Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bacon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Bacon, Shrimp and Corn Chowder - made April 23, 2017 from The Blond Cook
The pictures for this dish aren’t much to write home about. I honestly just could not take a good picture of them. The chowder doesn’t look smooth and creamy because it wasn’t. I don’t know whether it was because I didn’t have an immersion blender or because I didn’t blend the 2 cups of soup well enough in my blender as the backup option but regardless, the flavor was pretty good and I didn’t mind that it wasn’t as smooth and creamy.

I liked this chowder. Cooking it was easy and just my speed on the cooking spectrum. I normally don’t like cooking with bacon since the grease spatter and cleanup are often not worth it to me but bacon is a good addition to this chowder. It provides some crunch and flavor to go with the shrimp and corn.

The corn is what makes the chowder look a little lumpy but don’t skip it as it’s also a good component to the dish, adding both flavor and texture. This is actually a deceptively filling chowder, mostly because of the cream (I won’t kid you on the calories – it’s got cream). The shrimp is the star of the dish but the soup was pretty good too. It’s more of a winter or cold-weather meal but I’m not picky. It was quick and easy to make and tasted good so that was all I needed.

5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of crushed red pepper
2 1/2 cups corn kernels
3 cups chicken stock (I used Penzey's chicken soup base)
1 cup half and half
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, fry the bacon pieces until crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off fat from pot, leaving 1 tablespoon.
  2. Add shrimp to the pot and cook until pink, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and add to the plate with the bacon. Leave juices in the pot.
  3. Add onions and garlic. Saute for about 3 minutes, or until onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Add paprika, crushed red pepper, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes.
  5. Add corn, chicken stock and half and half. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Using an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup until creamy. If you don't have an immersion blender, blend 2 cups of soup in a blender and pulse until creamy. Return to the pot and stir well.
  7. Add shrimp and sprinkle each serving with bacon pieces. Garnish with fresh thyme if desired.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Skillet Brownies

Skillet Brownies - made April 22, 2017, adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
It was only a matter of time before I baked brownies in my cast iron skillet(s). I think they’re starting to become my de facto baking pans. As in “what else can I bake in these?” crosses my mind whenever I break out the mixing bowl.
I was in a chocolate mood and making brownies is like breathing to me so the time seemed right to do a skillet brownie. I got this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa. It was meant to make 4 (generous) servings but I cut the recipe in half and ended up baking it in 2 6” skillets and a ramekin.

I’m of two minds about these skillet brownies. I liked when I first took it out of the oven and ate it warm with vanilla ice cream. Who wouldn’t? But when I went back to it later and ate it at room temperature, I was less enamored. I waffled between did I like it or did I not like it? The flavor was fine but the texture baffled me on the likeability scale. It wasn’t like a dense, baked-fudge texture with a firm bite which is how I like my brownies. It was more firm than a soft flourless chocolate cake but it wasn’t as dense as a brownie or as light as a cake. It was something in between all of that. Some people like that; I’m not sure I do.
But then again, when I went back for a third bite, I did like it. So I don’t know. Try it out and see if you like it. But I think I still liked it best when it was warm with ice cream.
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate in the top half of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. Whisk until melted and smooth. Cool for 5-10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together egg, espresso powder, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the chocolate mixture.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into chocolate mixture.
  5. Spoon the batter into 4 individual cast-iron skillets and place them on a sheet pan. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs. Serve warm with ice cream.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken Drumsticks

Honey Garlic Crockpot Chicken Drumsticks - made April 22, 2017

I made up this recipe, mostly because I had packs of chicken drumsticks and a bag of sweet potatoes (Costco run), I liked pairing honey, soy sauce and garlic together and I really wanted to use my dinky little Crock pot for something. Fortunately, even a 2-quart slow cooker will hold 5 chicken drumsticks and that’s what each Costco pack contained.

I learned from my Beef and Sweet Potato Stew experience though and didn’t add the sweet potatoes until the last couple of hours of cooking the chicken. There’s not much to say about this recipe. I don’t know that I would go into spasms about it (c’mon, it’s just chicken) but add some rice (or not) and this makes for an easy-to-fix, no-frills meal.
5 chicken drumsticks
3/4 cup chicken broth (made from 1 teaspoon chicken broth base from Penzey's dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  1. Wash and pat chicken drumsticks dry.
  2. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger in a small slow cooker. Immerse drumsticks in liquid and cook on high for 1-2 hours. Add sweet potato cubes and continue cooking on high until chicken is done and sweet potatoes are tender, approximately another hour.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Jumbo Snickerdoodles

Jumbo Snickerdoodles - made dough April 22, 2017 from Center Cut Cook
I didn’t need to make jumbo snickerdoodles for my niece’s fundraiser and she actually needed regular-sized cookies but I’d had this recipe on my pin board for awhile and I still needed to make snickerdoodles for the goodie bags so I went with it anyway.
Even though the recipe called for the cookies to be made jumbo-sized, the beauty of cookie dough is you can make the cookies any size you want, even if that wasn’t the original creator’s intent. I compromised by making one jumbo-sized cookie for my taste test cookie and making the rest normal-sized cookies for the goodie bags.

