Friday, June 27, 2008

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

I don't exactly remember the first time I had an Otis Spunkmeyer white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, but I think it might have been at a Subway. I just remember how delicious they always were, fresh out of the oven, warm, gooey, and white-chocolatey. I got a craving for them this week, bought macadamia nuts for the first time ever, and created them based on a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I found on the internet that came from a Baker's Illustrated cookbook.

2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
12 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup white chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 325. Combine flour and soda with whisk, set aside. With a hand mixer, cream butter and sugars, then add in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture in gradually, then stir in the nuts and chocolate chunks. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes.

I loved these, but I love all cookies, so I'm a little biased. They are just as good as Otis Spunkmeyer's.

I'm in proposal-finishing mode, so that's all you get.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drinky Drink

I've been making a lot of progress on my proposal lately, so as a treat, I've been playing bartender at the end of a long day, sitting in one spot, writing, thinking, surfing the net, scribbling ideas, and maybe going to the gym or laying out.

This is my Italian Sweet Tea.

First, you have to make sweet tea, which, if done correctly, is basically tea flavored simple syrup. The only person who's ever actually given me a recipe more than "what do you mean, how do you make sweet tea, all you do is add some tea bags to hot water and add a lot of sugar, silly girl" is Dave's dad, the retired civil engineer. I have grown to love the engineers and their ability to articulate things such as abstract, ancient recipes like sweet tea into exact form. According to Donna Jo (Dave's mom), this tea was famous back in the day among Dave and Chris's (Dave's brother's) friends. So here is:

Dean's Sweet Tea
2 quarts water, boiling
2 Tetley tea bags
1 cup sugar

Steep 2 tea bags in the boiling water for no more than 5 minutes. Discard bags, pour tea into a pitcher, stir in sugar. Refrigerate and serve over ice.

(side note: I try not to make sweet tea very often because I tend to drink it by the gallon, which probably wouldn't be a bad thing if I used, say, Splenda instead of sugar. But I don't use Splenda unless I'm making something for my diabetic grandaddy.)

For the cocktail:
Fill a tall glass with ice. Add 1/2 oz limoncello, and fill up with sweet tea. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

This is a weaker drink. It's Italian because limoncello originated on the Amalfi coast since that's where lemons come from. I have been watching a lot of Mario Batali lately, and subsequently increased my love of all things Italian food. I can't believe I just pulled out that limoncello comes from the Amalfi coast. That's good trivia to have on hand. Of course, you can make limoncello yourself; that's another post, but Mario and Giada both have recipes over at Never had it? Don't wait a week for the lemon peel to steep in sugared vodka, just run out to your local liquor store and spend the $20 to get yourself a bottle. Keep it in the freezer and you'll be drinking it all summer. It's amazing on ice, after the ice has watered it down just a bit, after a big dinner.

I actually added some bourbon to the first version of this drink, but it was a bit too strong for me, hence the suggestion to only add limoncello. If you love bourbon (like Loren, who is just about the only person I'll willingly drink bourbon with, and even though I live in Lexington and by default *should* love bourbon), then by all means add it.

And then go burn off the calories on the Wii Fit, which rocks.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pound Cake with Ice Cream and Blueberry Sauce

Here is a delightful little summer dessert.

Coincidentally, do you know how I remember that there are two s's in "dessert," subsequently never confusing it with "desert?" Just remember that you always have apple pie and ice cream. 2 things for dessert - 2 s's. It's one of the same devices that Mrs. Hagood (who wasn't even my teacher but taught my aunts Sherry & Leia and my mom and my dad) drilled into the brains of my loved ones who then passed it along to me. I also remember the day that Sherry, Leia and mom taught me how to never misspell "separate:" There's always a rat in separate. See it? No i or e misplacement in that word, ever, thanks to that little device. I was a dork even as a small child; I just wish that there was some sort of device I'd picked up along the way that instructed me how to write a dissertation proposal in, like, 15 minutes. That'd be really helpful about now.

