Saturday, September 26, 2009

Three in one: Nutty for Oats Cookies

In our house, the end of one batch of cookies brings about a great culinary conundrum: What kind of cookies to bake next? My favorite cookies are chocolate chip. My husband's favorite: peanut butter. Oatmeal are always a good choice because they're kind of healthy since they're made with oatmeal and fruit. What to do? What to do?

We finished off the chocolate chip cookies a couple of weeks ago, the double fudge brownies have been eaten or given away, so I began looking through cook books trying to find a new cookie recipe to try. Then I happened upon Nutty for Oats Cookies in King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking. These cookies promised the best of three worlds: peanut butter, chocolate chip, and oatmeal. Not to mention they're fairly easy to throw together.

I began by getting the baking sheets ready, simply lining them with parchment paper. With the oven preheating to 350 degrees, I started mixing the ingredients.

Like almost every other cookie, you have to cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. This recipe also requires creaming the peanut butter, salt, and baking soda. Then I added two eggs.

I had just enough peanut butter for the recipe...
Not sure how I'll handle a week without peanut butter (at least there's cashew butter in the fridge!)...
The batter before you add the oat flour.

Next, I ground up 1 cup of old-fashioned oats in the food processor, and mixed the ground up oats and whole oats with the butter/sugar mixture.

A mini food processor is great for grinding up the oats.
The batter before the addition of chocolate/raisins.

At this point I had to alter the recipe. I didn't have the two cups of chocolate chips called for by the recipe, so I divided the batter in half. In one half, I added a cup of bittersweet chocolate chips, and then added a cup of raisins to the other half. Two kinds of cookies from one basic batter!

Chocolate cookie before baking.
Raisin cookie before baking.

First, I baked the chocolate chip cookies for 11 minutes. The cookies just started to brown when I pulled them from the oven. Usually, I let cookies cool for a couple of minutes on the pans, and then transfer them to a rack to cool. This recipe calls for letting the cookies cool completely on the pan. I think this is because the cookies aren't quite cooked all the way through when you pull them from the oven, and they need the heat of the pan to finish baking. Not one to mess up a batch of cookies, I followed the recipe's instructions.

I transferred the first cookies to a rack after they cooled so I could finish the next batch.

Then I finished up by baking the raisin batch.

These cookies are really really really good, especially the chocolate chip version. Since I used bittersweet chocolate, they weren't super sweet, but you could really appreciate the peanut butter and chocolate flavor. They are thick, soft and chewy-- everything a cookie should be. (Not sure what the appeal of eating a crunchy cookie is, they're basically just a cracker at that point).

Here's the measurements for the ingredients. I really hope you try these out!

King Arthur Flour's Nutty for Oats Cookies
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground for 30 seconds in a food processor
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips (may substitute dry fruit)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking soda. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Mix in the oats, and then add the chocolate chips.

Using a tablespoon (or small ice cream scoop) drop the cookies onto the baking pan.

Bake the cookies for 11 to 13 minutes, until the edges just start to brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the pan.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thinking outside the box: Double Fudge Brownies

Stuck in a rut?  Sick of the same ol' same 'ol? Think outside the box! The brownie mix box, that is.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that until last Sunday I had never made brownies from scratch (blondies, yes, chocolate brownies, no). Why did I opt for the convenience of a Duncan Hines mix instead of the made-from-scratch version for the first couple of decades of my existence? Well, brownies from a box were easy, and they were pretty darn tasty and chewy and soft. However, after making a batch of made from scratch double-fudge brownies, I don't think I'll be reaching for a box of mix anytime soon.

The surprising thing about these brownies is that they are made with whole wheat flour. But you can't taste the difference at all. These brownies are moist with a deep dense chocolate flavor, and they don't taste like health food. (In fact, they are just as fattening as other brownies, but knowing they're whole wheat can make you feel better about eating one). I followed the recipe in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook.

Start by greasing a 9X13 inch pan. (The recipe claims you can get two dozen servings, but I like BIG brownies so I only got 12 brownies out of the batch). Set it aside and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Next, melt two sticks of butter in a pot.

Once those are melted, you stir in two cups of brown sugar.