You know how I have my favorite snickerdoodle recipe? Hmm, I might have to have two favorites now. This cookie was amazing. The jumbo one I baked off for myself (ah, the sacrifices I and my waistline make for my craft) was fabulous.  Like, “head to the gym and work it off but it was worth it” fabulous. The edges were light, airy and crisp while the middle was thick, dense and chewy. The flavor was on point and I know it was because I – wait for it – used Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon both in the dough and for rolling in the cinnamon-sugar. I won’t use any other cinnamon.
If you like snickerdoodles, make these cookies now. You’ll love them. I didn’t try them as the normal-size version but I assume those would come out equally well. But if there’s something special about making them jumbo-sized, go for it.
1 cup butter,
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For rolling
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. In a large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar; cream until well combined.
  2. Add in egg, egg yolk and vanilla; beat until combined.
  3. Add the flour, cream of tartar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon; mix until just combined. Do not overbeat.
  4. Using 1/2 cup measuring cup, portion the dough into balls. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll dough balls in cinnamon sugar mixture, coating completely.
  7. Place 3 cookies on each sheet, evenly spaced. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 16 to 19 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery Copycat #15 from Lunchpails and Lipstick

Chocolate Chip Cookies Levain Bakery copycat #15 - made dough April 15, 2017 from Lunchpails and Lipstick
There are different types of chocolate chip cookies, even among the ones that have all the hallmarks of what I like in a great chocolate chip cookie: chubby, thick, made with butter, made with milk chocolate chips, crisp edges, chewy middles. 

 I break them out into roughly two camps. There’s the cookie-cookie camp that’s the more typical cookie: it’s chewy and buttery with a brown-sugar-caramel flavor. Then there’s the dense-cakey cookie that, although made with the same butter and brown sugar, leans more towards a dense-cake texture. They typically have more flour and aren’t as buttery-brown sugar-caramel flavored but aren’t dry and they’re not even cakey if you think cakey means light and airy. 
This copycat version is that dense-cakey one. It’s almost doughy but like baked dough. I’m not doing a very good job of explaining what I mean but if you stare at the pictures long enough, maybe you’ll see what I mean in terms of the difference in texture in this cookie versus some of the more cookie-cookie textures.

I liked this version. It didn’t spread much, it stayed thick and I liked the texture. Definitely don’t bake it too long but you don’t want to underbake it too much either or it'll be too mushy.

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or 1/4 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup turbinado sugar)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips or chunks
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Mix until well combined and creamy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until incorporated.
  4. With the mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips or chunks. Portion into 4 to 6-ounce dough mounds, cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and evenly space dough mounds. Bake 15-18 minutes, until cookies are light golden brown at the edges and the middles are barely cooked.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Great Brownie (the original recipe title)

A Great Brownie - made April 15, 2017, modified from The Greyston Bakery Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan
This is one of those brownie recipes I’ve made before, thought it was really, really good and never made it again. Not because I didn’t like it because, looking at my old notes, it appears I did. But I always want to try a new recipe so I never went back to this one. I did this time because I first tried this recipe before I started my blog so technically, it counts as a new post I can put up and share with everyone.

Since it’s a plain brownie, you can safely assume I made this for my niece’s fundraiser for her mentor program. BTW, she ended up raising $1400 against her original $1000 goal and, as a bonus, even got at least one of her friends interested in signing up to be a mentor in the program. Score.

Anyway, another good, basic brownie recipe but there’s not much more I can say about it since there are many good, basic brownie recipes out there. It’s killing my soul not to dress it up. If you want to try an easy recipe for brownies, this is it.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13" baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstcik cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer set to medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in half the chocolate chunks, if using.
  4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining chopped chocolate, if using, evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Garlic and Paprika Chicken

Garlic and Paprika Chicken - made April 22, 2017 from Jo Cooks
This dish represents the trifecta of using up the chicken drumsticks I got from Costco (yeah, I’ll be eating chicken for awhile), using the minced garlic and paprika I bought from Penzey’s and trying out the recipe I’ve had on my pinboard of easy meals to make.

This literally was easy to make and could be one of those easy weekday meals for busy professionals and/or working family members. You mix the ingredients together, pour over the chicken and bake. 

I’m not sure I found this particularly flavorful but it wasn’t bad either. Maybe I’m not that into paprika. I haven’t cooked enough with it to form a strong opinion one way or another. My bar for savory food that I cook myself is much lower than my bar for dessert so I’m not that critical about it. It used up ingredients I had, it made enough for a few meals so I didn’t have to do takeout and I didn’t give myself food poisoning from it. See, told you my bar was low.
6 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (I used rosemary)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a shallow baking dish with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Clean and dry the drumsticks; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, parsley and oregano. Cool for about 1 minute over medium heat; do not burn the garlic.
  4. Pour mixture over the drumsticks and coat each piece thoroughly. Lay in an even layer in prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until chicken legs are cooked through.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #14 from Kirbie's Cravings

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Levain Bakery copycat #14, made dough April 9, 2017, adapted from Kirbie's Cravings

I’m not going to lie – I liked this cookie, enjoyed it at the time I made it, thought it was good and….can’t remember much about it now that it’s been a few weeks since I tried it and I didn’t do the write up of it soon enough to really remember it. Oops.

My only defense is I was making several of these copycat recipes for my niece’s fundraiser and I only tried one recipe at a time, spaced out between days of working out. I didn’t have time to do the write ups right after I baked it, which is always a mistake because then I don’t note down what I thought about the recipe. All I can say is it was good. 
The dough was a little soft and sticky after I finished mixing it and as I was shaping it into dough balls so that briefly caused me some concern about whether the cookies would spread too much but fortunately, that concern was unfounded. Do underbake these though to get that chewy-not-dry-or-cakey texure.
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup cake flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Cream until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
  2. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated.
  3. Add in cake flour, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Divide dough into 6-ounce portions. Cover, chill or freeze for several hours or overnight. 
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 410 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Evenly space cookie dough portions and bake, one sheet at a time, for 12-13 minutes, until edges are brown and middles are just barely set. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 15 minutes then transfer to wire cooling racks to cool completely.