Back to dessert. I made another pound cake (and the Swan's Down cake flour pound cake as shown in this post is simply divine, baked in the high quality Nordic ware bundt pan my mom got me for Christmas this year), and topped it with a scoop of Blue Bell Homemade Ice Cream (or the vanilla-ish ice cream of your choice) and this homemade sauce:

about 1/2 pint fresh blueberries, washed, stems removed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon orange liquor
2 Tablespoons orange juice
and the zest of an orange, if you have one laying around
or substitute orange for lemon
or just leave it out all together, really the blueberries and sugar and water are the main ingredients

In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, boil blueberries with water and sugar (and other ingredients) until the berries start to burst, the water turns dark blue, and it becomes somewhat congealed, anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool.

What a simple yet delicious sauce that goes on top of ice cream by itself, pound cake by itself, or biscuits, or pancakes. It's a variation of the cranberry sauce I make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Blueberries happened to be not quite as expensive as a gallon of gas at Publix a few weeks ago, so I splurged, got a pint, and have been enjoying them in this form for some time. It lasts for several days in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Feeling Frenchy? Tomato Bisque, Crusty Bread and Balsamic Dipping Sauce

It's 45 minutes until I have to leave to go to the airport. I'm on my way to what I hear is a lovely Lake Michigan beach for the roommate's bachelorette par-tay. So, to kill time, I can work on the proposal, or blog.

Blog it is!

Two nights ago, I was craving bistro-esque food. Not that I have ever been to a French bistro, mind you; I've only seen them on television and I think I would probably enjoy dining at such an establishment. After my trip to Harry's (the first one I've made all summer!), I was really craving something gourmet yet non-pretentious. And, it's hot outside, so light suppers have been sounding better and better. I whipped up a delicious and perfect menu:

Tomato Bisque
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can tomatoes, chopped (or whole or diced but pureed in the food processor)
1/4 cup white wine (anything drinkable will work, I used Pinot Grigio, which is my favorite and a fridge staple)
3/4 cup low sodium chicken stock (use veggie stock if you don't eat meat)
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
generous amounts of salt and pepper
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped basil
small chunks of fresh, authentic parmesan cheese, optional (if you're planning on using the stuff out of the green plastic can, then just don't even bother)

In a large soup pot, heat butter and oil together. Sautee shallot, thyme and garlic along with salt and pepper to taste until cooked through, only about 4 minutes. Add in wine, simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add in chicken stock and tomatoes, salt and pepper generously. Bring to a slow simmer, heat for at least 20 minutes on low to medium low. At the very last minute, before serving, stir in the cream and basil. If you have fresh parm on hand and eat it by the handful like I do, toss some chunks into the soup right before serving, so you get melty-gooey-cheese bits in the soup.

Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
bag of salad, your choice of greens
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, the more expensive, the better (though I used a nice mid-range brand that wasn't the cheapest or most expensive and it was amazing)
2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil (again, I splurged on this occasion, and it was well worth the investment)
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss on top of greens. Save some of the dressing as a dipping sauce for crusty bread.

The soup also functions as a delicious dipping sauce for the bread. I chose a demi-baguette at Harry's that had rosemary baked into it. For a bit more protein, I served the bread on a plate with some sliced gouda. I know soup in the summer may sound weird, as it's served hot, but the way I see it, we have air conditioning inside, and it tasted so dang good, it didn't matter how hot it was outside to me. The leftovers were nice the next day, as always.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Oh, Dear


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!

But Dave scores much better...


As a 1930s husband, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

At least we have discovered this before the wedding, and there is still time for me to change my ways. I guess my cooking-in-pajama, red-nailpolish-wearing, drinking alcohol days are over for good.

