continue to stir over low heat until cheeses melt, stir in ham, green chilies and then one package of frozen corn. Stir until just combined. 

Put the remaining frozen corn into a 2 qt casserole, evenly covering the bottom. Top this with the hot cheese/ham/corn mixture and spread it out evenly. Cook for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

*You can add a little more garlic and ham to this if you like. I usually buy the Farmland Diced Ham, I think it comes in a 10 ounce package, and just use half of it. And there's no such thing as too much garlic as far as I am concerned.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Sugar Cookies

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Last Christmas I was really feeling the need for chocolate covered cherries. That lead to attempting to recreate them in cookie form, as I'm not about to make anything as convoluted as chocolate covered cherries are sure to be. And, let's face it, unless you're dropping some serious dough, the store-bought ones — while tasty — are chock full of scary candy chemistry that will put you off sugar for life. (Thank you very much Marc Summers and Unwrapped, you've ruined so many treats for me...)

1 cup Butter, softened
3/4 cup + 1/2 cup Sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 t Almond Extract
2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 t Cream of Tartar
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg, fresh if you've got it
6 oz Dried Cherries, chopped
1 cup Slivered Almonds
6 oz Chocolate Chips, I prefer the Hershey's Special Dark Chips
2 tsp Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and 3/4 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and almond extracts. In another bowl combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Mix in dried cherries and almonds.

Roll round teaspoonfuls of dough in the remaining sugar and bake 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Carefully melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or a double-boiler. Once smooth, thin with 2 t vegetable oil. Put paper towels or newspaper under your cooling racks and drizzle cookies with melted chocolate. Allow to set before storing.

Adapted from Soft Sugar Cookies at