After the brown sugar has dissolved into the butter, return the sauce pan to the burner until it is heated through and bubbling. Then, remove the mixture from the heat and add in your cocoa powder, coffee powder, baking powder, and salt mixture, and then add the vanilla.

Stir that until it's well combined. Let that mixture cool until it feels like warm bath water (I waited at least five minutes), then whisk in your eggs...

... and then stir in the flour...

... and then add two cups of semisweet chocolate chips.

Once everything is well combined (and before you eat all of this yummy gooey batter)...

Pour the mixture into your prepared 9X13 dish, and bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes.

When it comes out, it will look like this:

  Once they're cooked, set them on a rack to cool completely and (then came the really really hard part)...

"And why do I have to leave them be overnight?" you ask. "Why? Now that I've spent the last hour of my life pouring my heart and soul into homemade brownies and now you're telling me I have to wait?"

Because, according to folks of King Arthur, the whole wheat flour will benefit significantly from allowing to rest and the bran soften. Did the overnight rest help? Well, let's just say I wasn't going to put all this time into the brownies, not follow directions, and then be disappointed.

So the next night after dinner, it was time to taste the brownies. Unfortunately, I was getting over a head cold so my nose was a bit stuffy and my taste buds were blunted, so I couldn't give an accurate taste test.I cut myself a small piece, and even with hampered taste and smell senses, these were really really good. My husband also really enjoyed them.

So, this time thinking outside of the box was a pretty good idea. Bye bye Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, and Betty Crocker mixes. It's time for me to move on to "made from scratch."

Here are the ingredients and measurements for King Arthur Flour's Double Fudge Brownies.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups of packed brown sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa (I used unsweetened because that's all I had in the pantry)
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp espresso powder-optional (I used instant coffee granules)
1 Tbsp. of vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of traditional whole wheat flour
2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cola Chicken

I'm about to share with you one of the easiest and tastiest ways to make chicken. This dish is sweet with a little bit of southern twang, and is so so simple. It's called Cola Chicken.

Cola Chicken is kind of like BBQ chicken- I like to serve it on sandwich buns with fries. It's also great served over a baked sweet potato.

My mom turned me onto this recipe about a year ago (she may have gotten it from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). You need four ingredients: chicken, an onion, ketchup, and a can of Coca-Cola. I've heard Diet Coke and Coke Zero work as well, but I try to avoid artificial sweeteners when I can, opting for the calorie-laden, sugar laced, pure and classic Coke. 

There are two ways to cook it: the skillet or the slow cooker. I chose the slow cooker method today since I spent all day at work (we're hosting a volleyball tournament) and my dear husband had to put the ingredients together. These were my instructions to him:

Cola Chicken (Slow cooker)
Put four frozen chicken breasts (you could use fresh) in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Place the sliced onion on top of the chicken.
Pour in one cup of ketchup.
Add the can of Coca-Cola.
Turn the slow cooker on low and cover.

By the time I get home the chicken will have cooked on low for about six hours. Now, all I have to do when I get to the house is take the lid off the slow cooker, shred the chicken with a couple of forks, and let it cook with the lid off until the liquid reduces and forms a sauce. In the meantime, I'll bake up some fries. A  perfect meal to sit down with in front of the TV and watch Georgia beat South Carolina!

Cola Chicken (Skillet)
The skillet method of cooking goes a little faster, and takes a little over an hour. Basically, you add all of the ingredients to a skillet you've set on medium heat. Put the lid on the skillet and cook for about 45 minutes. Remove the lid, shred the chicken, and cook until the liquid reduces and you get the consistency you like for a sauce (15-30 more minutes).

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Blondies

Yesterday I had the morning free, so I decided to bake some treats. Not in the mood for cookies, I hunted for something soft and chewy. I pulled out my file of magazine recipes and decided to try Chocolate Chip and Peanut Blondies from Bon Appetit magazine. One of my favorite treats growing up were the blondies my parents would bake once in a while. We usually had regular brownies on hand (easy to bake since they came from a box), but blondies were always a nice change of pace.

What attracted me to this recipe was that it included peanuts (yum) and bittersweet chocolate. I tend to be more of a semi-sweet girl, but thought it would be good to try something different.

First things first: prepare the baking pan. Butter and flour an 8x8 by 2-inch deep metal pan and set aside. Then, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt.