Chess Squares

Another side project I've had this summer has been to reorganize my personal recipe collection. My collection started out as random clippings and hand-written recipes on index cards, stored in a clear index card storage box. I created it the summer before I went to Auburn. The summer before I started at Kentucky, my storage box was out of control and in need of redesigning, so I created a binder. This made me giddy, as I love things organized in binders. You can imagine my elation when I realized that, this summer, my one binder had outgrown itself. My personal recipe collection now spans three whole binders! Binder 1 is appetizers, dips, salads, soups, breads/breakfast items (yes, I have enough appetizer recipes that I have to partition them into actual appetizers and dips). Binder 2 is main courses: beef, poultry, pork, pasta, vegetarian. Binder 3 is desserts: cookies, cakes, brownies, pies, other, and drinks. One of my favorite things to do is peruse the collection, a very organic assortment of things I've jotted down on post-it notes, things printed from, recipes passed on from both grandmothers, and clippings from food magazines and newspapers.

While perusing the other day for a dessert, I came across Momma Charlie's recipe for Chess Squares. Over Christmas, while we were home visiting Aunt Debbie, she shared part of a chess pie with Dave and me, and I had no idea he loved that dessert as much as he did. He thought it was some sort of lemon treat; admittedly, it does taste somewhat lemony though there is no lemon in the filling or crust. After making them, I felt like they oddly resembled Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cakes. I cross checked my recipes and, sure enough, Momma Charlie's is just like Paula's except she only uses one stick of butter instead of two. In my mind, this makes a great "healthy" dessert.

Chess Squares
1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 8 oz package cream cheese (as always, I use 1/3 less fat), softened
1 16 oz box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom of a 9 x 13 cake pan.

In small bowl, combine melted butter, one egg, and cake mix. The batter will be stiff. Spread it out on the bottom of the cake pan. In another bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and remaining 2 eggs with a hand mixer until well incorporated. Pour mixture over the top of the cake crust. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until set. Allow to cool completely before serving. Cut into small squares and enjoy.

These are amazing, and we've been eating on them for 4 days. Store in the refrigerator for maximum freshness.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer Reading

Here is an interesting article about food, recipes, cooking, and overall fear in the kitchen.

For a good laugh, read the comments. Someone on the first page agrees with my post right underneath here about Food Network ruining our cooking philosophies, though they hate on Rachael Ray which is not cool with me. I don't have the time or money to spend every day in the kitchen for hours, even when I'm on summer vacation, so feeding my family in under 30 minutes is something I truly appreciate, thank you very much. Some of the "recipe deal breakers" are just insane. Of course, some people would think that I am insane for refusing to cook anything with squid. I know Giada loves squid tentacles, and has been seen on national television eating them, but I just can't bring myself to do it. It'd seem too much like eating a wacky wall walker, those little plastic toys that used to come in cereal boxes and would "crawl" down walls with their suction-cup legs.

If you aren't already reading a newspaper (or two, or three) online every day (even the Athens-Limestone News Courier has a website; no excuse for not keeping up with the exciting local news that goes on back home) and political action blogs (BitchPhD is my favorite), make it a habit this summer. It's a great time-waster for when you're, like, trying to write a dissertation proposal. And, you actually learn things if you read newspapers and blogs and the like online. Throw into the mix some sites for fun, like The Superficial and Lostpedia and, of course, LOLCats, and you've got yourself some nice summer reading, all online.

Now. Time to prepare a grocery list. I am out of coffee and milk, so I must visit the local Kroger today.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

LOST may be over until January (what a GREAT season finale - thank you Damon & Carlton!), but one of my many tv guilty pleasures is back - The Next Food Network Star. I simultaneously love and hate this show. I love it for several reasons; mostly because it's just like every other reality show I like - it's a trainwreck. Get all these people together in a room who, for whatever reason, think they can cook, and think they have cool personalities, and think that they are the next Rachael Ray, and watch them flounder as they get put in their places by Mr. Attitude himself Bobby Flay, as Alton raises his eyebrows at their antics, as Giada tries to smile through their miserable attempts at cooking and acting, and as Susie and Bob blatantly remind them just how much they suck.