Then melt a stick of butter in a saucepan over low heat.

Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the brown sugar.

*My brown sugar wasn't "golden" as the recipe called for, so my blondies turned out to be a "dirty" blond instead of "golden" blond. They were still good :-).*

Take that mixture off the heat and let it cool for two minutes (so they eggs won't scramble when you add them to the batter).

Then, add your eggs and vanilla to the brown sugar and butter, and mix those together. Now you're ready to add the dry ingredients.

Once the dry ingredients are completely mixed into the butter mixture, add half of the peanuts and half of the chocolate chips.

Mix those in...
Pour the batter into the baking pan, and top with the remaining peanuts and chocolate (don't worry, I won't tell if you add more chocolate than the recipe calls for).

Then pop the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies should come out clean).

Let them cool and then serve.
Recipe for Chocolate Chip and Peanut Blondies from Bon Appetit

My Thoughts: These blondies are good, but mine didn't turn out quite as tall as the one in the photo (maybe my baking powder is losing its lift). These would be great to serve to someone who doesn't have a huge sweet tooth. The bittersweet chocolate and the peanuts make the blondies rich without making them super sweet. As suggested by Bon Appetit, they would make a really good base for a sundae with the addition of ice cream and sauce. Personally, I would have liked to have eaten my treat with a latte or some kind of sweet hot beverage-- something to balance the not-so-sweet dessert.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Busy-ness Begins (slow-cooker BBQ beans & sausage)

Well, it finally happened. After the lazy months of summer, having every night and weekend free (and every Friday afternoon), the chaos hit. The quiet campus became a beehive of activity, with the bees (I mean students) bringing on busy-ness for me. In addition to working more nights and weekends, this means several things on the Goode kitchen front:

  1. Limited time for experimental baking (sorry, Rose! The Bread Bible won't be getting its weekly use for a few months)
  2. Late dinners (which equals me being grouchy and wanting dinner the minute I walk in the door)
  3. Dear hubby still expecting dinner every night (not that he won't cook, I just prefer to eat my cooking :-))

Thus, my recipe hunting has taken a new turn to slow cooker recipes. Not only is the slow cooker super easy to use, it's also a chance for me to put the only stainless steel appliance I own on the counter for display.

I have to say that I'm still a bit leery of using the slow cooker- I guess it's because I never cooked with one until about a year ago, so I'm not quite sure how the meal will turn out. My limited experience has resulted in weirdly-textured meat, and an unfortunate, gritty fiasco with black bean soup (lesson learned: if you cook dry beans, don't add the salt until AFTER the beans are cooked). However, I'm am ready to overcome my past mistakes and search for new and delicious recipes for the Rival.

One very good recipe I found was slow cooker BBQ beans and sausage from Food Network Magazine. I put this together one day before we had a soccer doubleheader and didn't get home until almost 7. It only took 10 minutes to put together during my lunch break. This dish was ready 15 minutes after we walked in the door.

Slow Cooker BBQ Beans & Sausage (I made some tweaks, but you can find the original recipe here.)

3 cups of chicken broth/stock
3 cups of water
1/3 cup of tomato paste
1/3 cup of brown sugar
3 TBSP of molasses
3 TBSP of honey mustard
2 TBSP of barbecue seasoning blend
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb. dry navy beans, rinsed and picked over
1 small onion (or half of a large onion), cut in half
1 package of chicken-apple sausages, sliced thickly
2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce

In a slow cooker, whisk together the broth, water, tomato paste, brown sugar, molasses, honey mustard, bbq seasoning, and garlic. Then add the beans, onion, and the sliced sausage. Give it a stir. Put the cover on the slow cooker and cook the beans on HIGH for at least 6 hours (or until the beans are tender). My beans cooked for 6.5 hours and turned out just fine.

Once the beans are tender, take the lid off the pot and remove and discard the onion. Add the apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Let the beans cook for at least another 15 minutes, uncovered, before dishing them out & enjoying.

If you want smokier beans, you could certainly substitute another kind of sausage, or add some bacon. To cut the sweetness, you could use regular mustard instead of the honey mustard.

The beans are complemented by a slice of bread or a roll. You need something to mop up the extra sauce that forms. Dear hubby added some rice to his bowl and thought the mixture was excellent.