But I hate it for a very specific reason. TNFNS is part of what is going wrong with Food Network. Lindsey analogized Food Network to MTV, and she's exactly right. Remember how MTV used to play music videos? Remember how once upon a time, Food Network only aired shows featuring people who actually knew what they were doing in the kitchen and it didn't really matter what they looked like as long as they cooked good food (Mario Batali, Sara Moulton)? Remember how you could sit down in front of the tv from 10-7 every day and get actual recipes and techniques that you could theoretically put into rotation or practice that night for supper? Remember how Food Network used to teach us how to cook rather than show us where hot dogs come from, or how to make elaborate cakes, or how to fight with food (or, shall I say, the overt and unnecessary masculinization of the kitchen... Justin Wilson never had to "throwdown" with another Cajun cook to prove his worth)? Unfortunately, Food Network is losing its edge. Don't get me wrong - Emeril, Giada, Tyler, Rachael, Paula, Ina, Michael, Alton, and even Elie and Robin are amazing; they're just not getting the screen time they deserve. They should get ALL of the screen time. They have street cred, and they either went to culinary school or were forced to learn how to cook in order to feed themselves or their families. If you fall into one of these categories, you're cool with me. Get rid of the posers! Food Network should be a network devoted to education - culinary education - and most of their daytime programming now does not fit that mission. Seriously people. If you're going to give Mary Nolan a cooking show, you may as well turn it over to LBDelicious, or anyone who's ever set foot in a kitchen and cooked a meal. I love the Neelys, and appreciate Food Network's "commitment to diversity" by finally putting someone on the screen who is not white (just as they've also done with Sunny Anderson and Ingrid Hoffman), but they're just not working. All their "diverse" shows somehow still reek of hegemonic discourse, communicating one singular message: "real" cooking is for people of privilege. It's for people who have the time, and money, to spend time thoughtfully considering what kind of table linens would work best with their themed meal. It's like they've taken chefs who are not white, and put them in a white woman's kitchen. Am I out of line on this? If Food Network truly wanted to show diverse cooking perspectives, then they should follow the lead of Alton's "Feasting on Asphalt" and talk to the old black women who've made biscuits every morning at the diner on the corner for 25 years. Take your camera back to the kitchen of the local meat & 3 restaurant that is ugly on the outside and is greasy on the inside, but has the best collard greens, macaroni and cornbread this side of the Mississippi. I want to see how those women are cooking. Visit kitchens that aren't shiny and pretty, ones where cooks may not have the money for All-Clad but have recipes that would run circles around the semi-homemade crap that Sandra Lee dishes out day after day. That, Food Network, is "cooking for real." Have fun with your Next Food Network Star, but please, for the love of Julia and all that is beautiful about learning the art and science of cooking in order to provide nourishment for yourself and your family, bring back real chefs who can show us how to be better cooks, and better eaters.

Rant over.

Last night, still on my "I'm not going to the grocery store until I absolutely have to" stubborn streak, I came up with this meal. I had frozen chicken, buns leftover in the fridge from last week's hamburgers, and half a can each of black beans and corn, from the taco pie expedition. I threw together:

Chicken Teriyaki Sandiwches
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, split in half
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
a few pineapple wedges or slices
1 bun or 2 slices of bread

Preheat oven to 350. Combine soy sauce, sugar, oil, ginger, salt, and pepper in a baking dish; add chicken and marinate for 15 minutes, turning once. Bake for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, toast the bread. Spread with mayo (or leave out if you're healthy). Top bread with chicken, then top with cheese and pineapples. Serve with:

Black Bean and Corn Salsa
1/2 can leftover black beans
1/2 can leftover corn
1 tsp EVOO
salt & pepper to taste
dash of cumin
dash of chili powder
zest and juice of 1/2 lime

Combine together, chill until ready to eat.

This was a nice, healthy, refreshing dinner that I am looking forward to enjoying again tonight. I will be glad when Dave gets back from Orlando so I can rant out loud to him and don't have to bottle it all up inside until I have the chance to blog it out.